Having researched and spoken to friends on how best to prepare for an Olympic distance triathlon the message was clear – no fitness could be gained in the week preceding the race, but much could be lost. Therefore the main aim for me was to keep my body sharp, build confidence and get the basics right. With this in mind, my strategy was to reduce the length of the training sessions but keep the intensity at race pace or above. Before this though, I had a tough weekend of training.
First up was LTR+ on Friday night – a 90 minute, 9 mile hard trail run around Jeffery Hill, Longridge on an undulating course. This included a detour through pheasant breeding grounds in what can only be described as like running through a real life Duck Hunt on my old NES!
Saturday – My goal for this session was to replicate the race with a hard session at a similar time of day to my race wave. This was through a hard, 1900m swim set in Salford Quay, followed by a 2-lap reccy of the tri bike course. The swim was by far my best in open water, I got to know the transition and the bike course and the whole exercise really built some confidence.
Sunday – I was hoping to do a 40km bike TT but the typical August Ribble Valley weather mean’t a 60 min indoor turbo set was the best I could do. This was my final full distance set.
Monday – Race prep – bike serviced. My training was a mini-tri at race pace intensity, with a reduced set. This involved a 1000m swim, 15km bike and a 4.5km run.
Tuesday – Rest.
Wednesday – Decision time! Despite advise from several friends against getting aero-bars at this late stage, I just couldn’t resist, particularly with the strong winds forecasted. This was a double-edged sword in the sense that the wind would make getting used to the bars difficult, but if I could conquer them there was significant gains to be had come race day. My first run out was at the NWRC 10-mile TT on the Bashall Circuit. Strong winds made it a bit of a baptism of fire but came away with a time of 27.11. Overall this was a great exercise and made up my mind that the aeros were on for the race.
Thursday – Tri course reccy with the boys. One trott around the run course, followed by a spin around the bike course. Rain started half way round the bike course and we quickly realised that if the weather was against us on race day, the bike leg was going to be a tough one.
Friday – Easy 800m swim followed by a mega 10 hour sleep! Just what I needed.
Sat – 4km run starting slowly building to race pace. Now off to Salford to register. Got back home in good time and had an hour practicing my bike to run transition. Decided my best option would be to loosen my ratchet buckle on my cycling shoes when coming in to T2, then to stop and dismount rather than attempt a flying dismount. Tri specific shoes are definitely needed for this!
I then spent a good 2 hours ensuring all my kit was ready, loading my bike with gels and putting the things for transition in one bag, all my other gear in the other. After the third or fourth time of checking and several shouts of “are you STILL packing?” I realised I needed to chill out – I hadn’t felt this nervous since exams, reflected by a huge PB for toilet stops in a day, a combination of hydrating but mainly pre-race nerves! Had some tea (dinner for you posh people) and tried to relax and take my mind off the race and eventually fell asleep praying for nice weather. Woke up to…gale force wind and driving rain! Brilliant!
Race day – Up at 6.20 am. Muesli, yoghurt, honey and fruit brekkie then off we go. Bike racked, kit neatly positioned and covered then some time spent walking the transition. Watched some of the swim waves including my training buddies and paid attention to where would be a good place to position myself in the water. 15 min running warm up then into my wet suit at 9.00 ready for my wave start at 9.40. By now I had far too much nervous energy and expectation and was just ready to get going – a feeling I shared with everyone else by all accounts.
Wave 6 was called and we were in the water. As advised I took advantage of the 2/3 minute wait and did some strokes. This did me a world of good as I realised everything was going to be ok…and I felt great! Nerves had gone and I was ready to have it!
Swim was steady and well paced (32.06) and I had a good plan of what I was going to do in T1. Had a decent transition (2.44) and I was out on the bike. Oh dear. Ambulances were flying everywhere, it was blowing a gale and I immediately realised this was going to be tough. Kept safe and paced the bike well (each lap was in the 12 minutes for a total of 1:16:02), knowing I had enough in the tank to feel good for the run. This was unchartered territory now!
Had a controlled dismount and executed the transition pretty well (54 secs). Into the run and was happy to say my body and legs had never felt so well oiled and ready to go. I felt well fuelled so thought let’s try do something here. Negative splits on each of the four laps combined for a run time of 41:23. This was a massive PB and was a great way to finish what was an amazing race experience. My total time was 2:33:07 and I finished 64th out of 572 starters.
I was extremely happy with the result and with how the whole experience went. I can safely say my training and preparation helped immensely in allowing me to control and enjoy every single minute of the race.
A big thanks to everyone for coming down to watch and thanks to Rodge at Racepace for getting me into the world of pain also know as Triathlon. Salford really whet my appetite for Tri’s and I will certainly be coming back for more!