Thursday, January 23, 2020

Westonbirt Challenge Triathlon - 25th August 2013, Race Report

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It has been a busy couple of weeks since the Cotswold Classic triathlon.  Busy mostly in the sense that I started a new job last Monday.  This involved me spending most of the last week in Stockholm, my new home from home.  As you might expect in the first week, there was lots of meetings to be had, lots of information to take in and people to meet.  Unsurprisingly this left less time than normal for training.



So by the time I flew home on Thursday evening, I'd done little more than a few runs, a single 'ride' on a rickety old gym bike and some kettlebells work in the hotel gym (with no pool available, I figured this would at least give my swim muscles a workout…?!).


I tried to make up for the lack of training on Friday by finally getting in my first swim of the week and then doing a brick session in the evening.


Normally I might complain about a week with poor training opportunities, but one of the great things about my week in Stockholm was learning just how much my new employer cares about its employees and wants to promote interests outside work, such as sport.  Everything bodes well!


Nonetheless, I can't exactly say I was primed and ready as I got out of bed this morning at 6am! In fact, this was as close to a DNS as I've come recently, but I was conscious that I was representing my sponsor, The Triathlon Shop in Bristol, and a no-show would not be appreciated.


The Westonbirt triathlon is well-established as a sprint event, but this year the organisers added a 'Challenge' distance which was slightly longer with a 500m pool swim, a 28km bike and an 8km run.  Oh, and a 400m run from the pool to T1!


I wasn't sure what to expect, but a quick check of the start list confirmed that, while the sprint event was still more popular, there were a few fast bods in 'my' race - not least Lee Rankin, who has always been something of a benchmark for me (i.e. I can track just how far behind him I am at the end of the race!).




The pool at Westonbirt school is small, but it was fine for the 15 or so people in my wave (the last wave of the Challenge distance, supposedly the fast swimmers…).  Luckily I was drawn as first off in my lane, so I had clear water for my start.  A few half-lengths before it was time for the off then I just focused on swimming 'within' myself for the 500m. With a long run to T1 there was no point in killing myself in the water ahead of the undulating bike.  I managed to lap both the other guys in my lane, so I knew my time was okay, but it turned out I emerged from the water in 2nd position in my wave, some 40 seconds down on the first guy.  I'd stashed a pair of shoes outside the pool so donned before running to T1, fastening my race belt as I went (top tip!).




Running into transition I was passed by a quicker guy who I then followed out of T1 with another 200m barefoot run to the mount line.  I could see both the two guys ahead of me from my wave as we reached the main road.  They seemed pretty close to each other, but I'm pretty confident they weren't drafting.  After about 4km the younger guy (I later learned he was Steven Castle, a talented junior) made his move and I followed shortly after, passing the guy who had emerged first from the pool.


The rest of the bike was pretty windy and a little undulating, and I was struggling to catch Steven ahead.  I attacked him two or three times, but whether through bad timing on my part (he was stronger on the climbs) or a reaction to the attack on his, he stayed ahead of me. I was conscious I didn't want to get done by a draft buster, so unless I was making a concerted effort to pass, I kept more than 10m back.  Finally, about 25km in, we hit a slight downhill and I could sense I had more speed (his position was quite upright, mine more aero) and I finally made a clean move past.


Not long after and I could see the turning back towards T2.  I unfastened the shoes (probably a little early in hindsight) and made a nice dismount.  My bike time of 45:13 for the 28km was the fastest of the day, just pipping Steven behind me.




T2 went pretty smoothly and I changed into my Skechers GORun2 racing shoes and grabbed my Oakleys before heading out onto the run.  With a few hundred metres, Steven caught me and even if I had wanted to stay with him I don't think I could have, he was going like a steam train.


My calves felt tight but I was concentrating on trying to run with good form, conscious of some advice Lee Rankin had imparted in the week.  Thinking about Lee, where was he?!  I'd expected to do a slightly faster swim than him, but he's both a great cyclist and runner, so I'd expected him to have hauled me in by now.


The run was pretty lonely, only passing the occasional runner from a previous wave and the course was a straightforward out and back, albeit undulating.  I had some stomach cramps which weren't helping things and I was pleased to reach the turnaround at 4km.  As usual, I was annoyed with my run, I really can't figure out what's stopping me from improving.  I hazard a guess that it's largely psychological, rather than physical, but I've got to fix it.


As I began the 4km back to Westonbirt, I finally saw Lee coming the other way, looking very strong. I might have called him a 'slowcoach', but it was purely in jest as I knew it would only be a few minutes before he caught as passed me!


And pass me he did, at about 4.5km, going strong and with great form.  I managed to keep him in sight for a while, but his run was just in another league (it turns out he did a 27 minutes 8km, the fastest of the day by far).


With 2km to go I just concentrated on consolidating my position. I'd dropped from 1st to 3rd and was not going to be happy to lose any more!  Then just 1km to go, then 400m.  Only then did I risk a look back over my shoulder - no-one in sight, phew!  Actually, what that did was allow me to just sprint for the line rather than running scared!


I crossed the line in 30:44, not fast but also not bad for me.  I gave away 90 seconds to Steven and a whopping three minutes to Lee.  Still plenty of room for improvement there then!


Still, I had managed third overall - 90 seconds down on winner Steven Castle and 70 seconds down on Lee Rankin.  For me, that wasn't a bad margin at all.


The summary of the race was all-too familiar: a measured swim, not stunning but enough to put me in the race; a solid bike to move me to the front of pack; a mediocre run which was more damage-limitation than run-for-glory.


But I can't be too upset with 3rd overall!  Yes, the race was new and therefore some of the faster guys were elsewhere (at the national relay champs, perhaps?!), but you can only beat who turns up on the day and it was a solid performance.


Next stop will be the world champs in London on Sept 13th, then it's back to middle distance, which I still think could well be my forte (if, indeed, I have one!).


Well done to all who competed today (including my Triathlon Shop team mates who did very well in the Sprint distance at Westonbirt) and thanks as always to the race organisers and volunteers.

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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