Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Deva triathlon 2013 - Race Report

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I'll try to keep this one short, just for a change. That's partly for your sake as a reader but also partly because it didn't turn out to be a race that I particularly want to dwell on.

Deva starts with a river swim, billed as 850m upstream with a shorter 650m return leg. Jumping into the river, everything went black and cold - I got that horrible " I can't breathe" feeling together with a lovely ice cream head.  I tried to use the short swim to the start line to both calm down and warm up. I could feel a trickle of cold water in my right goggle, but was worried about trying to readjust the goggle in the water just seconds before the start, so elected to leave them be and hope for the best.

It was probably the wrong decision, as within seconds of the gun going and 150-odd (one of the largest waves of the day) swimmers thrashing away, the right goggle more or less flooded completely. Mindful that the river water was pretty brown, I was worried about getting an infection in the eye, but perhaps more concerned that any attempt to clear the flooding would probably get me drowned by the 120-odd competitors behind me!  So I carried on.

Which would have been bad enough except I could hardly see a thing! The combination of only one working eye and a very low sun glinting off the river made seeing the buoys extremely tricky. So I switched to Plan B – follow the guy in front!  This worked to a point, but I definitely had to ease off a couple of times when I would have preferred to have pushed on.  It seemed to take a long time to finally reach the turnaround buoy, but thankfully the return leg was reasonably uneventful.  I found the exit ramp, got a hand from a marshal and was out of the water.  Looking down at my Garmin I could see it was reading about 27 minutes – really?!  Last year I was doing 21-22 minutes on lake swims at Shropshire and Dambuster (Dambuster I actually did more like 15, but it was shortened to 1km).  It turns out I was far from the only one with a slow swim and talking to various people, GPS seems to suggest the course was a good 150-250m long.


The run up to transition 1 was just that, a run “up” two flights of steps and a good 300m of running.  The swim timing mat was actually at the entrance to T1 which explains my ‘official’ swim time of 28:21.

I reached my bike and made a bit of a hash of getting my wetsuit legs off.  I had been toying with the idea of trimming them down and am now pretty convinced I need to do it before the next race. Grabbing my Kask Bambino TT helmet, I slid it onto my head and it just didn’t feel right. Dammit. Off it went and then back on again – that’s better. But this is the second race where I’ve lost precious seconds in T1 with the Bambino.  It’s a fantastic TT lid, but I just don’t seem to get on with it for short-course triathlons (I’d done lots of practice getting it on, too!).  I will try practicing again without the visor in place to see if that makes any difference.  If not, I’ll be switching lids for short-course (I’ll keep the Bambino for the longer stuff and TTs).

Finally I was able to grab my bike and run towards the mount line.


Mounting the bike the effects of the cold river water on my feet were obvious – they were a bit numb and ‘uncooperative’ as I tried to slide them into the shoes.  Still, it went reasonably well and I was away and up to speed quite quickly.

The roads away from T1 were to be honest, pretty crappy (the race organisers acknowledged as much in advance) but once we were out of town they did (for the most part get better).  I caught myself a couple of kilometres in churning a much bigger gear (and thus with a lower cadence) than I should have. That was stupid. I shifted down a gear and got back to my usual low-90s cadence.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling great on the bike, my legs felt sore (maybe I hadn’t fully recovered from setting a new 25-mile TT PB earlier that week!) and I had a nagging feeling that my saddle had somehow slipped slightly.

Even acknowledging the above, I was still surprised by my lack of speed.  The contours of the road suggested it should be good for 40km/h+ but all I could manage was around 38 or so – maybe wind, maybe road surface, maybe me. But I admit I was getting a little frustrated.

There were a couple of long drags about 15km into the bike course, but I felt okay on these, until I started getting some discomfort in my tummy.  I couldn’t tell if it was a stitch or some form of cramps, but tried to calm my breathing and focus on getting good steady lungfulls rather than panicking. I did have a gel strapped to the bike, but ended up not taking it as I was concerned it might worsen the tummy situation.

About 28km in, I got passed by the now-familiar shape of Paul Deen on his very shiny Cervelo P5, now complete with Zipp front and a Super-9 disc, Di2, the works!  I’m not at all jealous of a set-up like that… oh no.  Paul shouted at me that he’d had a tough swim – which he must have as he beat me out of the water by a few seconds in Mallorca.

I let Paul ease past and settled in about 12m behind him – in Mallorca we had been evenly-paced on the bike, so I thought I’d use him as a visual cue to my pace for this race (I will state publicly that I was WELL OUTSIDE his draft zone!).  But as I’d settled in, another guy came past me and sat right between Paul and I – well inside Paul’s draft zone and forcing me to either ease off or pass them both.  I didn’t have the legs to make that big a move in one go so had no choice but to ease off.  Paul slowly disappeared up the road while I got frustrated with a combination of the guy ahead and my own inability to get past him cleanly.

Towards the end I got passed by another two guys riding so close to each other they may as well have been riding a two-up TT.  Really annoying and frankly just goes totally against the spirit of the sport. I eventually caught them on an uphill drag and moved past them both in one go.  One of them later passed me on the run… how nice it must have been to have relatively fresh legs.

Coming back into Chester I knew T2 and the dismount line had to be close, but I didn’t want to undo my shoes too early.  As it happened, we turned a 90-degree bend to find the dismount line about 200m ahead. Dammit! I don’t think I’ve ever unfastened my shoes and extracted my feet so fast. It was not pretty. But I managed to dismount without crashing or falling off and then headed into T2. All done in 1:03:09 – far from a PB, but not disgraceful either.


Second transition went far more smoothly than first, and I was quickly into a fresh pair of Skechers GORun2 racing shoes and out onto the run.


Apart from the usual jelly legs (and numb feet, I hadn’t realized on the bike how cold my toes still were!), my tummy still wasn’t feeling great as I headed out onto the run. I tried to heed my coach’s advice – ‘feel your way into the run’ and don’t overcook things in the first two minutes.  I had elected not to show pace on my Garmin and instead just run purely on feel.

The problem was that, two minutes in and I still felt crap. I was breathing hard and just had nothing in my legs.  About 2km in and things were beginning to ease just a little – still not at all what I wanted but I was more or less holding my own and relaxing a little.

I just couldn’t find the speed that I knew should be there.

By 6km I finally seemed to find my pace and I was noticeably faster on my feet and flowing (as best as I ever do, anyway!).  I’d be very surprised if my last 4km weren’t significantly faster than my first 4km.  If only I’d had that pace from the get-go I’m sure I would have lost less places on the run. I actually almost enjoyed the last 4km or so.

Into the last kilometer and I just dug deep for the finish. Annoyingly, the last 500m were probably my best of the run and although tired when I crossed the line, I wasn’t spent. I could have, and should have, gone harder!

The conclusion

My overall time of 2:16:01 was, to put it mildly, disappointing. I had really paid the price for a poor swim and run.  Worse still, the time was only good enough for 25th in Age Group (albeit out of nearly 150 starters). Not the sort of result I was expecting or hoping for.

To be fair, the standard of competition was extremely high, and probably the most honest representation of the triathlon talent in the UK that we’ve seen in recent years – the advantage of having the world champs at home is that you don’t need deep pockets to afford to travel to the venue.

Well done to all of those that qualified and thanks to Chester Tri Club for a very well-organised event (just sort that dismount zone out next year please!).

For me, I have just one more chance to qualify for London, but in truth my mind is already elsewhere.  While I will not be happy until I can run a comfortable sub-40 minute 10km off the bike (I am convinced I can do this, I just need to ‘learn’ how), I think my future lies in the slightly different field of middle-distance racing. For now.

And yes, I know I said it would be short. I lied. As usual. Sorry.

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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