The night before I’d made the fatal error of staying at a hostel, so I wasn’t the most well-rested at 4:30am — although does anyone ever sleep well before a race? On the flip side, I did have an enormous pizza to myself the night before; so you win some, you lose some.
I arrived at transition very early to get everything ready with plenty of time. This was my second Olympic distance triathlon ever — so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My focus previously had all been on Ironman and half-Ironman events; so quick transitions, elastic laces and flying mounts were all a bit new.
I’d arrived at the swim start to find that the race start would be delayed, giving the first wave an extra 10mins or so to warm-up (each wave normally has 3mins or so). Once the first wave was off, I was one of the last in the second wave to get in the water. Before I knew it — the countdown to our start was happening — in truth I hadn’t positioned myself very well.
Although I started at the back, I didn’t have much contact with the other athletes — starting without a kick to the face almost felt strange! The swim itself was lovely and smooth with great water quality and temperature. I found a good high rhythm and chased the wave’s lead group to finish roughly middle/front-middle of the pack.
The Olympic-distance bike leg was made up of three laps of a flat out-and-back course. After the first lap, the course started to get a lot busier with big groups forming. A few times I had to bark at people to ‘stay left’ to allow me to pass without passing the roads white line, which would’ve resulted in disqualification. I kept a high cadence throughout the course, allowing small inclines to be dealt with without big changes in effort.
The only major issue came from the water bottle attached to my bike’s aero bars, which proceeded to leak and splash all over the place. Despite giving my bike a distinctive layer of cheetah-like spots and running out of water on lap three — I’d foreseen this happening and finished without any great drama. Ultimately it wasn’t the fastest ride I could’ve done, but it was consistent and left me in good shape for the run.
After a big swig of water in T2, I started lap one of the two lap run course. Initially keeping the intensity low to find my pace (and legs) and then concentrated on keeping a smooth intensity and a high cadence. By this time, the sun was shining and the temperature was well over 20 degrees — making it very clear that many had pushed too hard on the bike and were now suffering.
For the last quarter of the run, I felt strong and decided to ‘gas it’ for the long straight back to the finish line — I may have underestimated the distance. Later found that I gained 12 places on the run course, with many competitors having big differences in speed between the two laps — simply, they’d gone too hard too early. I finished the run with a last overtake and a remark of ‘bugger’ as I ran past.
Ultimately, I finished in 2:07:22 which placed me 24th overall out of 519 — in amongst some strong athletes, I’m very happy with this result! Cardiff was a great race with amazing weather and a top support team — hopefully I’ll do it again next year!
The races have been coming thick and fast this year and Cardiff was my first attempt at the draft legal sprint format this year. This was an ITU world qualifier and I wanted to put in the best performance I could. As with many of the races this year the weather was faultless, not a cloud in the sky and perfect conditions, albeit it was all a little too warm on the run.
The swim was 750m and I was in a wave of roughly around 80. It was a simple course laid out in Cardiff Bay and very easy to sight and navigate. Thankfully the sun never played a major part as this can sometimes blind your vision especially when reflecting off the water. Combative is the word I would use for the swim, right from the off to coming out of the water. I had no problem finding feet nor did people have problems finding mine. Totally fine with proximity swimming as it just adds another dimension to the race. I came out of the swim feeling like I had swum well and was focused on getting to my bike ready for a quick T1. As I was running up to my bike I could see it was on the floor and my helmet/shades were also strewn out on the floor. Nothing I could do about this (other than curse), I just had to deal with it as calmly as I could. I picked up the various things and run out of T1, luckily my shoes are still connected to the bands and are nicely on my pedals.
Over the mount line and as soon as I hit my seat both shoes detach from their bands and spin round (more seconds lost), this T1 is proving to be a disaster. Again, I deal with it and eventually get my feet on top. Just as I do another athlete shouts ‘come on mate with me’, I do exactly as I’m told and sit on his wheel for the long stretch of road to the first turn and only just before the turn do I get my feet in. Blood flowing around my legs and we pick up 3 other riders in front, we all do our turns on the front and have a good group who all appear to be working (except 1 who said he was knackered…..all heard that before) but there is nobody in striking distance to make the jump to another group. This was pretty much my group all the way for the 4 laps, as more people entered the course from other waves it did get a bit congested at some of the dead turns so had to be very aware of your space and who was doing what. There was a long stretch on one of the roads where the wind was against, so I always made sure I was on a wheel and not at the front.
Coming into T2 was a little hectic and unlike non-drafting where there is space between athletes, in drafting you can come to the line in big groups, plus not everyone has the same dismount method etc. This transition was much improved and smooth, and I was running to my trainers to start the 5km run.
The run was 2 laps out and back and in places a little confusing as the signs/marshalling were not great. You had to run through spectators in places and people going about their everyday business. This could have been better. Took me about 500m before my legs started to come to me and then I quickly got into my rhythm and ticked off fellow competitors as I turned for the 2nd lap. I had to run this quicker and push my body, every second counts and that’s all I could think of. I came under the finish gantry and spotted Beau a fellow Racepace athlete, shook his hand and then tried to gather myself. Once I had done that we decided it was football time and to find a TV.
On reflection the race was in a fantastic location, the weather was superb, the racing was fast, and I gave my all. Extremely happy with my performance. A wonderful day out with the Racepace team and support crew!
This was a draft legal race and I have only done one before but I was very excited, just ask team mate Beau, when I saw him after I racked my bike I was jumping like Tigger.
It was a sea swim, deep water start but when on the start line I commented to fellow competitors, how not salty the water was and we had a discussion about this. We then got a 2 minute warning, I looked around, everyone looked very young.... one girl next to me floated out and was taking her space by sculling like a frog, I have never seen anything like it and I could see it could present me with a problem, so I took her foot and moved it to my hip so she couldn’t hurt me. As it turned out she was dropped immediately. However there were lots of women around me, we were clashing arms and legs being pulled and this has only happened in one race before in the same situation when they first bouy is close.
As we approached the second bouy a woman came into me and I already had someone on my inside and I was going to have no room, so I put my hand in her hip and gave her a shove, giving me enough room to get round the bouy. After that I was only around a small number of swimmers with some just in front, get on them.... no I can’t why can’t I push, I’m not swimming fast but I can’t get anything else out of me..... keep going.... I could see a swimmer to my left so I thought I could get her feet, but then she swam wide and back in again, I’ll leave her to that, what’s she playing at!
Out the water and wetsuit half down run to transition just behind two others, oh wow my breathing is bad and I had to run very steady keeping in mind this is a draft legal race, I stayed calm nailed transition and remained with them. Off on the bike, I tried to stay with a lady who was just ahead of me I was pushing to get to her whilst also remembering everything I’ve been learning recently, I was out of control with my asthma, I couldn’t catch my breath I was wheezing but I wasn’t pushing that hard, it was flat and I wasn’t using much power, I couldn’t, then a big group of men passed me and she got on the back of them which is illegal and why I did not but that meant she was gone. She ended up winning my age group.
Then there were two other girls so I jumped to them but I was still struggling, why did I not take my inhaler? Why did I not put one in transition? Stupid girl! But on the start of lap two I found a wheel, and I rested 1/2 a lap whilst still moving well and got my breathing under control, thank goodness, then I lost her as I took the front at a corner but got the two girls from before, and then on the start of lap three I got on a group of three who were going well and I was on it, two laps with the group building it was great.
As we approached dismount there was a group of about 8. Now keep cool, nail this run! Let’s be having you! Transition two nailed, out feeling strong in the run, keep it cool, they are all pulling away slowly but that’s ok just run your best. Lap two I get struck again by breathing issues and this time a pain in my ribs which builds into an incredible agonising pain, I cannot run with that, but I am and I’m not giving up. As I pass a marshall she says breath through it and take it off a bit... good idea! Although it was not a stitch but likely related to my previous broken ribs and current out of control asthma causing very laboured breathing, I ease up and after a while it eases, right back to it. And I really push the last 800m it starts again but it can get lost. No one is getting past me on this bit. And I finish strong and I’m pleased I never gave up, I managed myself well and tried my best but why oh why did I not have my inhaler and what was that pain, learn a lesson there Samantha.
The Cardiff Triathlon was both a successful and enjoyable event for me in several ways. Firstly I was able to support and see in action an athlete I've been coaching for 6 months now, racing in the standard distance event. It was great to see how Milo put in to practice some of the things we've been working on and put together a great race. There was once again a strong Racepace team spirit with four athletes racing and we all enjoyed watching England win 6-1 after the event to top off a great day!
For me the race would be my only draft-legal triathlon of the season, and given my ultimate ambitions in elite level triathlon, I find the racing exciting and challenging, so couldn't wait to get underway. A mid-day start for my wave gave me time to check out the various sections of the transition area and specifics of the run course and then assemble at the swim entry area for the race briefing. With GB qualifying spots on the line for the 2019 ITU World Age Group Champs in Lausanne, Switzerland, the standard was high in my wave which included all the men under 35. A competitive swim start reminded me that even though the swim is my strength it's important not to be complacent, and I worked hard all the way to the first turn bouy, fighting for my space against plenty of other strong swimmers. I was in 2nd place with a cluster of people, with one athlete pushing on ahead, so I made the decision to put a surge in to move up to the feet in front which required me to work a little harder than I felt I could maintain for the full 750m. I managed to close the gap, which wasn't easy, and had the effect of stringing out the athletes behind in a single file line. I concentrated on swimming efficiently and trying to recover as I hung on the to fast-moving feet in front, and before long arrived at the pontoon ramp exit to make the short run into T2. I soon had the top half of my Arena Carbon Tri wetsuit down to my waist and made note of the athletes around me.
A quick, smooth transition and I was out onto the bike having moved into the lead with only one athlete close behind. I got my feet in my shoes and tried to pedal smoothly and recover while I waited for company. Before long another athlete caught me and we started to work together, riding 30s or so on the front before taking a break sat on the wheel and drafting. We had to complete four laps of a five km course so after one lap there were lots of athletes on the course from both our wave and the waves behind. We managed to get a couple of other athletes to share the work with for some short sections before pressing on the chase down the next group on the road. In pre-race discussions with my coach Rodge we had identified the final few hundred metres of the bike course had a technical section and a few corners and could provide a good platform to attack any group I happened to be riding with. So on the final lap I put an effort in and using my handling skills I gained myself a handful of seconds before arriving at the dismount line.
After a quick T2 my tactic gave me a little bit of breathing room to take the first part of the run to find my legs without either losing ground or pushing harder than would be good for me. I viewed the run as a 5km time trial so aimed to run as fast as possible, meaning I soon arrived at what felt maintainable and then concentrated on ticking off the kilometres whilst maintaining as fast a pace as possible. The two lap 'out and back' course gave an opportunity to see the chasing athletes and my companion on the bike was looking tired but several athletes from the chasing pack were trying hard to close the gap to me. I pushed hard and gradually increased my pace as much as I could as I neared the end of the second lap, in order to finish strongly. I completed the 5km run with an all out effort, aware of the possibility of athletes in other waves posting quicker times, and broke the tape to finish first outside the impressive Wales Millennium Centre. My time was quick enough to win the event overall by around 50seconds, and I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere while I waited to see team mates Bob and Samantha finish from their respective waves.
The whole day was a really enjoyable one, and being able to watch the elite sprint distance British Championships, who competed on the same course we had, really whet my appetite to return to that level of racing next season.