Haverhill Sprint Triathlon 2018

Haverhill Triathlon was the first Triathlon I won, in 2016. So, I was returning to this with happy memories! This time I was racing with some friends, which is always nice!

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The format for this is a 300m pool swim, 22km undulating bike, and an undulating (OK, it would be considered flat by anyone not from Cambridgeshire) 6km run. Unusually, there is a 2 minute “dead” zone between the swim and the first transition, which allows you to put some socks, shoes, maybe calve guards on, before you cover the 250m to transition. Or, if you’re completely nuts, strip buck naked (with a towel, although accidentally flash the locals, but make that OK with a cheeky grin), and put on a dry tri-suit. (Nope, that wasn’t me!)

Anyway, it was a cold, but glorious sunny autumnal day, but it warmed up enough to be pleasant by the time I was racing.

The pool can’t handle everyone at the same time, so you get started one at a time with a 30 second gap. Last time this was seeded (slowest estimated swim time went first) but this time that didn’t appear to be in effect. As a result there was a LOT of overtaking going on! This consisted of tapping the overtakee on the feet, then waiting till they got to the end of a length, before the overtaker could overtake.

I’ve got a reasonably fast swim now, so started off and caught the person in front in the middle of the 3rd length, just as they caught the person ahead. I did breast stroke till the end, then got to overtake both at the same time.

Then there was a clear section, until I caught 2 more people on the 9th length, so did some more breast stroke, and again passed both at the same time.

My swimming felt pretty relaxed but like I was moving through the water well – I actually wished it was a lot longer! I think it cost 15 seconds doing the overtaking, and both times gave me a breather; I felt pretty lucky having seen the chaos in the water before I got in!

Out of the water I got socks, calf guards and trainers on, and jogged gently over to transition. I took the shoes off just before I went in. Transition went well, and I was on my way again quickly, doing a running mount (without crushing anything delicate!)

Out onto the bike course and immediately up some hills. I had my power meter working this time, which helped with the pacing. It really was a lovely day to be out on a bike, whizzing through beautiful countryside. And overtaking everyone in sight!

After a bit I got to the first set of temporary traffic lights we’d be warned about. These were red, but we’d been told, that as there was no work going on, if it was safe we could proceed through a red light here, so I did.

The second set of traffic lights involved a detour, which missed off a fast section and replaced it with some junctions, but avoided the lights. There was a car reversing out of their driveway here which stopped across the road on a downhill section. Fortunately there was enough room once they’d stopped to get past.

The final set of traffic lights had a marshal, and if they were red, you had to stop, and the results would be adjusted for the delay. These were green for me, but I got stuck behind a long queue of traffic, stuck behind other athletes. Eventually this cleared and I was able to get on with it!

Strava bike link

Back into transition, I tried to go in via the “out” entrance, but the marshal spotted me in plenty of time and helped me go the right way! Then I was out onto the run.

This felt odd after the ride – it always does! I haven’t done many ‘brick’ sessions to help. It really took about 2km before running felt natural again.

I’m coming back from an Achilles tendon injury, which has been absolutely fine for a while now, but it seemed tight today, which was worrying. Fortunately it eased off after 5 minutes, and I could concentrate on keeping my cadence high and running with good form. My pace picked up a little, despite the return section being slightly uphill.

Just before the finish there’s a short, sharp downhill, which is great as I could pick up a lot of speed (past spectators) to the finish line. Over the line and I was in the usual breathless state, but felt exhilarated. That was fun πŸ˜€

Strava run link

I turned out I’d won. By over 5 minutes! Woop! Full results

A couple of my friends also got trophies as well in different races, which was ace!

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After this it was my daughters 7th birthday party in the afternoon (on mini trampolines). Apparently I was tired by the evening…

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So that’s the last race before the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza where I’m doing the sprint distance.

 

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How much faster is swimming with a wetsuit?

This compares swimming without a wetsuit, compared to in a Zone3 Aspire wetsuit and a Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit in a 100 yard (91.44m) outdoor lido. I did 4 individual lengths in each.
I’m a reasonable swimmer (for a triathlete), don’t have sinking legs (I think!), and tend to have a 2 beat kick.
See Zone3 Aspire vs Zone3 Vanquish Testing and Review for more details about the wetsuits and their comparison.

The Results

For the 100 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish No Wetsuit
1:29 ___1:22 _____1:39
1:27 ___1:22 _____1:37
1:25 ___1:23 _____1:36
1:25 ___1:18 _____1:34

Average
Aspire Vanquish No Wetsuit
1:26.5 _1:21.2 ___1:36.5

So, between 10 and 15 seconds per 100m!

The Small Print!

Each of the individual 100y lengths I swam as if it was the start of a longer swim – so not flat out, but too optimistic to actually hold on. The exceptions when I wasn’t thinking about it clearly were:

  • the last length for the Vanquish, and without wetsuit, where it was practically flat out.
  • the last 2 lengths for the Aspire where both were done very hard, though not flat out.

I think these evened out though.

The pool was 16 degrees centigrade. I think this and the length of the pool mean this is a lot slower than an indoor 25m pool, so if you’re comparing to that, don’t expect to see such big differences! For example, a few days earlier at an 25m indoor pool, with tumble turns, at 28 degrees centigrade I did the following:

100m in a 25m Pool
1:30
1:28
1:28
1:30

Average
1:29.0

This meets my expectations of how fast I’ve gone in the Aspire in races compared to my swimming at the pool.

Zone3 Aspire vs Zone3 Vanquish Testing and Review

This review compares swimming in a Zone3 Aspire wetsuit vs a Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit in a 100 yard (91.44m) outdoor lido. I did 4 individual lengths in each, as well as a 4 length swim (368m).
I’m a reasonable swimmer (for a triathlete), don’t have sinking legs (I think!), and tend to have a 2 beat kick.

The Results

For the 100 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish
1:29 __1:22
1:27 __1:22
1:25 __1:23
1:25 __1:18

Average
Aspire Vanquish
1:26.5 _1:21.2

For the 400 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish
1:35 __1:30

I also swam the 100s without a wetsuit – the results from that can be found here: How much faster is swimming with a wetsuit?

The Vanquish felt faster gliding through the water, (which could be body position, or coating?)
The main difference while actually swimming was that it was really obvious how much less restrictive the shoulders are – the Aspire isn’t bad in this respect, but the Vanquish is better! I think this led to a higher cadence.
Putting both on and off was pretty easy and the taking off is quick. They both zip up from the bottom to top.
The neck on the Vanquish is lower, which is good as I’ve had some nasty wetsuit rubs on longer races, but this may be to do with how the Velcro is near the neck after it’s done up. I didn’t have a problem from either suit today.
The catch panels on the Vanquish are a nice idea. I think it was giving me a bit of extra feedback of water pressure, which I currently find pretty useful.

The Small Print!

Each of the individual 100y lengths I swam as if it was the start of a longer swim – so not flat out, but too optimistic to actually hold on. The exceptions when I wasn’t thinking about it clearly were:

  • the last length for the Vanquish, where it was practically flat out.
  • the last 2 lengths for the Aspire where both were done very hard, though not flat out.

I think these evened out though.

The 400s were pretty much as fast as I could go (and the first length of each matched the pace of the 100s). I didn’t do tumble turns.
The pool was 16 degrees centigrade.
I did the Aspire first, then the Vanquish, and had plenty of rest between repetitions.
The Aspire is a few years old, and isn’t in the best condition any more (which is why I’ve bought a new wetsuit), so the comparison favours the Vanquish.

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Also in favour of the Vanquish is that the Vanquish is a size ML, whereas the Aspire is a size MT and was too tight round the chest so I had it professionally adjusted (see the turquoise panels below). Both fit well and appropriately tightly now (I’m currently 76kg, 183cm tall, 41 inch chest, and have big thighs – I’m an ex rower).

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The Aspire

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The Vanquish

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The lido

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Monster Standard Triathlon

I had a great taper for this race (my 2nd Olympic distance) having been on holiday for a week before in the Peak District with my family. Lots of beer carb loading, hiking and resting. I’d done a few rides on a mountain bike, and some short interval running, but mostly resting!

I’ve had a slightly sore Achilles tendon which had been worrying me, but it didn’t seem to be getting any worse, and seemed not to bother me after the first few minutes running, so decided to go for it. On the up side, I had a new toy!

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Oh yes! I hadn’t managed to set it up completely yet, so the aerobars were pretty uncomfortable, but manageable!

The Monster Triathlon is in Ely, which is pretty close to home. There’s a standard ish distance (1.5km swim, 44km bike, 11km run) and a 70.3 middle distance going on at the same time. I’d originally entered the 70.3, but switched as I decided my training was better suited to it (OK, I hadn’t done enough!)

Arriving early it was a beautiful day! The wind was picking up, but it’s a beautiful place to be. I don’t think this picture did the sunrise justice!

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There were a few friends racing this, so it was nice to catch up with them. Everything about this race is very relaxed, so I didn’t feel stressed for once. Training buddy and super swimmer John was racing as well, so we had a little banter before the race.

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A fair amount of this was around the fact that Ben Dijkstra was racing. I’d spotted him earlier – he was racing on a road bike with tiny aerobars. I was expecting him to be a lot faster in the swim and run, but was hoping I might actually briefly catch up on the bike due to the aero advantage I’d have.

Then I got everything set up in transition. This time I attempted to make sure my Wahoo bike computer was connected to the power meter before leaving transition (seeΒ this race report to see why).

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We headed over to the start. The 70.3 racers started half an hour before us, swimming the same downstream/upstream course as us, but with an extra 200m in each direction at the turnaround. Then it was our turn into the river!

As the starter announced 3 minutes, a boat approached the start from the direction we were racing into. It then slowly turned broadside across the river about 50m ahead of us! I think it ‘may’ have been this boat:

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I was laughing about how ridiculous this was and that they’d have to wait, when they started it! John and Ben disappeared in a flurry of bubbles, and I started off, aiming round the front of the boat.

[EDIT] Having talked the orgainsers, I now know that this was the Mayor and the sponsors starting the race! I assume the boat got out of the way then, as I didn’t see it once I’d started!

I found myself on the outside of a bend, with another competitor just ahead and on the inside of me. I thought I could draft him, but quickly realized I was actually faster than him, but it took a while to overtake so I could get over to the inside of the bend.

I worked my way over to that side, and found some people to draft, but again, found I was faster. Maybe I need to start off harder? Anyway, after a while, I did find 2 others to work with. There were a few boats double parked and a bridge, so you had to keep your wits about you!

I became aware of lots of swimmers on the other side of the river, after about 500m, all wearing green hats (as opposed to the yellow we were wearing); the 70.3 swimmers. This seemed odd timing given the 30 minute headstart, but I was busy thinking about not swallowing most of the river!

The turn around buoy came into sight, and I and the 2 people I was swimming with, made our way round it, into the stream of green-hats. This was really odd. If we’d caught them up, we should be going waaaaay faster than them, but we were only slowly overtaking! It actually transpired that their turn buoy had come lose and drifted quite a looong way downstream, so they’d had to swim a lot further!

Given that we were now heading upstream, I moved over close to the bank. This seemed to have been a good tactic, as I soon dropped my 2 fellow yellow-hats who were in the middle of the river. Although I did occasionally have to go through some lilies!

Coming to the end, the river bed had rocks which made getting out a little tricky, but the wonderful volunteers were on hand to help!Β I started getting out of my wetsuit on the run to transition – this felt like a fair distance (it took about a minute) and my Achilles really wasn’t happy running without shoes.

The organisers had done a good job here – they had a timing mat at both ends of this run so you could see how long the swim had actually taken. I’d taken 24:57, which is a couple of minutes slower than my 1500m race PB, but it wasn’t a fast course I think. More usefully, that put me at 6.9% of all competitors (which is a swim PB!).

John hadn’t had a great swim having had someone grab his leg and had a near drowning incident 😦 Ben D however had swum 18:30! Blimey. No chance of catching him on the bike then (although I didn’t know this then).

Transition was slightly slow as I decided to go for comfort and put socks on, but then I was out onto the road! The Wahoo had lost connection to the power meter and wasn’t showing signs of reconnecting. Grrr. I switched it off and on again (yes, I work in computing…) and it connected! Yay!

Did I mention it was windy? This course is very flat and exposed. Some big smooth roads, and one truly terrible bumpy potholed section. Overtaking always feels good, and I started in earnest after the only slight climb and onto the first section, on good roads with a tailwind. I passed John here so got to say Hi! By the end of this section, my average speed was 46kmph. Woop!

The next section was a crosswind, of the kind that involves leaning into! But still, the speed kept up.

Then came the bumpy section. Into the headwind. Gahhhh! I didn’t want to get out of the aero tuck, so I had to hold on tight over the bumps. The uncomfortable aerobars set up really didn’t help with this and made my wrists really ache :(.

Many, many, many bumps later, the road got better! Still into a headwind, but it didn’t matter so much anymore! No sign of Ben D, but no other people that appeared to be doing the Standard distance either (there were different coloured race numbers) by this point.

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There came a point where the course split as the 70.3 racers went on a longer loop, and I nearly took the wrong turning, but spotted the signs indicating this in time.Β  By the end of the headwind section I was down below 40 kmph average, but the next section would be on good roads with a cross/tailwind. The speed came back up and the average started creeping up again.

Coming off the loop and into the section towards transition I lost my bottle on a corner – I think I hadn’t put it back in the (rear) holder properly as it wasn’t over a bump, just the corner. I didn’t stop for it.

Back to transition and I could see the sign for the dismount line and volunteers waving. There was a 90 degree turn, and I could see a strong black line on the floor just round this. As I got really close, I realised that wasn’t the dismount line which was a green line just before the turn! I braked harder and just managed to get off without crashing or falling on my face…

The dismount line was probably as bright as any other, but my eyes were drawn towards the strong black line instead.

Into transition and there was a single, road bike in transition! So, I knew I was in 2nd, which was as good as I could possibly hope for! I’d done it in 1:05:53, slightly over 40 kmph. Fastest bike (3:30 faster than Ben D!).

Strava link (slightly short due to switching the Wahoo on and off again).

For some reason T2 took a long time according to the results. I remember struggling to get my shoes on for some reason, but even so, that wouldn’t explain why my time was down to 46% of all competitors despite having my feet out of bike shoes before coming into transition.

Onto the run, and there was an aid station. I wasn’t hot as it wasn’t a hot day, but I knew I would be, so I threw a cup of water over my head and was off.

The course had a couple of hills and involved running past the imposing cathedral! It involved 4 laps, and on each you picked up a wristband from the cheery volunteers at the top of the main hill.

On my way up this, I saw Ben D walking back! I asked if he was OK, to which he replied that he was fine, but only allowed to run 1km (it turns out he’s coming back from an injury), and that I was in the lead now! He did have a bit of blood on his knee, which turns out be because he’d come off the bike coming into transition – maybe he’d made the same mistake as me about the line?

Anyway, there was a guy on a bike waiting there, who it turned out was to ride in front of the lead competitor round the first lap. This was now me! Whoop! An honour guard! This felt pretty special, especially going round the cathedral!

I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but was pretty paranoid about being overtaken. Coming into the second lap, the cyclist stopped and waved goodbye. However, now I was running with people a lap behind me, so for each person who overtook, I had no idea if they were a lap behind, or on the same lap.

I guess I was overtaken about 5 times, and each time I did a lot of looking to see how many wristbands they had on! I was averaging around 4:00 per km, which given the hills was actually probably a PB. My Achillies wasn’t playing up, so apart from the normal aerobic pain from pushing hard, I felt great!

On the last lap, I could see someone coming up behind me. I looked several times to see if he was catching fast enough to get me before the end (he was), then how many bands he had on (I couldn’t see), and finally thought it might be John (it was!).

He caught me up (he was a lap behind) and then mocked me for my multiple looking behind stunt! There wasn’t anyone else closing, so it was at this point, with about 1km to go, I started to believe I might win the race!

I sped up coming to the finish, leaving John behind and into the finishing chute, and took the ribbon! What a great feeling!

I’d run 43:08 for the (slightly short) 11km, which was 10.5% of all competitor times.

Strava link (again slightly short as I’d pressed the wrong button coming out of transition and only sorted it out a bit later).

Total time was 2:17:21. I won by 2 minutes from 2nd (who passed out as he came over the line! He was fine after a bit of time). Whoop!

I saw John afterwards and had plenty of time before the presentation to get a massage and pack up.

 

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This is an amazingly run, friendly event. The atmosphere was wonderful and everyone seemed happy!

Endura Helmet Pod – a hard case for Giro Aerohead Helmets up to size medium

I have a medium Giro Aerohead helmet and travel (sometime via plane) to races with it – I was looking for a hard case and was shocked how hard it was to get the Giro “replacement” case (replacing what exactly? It didn’t come with a case!), and how expensive it was! Β£60 from here!

Fortunately I found a much cheaper alternative for Β£17: https://www.endurasport.com/product/helmet-pod/

The medium helmet just fits as long as you put the visor in the “flipped up” position before you put it in:

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Note it won’t take a large helmet.

In this picture it looks like it’s just too big – it does add a slight deformation, but nothing major and zips up without any issues:

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(The zip sliders don’t have to be in this position)

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The dimensions at the widest are 36cm * 27cm by 19cm.

So far I’ve used it for one trip via air-plane, and taken it to several local races, and it seems well made! I don’t have any complaints.

There is a mesh air-vent underneath which allows any moisture to dry out.

I’m not in any way connected with Endura or Giro, just thought it was worth sharing this as I see a lot of these helmets around!

Fyn Aquabike World Championships 2018

I feel very lucky to have had the honour to be able to race for GB Triathlon again (in a mature age group category). I’ve only managed this once before, but unlike last time which was a sprint duathlon, this time I was racing a long distance Aquabike; 3km swim followed by 120km of cycling. This was being held at the World Multisport Festival in Fyn, Denmark. This being a relatively new format, unlike the other events, there was no separate Elite race, so it counts as the fully-fledged World Championship!

Building up to these distances has been quite a challenge. Most of the difficulty was based around lower back pain on the bike, and oddly given the nature of the event, running! The latter being because I’d booked myself to race a half Ironman as the last test for the swimming and cycling, but really wanted to do the run for that as well!

I did manage that event, but even so, both the bike and swim on that were the furthest I’ve ever raced (or in the case of the bike, cycled on a TT bike!), and were quite a bit shorter than the Aquabike (2km swim and 91km bike), and my back really had been aching towards the end of that.

In the build up to the event, there was a lot of worry about jellyfish in the docks we’d be racing in.

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On the way, the Ryanair flights were a nightmare in many ways.

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On the upside we met someone lovely (Fleur) in the crowded airport who was also going to the race, to support a friend.

After a delayed flight, we arrived in Odense at 3am, but at least my bike hadn’t got lost on the flight. Unfortunately, my relatively new rear disc wheel, despite being well packed in a bike box, got broken :(.

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Fortunately, the next morning I was able to patch it together for the race with electrical tape. Putting the bike back together wasn’t plain sailing due to a part falling inside the frame and getting stuck, but I fished it out eventually! The entire day was spent rushing to do random bits of admin, faff or preparation, but it all got done in time!

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This included putting my bike in transition. Due to it being really warm, and having to leave the bike in the sun, I let a little air out of the tyres to avoid a blowout.

After that it was time for some pasta and an early night – the previous late night turned out well as it meant I found it easy to get to sleep early despite it being very hot. I was up 3 hours before the start; 4:40 am (3:40 UK time!). I ate some low fibre carbs (rice pudding and porridge) and had some coffee. I walked to the start/transition 1, queued, and found my bike.

I hadn’t planned to pump my tyres up; they are latex inner tubes so tend to lose a little pressure overnight. However, I thought the tyre pressure would still be high enough, despite having let a little air out and the fact it was actually pretty cold at this time in the morning. However, there were a few people with track pumps, so I thought I’d do it just in case. This turned out to be a good move because they were down to around 60 psi (I normally race at 100!)

I did all my normal preparation including setting up my nutrition (750ml energy drink, and 240g worth of gels in an aero bottle – this time with a good fitting lid!) and switching on my Wahoo cycle computer. I’d changed the battery in the power meter since it hadn’t worked at Holkham, and it had been working since then.

There was a massive queue for the 8 toilets in transition (for over 1000 athletes!), but I’d heard a rumour of toilets near the swim start, so I headed over there. While queuing for these, I let a lady in an earlier starting wave who was worried about making it to the start in time come into the queue in front of me. I thought I recognised the name – it turned out that this was the person our new friend from the airport was supporting, Claire! Speaking of which, Fleur and her mother suddenly appeared, which was lovely and I felt like they were my supporters too!

I ended up being ready about 10 minutes before my wave started (a PB!) and was pretty relaxed. We were called forward into a holding pen, then into the water. It was a short swim to the start in the harbour, where all 200 men in my wave (wearing white swim hats) congregated in a narrow gap between two buoys. Mostly, they appeared to be weeing, given the smell… I settled into the third row to wait, treading water. I was somewhere over to the left (not the inside line for the first buoy, but I was hoping to avoid being in the most congested area).

After a few minutes it seemed it was time to start; cue some atmospheric music! The starter called “Attention!”… Then a long pause … HONK! Off we went, doing a good impression of a 400 armed washing machine. Bodies were everywhere, limbs flailing! The water was lumpy. Er, what? Oh, jellyfish. They didn’t appear to be stinging, but I was still glad to be in a wetsuit!

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I was trying to cope with the mess of bodies, sighting the course (I hadn’t done a reccy), worrying about overdoing it at the start of a long race, attempting to draft, and remembering bits of technique. It was all a bit of a blur. I was hoping it would thin out, but we soon caught up with slower swimmers from the wave before. Then the wave before that.

At the halfway point it was still as busy as near the start, and there was a pontoon with a narrow 4 step staircase up and down, with a timing mat at the top. I hauled myself out onto this thing. I thought I may have looked like a Pro triathlete doing this, but suspect that I may have looked more like one of those mud fish with partially formed legs…

Anyway, having successfully navigated this, I dived back in (er, jumped in, while holding my nose) and floundered onwards. I think we caught up with another wave, just as the fastest swimmers from the previous wave caught up with us. I say us, as I was trying to draft other swimmers.

I wasn’t having much luck staying with anyone though. Either they were stopping to clean goggles regularly, or despite having swum the same distance as me in the same time, suddenly seemed much faster!

I wasn’t going in a very straight line, or taking the shortest route. Partially this was because of other swimmers, and partially due to not knowing what was coming next having not done a reccy. Finally the end came in sight. I was pleased to have got through the swim without any major hits to either my face or body!

At the exit (more stairs) a strong pair of hands helped pull me out, and I was away, beginning to peel my wetsuit off.

I was hoping to manage about 1:35 per 100 meters for the swim. I hadn’t come close, averaging 1:42 over the 3km. However, it does look like most people swam closer to 3.2km. If that’s what I did, then it looks much better (about 1:35). Regardless, I was 9 out of 19 in my age group, 71 out of 194 overall. Not bad considering this was the World Championships, but not good enough if I wanted to be challenging for a medal!

We had red bags with biking kit in them. These were lined up in numerical order in a small area, much like a school cloak room. Having cunningly scoped out where mine was earlier, I tried to get to it past someone who was looking for theirs. Unfortunately, they were also taking their arms out of their wetsuit, and one arm came free suddenly. His elbow smacked into my face 😦 It didn’t draw blood however :).

I grabbed my bag (which was empty as everything was on my bike) then stuffed my wetsuit in it, handed it to a volunteer, and was off towards the bikes.

I found it in the sea of tri bikes, helmet on, and out (5th fastest transition of the day! I was up to 7th in my age group now, and 50th overall. Seriously? I was fast enough to go up 21 places here?!). I thought this was odd so looked how I faired including the people doing the full distance. On the swim I was 244th out of 944, and went up 41 places in transition. Seems like this might be my strongest discipline!

I jumped on (shoes were already on the bike) and got clear of other competitors before getting my feet in, and peddling up the hill and away.

Immediately I realised my power meter wasn’t working again! I didn’t swear out loud, but the language was pretty fruity in my head! I’m pretty sure now I need to make the bike computer (a Wahoo Elmnt Bolt) and the power meter connect soon after switching on the bike computer (by spinning the pedals), otherwise it times out. Normally switching on the computer is the last thing I do after the bike is in the rack. I wish I’d known that before this race! This wasn’t a problem with my old Garmin.

So, I did at least have GPS speed showing up. I immediately started overtaking, but after a little while a GB athlete overtook me going up a hill. I recognised the name and realised it was Jeremy (we’ve raced before, and we’d chatted before the race). This was up a slight hill, and coming down the other side I overtook him back. Someone else overtook, and then we hit another uphill, and Jeremy came past again. Then I took the lead down the other side. Oh, I realised this was going to happen a lot! I also spotted Claire at this point, so said “Hi!” as I passed.

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Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I chuffed along, but wasn’t really hitting the speed I was hoping for. I wasn’t worried though as it was quite windy, and it seemed mostly like a cross/head direction. However, every now and then I’d get overtaken. This isn’t something I’m used to and was disconcerting! OK, it was the World Championships, but I still didn’t like it!

I was slowly drinking my Torq energy drink and gels from an aero bottle (8 of them! 2 of which had caffeine in them). I wished I’d thought to put some water in the gel bottle to make it a bit more diluted though.

About 25km in, the Spanish guy who I thought from my pre-race cyber sleuthing, would win my age category, came past, appearing to be drafting a Danish athlete. They weren’t going that much faster, so I followed (at a legal 12m distance!)

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I left Jeremy behind at this point, but I thought I was pushing too hard, so after about 10km decided not to try to hold on after losing some distance up a hill. After a while, going up another incline, Jeremy overtook again and we resumed our dance.

By the end of the first lap I could now see my average speed was down a couple of kmph on what I was hoping for, but I didn’t dare push any harder:

  1. because I thought I was probably working quite close to my limit and would blow up towards the end if I wasn’t careful, and
  2. my back was hurting and working hard tends to increase the rate it gets worse.

I was already standing up stretching up all the inclines (nothing over 5%) – Jeremy was staying in the aero tuck all the time up these!

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

By looking at other people’s numbers I could see who was in my age group. Apart from the Spanish guy, a French athlete had also overtaken me (going at a much faster rate) who I though was probably also in it.

Apart from that, every now and again I’d overtake someone in the age group, so I had vague hopes I could be in 3rd still. However, my back was hurting and I was losing more ground on the up-hills to Jeremy now. He wasn’t in my age group so I didn’t fight it, and let him go, trying to keep a steady pace, and stretching every chance I got.

I did however see and overtake another competitor I knew – Nick. He won his age category last time, so this have me a boost, although I did have to get over how offensively bright his luminous yellow bike was!

I finished my energy drink and swapped it out for water at an aid station (lob your old bottle at a container as you approach, shout out what it is you’re after – water – then slow a bit, and grab the new bottle, which is resting on top of the open palm of a volunteer’s hand as you go past). This tasted lovely after all the sugary sweetness of the gels and energy drink!

My average pace had dropped on the second lap by about a kmph. However, I didn’t know this at the time as the GPS dropped out as well. I wasn’t best pleased with this, but just got on with it.

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

There were signs every 15 or 20km though, telling you how far you’d gone, so just after I overtook someone in my age group, I saw I had 10km to go. Up till this point, I don’t think I was working any harder than I’d do if I was doing the run afterwards, as I was still being cautious of my back. However, now I upped the pace a bit, tried to finish the gels, and decided not to stretch any more. However, I soon decided that was a bad idea, so resumed stretching.

I overtook a few more athletes, none in my age group, but was paranoid I’d get caught by someone towards the end! Turning off the last lap, there was about 1km to go, so I really pushed hard.

The line came in sight. It had a blue banner over it, but nothing said Aquabike finish. It was where I was expecting it to be, but still was paranoid enough that I didn’t slow down till I came into transition!

I was very glad to get off the bike and have a good stretch after that! My fellow Aquabikers were all relaxed and we had a nice chat as we walked down into the underground car park which was the transition, while people doing the triathlon came jogging past. We did our best not to get in the way, but it was pretty odd, and I’m sure frustrating for the triathletes.

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

We got our run kit bags, put on running shoes, then sauntered up out of the car park, bags in hand, towards the Triathlon finish line. We were to finish through this, but had been told we’d have to wait for the first 3 elite men and women triathletes to finish.

We got to within 100m of the finish, where there was a blue carpet laid out, and then told to stop and wait for them. It was very hot in the sun by this point, and there was nothing to drink. We were in high spirits though!

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I was chatting to another athlete I’d met, Glen, and we agreed to race along the blue carpet to the finish when allowed. After about a 10-minute wait, the top 3 men finished, and they let us through.

Glen and I sprinted for the line, which got some cheers! It was pretty funny since neither of us had loosened off our legs, so going straight into sprinting after 3+ hours on a bike had us running like puppets! Glen took the honours, just pipping me on the line!

Then we could go through and get drinks and food from the recovery tent! As much food and drink (including real beer!) as you wanted – ace! You could also pick your finishers T-Shirt size by trying one on, so for once I actually got one that fits!

Freya had had a nice time with Fleur, her mother, and Claire’s family, so I joined them drinking beer, enjoying the atmosphere while watching Claire complete the run!

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Overall, I came 5th in my age group (first British athlete!), and 27th overall. My sleuthing before the race turned out to be awful! The winner of my race, won the whole thing, beating a 5-time rowing Olympian medallist (3 golds!) into second by over 5 minutes! And the Spanish guy I thought would win (who did get a gold and silver earlier in the week in the sprint and standard duathlon) only came 4th.

I think the lack of elite category didn’t help. The first 3 had times that put them in line with the elites in the triathlon. Hopefully the ITU will make an elite category for Aquabike soon!

My bike time was a bit disappointing. I’d averaged 37.45kmph – on a test run of 50km at target power on a marginally flatter course at home the week before I’d averaged 40kmph and was pretty fresh at the end of that. Without the power meter I don’t know if the difference was just the course or the wind (likely) or me putting out less power (also likely!)

Strava Link (it gets a bit patchy towards the end where the GPS was giving up).

Trying to gauge from other peoples paces is also difficult here as I expect the standard to be higher again than the qualifiers (where I’ve been close to the fastest cyclist recently). Here, including the triathletes, I came 106th out of 944, and got overtaken 11 times (I don’t normally get overtaken!). The winner of my age group averaged 42.35kmph (I ‘think’ he’s an ex pro cyclist).

I’ve gone away determined to up my game – I don’t like being overtaken on the bike! It was a fun event with lots of happy people, and great support by the volunteers. Denmark was an amazing place to be, and we had a great couple of extra days holiday afterwards.

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Full results here

My first 70.3 Half Ironman! The Outlaw Holkham Half

The longest triathlon I’ve done was an Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run). A 70.3 is a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run, which is a big step up in length, but, er, I’ve also never cycled that far, or run that far! So, I was wonderfully prepared then…

I’d changed my running form recently which has enabled me to increase the training distances, but I only managed to do this recently, so I’d be increasing distance a little rapidly, and not doing any speed work – I’d got up to 18km in training. As for the bike, I’d got up to 83km in training, so to be fair, neither were that far off.

The race itself was held on the Holkham Estate, which is a beautiful stately home and garden in Norfolk where we take the kids quite often when on holiday near there. I’d be able to camp overnight (which was useful given you had to rack you bike the night before, and my race wave started at 6:37am). The forecast was hot enough to cook eggs without a fire, with a bit of wind.

My nutritional strategy was a 500ml aero-bottle full of Maurten 320 drink mix, and a 750ml bottle of lucozade isotonic on the bike, with the idea I’d drink the lucozade and replace it with another energy drink from an aid station, and drink that as well. The Maurten is kind of like gels, but is meant to be easier on the stomach. It’s more liquid, so only 80g of carbs in 500ml. I’d then drink coke/water/energy drink, and eat gels as I felt able on the run.

The bottles would have about 50g carbs each, so in total that would give me 180g of carbs over 2 1/2 hours, which should be about right (although probably an energy drink that was part fructose, part maltodextrin or glucose – I’ve no idea what lucozade is made of), and given the heat hopefully that’d be enough liquid.

The scale of the event was amazing – 1500 entries and all the associated stuff to go with a group of people that size was pretty cool. Transition was huge, and by the Saturday night, full of expensive bikes!

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In the evening, I walked around the lake, noticing a few patches of weed and the island you have to swim round.

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I settled in for the night pretty early, and think I was actually asleep by about 8:30pm.

Early in the morning I faffed quite a bit, moved my car to the parking area from the camping area (so I could leave earlier as the exit would be closed during the run and I was expecting to finish several hours before some). Then faffed some more. Queued for toilets, and then had to run in my wet-suit to the start, downing a gel on the way.

Into the water with the other 200 people in my wave, and after a brief wait, we were off! I was in the 2nd row of swimmers, and I deliberately went off faster than my traditional steady pace to try to get someone fast to draft. It was a little on the ‘busy’ side, but there was no angry swimming going on, just the occasional bump.

I hadn’t gone off very hard, and I calmed my pace down after about 100m. You could sense some people that had gone off way too hard rapidly dropping back at this point, but I found someone to draft off. After a little while, I decided I could overtake and moved up to another group, and then again.

I hadn’t noticed much in the way of weed yet, but then some caught on my timing chip, which was a little irritating. I tried to put it off, and snapped some off, but there was a bit still there. I looked up, and it appeared that I was in the first group of people, with 4 of us in it, with a few individuals or pairs further ahead. Woop! We started overtaking some people from the earlier (younger!) wave (in white hats, as opposed to our fetching orange), which caused a little chaos, but given a little focus it didn’t cause too many problems.

As we swam round the island, the person I was drafting started going a bit wide. I followed, but the other 2 from our group took an inside line. The guy I was drafting got some weed on his timing chip, so I spent a few strokes trying to grab it off (which I managed, eventually!). The other 2 were now 15 meters to our left, and definitely getting ahead, so I decided to bridge across to them. This turned out to be quite hard to catch up, and took about 3 or 4 minutes of hard swimming.

We now had a later wave swimming in the opposite direction on our left (in blue hats). Suddenly there was a bit of splashing, and just ahead of me there was a blue hatted person doing breaststroke in the middle of all the white and orange hats! Aggggh! We narrowly avoided contact, and I had to sprint to catch the people I was drafting. Fortunately that didn’t happen again.

We got to the final buoy and turned left towards the shore. I started kicking hard to wake my legs up (which slowed me down, sigh).

The route was a little on the long side (2km instead of 1.9)km, and including the run from the edge to the timing mat at the entrance to transition, I’d taken 31:39, coming 64th out of the 1250 starters, which is way up on where my swimming used to be! I ‘think’ that works out as 1:33 per 100m for the actual swimming πŸ˜€

I got through transition without any drama, taking a small amount of time to get some socks on before heading out on the bike, and straight up the hill that I’d be running up repeatedly later. Given I was in the 3rd wave (behind the Elite and a younger wave), and the bike leg is my happy place, there were quite a lot of athletes to overtake!

Out of the estate, and onto the roads, there were a few cars, but it was pretty quiet really. I know later in the day, particularly sunny days, that whole area (near the beach!) can get pretty busy.

My power meter wasn’t working for some reason, although I did have GPS based speed readings. I was planning on drinking mostly (as opposed to having the Maurten ‘gel’) so I’d be ready to replace the bottle by the first aid station at 45km. However, about 5km in I thought I’d have a sip of the gel.

Unfortunately, the lid of the aero bottle (Elite Crono) came off in my hand and disappeared. Uh oh. It was spilling out in a sticky fashion all over the place 😦 I either had to drink it now (which might be bad for my gut, hitting too many carbs too quickly) or waste it and not have enough energy. Er. Um. I downed it.

So that’s 80g of carbs (OK a little was spilt) and to give the Maurten’s its due, I didn’t feel particularly bad. However, it did feel odd enough that I didn’t think adding to the carbs by drinking lots of energy drink was a good plan. There was another aid station at 75km, I could drink later and get another bottle there.

I was gaining and overtaking everyone I saw on the flats and downhills (although it was mostly gentle ups and downs rather than flat), but on the up hills I was relatively going slower. Cycling past the Sandringham Estate was quite a nice area to be cycling. My new helmet (a Giro Aerohead) was working out nicely as you can see ahead when you’ve got your head down (which I had problems with on my previous, a Bell Javelin), and didn’t seem too hot. I was heating up though.

By about half way, I still didn’t feel like drinking energy drink, but turning into the headwind of the return leg cooled me down a bit. I’d passed a few of the Elite females, but now passed one of the males who was on the side of the road (fixing a puncture?). After a while he overtook me, which worked quite nicely as I then followed him at the regulation 12m into the wind. I don’t know if it helped in terms of drafting, but it certainly helped mentally to pace yourself.

This was on a big A road, and I think I was behind him for about 20km. I’ve not had the experience of racing behind someone before, and it was interesting as you have to pay attention to keep the distance the correct length (so no illegal drafting within the 12m), and cope with someone else’s speed variations.

Coming up to the aid station I still had about a 1/3 of a bottle left, so grabbed a water bottle, poured it over my head and then carried on. The Elite guy hadn’t slowed for this, and it was an uphill section, so I lost him here. I hadn’t seen anyone in my age group for ages a this point, so when someone else overtook me at about 85km I was a bit gutted to see they were in my age group.

I followed them round (a bit further back than 12m this time, as he overtook on another uphill), but didn’t drop back any further.

We briefly got stuck behind a slow moving horse transport, then entered the estate. I cycled as far as the top of the hill, then got my feet out, got up to speed and then coasted down to transition. There were a few runners out already (the running course started along the side of the bike course), but not many.

Coming into transition, there were no other bikes in the area where our age group was, so I was in second in the age group (out of 200)! I’d come 17th on the bike in 2:27.

Strava link

I was right behind the other guy at this point, and he faffed more than me in transition, so I actually came out onto the run in 1st place age group. Including transition times, if I did a 1:30 run, I’d get under 4:30, which I was secretly hoping for. It’s 3 laps, so 30 minutes per lap. Simple!

My run plan was to start off easily, and then get up to 4:30 pace per km, then get up to 4:20 after 5km, and then try to ramp it up towards the end. Tracking this would be difficult as the start of the run was a couple of kms up a 5% hill.

The other guy in my age group went past me within the first 300m, which was a shame, but I had no intention of going too hard. I wasn’t sure about drinking or eating too much while running, so just had a sip at the first of the aid stations.

There were kids with water guns and signs like “wave if you want to get wet!”, which was ace. The temperature by this point was climbing towards 30 degrees, so this was very welcome! There was a lot of banter and people being happy, music and a really nice vibe!

By the second aid station (they were about 2.5km apart) I thought I’d best get some electrolytes in, and used one of the sponges being offered to get some water on me. Up the hill I’d averaged 4:45 pace, and on the rest I was averaging 4:25 pace, so basically I was bang on target. I still got overtaken by a couple of people about 6km in (one of which was a relay runner who was talkative, but I thought the other was in my age group).

Starting the second lap I was beginning to feel quite bad. My stomach was fine (yay!) but my mouth was really dry, and I realised my vision was getting a little blurry around the edges. Oh, and my legs started feeling really, really heavy. Having listened to the dire warnings in the briefing about overheating, I decided to take this seriously!

I stopped at the aid stations and drank one or two cups at each one. I ran past and behind the people offering sponges and grabbed 5 – 10 of them instead from the buckets and really getting myself wet. And I slowed down – not that I had any choice on this last point! I was now averaging 5:30 minutes per km up the hill, and 5:00 on the rest.

To make matters worse, there were a lot of people joining the run for their first lap (relay teams included), so I was being repeated overtaken (although a lot of them slowed right down and I could overtake them again pretty soon!). I had no idea how I was doing – I was still hoping for 3rd, but I was pretty sure I saw someone in my age group come past.

Coming towards the 3rd lap, the finish looked very tempting, but I plodded on for the last lap. All I was doing was trying to get from aid station to aid station by this point! My legs felt like lead. I finally decided to risk trying some gels (caffeinated ones at that). This actually gave me a bit more energy, so I upped the pace a bit, but was offsetting that by spending more time at the aid stations drenching myself, drink and finding gels each time!

With 2km to go I spotted that I was running next to someone in my age group, so managed to up my pace a bit to 4:38, which took ever bit of energy I had left. I was very, very glad to see the finish up ahead, when I finally did! At this point I bumped into a friend – he had another lap to do, so I felt a bit sorry for him, but he seemed to be enjoying himself!

Checking I wasn’t about to be overtaken, I mustered what energy I could to run up the red carpet and take the ribbon in my hands. I’d actually done it! And hadn’t broken myself! Yes!

My run took 1:44:41, and I’d come 116 overall in that.

Strava Link

Even on my best day, I think 1:30 on that course would have been optimistic, but 1:35 I might aspire to!

The finish line was a fun place to be, with a DJ playing music, commentators having some banter over a PA system, drinks (including Erdinger alcohol free – it’s isotonic apparently, and tasted great!) I was able to go and get a massage, and then a meal (although I needed a LOT more than was provided – but there were plenty of places to get more once I’d got my stuff from transition and had some money to pay).

My full time was 4:46, and I came 38th overall, 4th in my age group (sigh – there were prizes for 1st to 3rd).

Full Results

Given how bad I felt on the run, before I think about doing another of these I need to do more running, manage to get the calorific intake right, drink enough, and learn to have gels while running. Hitting the wall was not pleasant at all!

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