Monday, January 20, 2020

Race report - Shropshire Triathlon - Another attemp at Beijing?

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Well. This was nearly the race that wasn't. Having qualified for Beijing at last week's Speedy Beaver, it was tempting to say 'job done' and give Shropshire (an Olympic distance ITU qualifier, rather than sprint like Eton and Speedy) a miss.  Having already raced two weeks running, there was half a thought to give my body a rest in the lead up to Dambuster on 18th June. 

I discussed it with my coach, Mark Shepherd, and we decided it was a close call, but that there probably wouldn't be any harm in treating Shropshire as a 'training race' ahead of Dambuster (still that's four races in five weeks!).  There was also the small matter of not having actually done a 'full' Olympic distance event before (my longest race to date was Hever Castle last year, with only a 800m swim and 8km run).

So the die was cast; We would treat it as a 'B' race with a full training programme in the week before, a minimal taper and no overnight hotel before race etc (partly to manage the ever-inflating costs of my 2011 season!).

Race Day

Having put in a slightly-less-than-average 10.5hr training week, I got up a 4am(!) on Sunday morning to make the 160-odd mile journey up to Ellesmere.  The journey went faster than expected and I ended up arriving just as registration opened at 7am.

There was a bit of a wait before transition opened and in the meantime the heavens opened. Fantastic!  Fortunately, by 9am the rain had eased off and it was time to get out of the car and get kit ready for the short walk/cycle to transition.

All was going well until I put my speedfil aero water bottle on the bike frame only to realise that somehow I had been a complete dofus and left the long drinking straw at home.  Rather than stress, knowing that the pressure was off me today I simply shrugged and thought 'OK, so we do the bike without water, that should be fun!'.

Fortunately, I did have a small gel bottle with me, so I filled that with a mix of gel and water and stuck it on the bike - at least I'd have 150ml or so of some carbs on the bike.

Transition was clearly marked and my rack space was right next to a tree - so I had no excuses for not finding my bike in T1! Space was good, except the guy next to me decided to rack on 'my side' of the bar, rather than the opposite side as should have been the case.


Into the water and I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was - by far the least cold open water I've swum in so far this year! Conscious that I've never raced a 1,500m before, I elected to avoid the melee at the right hand side of the start line and elected to take the left line - I figured I'd both avoid the rush and that actually I had cunningly picked the better line to the first two buoys...

The hooter went and I was mindful to start steady.  I was again pleasantly surprised to reach the first buoy feeling good and able to push on a little.  It seemed some fellow competitors were really struggling with the turns, whereas I was able to sustain better momentum and didn't lose my rythm. About half-way round, the field was stretching out and I began to notice there weren't many white hats (my wave - comprising 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49, I think) in front of me.  We started to pass the occasional green hat (previous younger wave) and then we turned the last buoy and headed for T1.  My goggles were fogging badly (despite using anti-fog, it's an issue that seems to plague me!) and this made sighting difficult, but again I felt good so pressed on.

While a few green hats tried to exit the swim while still in 3-4 feet of water, I continued swimming until it was literally too shallow to swim any more - and passed a load of them in the process (top tip!).  Out of the water and a short 50m run to the timing mat in 22:49, good enough for 6th in Age Group.

Into T1 and my drills are pretty good now (I'd still like to get my wetsuit off faster tho!). Fifty-one seconds was good enough for 4th fastest T1 in my age group.


My usual semi-flying mount worked well, although with hindsight, I could have waited longer to tighten my shoe straps. I focused on getting my breathing under control and being mindful that I was racing 40km today, not the 20km I'd become used to!

The bike went well overall, the promised 'difficult descents and climbs' didn't really materialise. However, my bike sounded like a bag of bolts* and (whether due to this or something else), I was struggling to get into a rythm.  I yo-yo'd a bit (although careful not to draft!) with an H age grouper (met him after the race, we both agreed the rivalry probably helped our bike times), but this wasn't perhaps the best idea as my surges to overtake him on the flat (before he then came back at me at the next uphill!) led to cramp in my right hip flexor and pain in my left quad (both need looking at).

I also nearly managed to lose my gel bottle on a particularly bumpy descent! Thankfully, I held on to the precious 150ml of carb mix...

Despite feeling like I hadn't had the best ride (my speedo seemed to only very rarely climb above 40kmh), I crossed the line into T2 in 1:03:41, 9th in Age Group.

T2 went very well again, my flying dismount working a treat.


The aim for the run was to keep as close to 4min/kms as possible.  This plan lasted for all of about 800m, until we hit the first hill!  While I'd seen a elevation plan of the bike course, the organisers hadn't provided one of the run course.  Probably because they didn't want to scare off half the competitors!  Sharp hills and descents were the order of the day.  My calves both cramped up (despite wearing calf guards) and I was perhaps feeling the effects of insufficient fuelling on the bike.  Nevertheless, I just tried to focus on my form, and the little matter of putting one foot in front of the other! 

Although I'm quite used to getting passed on the run these days, I actually think I was passed less than normal today.  At 6kms my body was really ready to give up, but thankfully my mind wasn't.  I promised myself I'd cross the line, no matter how slowly I had to run to get there.  And then about 8kms in, something funny happened, I seemed to get a second wind and my pace (such as it is!) came back to me.

I was passed at the 9km mark by an F age grouper and resolved (as per Eton) to stay with him to the finish line.  Into the final chute and the announcer gave my plan away and warned my rival that I was closing for the kill! He kicked in and just about held me off to the finish line - but to honest, I didn't care a jot! I was happy with my run and crossed the line with a big smile on my face.  My competitor knew it had been a close run and we shook hands both grinning.  My run time was nothing special at 42:44, but again a step forward for me.

So overall time was 2:10:48.  Much as I'd have loved to break 2:10, I've got to be happy with that for my first ever olympic-distance tri.  On-the-spot results suggested I was 8th in Age Group, which was also a pleasant surprise - I hadn't honestly expected top-10.  Checking the official results at home and I appear to have been promoted to 7th in Age Group; even better!

I've now got two weeks until Dambuster and, if nothing, else I've got a better idea of what I need to deliver on an Olympic course.  Of course, there's still the small matter of Beijing - who knows, today's result might (in the long run, with roll downs etc) actually be enough to see me selected for the Olympic distance event.  That would be a nice problem to have!


1. First olympic distance event done!
2. Good swim and solid bike
3. Transitions going well!

Areas to address:

1. Don't be such a dofus and forget essential kit!
2. Run still needs work (but is improving!)
3. Need to re-find the killer instinct for Dambuster

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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