Woohoo I can finally do a little race report! It’s been a while.
Well I managed to get around the Worcester Sprint Triathlon, and even ended up winning it! Ironic that I’ve come 2nd three times in the past in this event (at my peak), but it’s only having come back from five years in ultra running that I end up winning it. Having said that, the race field was very small, a fraction of what it used to be. Presumably part of this is down to the cost, being the same for all events (sprint, double, triple) which spread the fields/waves out – some competitors wanting to get value for money. Also the fact the swim leg had to be removed in the previous two years because of parasites in the lake.
I didn’t anticipate taking this race to seriously. But being quite a competitive soul I found myself once again falling into the world of triathlon OCD. I have spent many hours in the past procrastinating over the most minor changes to my racing bike that would save maybe a few seconds here and drop a few grams there. But every second counts in this world. Apart from that I was quite relaxed about the race. It had been several years since I’d competed competitively in a triathlon. I didn’t have the same cycling legs or swimming shoulders, and I was a few years older, so in a way the pressure was off. This led to a more relaxing approach to the day. Team DC included my mother and father as they live locally.
I knew in advance they were going to have a one wave start for the race, which I prefer. Always better from a racing perspective to see who’s ahead of you in real terms, rather than waiting after your race for all waves to finish and the computer to compile overall positions.
Shortly before 9am on a cool Sunday morning we all waded into the sludge of Top Barn Lake. The water was cold as it seeped through the wetsuit, but not as much as I was expecting. A few minutes splashing to loosen up the arms and I started to get ‘brain freeze’, but this soon passed and I was looking forward to getting started.
As I was out of practice on swim starts I didn’t want to go too hard at the hooter. But it’s always worth pushing the first minute to get up near the front and draft. Thankfully it wasn’t a big wave start, so at the gun I kept clear on the left inside line to the first buoy. I could immediately see two swimmers going quite well to my right so I settled to the left of the fastest, but still felt I could probably have swum a little faster.
It was only 30 seconds later I spotted a swimmer off the front, leaving everyone behind and wished I’d spotted him sooner. He was a good 10-20 metres ahead already and just a little too far to justify a sprint to catch his wake, so I let him go and looked for someone else to come through. Unfortunately no one did and I found myself in second place with someone hanging just behind my feet.
The swim course was reduced from 750m to 600m because of the parasitic reeds, and I could see why when after 200m I found myself pulling and pushing more reed than water. I could have almost waded through this section but carried on regardless. At around 400m I decided to back off the pace a little and let the guy behind come through. I was starting to tire and thought a few hundred metres of light drafting wouldn’t do any harm, especially as I was still unsure how good/bad the rest of the race would go for me.
I generally kept on his feet, although he did try to drop me briefly with a short spurt. As we climbed out of the mud he shot off towards transition while I unceremoniously whipped off my wetsuit and slung it over my shoulder. From experience I find I can save a few seconds by taking the wetsuit off early and running with it into transition.
I tried to be as quick in transition as possible, although having to re-strap my gps watch (I took it off just before the wetsuit because of it’s size) wasted a few more seconds. I had one eye on the leader from the swim, who was leaving transition as I got there. The guy in second was still in transition when I left. After leaving Top Barn and joining the Worcester road I could still just about clock the leader, about 25 seconds further down the road. This was the perfect carrot for the miles to come.
Once again I was afraid to push too hard. I managed to close the gap on the leader to 15 seconds before no.15 came effortlessly past me – a young lad, also on a disc wheel. Oh dear, this doesn’t look good. I always hope never to be passed by anyone until the final part of a triathlon bike leg, as this still gives me the opportunity to claw time back on the run-off, which is my strength. At least this was another good incentive to push my pace a little more. I kept a good 10 metres back (anything less than 7 metres is a drafting offence in triathlon, for which you can be imprisoned), and tried to hold that for as long as possible. At around 6 miles (out of 19) on the approach to Great Whitley no.15 started pulling away and caught the leader, while I could only hold my 15 second gap behind them. It wasn’t until 14 miles that I also caught the original leader of the race, taking a small risk by overtaking on a patch of loose, newly laid road. I was prepared for this surface as I’d recced the bike route in advance. For shorter distance triathlons my approach is always to strip the bike of everything to reduce weight and improve aerodynmics. This includes puncture repair equipment. If you’re running a pair of decent tubular racing tires then you’d be very unlucky to get a flat.
The roads were a lot flatter now which seemed to work more in my favour comparatively speaking. I clawed myself back to within 10 seconds of no.15. Unfortunately, on the approach to the Worcester Road he became blocked behind a truck. Bad luck for him, but perfect timing for me. The truck turned off just before I reached them, and I took the opportunity to push on and take the lead. I didn’t look back and turned a bigger gear to try and get as much ground as I could on him before the run.
At Top Barn I could feel him breathing down my neck and indeed we entered the complex level. He had a more refined dismount and I headed the wrong way out of transition, which gave him back the lead. He was 5 seconds ahead, but it was a gap I was confident I could close. Despite the legs feeling pretty good my chest was tight. It felt like my ribs were locked and I struggled to breathe deeply. I tried to relax and bide my time on the first 1-2km (of 5) running down to the Severn river.
I gradually caught back up on the approach to the hill at 3km and then decided to dig deep and see what happened. Surely all those hilly ultra training sessions and races had to count for something! At one point I could hear him right behind me and then, as I reached the top of the hill, I heard nothing. I didn’t look back until a few minutes later, and he was nowhere to be seen (I later found out he had an infection). I knew I was on the right course as I casually passed the marshals at the turns, but still thought something was amiss, which led to a rather unsure and relaxed finish. If I was a few years younger I’d have kept pushing it to see what splits I could get.
I enjoyed the race. It was a great to get the win, especially in front of my parents. I have no idea what I am going to do for the rest of the season. I have a few ailments to consider first. Short distance running and/or triathlon are a consideration. Perhaps complete retirement from competitive racing, which I have flirted with for a while, and just enjoy some light training.