Thursday, January 23, 2020

Marlborough Triathlon 2011 – First Gold!

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Being a member of the Marlborough & District (MAD) Tri club, the Marlborough Triathlon is my home race and thus one I try not to miss. But it seems to be becoming a trend that the build up to the race is less than smooth!

In 2010 (my first year) I managed to deck myself and cut up my feet and legs practising a flying mount on my driveway the day before the race (stupid boy!), and then in 2011 I’ve been suffering with a case of runner’s knee that doesn’t really want to go away.

As such, I came to the race today with relatively few training miles on the clock over the last 2-3 weeks (supporting Sam at Roth last week also limited training, with no bike on hand). I guess on the plus side no-one could accuse me of over-training!

I arrived home from Germany on Thursday evening to find my race pack and discover that I’d been put in the last wave of the day – with the fastest swimmers. Oh joy!

The weather on race morning was pretty much as forecasted; wet and windy! I ummed and ahhed as to whether it would be worth laying out my arm warmers in T1, but in the end decided that it wasn’t quite cold enough to need them. I also chose to race without my usual calf guards. This was only decided at the last minute, as having put them on, the right sock seemed to be placing more pressure on my knee, rather than alleviating it.


Into the pool for the short 400m swim and it was clear I was among some serious athletes. At times like this, it’s easy for me to forget I’m meant to be a ‘serious athlete’ too! I was placed second of three in my lane and started ten seconds behind the #1 athlete. Having trained almost exclusively for 1,500m distances lately, my sprinting isn’t up to much, but I just gave it everything but staying conscious that I didn’t want to blow up in the first stage of the race. I caught the guy in front in the last length and we exited the swim together – in my case a 5:59 dead. Anything under six minutes is good for me at the moment, so I’m pleased with that.


Into T1 and my usual drills worked well, but I dropped my cycling glasses. It was raining and they were already showing signs of fogging, so I decided I’d actually be better off without them. Out to the mount point and I made up another place with my semi-flying mount. Within a few hundred metres of T1, the bike course starts to climb, and then stays climbing for a kilometre or two; it certainly doesn’t do much to bring down the heart rate!

I picked-off a faster swimmer in the first two kilometres or so, but then lost a place on the long climb up to Hackpen hill. The guy came past me at a fair rate of knots, but I wasn’t going to give chase, focusing on my own race. Summiting Hackpen Hill it was then a steep and twisting descent to the bottom – and I have to admit I bottled it a bit (I dreamt last night I was going to wash out on the descent and this was still on my mind). I paid the price for my cowardice as I got passed at the bottom of the descent; clearly not all the competitors shared my fears!

The good news was that once back onto the flat, I was able to keep the guy that passed me in my sights (draft legal distance, of course) and we yo-yo’d a little as we climbed and descended around the rest of the course. I was a little surprised not to see more cyclists from previous waves on the course; we actually had a pretty lonely bike ride. I didn’t even bother checking heart rate (and I don’t have a power meter), instead just focusing on ‘feel’ and giving it beans without risking my legs being completely useless on the run. About halfway round the bike, the rain came down in buckets, not that I had managed to dry off at all since the swim! The wind also was strong the entire way round the bike course.

Coming towards T2, I slipped my feet out of the shoes and pedalled the last 500-600 metres barefoot. Flying dismount into T2 went well and I racked-up with no issues. The same could not be said of donning my new Adidas Adizero Adios race shoes. A combination of under-sized tongue, overly-tight lock-laces and wet feet made getting the shoes on slower than it should have been.  That said, I still overtook the guy who had passed me on the bike.


Slightly annoyed with myself, I pushed hard out of T2 and was clocking up 4-minute KMs for the first part of the run. The shoes took a little while to settle, but after a kilometre or so they felt comfy and were definitely making me conscious about getting a fore-mid front strike. I got passed about one kilometre into the run (bike man reclaiming his position!), but I could also see another guy ahead that I felt confident I could pick off. After about 1.5 kilometres, the Marlborough run turns and heads uphill, and then keeps uphill for another two kilometres or more up to the turnaround point. It was a real calf-buster of a hill and my knee was certainly letting me know it wasn’t 100 percent happy. But other than that, I felt relatively strong (stronger than I have felt on a tri run before, I think) and just kept pushing on. Again, the rain that had eased off for a little while, came back strong and my suit and shoes were again soaked.

A few times I lost ‘control’ of my breathing, but always tried to pull it back and concentrate on long, deep breaths, rather than gasps. I caught my ‘target’ man just after the turn around and it was clear I had the legs on him (such a nice novelty for me!). Back down the hill and my focus was on efficiency, getting the best pace for least effort by letting gravity do its work and concentrating on smooth strides.

I picked a few more folks off in the run back to the finish and then a short sharp climb up the hill to the finish!

Total time came in at 1:35:08; a huge four-minute improvement on my 2010 time and good enough for first place in the 35-39 Age Group and seventh overall! Very pleased with that.

As of writing this, I’m still waiting to see what my bike and run splits were, but it seems a fair bet that both were faster than 2010. Overall a great race for me and shows promise for continued improvement through to Beijing in September.

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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