Friday, January 24, 2020

Another weekend, another race...

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When the organiser of the Royal Wootton Bassett triathlon, a new local sprint triathlon for 2014, first approached me to race I was a little wary.  Coming only a week after the Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca, I wasn’t sure I’d be in a fit state to race to my best. But as ever, I found it hard to say no, especially since I feel obligated to do my best to support races in my local area.

And so on Sunday morning I made the 20-minute journey to the race hub at a leisure centre in Royal Wootton Basset (near Swindon in Wiltshire).  I’d been allocated the very last number in the entire event – 160.  I wasn’t sure if I was meant to read anything into that, but I knew I’d be off in the final wave.


The swim

Like many local races, the triathlon started with a 400m pool swim.  No problem, except I hadn’t set foot in a pool since before the Mallorca race! I’m not sure what you’re like, but I find my swim goes to pot as soon as I spend more than three or four days away from the pool, and it takes me as many sessions to regain the feel for the water.  As such, I knew I wouldn’t be getting close to my 5:30 PB for the swim. I decided a 5:45 would do and that I wanted to avoid arriving in T1 feeling like my lungs were bursting out of my chest!

I was third off in my lane, and it became clear almost immediately that the other two guys were faster.  Local young gun, Matt Griffin, duly lapped me with about four lengths to go. I waited at a turn after having had my feet tapped and tried to jump back on his feet.

Eventually I exited the water after my 16 lengths and crossed the timing mat at the pool doors – bang on 5:45. Okay, we’ll take that (Matt Griffin had done a very tidy 5:12).

Out into T1 and everything went smoothly – helmet on, grab bike and run to the mount line before executing something vaguely resembling a flying mount.  It always surprises me how many people faff about with their shoes as soon as they are on the bike, rather than waiting until they are up to speed – I’m convinced my way is faster and this was proven as I picked-off the guy who had started before me in the pool before we got more than 300 metres down the road.

The bike

Wootton Bassett TriathlonThe 22km bike leg was an undulating course in a loop west of Wootton Bassett.  For the most part, the road conditions were good, although there were a few bits that gave the bones – and the bike – a good shaking. My new custom Garmin mount from RacewareDirect - which puts the Garmin in my line of sight, rather than below my chin - worked a treat, although needs securing better in future.

Despite the legs still not being 100% recovered, I was pleased with my power and figured I was having a solid bike – although I was slightly surprised to not be overtaking anyone from my wave (I didn’t find out till later that was because only Matt Griffin was ahead of me by then and he was well down the road!).  In contrast to Mallorca, where I was never alone on the bike, it felt a bit lonely and difficult to gauge my effort/progress. I guess it was just like a Time Trial, but without the minute-men!  My power and HR were in the TT territory, too.

Wootton Bassett TriComing back into Wootton Bassett, there was a climb back up into the town and a couple of junctions to navigate before diving towards T2.  Up till then, drivers and traffic had been kind. But inevitably there’s always one idiot who pulls out right in front of you and I had to slam the brakes on, immediately scrubbing 20km/h off the speedo at a mini-roundabout (my right of way, just to be clear!). Hey ho, at least I was less than a kilometer from T2.

A good dismount and nice fast T2 and it was out onto the run course.

The run

Now I admit, my preparation for the race was a bit (a lot!) poor.  I had only surveyed the bike course on the map the night before and hadn’t bothered sussing out the run course at all.  I just knew it was states as a 5km on mixed terrain.  So when, after about 600m, I was forced down the steepest hill I’ve ever had to run at speed (no exaggeration! It was worse than the hill in Beijing for anyone that did the AG World Champs in 2011!), it came as a bit of a shock – especially as I could see how slowly people were going running back up it!

Along the bottom field and then an uphill loop back to ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and then another (flat) field around to the second lap.  I didn’t feel like I was running very fast and just didn’t have much in the legs.  Oh well, just another lap and it will all be over!  I tried to run back down the hill a little more smoothly this time, but I still felt like Bambi on ice – equally scared of losing my footing and doing myself some serious muscle damage by landing wrong.  Back around the field and I think I picked-off a couple of guys from an earlier wave before heading back up the Hill – this time trying the tactic of taking really quick short strides.  It seemed to work a bit better and as I shrugged off the offer of water at the top, at least this time I knew it was flat all the way to the finish line.

I picked my pace back up and targeted three people ahead to overtake before the finish line. I managed two before the third headed away from the finish line to their second run lap. A quick check over my shoulder showed no-one in sight, so I just concentrated on finishing strong and relaxed.

I must have done an okay job of pretending to be a good runner, as the commentator announced "Here comes 160, looking strong, showing how's its done!" as I crossed the timing mat.  Haha, if only he knew!

A quick check of the results showed me in second place. My initial thought was slight disappointment (shows how I've perhaps become a little arrogant!). I thought I might have done enough to secure first in the vet (old fart) category. I wonder who's beaten me?

But then I checked again. I wasn't second old fart.  I was second overall. Okay that's a nice surprise. In fact, I was one of only two guys to finish in less than an hour (in the spirit of transparency, let me point out that although the bike was long, the run was short!). The winner, the young Matt Griffin, had had a stonking bike ride (two minutes faster than me!) and an impressive run. He was the clear winner. Still, I was pleased with my performance.

Thanks to Active Sports Events for organising the first of what I am sure will become a successful series of races. Thanks also to the many volunteers who gave up their time (hey guys, at least it was lovely and sunny!!) to help marshal, photograph and organise the race.

For me, I now have a bit of a dilemma.  I entered the Cotswold 113 on June 15th ages ago, but just recently I was 'gifted' a free entry to Ironman 70.3 Aarhus in Denmark the week after. I'm really not sure what to do at the moment. Do I race both as if they are "A" races? Do I race both but be strict on treating only one as an "A" race; or do I sacrifice one of my entries?

I suppose in reality, neither of the races are "A" races in the true sense.  Having qualified for the 70.3 World Champs, my only "A" race this year will be Mont Tremblant in September (and maybe the ETU Middle Distance champs in October...?).  Whichever, it's time to knuckle back down to training, continue improving my swim and bike and address my run and nutrition challenges.

My coach and I have analyzed Mallorca and think we've spotted the areas that need the most work. Now comes the hard part - putting the lessons into training plans and executing!

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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs