With a slightly later start to my race season than I’ve had in previous years I opened the season with the Little Beaver triathlon organised by Just Racing. Set in and around the grounds of Belvoir Castle in Nottingham the scene was set for a great days racing.
Travelling down with Pete the day before I got myself registered and had a good look at the swim lake, transition area and drove the bike course. Doing this with Pete the day before a race I’ve never done before always settles my nerves, we discuss everything from the swim course, what can be used for sighting in the swim, the best route for me in and out of transition and in this case places on the bike course to be aware of and possible places for me to push on and possible hazards like square edged potholes that could end anyone’s race prematurely. Whilst scouting out transition we discovered I had one of the best spots I think I’ve ever had, the very last row of racking and the second to last bike spot. I was right next to the bike out/in and had an easy path from the swim in and to the run out.
Race morning came and all seemed quiet, nice bright sunshine and what appeared to be no wind, I was able to rack my bike quickly and headed off down to the lake to watch the shorter Speedy Beaver triathlon start.
It maybe worth to note a few points about the swim; the lake is quite shallow. In the words of the event organiser during race briefing “if you get into difficulties it may be easier to stand up and walk to the edge”. The bottom is very silty so visibility under the water is zero and then there is the very long, uphill run to transition.
I don’t usually like to complain about things in races as I’m fully aware of the planning and organisation that goes into such a big event but for me the size of the swim waves was just too big. All 140+ women were set off in one wave and at a time when the previous males wave was half way through their two lap swim. Obviously the size of the lake and time constraints imposed on the organisers don’t help.
Stood on the side of the lake listening to the countdown to my start I made the spur of the moment decision to get in as late as possible to give myself the best possible position so with a minute to go I got in a swam straight to the front of the group and got myself ready . This start had to be one of the most brutal I’ve ever experienced and with the zero visibility it was impossible to avoid getting kicked, punched or grabbed. After putting in my hardest swim start I found a small bit of clear water and someone who would be my new swim partner. In the majority of my previous triathlons I always seem to either swim by myself or find myself towing a few people so I made the conscious effort to get on someone’s hip. With visibility being bad it was hard to stay on feet as you couldn’t see them but swimming just off someone’s hip was easy if you breathed to that side. So me and my new swim buddy made good progress through the tail end of the men’s wave and were soon onto our final lap. The swim exit was off to the left of the course so having spotted a tree to sight from I broke away from my swim partner and stuck closer to the edge, initially I lost a little distance to her but coming upto the exit we reunited again.
As I mentioned previously the run into transition is massive, it must be 450-500m depending on your position in transition and all on an uphill gradient. I tried to run at a good speed but at the same time get into transition still able to move quickly and efficiently through it.
Out onto the bike course which was a 2 lap route. As the shorter Speedy Beaver, being raced on the same day, was the National Sprint Championships Triathlon England had released a video of the bike course a couple of weeks before the event so it all looked fairly familiar during the drive of the course on Saturday afternoon. I had heard and seen people discussing on social media sites that the course was quite hilly, and having come from the north-west of England I would describe it more as undulating. There is one ‘significant’ climb but at only 0.5 mile is distance it didn’t take too much out of my legs. What did make the course hard was the strong wind that had started blowing and with the long straight roads it was going to be a tough hour and 27mins. I feel like I held my own on the bike leg, I was passing several men from the previous waves and only a couple of women came past so overall I am very pleased with my performance.
Coming into T2 I was told I was in 10th position overall.
Out onto the run and again it was two laps including what the organisers were calling USN hill. The course involves a short section of flat track followed by a climb, dead turn and decent back into lap 2/finish. I wanted to get the pacing right above everything else and be able to dig deep when it mattered. I am always trying to work on my mental strength and knowing that the run is my weakest discipline I really have to focus on not getting involved in other people’s races and not focusing on those people coming past me and checking their numbers to try and figure out which age category they are in but to just run my own race. Unfortunately I also started suffering with my feet at this point, my trainers started rubbing but worse of all my timing chip had also started rubbing my left ankle. So trying to block all of my thoughts telling me to slow down I pushed on all the way to the line and crossed it to finish 9th in age category and proud of the performance I put in.
Thanks as always go out to my husband, without who none of this would be possible, my coach who always offers words of encouragement even if they are difficult for me to hear and also family and friends who send messages of support before and after the event. (Sarah Jepson)