Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

Naas triathlon

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 | Sport

As Chrissie Wellington always says “just because you’re homeless in a foreign country, you can still do a triathlon.” She’s never said those words exactly but I think the sentiment is implied. So, being in Dublin, I signed up for the Swim Smoith Naas Triathlon, a sprint distance race that takes place at the end of September.

It’s pool-based but still includes a 750m (30-length) swim followed by a 20k bike and 5k run. I had hoped that Trinity Triathlon Club would be racing there so there would be some friendly faces but they were off doing a freshers’ week bike ride so a solo adventure it would be (with my cheering squad in the car, of course!). Registration opened at 6:30 and bib numbers were handed out in order so I was number three. I then sat in my car for a while because I couldn’t find transition. Some poor lass was wandering backwards and forwards trying to find it before eventually a crowd gathered and led the way. There was supposed to be a map in the race handbook but it had been missed off.

Most of my triathlon gear is in the UK so I had to improvise: with no race belt I had to safety pin my number to a t-shirt I could pull on after the swim. I only received one number and four safety pins. Two of which I then dropped down the side of my gear stick to disappear forever. Which meant I had to pin my number to the front with only two pins and hope for the best.

The race briefing was late, which was great because then I didn’t feel guilty about a free-race wee even though I was supposed to be on the pool deck by then. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. The start was a little chaotic. There were four people in each of the five lanes. But it was a mass start. And there are no overtaking mid-lane. I suggested we arrange ourselves in predicted swim times and this worked well. Despite the chaos, our lane marshall was lovely and I kept hearing her shout “go Chris” at the end of each lap.

I sprinted the last few lengths to get my heart rate up before emerging into the cool Irish morning air. It was freezing before the race, but luckily up to 8 degrees by the end of the swim. I didn’t have any of my fancy tri shoes so I had to sit down like a chump and tie my laces on the pair of bike shoe I did have in the country. I also pulled on some arm warmers and my race number t-shirt and was on my way. Even with all of that, I think I still went through T1 faster than some of my early races.

The bike course was reasonably flat. I came off the aero bars for a few of the hills but mostly I was able to stick it out. It was a simple out-and-back. Roads were not closed but there were garda at both ends slowing traffic (there wasn’t much) and when I stopped for a red light the marshalls instructed me to go straight through it. The road surface varied. At one point, my bike started shaking and I wondered whether I had a slow rear puncture. But then the road surface went silky smooth again and I realised that was the cause.

T2 involved more lace-tying and then I was off onto the run. This was also a simple out-and-back with very gentle hills. I didn’t have my super-shoes but my Hoka Bondis got me through. I warmed up on the run in my arm warmers and t-shirt over tri top but not to the point I was overheating. And certainly not enough for the old cup of water over the head trick at the 2.5k aid station.

Post-race goodies included a bottle of water, a banana and a t-shirt. It’s a nice technical shirt with thicker fabric on the front and back and more breathable fabric under the arms.

They didn’t hang around dismantling transition after the race. Most people still had their bikes checked in when they took the barriers away. However, it was a more relaxed event than most and there weren’t many expensive bikes in there. I’m used to being dominated by super-bikes but at this, mine was one of the higher end ones.

The race haven’t released any official results but according to my watch my time was:

1:21:37

And my splits were:

Discipline Time
SUP 17:10
T1 4:34
Bike 37:50
T2 1:40
Run 20:23

Overall, it was a fun event. A little bit more chaotic than British events but plenty of focus on safety: bikes were checked when racking, clear signage on the race course and plenty of marshalls. And all of those marshalls were very friendly. It’s a lovely way to end the season.

IRONMAN Copenhagen

Friday, August 26th, 2022 | Sport

IRONMAN Copenhahen is a full-distance (3.8/180/42.2) triathlon that takes place in Denmark. You swim in Amager bay, cycle through Zealand and run around the waterfront of the city centre. I registered for this race back in 2019 as a way to challenge myself to race in another country. After an additional two years of COVID delays, it was finally here.

Registration and racking

IRONMAN events are an entire weekend in themselves. On Friday, we headed down to Amager Strandpark to register. They have six waves based on swim times and you get to pick which wave you want to be in at registration. I went for wave 5 (1:18-1:24) despite planning to swim a 1:40, as I wanted to avoid weak swimmers who constantly stop, switch to breaststroke and generally get in the way. They had an incorrect date of birth for me, which also happened in Weymouth, but that was soon fixed.

We headed back down to the park on Saturday. This time, I cycled down. The cycling infrastructure is great in Copenhagen so the only challenge was navigating there. Luckily, I found a pack of other athletes heading in the same direction and followed them. Getting to the park and back so many times was a pain as it was about 6km from the finish line where we were staying. Bike check-in consisted of racking our bike and swim-to-bike bags, and dropping off our bike-to-run bags that would then be transported to the city centre.

Race day morning

It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose over Amager. I had pre-booked a taxi to get me to the start line and luckily it arrived right on time. Pre-race was pretty chilled as the only things I needed to do was set up my bike computer, place my nutrition on my bike and add a few bits to my bike bag. That allowed plenty of time to get through the 20-minute toilet queue.

The commentators proudly and repeadly told us that it is the only IRONMAN event that takes place in a capital city. I’m not familiar with all of the IRONMAN events but I’m pretty sure Tallinn is the capital of Estonia.

I did not want to carry bottles of Lucozade across borders so I took some gels and bars and decided to buy the rest in Copenhagen. I managed to find some Powerade and Lay’s crisps which did the trick. Alongside that I had bags of Haribo, Rawvelo brownies, the last OTE Duo I had been saving for this and a mixture of Torq and Moutnain Fuel gels.

There was a swim warm-up area next to the start where we could get in and do some strokes before setting off. It was shallow and warm. The official water temperature was 20.3 degrees, which is a couple of degrees warmer than usual and almost too warm for swimming in a wetsuit.

The swim

After all the waiting, finally it was show time. Pre-race, I was worried they wouldn’t get us in to the water on time and therefore we would have reduced cut-offs (roads gradually start re-opening at 14:00 regardless of what time you start). However, they were ahead of schedule and my 7:40 wave was all in the water on time.

It was a hard start to the swim. The first buoy was all about people finding their lanes. But as we came up to the first bridge marking the 600m I felt panicked. It felt like I had been swimming for ages (it was probably 15 minutes in) and that I hadn’t even made a dent in the distance. I thought about swimming to the shore and getting out. Then I got myself into self-coaching mode and decided to do some easy breaststroke to bring my heart rate down. After all that, I was the annoying athlete who switched to breaststroke! But at least I was out of the way by this point 😂.

From then on it got easier. As we headed up the bay towards the inlet it got weedy and shallow. At the final turn buoy most people got up and walked. At first I was determined to swim the whole thing. Then I thought self-compassion might be a better skill to develop. In the end, the practicalities of trying to swim when everyone else was walking was too much and I decided to get up and walk for a bit too.

One of the things I loved about racing in Europe was that all the signage was in metric. They had distance markers on each bridge, road signs every 10k on the bike course and kilometre markers on the run course, all without the hassle of having to convert it from imperial to standard measurements.

Transition 1

I was very pleased to be done with the swim. T1 went fine. I was in and out in under 12 minutes. That’s a long time for most athletes but over six minutes faster than I went through T1 at Outlaw. There was no messing about: change, sun cream, eat my crisps, have a wee and then the long run to get my bike and get on the road.

If you’re wondering “why not wee during the swim and save time?” I did. In fact, I spent most the final third of the swim urinating the entire time. Most of the Baltic passed through my bladder.

The bike

The first kilometre passed quickly. If only it all felt that easy. We went out through the city centre, industrial parts of the city and then onto the coastline. It was gorgcious. Riding through the city was lovely but then the coastline was beautiful beaches all of the way up. Afer that, we headed inland where the terrain was a little more rolling but took us through some lovely forests that provided shade. In total there was about 1,000 metres of elevation gain so fractionally hillier than Outlaw but still very much a flat course with no real climbs.

Towards the end of the loop you reach Geels Bakke, the course’s equivalent of Solar Hill at Challenge Roth. It is barely a hill but there were plenty of spectators cheering on the first loop, including one woman who came and ran alongside screaming, and music playing at the top. After this point there is the third aid station and then you either go on to your second lap or head back to the city.

Unfortunately, just after I had gone through this I opened my gel flask to take a second gel and then hit a pot hole. Gel went all over my hand and handlebars. It’s so sticky. I tried to wipe it off with a tissue but the tissue just stuck to it and made the problem worse. The only thing I had on my bike was two bottles of Powerade so, in the end, I resorted to washing it off with the sports drink and accepting that everything was going to be sticky until the next aid station which was a long way away.

When I finally got there, I grabbed a bottle of water and hosed down my arm, handlebars, aero bars and back pocket. The whole bike course was quiet: it’s IRONMAN so the roads are closed and there weren’t many other athletes. By lap two, the aid stations were quitening down as well. Geels Bakke only had a few spectators left. I went a bit off-script on the second lap and had a banana. I don’t like bananas but after eight hours of hard cardio your taste buds don’t care so much.

Transition 2

The final 10k was hard. I kept switching from “I’m nearly there, I can hold the aero position for 20 minutes” to “I can’t be on a bike for a second longer” and constantly riding out-ot-the-saddle to stretch my bag. At T2, volunteers were there to collect and rack our bikes at the dismount line.

This made for a pretty short transition but I wasn’t in the mood to go flying through, so I changed, put some more sun cream on, ate my crisps and carefully re-racked my transition bag before talking a leasuirly walk to the run exit.

The run

The run consisted of 4 x 10.5k loops that went south past the finish line, then turned up north and went along the docks before heading back to the T2/finish line area. You collected a different colour wristband on each lap so that by the end you had a rainbow to prove you had done the required distance.

The aid stations were poorly organised. On lap one, one of them temporarily ran out of cups. As the laps went on, this became terminal. Each aid station was a pot luck of what they had left. Some had Gatorade, some had Red Bull, some had water. The lack of cups meant they started using the hosepipes that had been cooling sprays to spray water directly into people’s mouths. With no cups left, they just started pulling 330ml cans on Red Bull on the table and I ended up running the second half the marathon with a can in my hand.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen at races. But also makes me sad because if you want to be as inclusive as possible, you want your final athlete to get the same experience as your fastest. I think, if there was ever a next time. I would take a run special needs bag and place some caffeinated energy bidons in there just in case. I did this at Dalesman and it worked well.

The first lap felt good and Elina and Venla came to cheer me on. The second lap I felt empty. I had to start walking bits because I was so tired. I try to make it to the half way point before I start caffeinating and almost made it: I was at the last of the six aid stations when I switched to Red Bull. This perked me up for laps three and four. I was surprised at how much of a difference it made. Unfortunately, as discussed, they were out of coke and low on Red Bull by this point, so can-in-hand it was.

The support on the run course was good. People were cheering and some were reading everyone’s athlete bibs and calling us out by name. There was music along the course and I had a singalong to Never Going To Give You Up and Blinding Lights. There was even a Rammstein corner out by the docks.

The finish

I stopped at a porta potty with one kilometre to go so that I could freshen up and do my hair for the finish photo. Whenever I thought about finishing earlier in the day, I had to hold back tears because of what this race meant to me. I had been waiting 1,049 days to see if I could fly to a place I had never been before, manage all of the logistics of long-format triathlon and complete the race. But when I got to the finish line, it all happened so fast.

I heard the commentator talk about how excited I looked, but it was all such a blur that I didn’t even here him saying “you are an Ironman!” I should have walked it in like I did at Outlaw X. But no matter how slowly you try to take it, the end is always overwhelming and you cannot take it all in.

On the flip side, I did make it under the 13-hour mark. By 27 seconds. I barely looked at my watch all day as I was here to “enjoy it” so I had no idea what time I was on. So, it was a nice surprise when I found that out. Not quite as fast as Outlaw but faster than everything else.

12:59:33

Foolishly, many athletes went faster than I did and finished in broad daylight, which is horrible for photos. On the other hand, I and my fellow athletes who waited until 9pm to finish received the beautiful light of the magic hour.

The splits were:

Disipline Copenhagen Outlaw Dalesman
Swim 1:35:14 1:37:20 1:33:40
T1 11:45 18:05 18:51
Bike 6:38:29 6:31:33 7:24:42
T2 11:18 17:00 9:42
Run 4:22:48 4:06:07 4:31:26

I am pleased with all of that. My swim time was comparative with last year. My transition times were to plan. My run was never going to match Outlaw, which was an all-out PB attempt, and even taking it easy (whatever that means twelve hours into a race) I was able to run faster than Dalesman.

After the race, we received a finishers t-shirt, massage and plant-based burger that was all included in the entry fee. When toy finish a full distance you’re exhausted and night is on the way, so I pulled on my leggings, base layer, HPH hoodie and the bobble hat I won at Llanberis to stay warm. In the changing tent I heard someone say “I wasn’t expecting the bike course to be so hilly.” God help that guy if he ever visits Yorkshire. My night’s sleep wasn’t too bad given the caffeine and soreness but my aging body was limping around Copenhagen for the next two days.

Conclusion

This race was not just a race to me. When I first started triathlon in 2018, I did so more to grow as a person than for any sporting reasons. I wanted to prove to myself that I was stronger than I thought I was. Now I am sitting writing in an apartment in Copenhagen, itself a miracle on the background of how much I hate travelling, as a six-times IRONMAN triathlete.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves, “I’ve done it before, it’s no so hard”. But it is that hard. We’re just stronger than our self-doubt tells us. I like full distance racing because it is so hard and so long. You can’t just grit your teeth and push through for a little bit: you have to sit with the pain for hour after hour after hour. You have to make friends with it and get comfortable with it. And that is a skill that often neglect in life.

I don’t know if this is the end of the journey. But it probably is the end of a chapter. I’ve now done 52 triathlons, six of which were full distance, and achieved everything I set out to achieve. And I’m excited about the next chapter of my life which is going to have more of a dessert cookbook theme.

Sun City Triathlon

Friday, August 12th, 2022 | Sport

Sun City Triathlon is a sprint triathlon with a sea swim that takes place in Sunderland. I signed up to get some additional sea swimming in ahead of Copenhagen.

It was a 7:30am mass start so we drove up the night before and stayed over. Registration was in the Grand Sunderland Hotel but could have done with some signage as it took me a while to find the main entrance. Thankfully, I eventually did, registered and headed to transition to setup and eat some breakfast.

The race brief was short. Long race briefings are annoying, so that was nice. But in this case, I could have done with a few more details as the no-overtaking zone wasn’t fully explained or signed. Also, the run course was not clear because the map they had sent out was for their duathlon and the instructions also referred to the duathlon. So, even having read the athlete information several times, I was still unclear. But in their defence, they did also publish a video of the course that I did not watch.

The swim

It was a cloudy but warm day on the beach and we had the chance to acclimatise in the water for a few minutes. It was super-cold. The race information suggested it would be 15 degrees. The RNLI were saying 12. I am not sure who was right, but my face was super cold but when I put it in. I did some sprinting up and down the beach to try and warm up.

Once the air horn went, the temperature was less of an issue as it was game on. I positioned myself at the back and just like Castle Howard this was a mistake. I kept getting boxed in between people switching between crawl and breaststroke. I still think of myself was a weaker swimmer so I need to change that mindset as I’m consistently stronger and faster than the back row now.

Apparently it was just moving into jellyfish season so every time I felt something or saw something in the water I was paranoid I was about to be stung. Perhaps I should have spent less time thinking about the athlete who said she went into anaphylactic shock after being stung, and more time thinking about how Daniela Ryf was stung during the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship and still went to both win the race and set a new course record.

The sea was calm but even on a calm day, there is the constant swell of the waves. Once I found some clear water, I found it easy to settle into a rhythm where I could time my strokes and my breathing with the swell. This got a little thicker on the way back as it came from behind me. The course was supposed to be triangular but there were swimmers heading off in completely different directions so I just set a line towards the beach.

The run from the swim quite a distance: up the beach, up the steps, along the promenade, up some more steps, along more promenade and finally into transition. At this point, my hands decided it had been a very cold swim after all and did not want to take my wetsuit off. I also managed to hit the lap button twice in T1, recording the entire bike section as T2.

The bike

It was a relatively straightforward bike course with a couple of U-turns and some gentle gradients but nothing to get out of the saddle for. Very little wind, either, until I was on my fourth and final lap and thinking to myself “so nice it is not windy” before I turned a corner and hit a strong headwind. I used 50% aero bars with some hoods on the up and down bits, averaging a very unsatisfying 29.9 kph average moving speed.

The run

The run went out along the cliff tops before dropping down onto the beachfront and crossing under itself beneath a bridge. Due to not properly understanding the aforementioned instructions and the route being unmarked, I got to a crossing early on and wasn’t sure if it was straight on across. Unfortunately, the marshall was on his phone at the time aod not paying attention but luckily there was another athlete from Sun City Tri just behind me who knew where he was going. After this it was smooth sailing.

The result

My official time was:

1:27:26

That gave me 60th place out of a field of 106. However, if you include the 4 DNFs and 21 DNSs, that moves me into the top half 😂. Here are the splits:

Section Time
Swim 21:47
T1 2:31
Bike 41:21
T2 1:17
Run 20:30

The swim time includes the three-minute run up to transition, so the actual swimming time was under 19 minutes. My watch clocked the run at 4.65 km. It is usually short, but not that short, so I think the run course was less than 5 km.

York Triathlon

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 | Sport

York Triathlon is a sprint distance race based at York Sport Village.

Registration gave me an C5 envelope and pointed to a packet with inside it that they said contained my stickers. What they actually meant was that the envelope as a whole contained the stickers and not the packet inside it. Which, when I opened it, turned out to be a bag of oats. I was there early enough to get a bacon sandwich (avoiding the wasps) and queue for one of the two toilets that seemed to be available: one gender-neutral one and one in the men’s changing room.

There was no assigned racking in transition so I put my bike in the first available space. However, after walking through it, the swim in and run out were at one end, and the bike in and out were at the other. So, to minimise time spent running in my bike shoes, I moved my bike as close to the bike in/out as possible. At this point, a technical official told me off for pushing my bike without my helmet fastened. This isn’t a rule.

The swim

The swim was a 400-metre pool-based swim that sort of snakes down the pool: there were four lanes and you had to do four lengths in each one before moving onto the next one. This worked well as it meant the lanes were nice and wide with plenty of space for overtaking. I’m sick of people giving bad estimates for their swim time and swimming over me so I’ve now added 30 seconds onto my actual swim time and that worked really well.

UK Triathlon (the event organiser) do not require you to wear a swim cap for their pool-based events so I was able to race in my Hyde Park Harriers swim cap.

The bike

The bike course could arguably be described as off-road. It was all on hard surface but neither was it on a road: it went through the pathways of York University campus. THere were cobbles (flat but often loose), lots of tight turns, speed bumps, road furniture and occasionally harassed-looking students wheeling large suitcases. I felt like I was playing the school level on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. To its credit, it was car-free.

The highly technical nature of the course meant that anyone with good bike handling skills could gain a lot of time. My cornering isn’t so smooth and so there was a lot of toing and throwing between the technical sections and the one or two straights.

The bike course was three kilometres long and required six laps to make up the distance. This is quite a big number to count and many people did seven.

The run

The run was four laps, mostly consisting of the cycle circuit with a few short grass sections. All of my prep has been long distance and I did not want to push too hard so I was pretty pleased with my time. There was an aid station on the final three laps so I was able to cool myself down with the some water (once I had worked out which was the High5 and which was the water!).

The result

My official time was:

1:11:00

That said, the official times are wrong. There seems to be a minute missing off the run: having compared with four other competitors we all have a mystery one-minute deduction on our run leg. Below, I’ve included the official timings and my watch timings. Given I have only ever gone sub-20 once over 5k, and it seems unlikely I would do this in a triathlon, especially one where I wasn’t trying to PB, I am included to believe my watch.

Section Official time Watch time
Swim 8:33 8:32
T1 1:09 1:18
Bike 39:46 39:29
T2 1:25 1:34
Run 20:07 21:02

Dan took a well-earned title of first Harrier home finishing 55 seconds faster. His new faster swim, combined with some solid bike handling skills, gave him an unailable lead going onto the run,

I did not splash out for the official photos ass they were £10 for one or £39 for the bundle.

Conclusion

Would I recommend it as a first triathlon? I would like more toilets, accurate timings and reasonably-priced photos. But it was well organised and, while technical, the bike course was car-free which would make it attractive for beginners.

Castle Howard middle distance triathlon

Monday, July 25th, 2022 | Sport

I did Castle Howard standard distance back in 2019. This year, I was taking in the middle-distance version known as The Gauntlet.

They run a huge range of events which means races starting at different times and a rush to get bikes out of transition to make space for future races. Doing the longest race of the day made this easier: we arrived before everyone else, had reserved racking all day, and the roads were back open by the time we left.

The swim

The lake at Castle Howard is not deep. It is filled with mud and plant life. It really makes you appreciate how nice Waterloo Lake at Roundhay Park is. More annoyingly, the swim cap would not stay on my head. I had to stop several times on the first lap to try and pull it back on my head and re-arrange my goggles. This left me at the back with all the swimmers who keep switching to breaststroke causing a domino effect as everyone behind them also switches to breaststroke.

After a lap of wrestling with the swim cap, I stood up in the deep mud and pulled my goggles under my swim cap. This left me a good 50 metres off the back of the field but by the 100m buoy, I was back on their feet and going past them. As we rounded the top buoys I found myself sitting on three people’s feet with two other swimmers to each side of me, boxing me in. I zig-zagged trying to find a way past but they were swimming in perfect synchronisation. In the end, I dropped right off and went around the left side.

At this point, my swim cap went sailing away. This meant all of the water filled my hair which made me surprisingly less aero. I headed for the final buoy while the rest of the swim pack incorrectly headed back towards the start despite the many warnings during the pre-race brief that they should head straight for the final buoy.

Lacking my swim cap, I came out looking like the creature from the Black Lagoon.

The bike

The bike course starts off on The Stray and I headed down the hill carefully avoiding any comfort breaking. Then a gust of wind blew a leaf into my arm and almost gave me a papercut. That sums up long format racing: one minute you are on top of the world, the next you are close to crying because you’ve been beaten up by a particularly aggressive leaf.

The course then goes out into the Howardian Hills. And they are hills. There are over 1,000 metres of climbing over the 90k which is about the same climbing as the full course at IRONMAN Copenhagen. Climbing really gets to my back when I’m putting out any kind of power so I spent most of the bike course with a lot of lower back pain. Thankfully, the second half of the course flattens out slightly and I could get down on my aero bars a little more.

The run

The run course also starts with a lovely downhill. My stomach hadn’t really settled all day and I was feeling sick by this point so I reminded myself that I was here to get the distance in and have fun. The course is entirely inside the castle grounds and is all off-road making it very scenic but difficult to get a good footing. There are only two real fills but it does go up and down a fair bit.

The weather was a weird mix of warm with a bit of rain occasionally. To cool me down, I took two cups of water at each aid station: one to drink and one to douse myself in. This worked well for the first two aid stations but on the third, I got the tables mixed up and managed to pour isotonic all over myself.

I went through the first lap in 55 minutes but made a decision to back off a little and under fuel to keep my stomach a little happier. I gave a “well done, keep going” to everyone I went passed but there wasn’t any chatting as everyone was hurting by this point. I pushed a little at the end to ensure my half marathon time was uncomfortably under two hours.

Post-race we got a massage and a chicken salad (both included in the entry fee), and I also ran into Jack and Kirsten who were running the yoga tent. After I went into the food tent, the heavens truly opened. Nice timing for me although everything in transition, including my towel, ended up soaked.

The result

I finished in:

6:23:53

Good enough for 76 out of 135. Here are my splits:

Section Time 2019
Swim 43:07 41:59
T1 7:02 4:12
Bike 3:34:28 1:58:51
T2 4:34 2:20
Run 1:54:39 58:41

I’ve included my 2019 times for comparison even though that was a standard distance. I’m pleased with the swim time was I was almost as fast as 2019 despite doing 400 metres more, and having to fiddle with my goggles and swim cap. My bike was 10 minutes quicker per lap and my run laps were faster, too.

Not quite Outlaw X but pretty much what I expected: a hillier bike course makes for a slower time. It had a similar course profile to Weymouth but I was a good 20 minutes faster despite a longer swim here.

This was my 50th triathlon. Does anyone know where I get my t-shirt?

Triathlon For Beginners book

Monday, July 18th, 2022 | Books

My new book is out! It is aimed at people who are looking to do their first ever triathlon and answers over 50 of the most common questions. It also includes swim, bike and run workouts, and 12-week training plans for both sprint and standard distances.

Exclusively available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, ISBN-13: 979-8840393970.

Sub7 / Sub8

Friday, June 17th, 2022 | Sport

Since Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier, albeit in non-world record conditions, there has been talk of doing a similar thing with full distance triathlon: could men go under 7 hours and could women go under 8 hours? Given this would involve taking 20+ minutes off, rather than the couple of minutes #breaking2 required it seemed like quite a challenge.

However, the way they set up the challenge made things a little easier. They chose four athletes: Kat Matthews, Nicola Spirig, Kristian Blummenfelt and Joe Skipper (who stepped in for an injured Alister Brownlee just a week before) and gave them 10 pacers each. Importantly, they could also use the pacers for drafting.

This meant that they hit their targets almost with ease. The special wetsuits, swim pacers, nutrition on a bike were all nice extras. But the thing that really made the difference is that Joe Skipper had eight professional cyclists doing a team time trial in front of him. This meant they circled the track at 55 kph with the athlete on the back only needing to put out 280-300 Watts to sit in the draft. That’s still way more power than I could put out but less than they would usually racr a full distance triathlon at.

Blummenfelt finished in 6:44:25 with Skipper three minutes behind him. On the women’s side, Kat Matthews finished in 7:31:54 with Spirig also three minutes behind her. So, the barrier was broken easily in the end. But in no way comparable to a regular full distance race because the drafting made such a huge difference. Potentially they could go even faster as the swim conditions were not ideal and if you matched Skipper’s superior bike team with Blummenfelt’s run you would have a faster combination.

World Triathlon Leeds 2022

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022 | Sport

There are not many things worth getting up at 6am two days in a row. But World Triathlon Leeds is one of them.

Saturday

Saturday was all about the cheering and a big family affair: my dad and sister were in the sprint and my mum and auntie were in the GoTri. We also had two family friends racing and three Harriers: Stu, Hanna and Yvette. I’m terrible at spotting faces so I was pretty pleased that I spotted most of them at the swim exit and on the run. Knowing people’s swim caps and wetsuit brands in advance is a big help.

It was pretty chilly so I had to go home at lunchtime and put some warmer clothes on. I made it back in time to watch the elite race. They changed the course direction this year meaning that they came down the hill on their bike. The result was the bikes came past at 60 kph. The blurs looked lovely, though.

Sunday

I was in the Yorkshire wave at 8:20, which still meant getting up at 5:45. Luckily, there were no queues to enter the park, register or get into transition this year.

We were back to a mass swim start this year so I let the rest of the field go before setting off. It only takes about 50-100 metres before they realise they have gone out way too hard and I start picking them off. By the first buoy, I had found someone’s feet to sit on. It’s different from swimming by yourself as you have to match the accelerations but otherwise felt pretty comfortable. Apparently, I was one of the few athletes that remembered to swim all the way up onto the swim ramp.

T1 was tough. They somehow made it even longer and even though the water was a luxurious 18 degrees, my cold hands failed to get my wetsuit off, even after I sat down. That cost my nearly a minute.

The bike started frantically. You climb up Park Avenue and once I was onto Princess Avenue my top priority was trying to stuff an energy bar into my gob. As a result, I didn’t settle until we reached Street Lane and I had passed the photographer. The bike course was rather windy but I managed to spend most of it on my aero bars. There was a big headwind coming down Stonegate Road and a big tailwind coming up it: as a result, I could descend at a comfortable speed and on the climb, I felt like I was flying. There was plenty of support on the bike course with Harriers at least four different points.

It was not quite a Vincent Luis-style crash but some poor guy went around the outside of the U-turn at the end of lap one and almost ran into a barrier on the far side of the road. On the second lap, I was ready for the photographer having hastily shoved another energy bar in going the other way.

T2 passed without incident. It was annoying to have to run so far in cleats, but JP assumes me that running in bare feet was no more joyful.

The run was the same as last year except in the other direction. This meant a steep climb out of transition (similar to running into town in the old days) but you are then rewarded with a long downhill. I made the strategic version to walk up the hill on the second and third lap. That cost me maybe 10 seconds per time, but also gave me enough recovery to peg it down the hill and I think there was a lot of time to be gained by running downhill effectively. I saw Graeme, Grace, Dan and Rafet on the run course and there was plenty of support on course from both Harriers and my family, too.

As we turned the final corner I was on 43:something and knew I ran a 45:something last year, so figured I might be able to get a run PB. Ths meant sprinting down the hill, but saving enough to look good for the photos.

I finished in:

2:42:43

Good enough for 18th out of 50 in the Yorkshire championship, but not as good as Ali who took second in his first ever standard distance race! Here is how I compared to last year:

Discipline 2022 2021 2019
Swim 34:18 33:34 39:25
T1 6:38 5:44 8:32
Bike 1:13:08 1:13:16 1:19:04
T2 3:58 4:52 4:02
Run 44:43 45:28 46:59
Total 2:42:43 2:42:52 2:58:00

The courses aren’t directly comparable. The 2019 event ran down into the city and the run direction changed between 2021 and 2022. The bike course also changed between 2019 and 2021. That said, I did beat last year’s time by a full 9 seconds! I had no idea until I looked it up later.

Afterwards, we had some lunch and watched the elite mixed team relay. It was freezing cold again but lovely to see the elites up close.

Summary

World Triathlon Leeds is probably one of the best weekend’s of the year. It’s right in the heart of the city so close enough that everyone comes out for it and there is something for everyone from the GoTri races to the elites. I hope Sunderland get as much joy from the event as we have.

Tadcaster Triathlon 2022

Friday, May 6th, 2022 | Sport

The triathlon season is back! 10 Harriers turned up to race with another three of Harriers volunteering and being a smaller event than Skipton, it made for a social atmosphere where it was easy to find each other.

I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after completing Around The Park, Around The Clock the day before. However, I woke up feeling relatively fresh. And by that I mean I wasn’t overwhelming sore or achy. I did have to re-do my elastic laces so that my swollen feet would fit in my shoes, though.

I turned up 1:45 in advance to try and see everyone off and allow plenty of faffing time while I remembered all of the little touches: opening the velcro straps on my shoes, syncing my bike computer, having the final pre-race gel and pre-race wee, etc.

The swim

Tadcaster sets swimmers off in waves at 5-second intervals and it is annoying because that means someone is almost instantly on your toes. Luckily, this year I was the last of four so did not have that pressure. Someone overtook me on the last lap, though, which logically means she must have swum 18 lengths.

In the end, I came out of the water in 8:36, so pretty close to the 8:30 I had predicted. Everyone else was well ahead, so in future, I might deliberately underestimate my pace so that I end up with swimmers of similar ability.

The bike

The bike felt pretty good. Only two people came past me and I took one of those places back. I have not practised on my aero bars much over winter but I was able to use them without issues.

That said, my ultimate time was disappointing: 27:38 which was 99 seconds slower than 2021. That was a mixture of fatigue and fitness. I did not work quite as hard this year (165 bpm vs 173 bpm) but was also putting out a lot less power: 202 W vs 247 W.

The run

I set off on the run with some gentle expectations. At this point, my legs started to feel sore and so I did not want to push too hard because these events are supposed to be fun. I went through the first kilometre in 4:43 and roughly maintained this pace throughout factoring in gates, bridges and other chokepoints.

The run contained some interesting obstacles including a field full of cows, several of which were standing right on the footpath. It also finished on a set of steps.

After we crossed the finish line there we were handed a warm pie and a jar of chutney. Nice way to end a race.

The result

My final time was:

1:12:04

I was feeling pretty good about the race until I compared it to last year’s results. Not much gain on the swim and a significant loss on the bike. The run and overall are not comparable to last year the course flooded and the 6k trail run was replaced by a sub-5k road run.

Stage 2022 2021 2019
Swim+ 12:07 12:30 12:21
T1 01:03 01:10 02:36
Bike 27:38 25:59 28:41
T2 01:16 01:49 01:31
Run 30:02 22:54 32:32
Total 1:12:04 1:04:20 1:17:38

Recovering from a broken ankle, ongoing ear and kidney issues, focusing on ultrarunning rather than cycling and having done an ultra the day before are all good reasons to a be a bit slower this year. But hopefully, I can get some cycling form back once Man Vs Coast is out of the way.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. This race marks the start of my fifth season in triathlon and 48th event overall. Not sure who I order my 50 t-shirt from in two races time…

Thank you to all of the volunteers who made the event happen and see you all at World Triathlon Leeds!

British Triathlon Level 2

Sunday, April 24th, 2022 | Life

My certificate is here! In my next life, I’m going to train with a triathlon federation that either delivers coaching courses in the summer or is located in a warmer climate.