I have had a brilliant day and I am so pleased with myself. Although I worked much harder training for my London Marathon and Great North Run what is so satisfying is how focused and effective my training has been over the last couple of months. With having a young family, time is at a premium so I chose to do a sprint triathlon because it fitted around my working day. I really wanted to start running again but needed a good reason/excuse or goal to aim for and now I am running as hard and fast as I have ever done and with the benefit of experience and some sports recovery drinks I have achieved this in a safe and sustainable manner. The great thing about training for a triathlon is that one week you might not run too well but have a really good session in the pool or ride a suprisingly quick time. That little bit of variety really helps your overall mood.
Anyway today the weather couldn’t have been better with bright sunshine and very little wind. The swim in the brine pool was chaotic; competitors started every 15 seconds and the start was supposed to be graded but either people lied about their expected time or were a bit clueless. I’m pretty sure nobody passed me but there were some very slow crawlers and I dropped into a quick breaststroke to pass a cluster of swimmers whilst ensuring I didn’t collide with anyone. In the second half of the swim I found some space and settled into my own pace. The brine water tasted salty but was no different to normal swimming pool water other than a few leaves and sticks floating around.
I climbed out and trotted 400m round the outside of the complex to the first transition stage where I had laid out my gear carefully. In the end the transition wasn’t too frantic, it wasn’t as if every second counted. I struggled with my tight fitting cycle shirt and almost lost the pinned on number from the back of it (which might have meant disqualification). I necked a ZipVit blackcurrant energy gel and passed my bag of bits and bobs to Catriona and the family who were spectating at the exit of the transition zone. I climbed on the bike and headed off down the street overtaking someone straight away with him shouting after me ‘Do you know where you’re going?’ ‘No’ I replied back ‘but I think it’s well signed’ and it was well signed, and very well marshalled to. A really well run event considering there were over 1,000 people of mixed ability. Lots of families there and it was quite comfortable and not at all daunting – the whole point of the Fun2Tri events are to welcome newcomers to the sport after all.
I don’t know if it was the gel but I rode the first few miles like a man possessed averaging about 20 mph. I passed about 8 riders although a couple (on very nice bikes) caught me up a few miles later. The ride had no long or steep hills but was undulating meaning that a downhill section could allow you to stretch the legs or recover and the uphill were always short enough to attack. After 5 miles I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me and there was nobody behind me. The only gripe was that the ride was definately longer than 12.5 miles. There were markers every mile and at 10 miles my trip computer said I had been riding just over 32 minutes. A bit of quick maths suggested I could finish the ride in around 40 minutes which is over a minute faster than anything I had done in training but as I say after the 12 mile marker there was definately more than a mile before the 2nd transition.
I honked my comedy honky horn as I approached T2 to warn the family of my impending arrival. Apparently Alex had spent the previous 10 minutes helpfully shouting ‘Dismount’ at the competitors ahead of me. I climbed off and there was 200m to the bike racking area where I switched footware into my Asics. This gave my legs a chance to adjust to running but as I exitted T2 I didn’t feel particularly strong and decided that after a strong ride I was happy to hang on through the run rather than push for anything spectacular. I had intended to wear a watch but it had got lost in my kit bag. As the 5k run was split over 4 laps I had thought a split time might help me judge my pace but I found that running on grass to be so different to roads that setting a pace might have pushed myself a bit too hard. I found that as I entered the grandstand area and heard the encouragement of my family along with others I was lifted and pushed much harder. 2nd lap was definately my best, 3rd I hung on and then final lap I relax until halfway round and then steadily ramped up the effort to a pretty spectacular sprint finish.
The official photo shows me powering to the finish line with both feet off the ground and jaw firmly clenched in a determined manner. Crossing the line was very enjoyable – not just relief as I have felt in the other 2 races but a feeling of utter satisfaction. This was helped by there being no clock there to give me my time. With runners starting every 15 seconds you really were runing your own race, the run on grass (and lack of watch) meant I couldn’t gauge myself against anything. I still don’t know or care too much about my time which according to the time my photo was taken would be between 80 and 82 minutes.
I’d definately do it again next September. The May race in Nantwich is tempting too but with the Liverpool Triathlon just over a month later….. Well you know how it is with athletes trying to peak too many times in one season!