I was initially only planning on doing one middle distance this year (Chester). But, as is often the case, race day doesn’t always go to plan. Especially when trying something completely new. I decided to give it a go, to see what I need to work on, with one month until Chester middle-distance. It was also a good opportunity to see how my bike form was after bike-packing in Spain for 9 days, clocking up 46 hours.
Senior athletes, James Chapman and Tom Levy, had been talking about this race for a while, and it sounded like a decent course. After a few issues with my bike (which is still being repaired), fellow Beacon Tri member James McLean offered me his TT bike, and thanks to some serious organisation by Team Manager Tom Levy, it was all ready for race day.
It was an early start, leaving Norwich at 4am. After registering and setting up transition, it transpired that the swim had been cut from 1.9km down to 1.2km (which I was more than pleased about) due to the cold water and weather (despite being May, it was only 3 degrees). The swim kicked off with no time allowed to acclimatise, and I immediately experienced my first open water mass swim start the hard way: a brain-freeze, a few kicks and ‘punches’ to the face, hyperventilating and someone grabbing onto my leg for a tow-along! After about 5 minutes I lost the ability to use my left hand because of the cold, which made me even slower but also meant I couldn’t swim in a straight line for more than 5 strokes (adding on at least 75-100m). I cam out of the water in 14th-last position, about 6 minutes down on the group of contenders containing Beacon Tri senior athlete James Chapman.
Into T1, felt very dizzy. After faffing around on the floor for a couple of minutes trying to get my wetsuit (thanks to Ben Strickson of UEA Tri for letting me borrow his wetsuit!) off with a non-functioning left hand, I was onto the bike course. However, this was short-lived as my useless left hand wouldn’t let me get my left foot into the shoe. I wasted a precious minute pulling over to the side of the road and putting my shoes on. Once I got into a rhythm on the bike, I began to feel great. The hard work in Spain had paid dividends and I was gaining ground. John Jacobs of Paradise Tri came past me having taken a wrong turn after coming out T1 in 1st place. After 5 miles I worked my way back up to John, and we formed a good bike group with Mark Atkinson for the rest of the ride. Mark did the lion’s share of the work with John and me contributing when we could. Even at 12 metres, the draft benefit at 25mph was huge. Simon Brierley of Paradise Tri was calling out the splits each lap and we were making up lost time on the leaders. Towards the end of the bike, I had to stop at a traffic light for about 30 seconds but had the 3rd fastest bike, in 2.20 for 51 miles (there was a group who took the wrong turn, adding 6-7 minutes).
I came into T2 hot-headed to run down the leaders over the 20k. After a quicker-than-normal T2, I got out onto the run course going a bit too fast, doing the first 5km at 6.20/mile pace. I started the run in about 9th place but was quickly up to 4th, and only 50m behind 3rd. The course was quite slow with only some tarmac sections. I found the psychological element of doing four laps of a 5km loop very difficult (thanks to Simon Brierley for the encouragement, would have walked about 5 miles otherwise). After about 4/5 miles the wheels started to come off and my pace gradually slowed to 6.55/mile. I went past James Chapman, who had sadly had stomach issues on the day meaning he was not able to hold onto his lead. This meant I was up to 3rd but I was slowing down and was soon passed, putting me back to 4th place, where I eventually finished after a hard slog. It was a great learning experience and I was happy with the overall result! Next up is Stradbroke tri (organised by Jill and Iain) and then Chester Middle-distance tri.