Having raced only two weeks previously, I felt like I was making up for races being cancelled last year. However, this was a smaller, more relaxed event; I talked to several people who entered last minute, even one the night before!
Starting bright and early, the forecast rain held off, although it had been raining overnight. The run on this course is on grass – some flat, some on undulating paths through trees. It’s a fun run, but I was worried that it might get muddy and slippery in the wet. However, it didn’t look too bad, so I decided not to use the trail shoes I’d panic bought the day before.
For me this was a nice social race as I’d come with some friends. Talking to one while setting up in transition I described how in a previous race I’d had my front wheel drop off while picking up my bike, and how I’d learnt from my mistakes.
Before the race we were able to acclimatise in the water. Upon diving in one of my goggles filled up with water, so I decided not to dive in during the race! The start was from under this awesome inflatable and was a self seeded rolling start.
I chose to be near the start. Following someone doing a perfect swallow dive, I executed my stylish flop.
I started slowly gaining on people ahead, and then spotted someone coming past on the left. They were moving quickly and I tried to move over and draft behind them, but they were too quick for me. Then shortly after another person started moving past. This time he wasn’t much faster than me and I got on his feet. Perfect!
I managed to keep on his feet throughout the first lap, although had to sprint a couple of times after buoys to catch up.
In the second lap it was a bit more challenging to stay with him as other people were still on the first lap so we had to weave our way through them. Still, I managed to stay on his feet.
We got to the end and climbed out. I’d done 23:49, which I’d be sad about as it’s slow, but thanks to my hat GPS I could see I’d swum 1600m, which makes it 1:29 pace, which I’m happy about. 5th out of 122.
In transition I was ready to make it look smooth. Wetsuit off, hat and goggles off, helmet on, pick up bike. Ah. Turns out I don’t learn from my mistakes – my front wheel stayed where it was! Doh. The guy I’d been drafting on the swim (who was racked near me so I’d been able to say thanks to!) disappeared off into the distance while I faffed getting the wheel on. Smooth.
Out of transition there’s a run over grass to the road. I managed that bit without incident and got onto my bike without any more drama. I quickly caught up and overtook the guy I’d been drafting, and set off on the new bike course.
It’s a single loop on gently rolling hills and beautiful English countryside – my kind of course! I overtook a couple of people, and then didn’t see anyone for ages. At about 2/3 or the way round, I knew I’d been slowly climbing, but hadn’t quite realised how much; at this point I got to the top of a hill and could see the view – it was pretty stunning and clear there was quite a lot of downhill to come!
There was a very fast bit where a car was close behind me, and there were a few potholes (all avoided, but it was pretty nerve-wracking – I topped out at 62kmph here and really didn’t want to crash!)
At about 30km in I spotted a rider ahead. So I wasn’t in first then. It took a little while to overtake. This wasn’t good news as I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about running cross country, and didn’t think this would lead to much of a buffer.
Coming into transition, one of the marshals said “Well done, you’re in second!”. So there was someone else up ahead. I think I had about 1 minute 20 seconds lead over the guy I’d just passed.
Out onto the run I faffed a bit with gels and putting on my run watch, and eventually got up to speed. Not particularly fast though – it turns out running on wet grass isn’t as fast as on concrete. I wonder how much depends on your running form – I’ve seen some Olympic runners on clay making it look easy while less graceful runners like me kick up loads of dust with their feet sliding backwards. Looking at the results later, it did seem to slow down everyone, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
The run was a double loop next to the lake, with the first half flat and the second looping around in some trees on hillocks. Just coming into this second I could see the lead runner going the other way. I knew he must be quite a long way ahead, I thought maybe 3 minutes, but I checked my watch. When I finally made my way round to where I’d seen him, it was 7 minutes! Blimey!
Every now and then I could catch a glance at the guy behind. He was definitely closing, but slowly. I couldn’t see anyone else around. I wasn’t feeling great, but pushed on as best I could. I had enough energy to prat about when I saw the cameraman though…
The guy behind caught me just after the start of the second lap. Obviously we didn’t know exactly where we were compared to each other given the time trial start, but I figured we’d both been near the front at the start. I didn’t have much left to do anything about it when he overtook.
By the time I got back to the hillier section my left calf muscle was beginning to twinge. I slowed a little, and after about a km it went away (phew!) but I was now pretty paranoid about it. Since there was no one in sight behind me I didn’t push the pace back up.
I had another chance to try to look cool in front of the camera. That’s never going to happen with calf guards on though!
I finished in 43:24 (it’s 10.5km, so that’s 4:08 pace). That’s slower than any race this year, but I’m pretty confident the wet grass just wasn’t a fast surface.
I’d come 3rd, 1st in age group, in a time of 2:10:07.
By the time I got to the line the winner had long gone (he was 9 1/2 minutes faster than me – which is a bigger gap than the fastest age group triathlete of the British Championship!), but I had a nice chat with the guy that had overtaken me, and James who runs Active Training World that put on the event, as well as my friend Dan (who definitely bested me in the “gun show”) and Juan who’d won the standard Aquabike.
Read more from Ben Redman on his blog.