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  • Writer's pictureMatt Fisher

Lake 62 standard triathlon 2018 - Race Report

As part of my ‘year of racing locally’, the Lake 62 standard distance triathlon was a good fit. A nice low-key(ish) race that was close to home and well organized. I raced it last year and, apart from a complete quagmire on the run, it was a good experience.

On the bike, before it all went wrong

The race comprises a 1,500m lake swim, a 40km bike ride on mostly quiet roads and a tight and twisty 9km trail run around the lake.

The warm weather in the UK had heated the lake temperature to nearly 25 degrees Celsius, but 24 hours before the race, the heatwave had abated, giving way to lower air temperatures, cold winds and the odd rain shower. As such, the race organisers had (wisely) declared the swim ‘wetsuit optional’, their thinking being that even though the water temperature was above the usual cut-off, the air temperature could be a little low heading out onto the bike in a wet trisuit.

This gave me a dilemma, however. I’ve really struggled this year with open water swimming. While my training and test times in the pool have been okay (not quite PB standard, but not a million miles off), I’ve not been able to replicate the times in open water, regardless of whether I’ve been wearing a wetsuit (and I’ve tried a few!) or just a normal trisuit.

Recently, the guys at Huub sent me an Albacore swim skin to test. But even with that, I’ve seen no improvement in my swim times (I’ve tried it once in a pool so far, and did almost exactly the same times with and without it).

So back to my dilemma; do I swim in a wetsuit (I had my Albacore 4:4 with me), a trisuit (a Huub long course) or trisuit + swim skin?

Given my experience of swimming in a wetsuit being no faster than just a trisuit this year, I opted to try the trisuit + swim skin option. My thinking being that the air temperature wasn’t so bad and I didn’t want to overheat during the swim.

My wave was called and we got into the water. The temperature was fine and, after a good swim at the recent Bowood House triathlon, I got myself at the front of the pack on the start line. I couldn’t help but notice everyone around me was in wetsuits.

The hooter sounded and we were off. And immediately a group of four or five swimmers (guys or girls, I couldn’t tell) left me for dead. Damn, had I made the wrong choice not wearing a wetsuit or were they just much stronger swimmers?

I quickly ended up in no-man’s land, behind the lead group but ahead of the main pack. And so it stayed for the entire two-lap swim. I didn’t feel like I was swimming particularly slowly, but I clearly wasn’t the fastest out there.

I exited the water in 26 minutes dead. Slow, even by my poor standards (for comparison, I swam the 1900m at Mallorca 70.3 in 28:09 back in 2014!). Clearly, something isn’t going right with my open water swimming at the moment.

I had an okay first transition. Getting out of the Albacore swim skin was a little bit slow, but otherwise it was all slick enough and I was soon out onto the bike, choosing as usual to get up to speed before bothering to tighten my shoes.

It started to rain and the wind was very strong, making the bike (with a 90mm front wheel and a disc rear) something of a handful. But on the whole, I was making good progress and felt relatively strong.

Being in the fourth wave, there were plenty of people already on the road, which meant I had plenty of riders ahead to chase down. Some of the road surfaces were a bit dodgy but the route was pretty flat and fast on the whole.

In fact, I was feeling really good. Looking forward to coming into T2 at just over an hour and having a strong run.

Then I hit a rock. A frikkin’ rock in the road. In the middle of the frikkin’ road. I was head down and didn’t see it until too late. I made a swerve and missed it with the front wheel but it just caught the edge of the rear tyre and instantly tore a hole through the rubber. I let out an involuntary “nooooo!!!!”. I couldn’t believe it. Another puncture on these troublesome Cotswold roads – my third or fourth in recent years.

Worse still, I was only 30km into a 40km bike ride. Either way, I was still 10km from home and I knew enough of the local roads to know there were no shortcuts back to the transition area.

I did the only thing I could think to do, something I’ve become well-practiced at lately, I stood up and leant over the front bars to take as much weight off the already-flat back tyre as possible, and started making my way back to transition.

It wasn’t much fun, the solid disc crashing and banging on the road. My humour was worsened as all the athletes I’d overtaken in the last 30 minutes began to pass me. And with the exception of one guy – yes, just one guy – none of them either asked if I was okay or offered a word of sympathy.

So, a note to anyone and everyone reading this. The next time you’re in a race and someone has a technical issue, at least offer them some words of encouragement! They’re down enough already, they’re no threat to your race, just be f*cking polite and try to help not make their day any worse! Rant over….

THANK YOU to the one guy that did slow down to check that I was okay (which is more than even a motorbike official could be bothered to do as I struggled back to transition at less than 30kph, stood up on the pedals on a flat road – it must have been blindingly obvious I had an issue).

Eventually, I made it back to T2. Later I would be able to see that my average speed pre-blowout had been 38kph. Afterwards, it was a paltry 27.5kph. What should have been a 1:02 40km became a 1:09. Seven minutes lost.

It was tempting to jack it in. All sorts of thoughts had gone through my head on the slow ride back to transition. But in the end I decided to just treat the day as a brick run and jog the run. I say jog; that’s probably not quite true. But there was no fire in my belly, so I certainly wasn’t racing it.

Having spent twenty minutes solid standing on the pedals didn’t help as my legs were a bit more tired and I’ve been having a glute issue since stumbling on a divot during a run in the previous week (don’t ask…). Nevertheless, I was out on the run for the six laps around Lake62.

Unlike last year, and despite the downpours on the bike, the ground was solid albeit very twisty and uneven. Not my favourite running surface, but it is at least an interesting course. I was getting overtaken a fair bit, but I was also making a few overtakes of my own.

The face says it all... Crossing the line at Lake 62

I was just counting down the laps, consoling myself that at least I wouldn’t be DNFing.

Eventually, it was the end of the final lap and time to cross the line. I picked up my pace a little and crossed the line with an expression of my face that probably told the whole story.

I was surprised to find out later than I was, in fact, second in my Age Group (actually, technically first, as the AG winner was a top-three finisher overall). That was some small consolation for the ruined bike and run.

My takeaways from the race were largely as follows:

1. I need to understand why my open water swimming is so poor this year. Noticeably worse than previous years despite my pool performances being about the same. Am I just not swimming hard enough in races?

2. I need to consider sacrificing speed for puncture-resistance when it comes to tyres. There’s no doubt the Vittoria Corsas are fast tyres, but I seem to keep puncturing on them.

3. I need to remember that I did feel good on the bike up until the blowout. That side of things is going well, despite the misfortune.

4. I need to focus on my running off the bike. I don’t do nearly enough brick runs.

Thanks as always to the LPS Events race organisers and the volunteers that helped man the swim, bike and run courses.

I’ve got just one more triathlon planned for 2018. Maybe I can finally show what I’m capable of…

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