Five weeks on from the Dambuster triathlon I was back on the start line at the 2015 edition of the Salford Triathlon. I'd heard good things about this race so wanted to experience it for myself.
The Thursday before race day I headed over to the race venue to recce both the bike and run course with Rodge. We rode the bike course several times to ensure I was confident in the fastest lines through the several roundabouts and corners and put together a race plan.
Race morning came and I got there nice and early, with no numbered racking other than the wave you were in, I wanted to be sure I got myself a good set up in transition. My start time was 9:40am so I made sure I was at the swim start for the two previous waves to confirm the swim route. I got myself in the water with a couple of minutes to acclimatise and to get to the front of the swim start and with a good clear count down, the female only wave got under way.
As part of my race plan we decided that I would work hard in the swim and to use other, faster swimmers to draft from. After an excellent start I found I was out front with no feet to use. About half way up the first straight another woman came up alongside and I thought this is my chance, unfortunately I felt she was moving too quick and after several minutes of putting in a greater effort I had to let her go, even with the benefits of drafting I still felt like I couldn’t sustain that pace. For the next lap and a half I was swimming by myself, I tried several times whilst turning the buoys to try and see where the next swimmer was behind to see whether it was worth me easing up slightly to get the benefits of a draft but with no-one touching my feet I could only assume I was by myself. About half way down the last straight I had another swimmer alongside, and as we were coming into the finish I decided to let her lead me in to give myself a little respite before the long run into transition.
The leading swimmer had almost a 2 minute lead out of the water but after executing a swift transition I was out onto the bike course in first place. The bike course at Salford is quite short but having to do 6 laps kept me on my toes, trying to remember what lap I was on a how many I had left to do. With two previous swim waves already out on the course it was already quite busy but with closed roads there was never an issue with overtaking safely. Remembering all the lines on the roundabouts and corners helped me increase my lead over second place. I thoroughly enjoyed the bike course, fairly technical in places but also some long straights were I could really take advantage of my aero position. Returning past the transition area was also good as you could really feel the atmosphere of the crowd each time. The last two laps of the bike the predicted wet weather started to make an appearance with just a light rain to start, thankfully by the time the heavier rain came I was well into my running.
Coming out of T2 and not knowing where second place was made no difference to how I approached the run, I just had to keep working hard all the way to the line. Like the bike course it was multiple laps, 4 in total so it does give competitors a good chance to eye ball other athletes with a couple of out and backs. As the laps passed I could tell I was being caught by who I thought was in second place. As I started my last lap she came past, and just like in the swim I couldn’t keep with the pace she was setting. At this point I said to myself to keep running all the way to the line, stay strong and keep working hard because for all I knew she may have a time penalty etc. So as I came round the corner to cross the finish line the commentator announced ‘Here comes our first place female, crossing the line in a time 2hours 22. I was pleasantly surprised, as I had expected the other lady to be already stood there. I was really happy, not only for winning the race, but keeping myself in check and working hard all the way to the finish having thought I'd lost 1st place.
The race organisers deserve a lot of credit for putting on a first class event, everyone from the marshals out on the course, to the security guys in transition all made for a great day.
I now start a solid block of training ahead of my trip to Chicago for the AG World Championships in September. (Sarah Jepson)