Race season is now officially underway, with the first race of the calendar done at the Cotswold Super Sprint Triathlon. This is a great event (it was my first ever triathlon in 2014) and my third time racing here. It’s the perfect way to kick the season off proper. As far as I’m aware, it’s one of the first open water triathlons of the calendar. As such the water temperate can be a little on the chilly side! It’s a popular event which attracts a lot of athletes, and I’d certainly recommend it to newcomers to the sport, and also to experienced triathletes looking for a well organised early event with an open water swim.
Heading into race week I’d hit some great training sessions and was feeling fantastic. I’d not ridden outdoors much over the winter and into spring, spending most of my time on the turbo. This works well for me, and I find that a winter on the turbo leaves me feeling super strong when I hit the roads when the weather finally comes around. I’ve been focusing on my nutrition a lot recently, and felt like I had everything nailed.
Then came Friday night and I had the worst nights sleep of my entire life. As the clock approached 3am I was completely exhausted, strung out and eventually dropped off some time after about 3:30am. I woke up on Saturday feeling like a zombie, not good!
I had a new wetsuit to try out that I’d purchased last November during the Black Friday sales but had chickened out of swimming in the open water and left it right until the last minute, the day before the race. The water was as expected, absolutely freezing! For some 12.4 degrees might be fine (there were at least 2 people out there in skins) but for me, I like it 15 plus! It didn’t take long to acclimatise though and the new wetsuit felt great.
Luckily the event is only a 45 minute drive up the road, so it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed the night before an event. Whilst this only a warm up race, I still wanted to do my best and try to beat my previous time and age group position from 2015. I felt like I’d had a decent rest and recovered as well as possible from that awful nights sleep. I prepared my standard pre-race breakfast of porridge with seeds, mixed nuts, banana and maple syrup, and I was ready to roll. As always accompanied by my awesome wife who is there to support me at every race :)
We arrived at the venue bang on time. It’s my local swimming lake, so everything is nice and familiar. I registered, grabbed all of my kit and headed down to transition. Normally I’m balancing a box and carrying various bags of bits and pieces with me, but thanks to Santa Claus, I had my new HUUB transition bag for this season, which made life a lot easier.
My previous transitions in T1 and T2 have been a little sloppy, and this time I was determined to get in and out in the fastest time possible. At the last minute I made the decision to leave a cycling jacket in T1, knowing how cold the water was, I didn’t want to freeze up on the bike. (In hindsight I probably could have got away without it, and it did cost me some time in transition getting it on, but it was a gamble I was willing to take for the extra comfort, and certainly a good idea to practice this sort of thing for longer distance events where a jacket in miserable weather could be a very good idea).
After a quick jog and some dynamic stretches, I slipped into my wetsuit and we headed down to see the first wave of swimmers off at 8am.
My wave (30-39) was off last, so after 30 mins of standing around, teeth chattering it was time to get in the lake and get warmed up. The preparation of getting in the previous day paid off, as it didn’t feel anywhere near as cold, which filled me with confidence. After a 5 minute warm up, the klaxon went off and it was go time!
The first 100m was pretty frantic, and on reflection I went off way (way) too fast. There seemed to be a massive group heading in completely the wrong direction straight from the gun. There are 2 different course on the lake, this swim was a 400m, but a huge swathe of arms and heads were heading for the opposite 750m course in completely the wrong direction! After the carnage started to dissipate I soon found I’d burned a huge amount of energy in that initial effort. I eventually found some space, but my technique felt awkward and I struggled to find my flow. I managed to hold it together and before I knew it I’d turned the last boy and could see the swim exit in front of me.
I sprinted off in the direction of T1, determined to bring that transition time right down. Wetsuit off to the waist as I approached my bike…helmet on as I stamp out my legs…jacket on…keep trying to stamp out my legs…feet stuck…sh*t the time…wrestle my feet out…damn that was too long!! Cycle shoes on and sprint out towards the bike start.
I jumped on my bike and felt relieved that I was pedalling and could start to relax a little. I know the course well and it felt great to start overtaking people. I was really comfortable with the added protection of my jacket, even if it did cost me time in transition. I looked down at my power meter and start to real it in a little and not get too carried away. The bike should only take about 30 minutes, but I knew it would still be possible to burn all my matches before the run. Even though it’s only 5k (on this course it’s actually a little shorter than 5k), I still wanted to hit it with as fast a pace as possible.
In the blink of an eye I could see I was on the final straight and it’s time to start thinking about T2. I ran hard with my bike into transition, helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes off…and go! This transition was much smoother and I was in and out in less than 60 seconds. As I headed out on the run I felt quite fresh and was able to turn the legs over at a good rate. It’s a 2 lap off road run. The weather had been dry so it was firm under foot. I gave it everything until the 15 minute mark and then pushed as hard as possible to the line.
I didn’t quite make it under 1 hour, and actually finished a little slower than my previous time and 9th in my age group (exactly the same position as 2015), but with the focus of this year being my first full distance IRONMAN, we’re training for an 11 hour race, not a 1 hour one! Everything went smoothly and it felt great to race again after the long winter months. It’s a good job that I didn’t bury myself too much, as next Sunday comes the first real test of the season, the Immortal Half!