…was this time rather lacking! We signed up for this race in a spate of optimistic race booking earlier in the year, believing that after Staffordshire we would somehow be super athletes and be top of our game by the time the distant end of August rolled by. As it turned out, we’ve had a super busy summer and my longest run since Staffordshire in June was a slow 9 miles in the sun 2 weeks ago – not the most confident lead up to a race!
The day before the race we had to go over to the Cotswolds to collect our race packs (including timing chips, numbers, bike stickers and freebies). It was a bit of a pain to have to drive over (around an hour each way) but the countryside is lovely and it gave us a chance to have a look at the race maps and see what the footing was like for the run. On the way home we stocked up on high-carb pre-race food ready to have Vikki and her friend Amy round for a nice pre-race dinner!
After making sure we had everything packed and threading elastic laces into my trail shoes we watched the rest of the women’s olympic triathlon (poor Non!) and had an early night, in preparation for our 3:55 alarm! We were both quite surprised how dark it was when we woke up, and it didn’t really get light until we arrived at the car park. We met the other Oxford Tri people and got set up in transition, setting out both trainers and trail-shoes to prepare for the weather!
A Competitive Swim
It’s always a relief to get started on the swim and put the pre-race nerves to bed. Up to the first buoy I was feeling pretty delighted with being a triathlete, feeling the early start was worth it, that I have actually done quite a lot of training for this and it was great to be back in the water. But as the race went on quite a crush developed around us, something which I think we noticed especially after the rolling start in Staffordshire, our Wednesday morning lake swims, and the solo swims we both did last weekend in the Dorney triple sprints. I battled on in between several unwanted mouthfuls of water, drafting off people and trying not to get kicked or clawed. For part of the race I was ahead but after another section of swimming side by side, Dan pulled past me on the dog leg. After his victory on Wednesday in the lake the race was on, and I ended up following behind him in the bubbles he was kicking up. I worked as hard as I could and was struggling to get back as we neared the last buoy, but was luckily (for me!) assisted by Dan going the wrong way around it and having to do a U-turn. I knew he’d be on my tail though so raced to the finish line and finished exhausted and feeling a bit sick, slipping on the way out and getting pulled out by the marshal and Dan! So it was another win for me on the swim… but only just.
Edit: Dan says it was draw… but at least he didn’t beat me!
Fighting on the Bike
On our way down to Devon last weekend, we tested the bike course and found that while it was flat, it was also very open and windy. The course was 2 laps of roughly 27 miles. This morning the 40 mph winds of Saturday had died down but it was still blowing at 14-16 mph which made some parts of the course very hard work. My first lap started well, but by about half way round I started to need a wee which made leaning over the tri-bars rather uncomfortable and so decided to take a quick break in the porta-loo at the feed station by the end of the lap (sometimes being a boy would be so much easier!). I felt much faster and more focused after that and ready to try and up my average pace as I started on the second lap. I spotted Vikki & Dan on the way to transition, then hit the strong winds heading towards the lake, while trying to get back to where they’d been as quickly as possible. Over enthusiastic gear changing made my chain fall off as I went up the hill to the roundabouts, so I was back down to zero mph while I put it back on and determined to speed up, working hard with and against the wind.
These unexpected breaks meant that my average speed which had started at around 19 mph quick dropped into the late 16s and it was such hard work pushing it up to 17.5 mph again by the time I hit the turning point hill. It’s so easy to lose the pace, but getting it back feels like such an ongoing battle against that average pace on my watch, which quickly snuck down again when I went up the hill and back into the wind.
Later in the race I had to get off and walk so that an ambulance could negotiate it’s way to pick up a fallen cyclist. I don’t know what happened, but the marshals did nicely assure us that he was going to be ok before we walked past the scene of the accident. They really did a great job all day, and though it was horrible to think that someone had been knocked off, the way they were dealing with it was reassuring. Soon there were less than 10 miles left, happily a very do-able distance so my bike and I pressed on working as hard as we good towards the dismount line with the enthusiastic transition marshal from earlier in the day.
Getting through the Run
I chose my trainers as it hadn’t rained at all while I was on my bike and set out on the run, pulling my number round to the front and thinking about how there were now on 13.1 miles between me and a relaxing afternoon 🙂 . The run was made up of 3 4-mile laps running around a few of the lakes in the area, including the one we’d been in that morning. The first lap went pretty well, with three reasonably-pacy miles. I spotted Vikki and Dan again at the intersection that we came across twice every lap and it was nice to see some friendly faces on the course. The marshalling and support was once again fantastic – just what’s needed on a long end of tri run!
The second and third laps were much more painful and slow, including a duck into the loos on the second which left me feeling slightly revitalised but with time to make up. I discovered how delicious and drinkable Hi 5’s Isogels are, so had a few to keep going, then a few cups of water to try and get their sticky residue off my hands. On the final lap I had a look at my overall time and realised with amazement that I would be on for a PB even running 9 minute miles, despite my cycling and running woes… time to get a move on! I quite happily finished that final lap and enjoyed a good sprint finish over the line. Time to relax.
Dan came to meet me pretty quickly for a hug and a well done, whilst looking at my Garmin to see my times! My official time was 05:37.40, putting me as 28th woman and 8th in my age category. Dan really smashed it, finishing in 4:32, 21st over all and 4th in his age category – looks all the marathon training isn’t doing too much harm! After a quick photo shoot with Vikki, we headed home to start work on a 6-person lasagna and enjoy a chilled out afternoon just as planned. 🙂
Today was our first race with 113 Events and certainly won’t be our last. It was well organised and we felt throughout that the organisers’ top priority was to make sure that everyone could safely enjoy their day. They were so amenable with options such as choosing race numbers and putting club members together in waves and Graeme’s (the race organiser) emails leading up to the event were helpful, informative and never failed to make me smile.