Bedford Autodrome Duathlon – GB European Championships Qualifier

I’d signed up to this race before I’d raced at Ely and hurt my calves again. A sprint duathlon – 5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run – the fast running was likely to cause problems again. I’d had some time off running, and had been building it up slowly again. I wasn’t sure if I should take part, but had ended up running 5km hard as part of an MRI test on my calves a week before without any symptoms, so decided to race, but take the runs easy (i.e. no sprint at the start, and run by feel, trying to stay efficient and easy, rather than pushing the pace as fast as possible).

The race was a GB qualifier for the European Championships in Ibiza – top four from each age category qualifies, and there are a few “roll down” places (spread between the 3 qualifying races). I hoped my bike would be fast enough to outweigh my easy run pace, but wasn’t really expecting to qualify.

Arriving at the Autodrome, it was a misty, still day.

wp-1509110782383.jpg

The drive there was ace in the pre-dawn light. I was a bit tired after a 70s party the night before, but getting up seemed worth it now!

wp-1509110782381.jpg

I did a lap of the bike circuit, got set up, bumped into a few great people, and went for a warm up jog with one of them.

On an organizer note – I do wish events with a mass start would realize that you need a lot of toilets! I don’t know if you can see it, but this picture shows the queues…

wp-1509110782475.jpg

The start was a wide section of the track. Lots of people across, only a few deep – I didn’t want to be at the front, given my lack of sprint start, but didn’t want to be too far back either! I ended up on about the 4th row. The hooter went for the start, and we were off! Almost everyone went flying past. The wind had massively picked up by this point. Still and calm day. Ha!

I felt confident in my pacing, and it all felt under control. After a couple of hundred meters, checking my watch with people still flying past on either side, I saw 3:30 per km. A bit too fast – I though it should be about 4 minute pace; I slowed down a bit more.

After a while the people around me slowed and I started overtaking. Not a lot, but a bit. I think there were 500 people (there was also a “standard distance” race – twice the length of the sprint – going on at the same time), and some were quite a long way ahead! I guess after the start I was in about 200th (including the standard athletes). My calves felt OK, and it turned out that about 3:50 pace per km was what felt relaxed.

Coming towards the end of the second lap, I was overjoyed that I didn’t feel at all broken!

Strava link

I’d moved up to 91st place. Not particularly impressive, but not as far back as I was expecting!

Transition went well, and getting out on the bike, I was in my happy place. There was a narrow “slip” road to get to the main track, and I got caught behind a few other competitors, but then got out on the main track. The wind made it “interesting” on some of the tighter corners (it’s a car track with a few hairpin bends), but I was really enjoying it. I was holding about 340 watts, but with pauses for corners this averaged out to 320.

I overtook. A lot. It was kind of like a computer game, although one in which you have to try not to irritate others off by taking a racing line through the corners! Apart from the athletes ahead of me, there were also athletes coming onto the run a lap behind, and later on the standard distance athletes to overtake ๐Ÿ˜€

wp-1509111212622.jpg

Some of the corners felt a little scary as the wind was pretty strong by this point, and having a deep section front wheel and disc on the back meant I was swinging wider than I was expecting. Still, I got round with no issues.

Strava link

Coming back into transition there weren’t a lot of bikes around. It turned out that by this point I was up to 11th place! However, I still had no intention of putting my calves at risk, so set off again at a sensible pace. Unsurprisingly, people were soon passing me! One guy came past that had such a nice style it looked like he was floating! I had to remind myself to concentrate rather than analyse his running!

I felt my left calve get a bit tighter about 1km in, so slowed a little more. It seemed to loosen off, so I risked going a bit faster – it felt OK again ๐Ÿ˜€ I even managed a bit of a fast last 200m. I jumped for joy at having not broken myself!

wp-1509111212620.jpg

Strava link

After a bit of a cooldown I went to check the results. I’d come 25th – 4th in my age group – fast enough to qualify to race for GB at the European Championships! Woop. Wow, only just though – by a whole 4 seconds!

wp-1509110782379.jpg

Advertisements

Ely Sprint Triathlon

This didn’t go well…

This is 300m in an outdoor pool, a flat 21km bike course with a single hill at the end, and 2 lap, 5km hilly run course at the end of it.

My parents had come to watch, and brought the kids with them, which was ace ๐Ÿ˜€

wp-1504109699434.jpg

I did a warm up round one lap of the run course. One of the arrows pointing the way had blown round and was pointing in the wrong direction. I fixed this (hoping I’d got it right – I didn’t want to be doing a Dick Dastardly! I checked later – I had got it right) making it more secure as I did so.

I’d put down a slightly optimistic 4:32 as my predicted time for the swim, which given that you start off in reverse time order, left me about 8th from last to go (number 92). There was a 30 second gap between competitors, which should be good, but chatting to the guy behind me, number 93, it turned out he’d put 4:00 as his, which wasn’t optimistic! Oh well!

After some time on holiday with no swimming, I really wasn’t sure how well it was going to go. Apparently you lose the feel quickly. However, once I started, it felt fine. I wasn’t racing too hard, hoping to avoid having to start the bike in too much oxygen deficit. However, the guy behind was slowly catching up. Coming up to the last 2 lengths I decided he’d catch me, so I’d be gallant and let him past before he hit my feet and had to wait to the end of the length.

I did 5:06, which included 20 seconds to the timing matt, and probably 6 seconds to let #93 go by. I wasn’t particularly out of breath, so I’m pleased with that.

#93 got a bit of a gap by the time I got out of the pool, but I caught him up in transition, and was out on the bike before him.

The bike ride was a great course. The Fens are pretty flat, and it didn’t take long to get out of town and into the countryside. Some of the smaller roads were a bit ‘rustic’ (aka bumpy), but not having much in the way of hills, and the weather being great makes for a good bike split.

After racing at Dorney I thought I’d try a slightly higher target watts. I aimed at 320 this time, and was able to stick to it :D.

Navigation was… interesting. Having been on holiday, I’d not done my usual level of swatting up via Google Maps/Streetview. I thought it’d be fine though. However,

  • there weren’t marshals on all the turnings
  • there weren’t signs on junctions/roundabouts where you had to go straight on
  • the signs were before junctions/roundabouts only – i.e. coming up to them, not on the exit you had to take

I had one roundabout where I wasn’t paying enough attention before it (I was overtaking at the time), and ended up going fully round it and guessing the correct exit. I nearly took the guy I’d just overtaken with me, but we had a super quick pointing/shrugging interaction and he took that correct turning without following me all the way round. I apologised when I re-overtook him.

Coming up the only hill, there was a mini-roundabout with two exits – straight on, and right. I didn’t see a sign, and there were a couple of marshals about 15 meters up the road next to some cars. I didn’t know if they were meant to be at that junction and had gone to the cars for some reason, or if they were meant to be where they actually were.

I was making a quick decision that going straight on was what to do when one of them looked up – I thought he was looking at me. He gestured forcefully in 3 times in quick succession to my right.

I took the right turning. I powered down the road, and got to a junction and took a left. Then a right. No marshals in sight. No signs. No other competitors. Oh. In hindsight I guess the marshal had been talking to someone in a car and giving them directions…

If I was sensible I would have turned around. Instead, I did a quick cultural tour of Ely. Lovely place, but not if you’re in a panic about being lost in a triathlon!

I eventually found my back onto the course at the bottom of the hill. I went up it, and went straight on this time! The marshals were, it turned out, standing by the entrance back into the school where the triathlon was based. A quick turn in, and I was back at transition.

Strava link

I’d got a KOM on a segment doing most of the course until the bottom of the hill. I’d managed to hit my average watts target of 320 and that turned out to give 40.7 kmph on this course.

In transition, #93 was there, looking confused – he said he wondered where my bike was as he knew he hadn’t overtaken me!

The run stared off downhill. I don’t really know how to pace myself on hills, so probably went off a bit too hard, but I don’t think it was massively off the equivalent of 4 mins per km on the flat. Regardless, by about 1km in I knew I had calf issues. I was having another calf heart attack.

My right calf was causing the problems. I stopped, stretched, massaged, and then tried going again. Going slower, I could still feel it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed the rest of the lap, getting some high 5’s from the kids :D, slowly picking up pace again a bit, but by the same place on the second lap, I had to stop again. This time it was both calves. I did some more stretching, massaging, and got going again. It still didn’t feel right, so I tried again.

This time I got going slowly again, and managed to get to the end (via some more high 5’s) without it really feeling like either calf was locking up. However, trying to walk afterwards was pretty painful, so it was obviously worse than I thought at the time. Three days after and I still can’t completely walk without a dull ache. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Strava link

It turns out I wasn’t the only one to get lost, as a friend from the Rowing club who was doing her first Triathlon had also gone off course for a bit on the bike leg. She’d sensibly managed to retrace her steps though and got back on course with less drama than I had!

Looking at the results, excluding my detours I would have had the fastest bike split by something like 90 seconds, and would have been in the lead by 60 seconds coming off of the bike. Not that I’m grumpy about this or anything…

Results

Still, I’m more worried about my calves, as I was hoping this was something I was going to be able to work out by slowly increasing my running training distances. It doesn’t feel like that’s going to be the case at the moment though. 1km in is as bad as it’s ever been.

I’ve now got an appointment to see a specialist for a scan next week, so hopefully it’ll show up something I can do something about.

Eton Dorney Mid-Week Sprint Triathlon

Votwo Events run a series of races. One of them is a mid week evening sprint triathlon I realised I could get to. After years of racing there in boats, it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist!

wp-1503089303279.jpg

My running training has been going well, and my calf muscles seem to be working. I figured that if I didn’t run too hard, I’d be OK.

I’d done a local 20ish km time trial a couple of weeks ago where I’d tried it racing at higher watts than I’d dared before, and it had worked! So I thought I’d go hard on the bike section, then wouldn’t even be able to run too fast…

There was a good atmosphere at the race. I was early to arrive. There were 3 waves, and I was racing in the third.

Before the start I lent a spare pair of goggles to someone who’d forgotten theirs. Then I couldn’t find the ones I was planning to wear when it was time to get ready! I ended up doing a bit more running to warm up than planned to get another spare pair from the car.

I found the original pair after the race. In my bag. Exactly where they were meant to be…

Anyway, when it was time to start, I found myself pretty near the front. We started off, and a group shot off the front. I think I was in a second pack. I was drafting someone who occasionally switched to backstroke, which was odd! I had to stop drafting them as I couldn’t cope with the changes in pace.

I’ve been doing 1:32 pace per 100m in training, so was hoping for about 11:30 for the 750m. The swim felt pretty good, although I didn’t get out of the water and up the bank very quickly. It turned out I took 12:46, which was 2 minutes down on the fastest.

I got out on the bike without any hassle, although I forgot to put on the race belt. It’s a 4.9km loop, on private roads (no cars!). It’s very flat, which is ace! There’s just a couple of sharp u-turns on each lap.

There was a bit of a cross-wind, but nothing too bad (which is amazing give how windy it normally is there!)

I did a lot of overtaking, which felt nice. I did spot the camera man, and was enjoying myself, so maybe did a bit of messing about…

It was difficult to tell where you were compared to other people as the previous wave was still on the course, but by the time I finished, I was pretty sure I was in first place in my wave, and had a bit of time over 2nd. Looking at the results afterwards, I was about a minute in the lead.

Strava link

I’d held 309 watts, and averaged 42kmph, which is a PB ๐Ÿ˜€ I think there may be a bit more speed to come at this power if I can cope with a lower front end though.

The run was a 2 lap out and back affair, nice and flat.

wp-1503089254212.jpg

I started the run steadily, aiming at 4 minute per km pace, hoping my calves would be OK. They felt fine, but by the time I reached the first turn around, I could see other competitors I thought were from my wave were closing in on me fast.

I started speeding up a bit… But still had time for the cameraman!

I made it to about 3km before I got overtaken. I tried to stay with him as he came past. I even tried to crack a joke about our laboured breathing, but he seemed focussed on running!

I managed about 30 seconds before deciding it was too dangerous for my calves. I suspect that I might have managed to hold on for another 10 seconds if that wasn’t an issue…

As it was, I couldn’t hold on (he had the fastest run of the night), and could see someone else slowly closing in.  I sped up a bit more. It hurt – I didn’t do any posing this lap! With about 1km to go I could see the guy following was speeding up even more, so so did I… Just enough so I thought I’d stay clear of him.

But he got faster. So did I. By the last 500m I kept getting faster, but he was still closing! I peaked at 2:55 pace. So much for taking it easy on my calves, but I managed to get over the line in front of him! (By 1 second… he really did have a fantastic finish sprint!)

Strava link

I collapsed to the floor after that! It turns out I’d come 2nd in my wave, 6th overall out of 250 competitors.

Results

Less than a minute down on the winner, and fastest bike. I’m quite pleased with that; I know where I need to improve, and there’s certainly room there in the swim and run!

Hever Castle Festival of Endurance – Aquabike. 2nd!

My calf muscles seem to be working a bit better now, but I’d found a couple of these Swim/Bike races where I could avoid pushing my luck with the running. This one was the biggest I could find (roughly 60 people racing it), set in the idillic surroundings of Hever castle.ย 

It is a very expensive race – it’s a longer one at 1.9km swim and 60km bike, with an optional (i.e. not timed) 4k run on the end.ย 

Frustratingly the organisers declared that the Aquabike was a ‘training distance’. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but when I enquired about timings for collecting my bike after the race and medal ceremonies as I was worried about getting home, they clarified that meant no winner’s ceremony or prizes which was a shame as it downgraded the point of it in my mind somehow. If I wanted to train I could stay at home and save ยฃ75 (plus ยฃ5 booking fee). OK, got that off my chest now… I feel much better for that!

Lots of other events were going on as well; Ironman, Half Ironman, long Aquabike, Marathon, Half Marathon, multiple aquathlons and long distance swims. Probably some others as well! There was also a stage with bands playing, and a few things for the kids going on.

wp-1499799690074.jpg

I’d arrived late the night before to camp. My new pop-up tent came into its own here and I was in bed in short order! The facilities were simple but sufficient – my only complaint was being on a flight path. The planes kept coming over till after midnight.

wp-1499799779294.jpg

5am in the morning, and the conditions weren’t the sun I was expecting! It was cool and misty, which made the castle very atmospheric!

wp-1499799764572.jpg

Not to mention the lake!

wp-1499799753513.jpg

Registration was very smooth, and the marshals and support team very well informed and helpful. It was a split transition (despite the optional lack of run for the aquabike) which was a first for me. Shoes and run kit in one bag, dropped off in a changing tent, then onto the bike transition.

The Ironman race was going off first, and was a bit delayed waiting for the mist to rise, which meant we had plenty of time, so no rushing!ย 

When it was our turn, we had a very clear briefing, then into the water for both aquabike distances – 52 people doing my race, and around 30 doing double the distance. There was a drone hovering overhead, and lots of excitement!ย 

The course went up the lake, either side of the buoys, then through a 2 buoy gate, over to the far right corner of the lake, then the far left corner, back through another gate, and then back via a beautiful river with spectators on bridges.

wp-1499799698258.jpg

There was plenty of space – the start line was about 100m wide. I did a bit of a warm up, then stopped where I was (which was on the left hand side), which means I actually had further to swim, but didn’t think about that at the time.ย 

We had the countdown, and were off! I found I had plenty of space around me. No bumping into anyone else to worry about, and I didn’t feel the need to sprint, so settled into a rhythm. However, possibly because anyone with any sense had started on the right, there was no-one to draft either. After about 300m I spotted someone about my speed on the right and slowly curved over to try to get behind them.

The water visibility was down to about 2 feet. Not the feet of the person ahead sadly! When I did get behind them, I couldn’t stay there – I drifted off to the right, then left and back again. Repeatedly…

I made it through the gate, around the corners, and then we started catching up with slower swimmers doing the Ironman. This wasn’t a problem, although once we got to the river it got congested a couple of times. At one point I hit something hard with my hands, which turned out to be the roots of a big tree on the bank. But mostly my navigation worked! Ever time I sighted I realised how lovely a place it was to be swimming!

I overtook quite a lot of Ironman swimmers, and also managed to pull past and away from the person I’d been failing to draft.

Coming to the end, there was quite a bit of support and cheering, as another race was about to start. I came out of the water. I was in 7th, which was good! 32 minutes – slightly slower than I’d hoped, but as the river section was against the flow, actually pretty good. Top 10% out of all swimmers that did that distance on the day (324, so a good number to compare to), which is waaaay better than I’ve managed before! Still 5 minutes behind the fastest though :/

Next was the run to the bike transition, which was a beautiful vine covered walkway.

 

wp-1499799746421.jpg

Past an unfortunate statue…

wp-1499799739812.jpg

Transition went smoothly – I even managed to take my wetsuit off without sitting down! Out onto the bike section, and the mist had cleared. In fact the sun was out! The course is quite hilly (830m climbing over 60km, 8% max gradient). Well, hilly for a Cambridge resident, as it’s very flat where I live!

The dappled sunlight made going down hills a bit scary on the slightly dodgy surface of British roads! At one point I hit 86 kmph – if I’d hit a pothole at that speed it wouldn’t have been good.

The race organisation was amazing. The roads weren’t closed, but there were people with stop/go signs at the bigger junctions stopping traffic.ย 

I immediately started passing people. We’d been giving a big, obvious sticker for our helmets, so that non-racing cyclists couldn’t take stuff from the feed stations. I thought the aquabike stickers were purple, so was looking out for these, and counting them. When I got to about 40 I realised this couldn’t be right! It was the same colour for the Ironman competitors as well. Doh. There were green numbers, which is what I should have been looking out for!

I had a lot of fun shooting down hills, although I realised after one about 10km in, where I’d been over some uneven road on a descent, that I no longer had a water bottle. It was an aero one, which has a special bracket, which meant even though there were full bottles being given out at the feed stations, I couldn’t take one. And it was getting hot!

Still, I had a few gels with me, which is a bit of liquid. One of those every 20km would have to do. I tried to pick up gels twice from a feed station, but fumbled one, and failed to persuade the people on the other one to hold out a gel rather than a bottle as I rode by.

About 30km I overtook Nick, who I’d raced at theย Dartford Bridge aquabikeย a few weeks earlier. I thought he would probably be the main competition here as heโ€™s very fast in the water, so it was good to catch him! We said “Hi” as best we could given that we were grinding our way uphill at the time.

By about 50km I was beginning to feel really dehydrated. I’d run out of gears going uphill a couple of times, and my back was beginning to ache a bit. I began to look forward to the end – up till that point I’d just been having fun!

The aquabike was the first race finishing – coming into the castle grounds I seemed to be catching marshals off-guard. I came into the run transition without any drama, which was odd as someone took my bike and helmet.

I’d done 1 hour 45 minutes for 60km. Not fast, but good given the hills. 280 watts normalised power (which has been at the high end of what I was aiming for for 30 minute sprint races, so it looks like the training is working).

Strava link

I asked if I was first – I was told yes, so I decided to go to the finish line the short (100m) way, then go do the 4km loop afterwards.ย 

I got my shoes on, and jogged over. Yay! I put sponges full of water over my head, which was the nicest feeling! Although the wet shoes weren’t quite so nice after that! And had a drink. And some food (there was a great selection!). The guy there told me I was second – someone had come in 10 minutes earlier! Blimey!

I then set off on the 4km run. This was great – the other guy hadn’t done the run, so I was first round this, and I deliberately wasn’t pushing the pace as I didn’t want to stress my calf muscles, so I had a bit of banter with the marshals. There was a feed station where I was offered water or coke. I said I wanted to pour it over me, so the marshal suggested the water… I did, and tasted it as it ran down over my face – it was High5 energy drink. Doh!

The route was beautiful, took in some hills, and went past the lake. Coming into the finishing chute was great, and back over the line (for some reason they wouldn’t give me another finisher’s medal!).

wp-1499799708193.jpgwp-1499799717020.jpg

There were a few people back by now, so we had a bit of a chat, which was good! Nick had come 3rd, but I’d just missed him going for the run, and he’d gone by that point, which was a shame.

The podium was there, so I decided I should have a photo even if it was only a ‘training distance’ (not that I’m bitter…)

wp-1499799724080.jpg

Full results here.

Dartford Bridge Aquabike

I was quite excited about this, having actually found an official Aquabike race! However, it was due to start quite early in the morning, and was about an hour away on motorways, if there was no traffic. This presented a couple of problems.
1) Getting up early. I thought I’d book a hotel next to the event, but when it came to parting with cold hard cash, it didn’t seem like such a good idea! So, I got up at 4:20am. Yuck!
2) We’d signed up as a family for a charity 5km run with bouncy castle style, er, vegetables, in the last 500m. At midday – I would have to leave the race site for home by 10am at the latest for this to work, and hope there was no traffic congestion… 7am race, 1 1/2 hours racing, some faffing. Presentations at 9:30am if I was lucky. I decided this would all be fine!

Upon arrival I chatted with some other competitors, which is always nice. There weren’t many people doing the Olympic distance aquabike (5 to be precise). However, the competition was pretty good – one of them, Nick, is racing for GB in his age group at the World Championships in Canada later this year. I also bumped into another rower turned triathlete, Matt, who doesn’t live in Cambridge any more and I haven’t seen in a while, so it was nice to catch up with him.

The forecast was for an incredible 20 degrees centigrade and sunny at 7am. Wow.

wp-1498057481523.jpg

I’ve got a 500ml bottle on my bike only, so put another bottle in transition for a quick drink after the swim. Ah yes, the swim.

After the panic attack I had in the swim at Deva triathlon, I was hoping for something better here. I wasn’t going to go off so hard, and was going to monitor myself carefully to make sure I didn’t get too anaerobic this time! The lake was dead calm, and my wave (of the lovely pink hats) had about 50 people in it. The course was out to a buoy, then twice around a rectangular loop before pealing off to the exit.

Off the start I tried to settle quickly. There wasn’t much in the way of banging into each other. I guess I was about 20% of the way down the field by the first buoy. I found some feet, and tried to draft. Around the second buoy and we caught up with a couple of swimmers from the first wave who caused a little confusion (to me anyway!). I lost the feet I’d been following and tried to sprint to catch up. However, I started to get that tight chest feeling… Uh oh. I backed off, losing him completely.

I tried to swim nice and calmly, getting in control of myself. This time it worked! My chest loosened off, and I didn’t have to stop. After a while I noticed someone off to my right going the same speed. I slowed a little and turned over that way, and got on his feet. This was a good match, as it felt a little easier. He appeared to have got behind someone else in turn.

Interestingly, whenever there was a corner, it seemed there was a concertina effect, much like in a cycling group. Meaning after each corner, each person in turn would have to slow down a bit, then sprint to catch up. I managed to do this and keep drafting the whole way. I tried to overtake a couple of times, but whenever I pulled out I decided it was too much effort for too little gain, so tucked back in again.

Towards the end I did a bit more kicking to try to make sure my legs were awake. Clambering out, I tried to work out the number of the guy I’d been drafting so I could say thanks, but failed. Mainly as we weren’t wearing numbers at this point…

24:03 including the jog to transition. 3:30 down of the fastest, but 3 minutes better than Deva!

I jogged over to transition, getting out of the top half of my wetsuit. I managed to find my bike without any detours, and started getting out of the rest. Very quickly I decided to sit down to do this again. I’ll master this yet! Just not at this race! I had a quick drink, then was off.

Off and out over the mount line, I jumped onto my bike, got up to speed. I then had issues getting my feet in. I’d put talcum power in the shoes (they smell lovely!) but had run out of “body glide”, so didn’t have any on my feet – maybe that was the issue. Anyway I got them in, and then was on my way.

The course is a few hundred meters, a sharp turn, a roundabout, then out onto one side of a dual carriageway. That side was closed to cars (whoop!), and you did 7 loops of a 6km pretty flat lap, with dead turns at either end, and a couple of roundabouts in the middle (one had a sharp turn in it).

Relive link – you get the idea of the course pretty quickly watching this…

It’s a pretty popular race. I think there were about 300 people out on the course. Given the quite short nature of the loop, that meant the road was very busy. I did a LOT of overtaking ๐Ÿ˜€ That coupled with the dead turns and roundabouts actually made it pretty interesting, even though on paper it looks pretty mind-numbing!

I saw one person overcook it on one of the corners and have a comical slow motion crash into the curb (he wasn’t hurt!) My lower back felt a little tight, so I took the opportunity at each corner and roundabout to stand and power away. I guess these took a lot out of the average speed, but it was a pretty fast course really.

I was counting the laps out loud (just in case my Garmin packed up), and didn’t make a mistake. I turned off the last roundabout and headed back to transition. I noticed someone ahead (there was a sprint distance triathlon going on as well) getting out of their shoes, which reminded me to do the same!

01:02:37 for 42km – 40.2kmph average. 40.9kmph average on just the laps (did I mention I got the lap KOM? :D)
Strava link

The race instructions said the aquabike finished when you got into transition, but I thought I’d practise getting into running mode anyway. I got my running shoes on and jogged out to the “run out”. There was a marshal there, so I said I was doing the aquabike, and had I finished? He told me I had to carry on to the finish (about 100m away). Erk! So I did.

When I got there, there were 2 other competitors that had just finished. The guy on the line said, you’re 3rd. No. 2nd. I was a bit confused… However, talking to the other competitors one said he’d done just over 10 minutes for the swim. Hold on… It turned out one had just won the sprint triathlon, and the other had just won the sprint aquabike. We were all winners!

Comparing to a the bigger olympic distance triathlon field (150 competitors), Nick had come out of the water fastest (I’d have come 28th out of 158), and I’d done the bike fastest (by over a minute!). Matt, it turned out, although he was too modest to say afterwards, had won the triathlon! At the end of the bike section, I would have been in 3rd, and looking at the run times would have been very disappointed if I didn’t make it onto the podium (er, if I could run atm that is!).

Aquabike Results
Triathlon Results

I packed up ready to go, and hung around chatting and waiting for the presentations. Time ticked on, and I think I probably irritated the guy by the podium quite a bit by repeated asking when they were going happen (soon, probably soon, was the answer).

wp-1498057519977.jpg

Sadly, I ran out of time and had to leave ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Still, the (probably irritated) guy send they’d send the trophy. ๐Ÿ˜€

wp-1498057490437.jpg

Deva Triathlon

Having now been to see a specialist about my calf muscles, I’ve found out that I had actually torn one of them during Bedford Triathlon. As a result, I was going to follow my Newmarket Triathlon plan again of not running.

However, I was pretty excited as this was to be my first real open water race, and also my first Olympic distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run). It was also another chance to spend some quality time with my parents who were providing accommodation in the form of their camper van!

Pre race nerves and excitement really kicked in once I’d had a cup of coffee on race morning. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the River Dee actually looked very inviting!

wp-1496777547033.jpg

OK, so that’s a picture of my bike, but you can see the river in the background! Or maybe this long distance picture of the Middle Distance start is better:

wp-1496777539455.jpg

Having done some 1.5km swims in the local 100 yard lido I thought I’d do around 23 minutes for the swim. I’d done a few bits of open water practice (including starts with lots of other people!) I’d experienced a bit of chest tightness which might have been panic, or maybe my wetsuit being tight around my chest during these, but it had been alleviated by stopping and filling my wetsuit with water and yanking it up a bit.

The setup by the organisers was very professional, but it needed to be with over a thousand athletes to cope with! I also finally got to do a race with a tatoo race number!

wp-1496777555886.jpg

(This was pre race – hence the “nerves” face)

I asked my parents to say how far down I was when I came out of the water in my wave (which was also entirely made up of my age group). I thought, given the local races I’d been doing I’d be about 20th out of the 150 or so in the wave.

Getting into the water was fine and not particularly cold. I filled my wetsuit and yanked it around, and then did some warming up sprints (is that what you call it in the water?). I made my way to a spot near the front. And waited for a bit. And noticed a spot with more room than I had around me, at the front. What the hell, I thought, it’ll save me a few meters of swimming, so I moved up into it!

When the starting hooter went off, I went off fast. I had this idea that I had to start drafting behind someone else fast off the start, and then if I managed that I’d be able to follow them for the whole race. Soon the reality became apparent!

35000132611_a0f8a9a60c_z

The mess of bodies moving around meant that you couldn’t stay behind someone as they’d move sideways and there would be someone else there. People were swimming fast! I was putting in a lot of effort to stay with the people around me. There were a few bits of contact, but it was pretty mild given what I’d imagined!

By about 400m in I was still pushing hard. Too hard. My chest started tightening up, and I started struggling for breath. When I took a breath, often I got a splash in the mouth as the water was being churned up. Slowing down didn’t help quickly enough.

I started looking round for something to grab hold of and stop for a bit. A buoy. The bank. Anything! Nothing. I slowed right down to a stop. I turned over and looked back. To see roughly 120 pairs of frantically churning arms and white hats heading towards me! Aggggh!

I turned back over and started moving the best I could – breaststroke. This wasn’t great as it makes your arms and legs go out in the way of anyone overtaking. Sorry anyone I blocked! Er. Or kicked. After a while I managed to get going with front crawl, although floundering around with my head in the air.

Eventually I got going again with my head down, and tagged onto the back of a pack of about 5 people. I followed along for about 300 meters and then had got calm enough to concentrate on swimming technique. At which point I started moving faster.

I overtook the group and started slowly but steadily overtaking. I even overtook someone from the previous wave (15 minutes between each one) doing breaststroke. I was pretty glad I wasn’t in that position now!

I actually really enjoyed the second half of the swim, and felt like I could have carried on for quite a long time. However, I was still glad when the exit came into sight!

I hauled myself out with a bit of support from the volunteers at the exit (thanks!) and started getting my wetsuit off as I jogged carefully towards transition (which is about 100m uphill from the river).  Dad had been dutifully counting and told me I was in 47th. Ho hum, good job I wasn’t worrying about qualifying for the world championships then (you need to be in the top 4 of your age group). Including the time to jog to transition I took 27:16.

34996784661_bb16e42707_z

After that, I thought I’d sit down to get the rest of the wetsuit off. It didn’t take too long, and then I was happy on the bike. I immediately started overtaking, and after a few turns, I was out of town. I was trying out having a gel attached to the bike, and wanted to have that as soon as possible, so I shoved that in my mouth. Just as I got to the photographer…

wp-1496777744635.jpg

The bike course was fantastic. The first part was closed roads. Then there were lots of gentle rolling hills on minor roads, with a small section of dual carriageway. I was overtaking a lot of people, from my wave, the wave ahead, and the wave ahead of that. I couldn’t get quite to my target power (280w) but was holding around 270w. I didn’t have speed visible, as I didn’t want to be distracted by that. However, looking back I did hit 67kmph on the dual carriageway! I ran out of gears…

I got stuck behind cars behind other cyclists 3 times. None for a major amount of time, but it was a little frustrating. I tried to take it as a break!

Coming back into town I got my feet out, and ran into transition. No grumbling from my calf muscles, which was appreciated!

1 hour 20 seconds was my official time.

Strava link

I had a quick transition, and then was out on the run. By this point I’d moved up to 4th in the age group! I didn’t know that at the time, but if I was fit it looks like qualification might have been on the cards even with the awful swim!

I stopped and told a marshal. Rather than being disappointed, I was actually really pleased to have had the willpower to stop. Especially when I saw some people later on limping…

After a nice cool down swim in the Victorian(?) swimming pool I said my goodbyes to my parents and headed home. Where my youngest showed my how to look good while wearing a swimhat!

wp-1496777563518.jpg

EDIT

They’ve produced a video of the event:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10154367854051222&id=713036221

Newmarket “Aquabike”

After last weeks problems running, I’ve been limping most of this week.

I had an entry in for Newmarket sprint triathlon which was too late to cancel. After a bit of debating (and forecast checking) I decided to go along and just do the swim and cycle. Then stop. (OK OK, there isn’t actually an Aquabike option…) I wasn’t sure which of the following this would make me feel:

  • Happy
  • Grumpy
  • Doc (see what I did there? :p)

Turning up on the day, it was nice to be back – I’d raced the Autumn version of this race in September, and there were a few people I recognised, along with a few more Cambridge Triathlon club members I am now beginning to get to know. Doug was there in his coaching capacity – he offered to rugby tackle me if I got caught up in the moment and it looked like I was going attempt the run!

It was a beautiful sunny day – huzzah! I parked next to a father and son who were both racing. I’ve got hopes of being able to do stuff like this with my kids when they’re a bit older, so it was quite pleasing to see. The race between them was apparently not who was faster, but if the father would be caught! (He wasn’t in the end, so a moral victory there…)

I hadn’t arrived early for the un-allocated racking, but got a reasonable spot – a longer run with the bike than ideal (as the bike in/out is the same exit/entry point), but at least I wouldn’t have to go any extra distance as it was on the first row of bikes. Right next to the swim exit though, so I’d have to have my wits about me quickly after the swim!

My start time came soon enough, and I was off, and with my new found strategy of not doing tumble turns, I felt in control and enjoyed the swim. The lady starting after me closed the gap to start off with, but we then seemed to even up in pace. Which meant I got to the end, in control, happy, without any overtaking or being overtaken.

It turns out I’d done 4:46 – so I think 4:38 without the climbing out and getting to the transition mat. That is (drumroll please!) 28 seconds faster than in September. Woop!

Transition was pretty slick. I was out over the mount line and launched onto the bike without any drama. I even got the flying leap onto the bike and feet on the pedals done without crushing anything delicate! (Turns out it was the fastest transition 1 of the day). Immediately I had to stop to wait for traffic before turning onto the road, but only for a few seconds.

There’s a turn then a downhill. Unfortunately a car pulled out just ahead, and then got stuck behind some slower cyclists, so I twiddled my thumbs on the descent. It sped away by the uphill, so I could go as fast as I liked up it… (so, not very, then!)

Then there’s a T junction with a compulsory foot down. I duly did this, which I had to anyway because of traffic. Then I was out of town and onto a big causeway by the horse racetrack, and then onto the country roads. This part of the ride was lovely. Lots of rolling hills, not much traffic, plenty of overtaking! Finishing the second lap of the countryside loop, I came back onto the causeway.

Knowing I wasn’t going to run, I allows myself to nail it here as I figured it didn’t matter if I blew up. The elevation profile is like the top of a ball – slightly up, then flat, then slightly down, over about 2 km. Pushing 300 watts (which is a bit high for me), with a mild tailwind I averaged 47 kmph for that section. I was grinning for ear to ear a whooping like a loon (who needs a real disc wheel to make a cool noise when you can sound like a fool?!)

Then I was back into the town, which involves being a bit more careful, with another foot down stop. As it happened, by the time I got back into transition, I was actually fine – which is something to learn from. Knowing the course in advance can mean you can work hard preemptively when there’s a slower section coming up!

I jumped off the bike and jogged towards my transition spot. It was all of about 10 meters, but my calf muscle started hurting ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I racked my bike, took my helmet off and picked up my shoes. Doug said he was worrying he was actually going to have to stop me at that point! But I walked (limped) over to the exit, had a conversation with the umpire about not putting the shoes on, got over the timing mat, and then told the race marshal there that I was stopping. 

Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/998127204/analysis

 I’d done the bike section in 33:29 – 35 seconds faster than in September ๐Ÿ˜€

I got myself stretched, showered, changed and went back out to support people finishing.

I was happy and it turned out to have been a good decision to go, but was grumpy that I’d managed to hurt my calf again just going the 10m in transition. Talking to people was ace, as the triathletes I’ve met are all great fun ๐Ÿ˜€

Looking at the results, I had the fasted bike time, and was leading when I stopped. Which is good. And bad! I’m quite glad I didn’t know that at the time as it would have made limping round the run seem more appealing…

 Full results here: https://www.stuweb.co.uk/race/1wh