My first triathlon of the year and for once is was pretty much on my doorstep, just a 25minute drive and with a start time of 10.40am it was a very relaxed race morning which is never normally the case (this Saturday, I will be up around 4.15am as I am competing in Nottingham with an 8.30am start). I made the most of this leisurely start time and got to the race early so I could see how transition was set up. With it being a pool swim and me in the last wave I could watch other athletes to get a feel for the flow and how it all worked, on first view it was a tight transition area with a few quirky bits – glad I got there early.
As always with a pool swim there are other athletes in the lanes and in mine there were 3 of us. I was first off and then the other 2 at 10 second intervals. I had a decent swim leg although it is always tricky with people wanting to pass you and vice versa, sometimes this can throw you off your rhythm. I felt it had not been my smoothest 400m but was sure I had still set a decent time. Off out of the pool building and into transition, what I had not accounted for was a small child wanting to cross my path as I ran down the matting – evasive move required.
Quickly to my bike and up to the mount line, which was on a slight rise, but I had made the decision beforehand that I could still create enough momentum to allow me to mount the bike with a running jump (shoes were already clipped in). Off and out on the bike course I went. I had already done a recce of the bike course the week before and knew the road well as I am local to the area. The road was particularly busy though on race day as the weather was sunny so cars, motorbikes and other casual cyclists all to contend with. Within the first few minutes I had passed a fellow competitor and on doing so I knew I was in 3rd place (I was the last swim wave and the 2 in my lane had passed me in the swim, plus the guy next to me in lane 4 was a 5min 400m swimmer) and had to knuckle down and put the best bike leg I could muster into place. Concentration was important and staying safe. It was an out and back with the ‘out’ predominantly being downhill, obviously the return then had to be uphill so I wanted to maximise the ‘out’ leg as much as possible. To my shock I got passed by another athlete who I know so by my workings stuck me down in 4th.
Back into transition with a smooth and quick dismount and 3 people ahead of me to catch. 2 laps of a relatively simple course to navigate which included a small hill and a canal path. As I ran through transition to start the 2nd lap I could tell I was gaining on 3rd but not enough with only 2.5km to go. With some encouragement from my coach I really focused on 3rd place and used all my beans down the canal path to claw back around 200m so that when we came off the canal, I was right behind him. This is where the awareness and race savvy comes in, decision had to be made and because I was flowing (as such) I carried on passed him, he however then stuck to me and sat in behind – we were together up the hill and just before the turn he put in another effort to drop me. I did not have another gear and could not keep pace, so he finished the race in front of me by 5 seconds. Think there were probably 2 ways I could have done it differently; 1. Got up to him and sat behind instead of going passed and conserving a little energy for a last blast or 2. Caught him more gradually and carried on passed just within meters of the finish. All a learning curve and in the end, it was a 5th place not a 4th as someone from an earlier wave had gone quicker and finished in the top 3.
A well-run local event and some learnings to take away. Next up Nottingham Sprint Triathlon this Saturday with my first open water swim of the season.