Three races, a birth and a PB...
It has been an eventful couple of weeks. Just over 24 hours after posting my last blog, a little lady by the name of Darcie burst onto the scene. She wasn’t due until September 1st at the earliest, so I thought I had another week or two of solid training and competing to look forward to before drawing a curtain on the 2018 triathlon and time trial seasons. How wrong I was!
Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of training over the next few days, although I was slightly stunned to be awarded a hall pass for the following Wednesday night (which, contrary to my earlier post, was actually the last midweek evening club TT of the season). It was on the same H10/3R course that I had (course) PB’d on the week prior.
The wind was less favourable for this visit, but despite being somewhat knackered and not a little bit sleep deprived, I still managed to set a new course PB for power, even if the time was a bit slower. I was happy enough to take third place about 20 seconds behind Ian Greenstreet and a full two minutes behind Tim Cartwright (I could barely believe it when Tim – off a minute behind me – caught me before the five-mile mark, passing me like I was standing still).
Despite the slow time, the power PB was a nice ego boost ahead of the weekend, which would be a double-header with a 10-mile time trial on the F11/10 course near Aylesbury on Saturday and then the local Newbury triathlon on Sunday (I had entered both races fully accepting that I might need to pull out, but again was graciously awarded a hall pass by SWMBO).
Icknield RC Charity Event – F11/10
Having struggled to get on any fast 10-mile courses with my slow PB of 21:24 (from H10/3a), I had to leap at the opportunity to race on F11/10 near Aylesbury, in a special event specifically for riders with PBs over 20 minutes.
Two hours each way was a long way to go for a 20-minute race, but as I’m beginning to learn, testers will travel far and wide for a faster time!
I drove the course twice before heading to HQ, trying to familiarise myself with the route and specifically the tricky turn that comes up within two miles of the start, requiring you to negotiate a double roundabout before rejoining the A41.
Then it was a case of trying to understand how long the uphill was so that I could moderate my effort before enjoying the ski-ramp effect down the other side and up to the second turn. The wind was getting up and not in a direction that was likely to be any help!
At 3:05pm it was my turn to go. I knew the first two miles were mostly downhill, so I tried to moderate my effort, take advantage of gravity and saving some energy for the climb that would come after the turn. I made the turn without too much drama, getting a considerate driver who saw me and slowed enough to avoid me having to wait to join the roundabout (thank you!). Then it was time to rejoin the A41 and start the climb. I kept my power to within 110% of FTP, accepting I was burning a match but knowing I would get some respite on the steep downhill that followed.
And I was right, as I hit 75kph (46.6mph) and ran out of gears (note to self: consider running a 54 or 56 tooth front ring next season). I tried using the ‘microburst’ technique to get a little extra speed on the downhill, but I’m not sure how successful it really was (the Garmin file says I hit 128rpm cadence on the descent). As soon as I felt I could get pedalling again, I just focused on trying to maintain the momentum from the descent as much as I could.
I knew the course rose again slightly to the second turn, so I expected to bleed off a fair amount of speed, but didn’t want to ease up (I knew the finish line was two miles from the turn, so the pain wouldn’t last too long!) on the power.
I had to slow a little at the second turn, but again traffic was relatively kind to me (that said, I still rode it too gingerly in hindsight) and I was back on the A41 and tapping into my reserves for those last two miles. I have to admit, I was spent. It was now survival rather than a sprint for the line. I was worried I’d messed up and wasn’t going to go sub-21. Just grin and bear it.
Onto the slip road at 10-miles and past the chequered board, screaming “65” as I went. Stop the Garmin and take a look… 20:29. Job done. Nowhere near the fastest time of the day, but it was the sub-21 I had been aiming for.
In fact, officially it was 20:34, but I’ll take that. I also think that on another day with the same conditions, I’d go faster. Although it’s not a complicated course, it’s definitely one you can ride better and better as you learn the subtleties of the inclines and the turns.
A quick thank you to Icknield Road Club for hosting the event and all the marshals out on the roads.
Having achieved my goal on F11/10, and mindful that I had a brand-new baby at home, I was sorely tempted to DNS at Newbury. I hadn’t swum or run since before Darcie was born, so I knew my pencil wasn’t exactly sharp on those two disciplines, at least. But it was a nice day and it was supposed to be my last triathlon of 2018 (and maybe my last ever…).
So I rocked-up ready to get started as one of the tail-enders. Seeing an emergency set of traffic lights just at the start of the bike course wasn’t great (especially as the organisers had said that it was pot luck if you got caught or not, there would be no time deductions for those delayed – probably the right decision, but a tough break for the 50% of competitors that did get caught).
I decided not to stress it. I was just there for fun (still enjoying the success of the previous day).
The swim was a nice-and-short 300m in a 75m (yes really!) outdoor pool. Just four lengths. It turned out I would be starting side-by-side with my old sparring partner, Nigel Grantham. Nigel and I have raced each other a fair bit in duathlons, but I think this was our first triathlon head-to-head. I knew that I would probably be faster on the bike, and Nigel would undoubtedly be faster on the run. But as for the swim, I had no idea! I did know that it had been two weeks since my last swim and I know how quickly my technique deteriorates when I don’t swim at least twice a week.
As it turned out, Nigel and I were neck and neck until about 50m into the swim, when he pulled slightly ahead. Perfect, I thought, and I slowed to move over and sit on his heels.
And so I drafted the rest of the swim, sitting comfortably on Nigel’s feet (to be honest, I don’t think I could have swum much faster, so I’m happy with the decision). I was baulked by another competitor exiting the pool (we were forced to using the one set of steps so that we crossed the timing mat), but I was out behind Nigel and overtook him in T1.
The ride out of T1 towards the bike route took me by surprise, up a footpath to the main road – and a steep one at that! I regretted only having a 25-tooth granny ring on the back! Nigel came past me and we joined the main road, heading toward the traffic lights.
There was some traffic and a few bikes waiting (poor sods) but as I drew up and was getting ready to stop, the lights changed. Queue a massive stomping of pedals from me and a cheeky (but legal!) 600-watt overtake of both bikes and cars to get through the roadworks first.
After that, I spent most of the bike ride alone. Making lots of overtakes but keeping my power in check. Mostly I just felt good. Maybe I was still basking in the glow of F11/10, but I felt fast and in control.
After about 12km, the road took a turn uphill and again I settled-in for the climb. Then it was back onto the familiar roads of the H10/3R time trial course, starting with the steep climb out of Wickham (less fun when you haven’t built up a head of steam first!). The advantage of having raced these roads plenty of times before was that I could really focus on maintaining a nice aero position and trusting my knowledge of where to look for potholes, emerging traffic etc. For once I didn’t need to ‘meerkat’ the whole route.
Back into town and I had a bit more traffic to negotiate before coming back into T2. I reckoned my 34-minute split for the 22km bike would put me in an okay position overall.
Just the run to worry about!
It was quite a nice surprise to find out that I actually knew the run course! I used to work in Newbury a few years ago, so I used to run along the canal at lunchtimes. It didn’t take long, however, for my recent lack of running to become all-too evident.
As I’ve probably said before, my ankles are super-sore after every run at the moment, which makes me really reluctant to spend much time on that discipline. Not that I was ever any good at running.
Nevertheless, it was a nice day, the sun was out and I was enjoying a trip down memory lane revisiting my old run routes. About 2km into the 5km run, a young chap (turned out to be Sam Hart, the eventual winner and triathlon star of the future) came past like a train.
Working hard but carrying some nice speed. In my dreams…
Still, I had only been overtaken the once. That was a novelty!
Until Lee Gollop came past me inside the last kilometre. I knew he had started two minutes behind me, so by running me down (he’d also had the fastest bike split, forcing me into second place, dammit!) he was already two minute s ahead in reality. I couldn’t stay with him anyway, so it was academic.
I crossed the line as fast as my run-unready legs would carry me. I hadn’t totally disgraced myself at least. A quick check of the results had me fourth overall and second veteran (Lee taking second overall and first veteran), with Nigel coming home just 30-seconds behind me (as predicted, I had established a good lead on the bike, only for Nigel to get close to running me down on the final leg).
So that’s it for triathlon in 2018. Maybe that’s it for triathlon full stop. I’ve never been a good runner. And maybe it’s time to accept that I never will be, especially if I can’t get my ankles sorted (although to be fair, even if I did sort them and get back to run-PB shape, I’d still be ‘slow’ compared to the others at the sharp end of the race). Maybe it’s time to focus on my real strength, which is the bike.
For now, I have just one more open time trial – this time on the P881R course at the weekend. Let’s see if I can prove that the performance on F11/10 wasn’t a fluke.