Race report or Nine ways to screw up a triathlon
- leave water bottles in fridge at home
- arrive late
- lose one bike glove
- no towel*
- have mild panic attack
- skip wetsuit lube
- forget where you parked your bike
- badly adjust rear derailleur
- forget the actual race distance
*technically I did have a towel but it was at the bottom of my rucksack and I didn’t have time to fish it out before the start and I could’t get to it when I finished the swim, the same goes for the other bike glove.
I love the Blenheim Triathlon. I was doing the short “Super Sprint” distance as that is the same race I started with at Blenheim back in 2013.
My new relaxed, “lets just enjoy the race” attitude had been proven out by London’s result ( see ITU London 2015 Race report ) and so I wasn’t that upset when the weather forecast for Saturday morning got worse through the week. I figured it was about time that my streak of good weather races finally ended. I sort of layed out my kit the night before but basically just made sure I had wetsuit, shoes & charged up my sports watch. I also put two water bottles in the fridge so that they would be extra cold and, in theory, still be refreshing by the time of the race.
I got up with plenty of time and showered then had a coffee and some breakfast. I couldn’t decide on wearing my tri kit or plain cycle kit to get to Blenheim as it was pouring with rain and quite cold. Had another coffee and settled on putting on my tri shorts but cycling top. I also put on some slightly longer leggings over my shorts and a water proof jacket and set off the 5-6 mile ride to Blenheim.
About a mile down the road I realised I hadn’t picked up the water bottles from the fridge and didn’t have time to get back home. Grrrr! Oh well there are stalls at the event.
As I cycled along I saw my parents drive past on their way to support me. That’s when I realised I must be running rather late so cycled a bit faster the rest of the way. I faffed about at bit on arrival trying to get my stuff together including putting my race numbers on the bike and cycle helmet (I thought wrongly that doing them at Blenheim it was less likely they would get unstuck before the race but with the rain and wet hands it was so difficult to get them to stick) and then headed into the registration tent and collected my timing chip. At this point one of the marshals apologised for the lack of stickiness on the labels due to the rain (so it wasn’t entirely down to my incompetence that I couldn’t get them to stay on…)
In the event area there was a marquee from Tri UK.com so I picked up a high5 race bottle bundle and a bright yellow PowerBar water bottle along with a couple of bottles of still water to fill them with.
It takes an age to get to transition (I had put on flip flops as didn’t want to walk in my cycling shoes through the mud but this meant I couldn’t go very fast — I should have just put on my running shoes!) after carrying my bike over the temporary bridge (again flip-flops + metal steps + rain = woooah ) and then on into the courtyard.
It is an amazing sight — the whole of the inner palace courtyard is covered in red carpet and bike racks, the combination of the beautiful architecture and modern race paraphernalia is stunning.
This was when I realised I was in trouble — the whole of my racking row was already filled with bikes. I found what looked like a gap and then as hooked my bike on I realised that the guy to the side had filled all the space with his transition bag instead of putting it behind his wheel. One of the unwritten rules (at least if you’re a nice person) is never move someone else’s stuff in transition. So I then had to move my bike and find another spot.
I was starting to panic now and eventually found a narrow gap. Shoved my bike in then got my wetsuit out of my rucksack, emptied the water into the new race bottle and then wrapped the timing chip round my ankle. Really struggled to get my wetsuit on — it is so so difficult when your skin is already wet from the rain — and I completely forgot about using the lube which is like a deodorant stick that you can rub round wrists/ankles & neck to make getting the wetsuit on and off easier.
I was short for time and asked a guy in the next rack to put my rucksack on the other side of the row. Normally there is enough room to crawl between the bikes to do this yourself but as it was so packed this was my only option. This was of course another mistake, in my hurry I had only found one bike glove and had forgotten to get my towel out. Now I was late, missing a load of kit and about to have a break down to the point where I was all set to just sit on the floor and give up! No kidding, I was so upset that despite the early start I had somehow screwed up so badly. Then one of the marshals who could see I was losing it just said to take a breath and anyway you’ve still got 12 minutes ’till the wave start (in my head I’m thinking uh, it takes 5 minutes to get to the lake and I still haven’t got my wetsuit on completely…) I thought well technically as long as I have the bike and running shoes ready and have my wetsuit and goggles then I’m goog to go. I gave up setting my stuff up and headed towards the lake. On the way there was a guy who was also running late and he joked and said he was in the same wave but we had plenty of time compared to his last event where he had had to run straight though the start line he was so late!
I saw my parents as I got to the lake side, just in time for the start of the briefing. That gave me a few more minutes to finish getting my wetsuit on. This was when I realised that as I hadn’t used the lube it was likely that it would also be a struggle to get out of the wetsuit after the swim. Oops.
Still I had my goggles, had collected my orange swim cap and my heart rate was up but in a good way — I started to feel the pre-race buzz, happy that I’d made it to the start line.
The swim course is nice and easy, once in the water you swim out a bit and line up between to floating buoys facing down the lake. With 30 seconds to go the safety kayakers move to one side and then the start klaxon. Hell Yeah!! All thoughts of ill-fitting wetsuit and bike problems gone I was off the water was bit choppy because of the rain but I felt good. Push & glide, conserve momentum, stroke rate was good and I was thinking to myself Oh yes this is why i’m here. Such a rush.
There’s a left hand turn round the final buoy, shouldn’t have but felt happy that I had overtaken some of the swimmers from the previous wave (each wave has a different swim cap colour) also I hadn’t seen anyone get past me which meant there could only be a half dozen or so people from my wave in front of me!
I came out the water feeling awesome — I even remembered that the last couple of years the picture of me coming out the water was, how shall I say, less than flattering, so looked straight ahead and smiled as I went though the lakeside shower.
Then it was time to run up the hill back to transition, a couple of guys came past but I actually managed to run rather than stumble like last time.
Ran in to the transition area feeling pumped and then, uh-oh, in my panicked state I had put my bike…where? somewhere along this row of 60 odd bikes…about half way? maybe…no that was where I had tried to put it before I moved it.
Nearer the other end? More people where running into transition I was loosing places…nooo… this can’t be happening…ok maybe it was further up… ooh that looks like my rucksack over there…oh hang on mine will be the one without the towel…ahh there it is. socks on, bike shoes on , now wheeling the bike towards for the exit…
Wet bike course, ooh this is going to be fun, on the bike, wobbling, shoes clipped into pedals and head downhill to cross the bridge. Boom. We have time to make up for. Angry at myself for taking so long to find the bike. Out of the saddle. Blast past a guy on the left. OK. need to change gear for the hill, clack what was that, oh you have got to be kidding me, chain has come off front cog, can we do it while still moving……adjust weight over the front wheel ram though the gears, peddle backwards, changing gear madly ok caught the chain on the derailleur guard and ping got it back on. ooh that was close. Damn, guy I had only just over taken is already 3/4 of the way up the hill.
Time to do what I do best.…cycle like a lunatic! I shot up the hill flicking though the gears. Wow the road is slippy, there are a few crazy corners on the circuit but there is also some beautiful scenery and some nice lines to be taken. Glanced at the speedo — 31 mph in the rain heading into a z bend. Wooo. Was really enjoying it, eventually one guy made it past me on a very nice bike with 3 blade wheels and a pointy hat — but we will let him have that as he was really shifting. Note: if you have a posh bike AND a pointy head but are still slower than me then I will laugh at you ;-)
There were a few accidents on the bike course as people overreached themselves in the wet as well as a few taking it so sedately that it was difficult to get past. I don’t believe in shouting “coming through” or “on your right” like in a bike race. For many taking part this is their first event and the hilly course is a difficult one at the best of times, you’re just going to either frighten the life out of them or make them swerve if they look round. I was about to come past one on a tight bend when I saw someone coming behind me and I though they had the speed and momentum to go past so I stayed back but he saw me hesitate and shouted “go for it” so I did — out of the saddle high gear and nailed it round the bend then up the next hill. Think he got a bit of a shock as I disappeared into the distance, but it was the motivation I needed to really hammer home the rest of the lap.
Swerved though the people coming into transition who were on the wrong side of the course and stepped off the bike — no flying leaps for me I’m afraid — probably a good thing though as I saw a guy slide sideways on his backside just next to me.
Now back in transition, I had a better idea of where my space was so this time was much quicker. Dropped off the bike switched shoes, took another gulp of water and headed off on the run.
Felt pretty good despite the crazy bike section and then remembered that the run has a horrible bridge over the bike track almost immediately after leaving transition, though thank goodness it is a slope rather than steps! I set off at a good pace — GPS watch reckoned about 7 minute miles which was perfect.
I was feeling better about the run than usual but looking at the time I was worried I wasn’t even going to match my previous times, let alone beat them — my best park run 5k is about 20:40 and it was already showing 40 minutes gone on the watch. That would take me past an hour. I was devastated, an hour was what I had aimed for, and beaten, back in 2013. Then I had an epiphany — I could still do it — I was doing a super sprint so the run is less than 5km! But I couldn’t for the life of me remember how much shorter! Newley motivated I finished the rest of the lap thinking “Doesn’t seem possible despite all the errors but I’m still on track to do it in an hour.”
As the finish line came into sight I thought, uh that says 10:34 that can’t be right my wave started at 9:40, maybe we started early…as I crossed the line I looked at my watch 50:40! No way I did it in 54 minutes?? Yes, I did. The official time was 53:56! For comparison 2014 was 57:06; 2013 was 59:40. According to the results website on Saturday night I was 6th — and was still there on Sunday night but then sometime on Monday they found another person! So now I’m listed as 7th.
That’s 7th out of over 400.
Did I learn anything? In the words of late great Douglas Adams — Don’t Panic!
Channel 4 are showing highlights of the race at 6:35am and on Channel 4+1 at 7:35
Hope you enjoyed this race report, and don’t forget to check out some of my previous blog entries.
Next up will be the Henley Classic which is 2.1km upstream swim — at dawn!
Thanks for reading, Marky