The weekend of 8th May saw Claire and I venture south to the Triathlon England Standard Distance National Championships. The event was staged at Grafham Water after the original venue had become water logged following heavy rainfall in the previous weeks.
The lake at Grafham water is vast, so we were doubtful that the water temperature would have increased much from the 12 degrees advertised in the week before race weekend.
Sure enough, the temperature had only crept up by 0.5 degrees come race day. Enough to allow a full distance swim (1500m) to go ahead… just, but not enough to make it in anyway a pleasant experience!
The bulk of the male age-groups were up first, I followed 5 minutes later in the V40+ wave. I waded into the shallows and plunged in….
Jeeeezus… that cold!!
It was certainly a shock to the system for someone who’s last race was in the tropical waters of Hawaii! Any open-water training since then had been done in the relative warmth of Mallorca. I spent 3 minutes trying to regain some control of my limbs before swimming over to the start for 2 minutes of treading water.
Once underway, the swim was actually pretty uneventful. I felt like I was making good progress and had the impression I was swimming quite well. This illusion was shattered when Lucy Charles swam past me in the last 400m. She’d started 5 minutes back… and would go on to put another minute into me!! Quite incredible to see.
So although I felt fine, my swim was well below par and I exited the water in 24:41 with a whole lot of work to do to get back on terms in the V40 competition. I tried to hurry through T1 but the cold swim had left my head spinning and fingers all but useless as they struggled with my helmet clasp. My usual speedy transition deserted me but, thankfully, once on to the bike, the air was warm, the sun was out and my legs felt fantastic… My powermeter was giving me good news so I hunkered down on the awesome Giant Trinity and started slicing through the field.
Meanwhile, Claire was having a great swim. Relishing the conditions in her Zone 3 Vanquish, she attacked the course and exited the water in an impressive 22:12.
The bike course consisted of “two out and back” sections. Once onto the smoother second section I really started to fly. I was ticking off V40 athletes and catching up to a large number from the previous wave. It was not the ideal course for a National Champs – too many athletes using both sides of the road and a fair few cars, made for some “interesting” road conditions. But I wasn’t slowing down for anything and I overtook (safely and legally) anything in front of me that had potential to slow my progress.
The bike was a little short at 24 miles and I swept back into T2 in under 55 minutes.
T2 was little better as I had warmed up nicely on the bike. 30 odd seconds and I was out onto the run.
I’m not sure if it was residual fatigue from my two weeks in Mallorca or the result of my efforts on the bike, but my legs were now feeling distinctly jaded. But I pushed on, hoping they’d come good…. They didn’t but, on the plus side, they didn’t really get any worse. So I just tried to keep a steady pace and reel in a few more places.
At the turns I caught sight of Steve Gibson running well. I later learned that he’d suffered a mechanical on the bike and could not complete the course – but he had decided to head out onto the run anyway to get a good work-out. Well done Steve – that’s the spirit!
Claire also was looking strong after a great bike split and looked to be moving up through the field.
The day had now become pretty hot, in fact VERY hot! Certainly well beyond what anyone had expected for May. The second out and back section on the run was a cruel combination of rutted grass, loose stones, forest trails and rolling tarmac. It was the last thing my legs needed at this stage in proceedings. Everyone seemed to be suffering in the heat and on the tough terrain, but I was still passing people.
At the final dead turn I caught sight of Karl Alexander bearing down on me. I took the decision not to push straight away, but instead tried to gather myself for one last effort in the closing mile. Karl was all but on my shoulder with a mile to go but didn’t seem keen too pass. The last thing I wanted was a sprint finish so I decided to “strike my last match” and apply some pressure on the final uphill section through the woods. The tactic seemed to work and I re-opened a small gap which I just managed to hold to the finish. There was only 6 seconds in it in the end and I crossed the line in 1:58:42… A spent force.
I’d struggled to gauge my position in the vets race as we had no Age-Groups markings and the faster vets were all mixed up among the first wave. In the final analysis my performance was good enough for 2nd Vet, one better than last year. Frustratingly, I was only 41 seconds off the Gold, so my poor swim had cost me dearly.
So if any of you see me at the Race Hub lake any time soon – give me a good kick up the arse!
Claire rounded out her performance with a solid run also bagging a Silver Age-Group medal in the process and 5th overall in a talented female competition.
Claire and I both felt our new Giant bikes (Trinity and Avow) performed incredibly – they really do fly!
The rest of our equipment, Zone 3 Wetsuits, Skechers Shoes, FFWD Wheels and USN Nutrition all performed faultlessly! Thanks for keeping us going guys!