Alex was a bit unlucky due to the intervention of some agricultural machinery, but he did his ‘going in for the kill near the end’ party trick and pulled off yet another brilliant result all the same…
Eating nutella from the Jar at 4am in the morning…..either you’ve come home from a night on the town or it’s a race day and you’re in a Travelodge and forgot to pack cutlery. It was the latter for me this weekend as I travelled down to Oakham for the Dambuster Triathlon, a triple header incorporating as the English National Triathlon Championships, 2013 Worlds qualifier and 2014 European qualifier.
This would be my third Olympic distance race in the last 21 days, and my second in 8 days. I wouldn’t normally cram races in like this but I’d entered to make sure I had the best chance to qualify for the Worlds in September and next year’s Europeans. However, my results at Deva/Chester and at in Turkey meant I had already qualified for both events on offer. With the entry fee paid and accommodation booked I thought I might as well race anyway.
The race was set for 7am on Saturday and the 2hr journey after work down to Oakham on Friday became 3 hours as I trundled along through mile after mile of traffic jams. This put an end to my plans of registering on the Friday so after short run I settled down for a perfect Friday night in at the Travelodge.
After the early breakfast it was a short 20 minute drive to the venue. Unfortunately the conditions weren’t as nice as last week in Turkey and the wet and windy weather meant the 150m swim was cut short by 100m, which most of the crowd seemed pretty pleased about. The swim started from the ‘beach’ rather than in the water, some clever guys on the far right were able to run a bit further as the beach curved round and entered the water about 10m ahead of the rest of us. Technically this is probably cheating but when there are 500 odd people in wetsuits and identical hats I guess it’s a bit hard to single them out. I had decent swim and managed to draft most of the course moving from pack to pack and sticking behind another swimmer. I came out the water about 2 minutes behind the leaders which I was pretty happy about.
As I’d taken my wetsuit off the flimsy Velcro timing strap had come loose and frustratingly I had to stop before getting on the bike. The course was a tough 42km loop with some hard climbs in the first section. As I headed out I could see a string of riders ahead and gradually picked a few off over the first 5km. Despite this I didn’t have that ‘strong’ feeling you need in a time trial and I knew I wasn’t going as fast as I should be. On the long straight sections I could see the leaders a few minutes ahead. As the course flattened in the second half I could see I was closing the gap on those in front but the course passed through a small village I was HORRIFIED to see a small tractor chugging along at the 20mph speed limit. Obviously there is nothing you can do in these situations, and it’s the nature of races held on open roads. All I could do is cruise along behind and watch those in front drift further away!
We turned back into the race venue and I got a shout that I was in 9th place. Out onto the 10km run, 5km out across the dam before turning around and coming back the same way. I moved into 8th before leavening transition as one guy missed the run exit due to some confusing signs. I passed another 2 people early on and as the I turned onto the long straight of the dam I could see another 4 ahead of me who I knew I should be able to catch. I soon passed another 2 and as we neared the turnaround point I counted those coming back and knew I was in 6th place, but that 5th or possibly 4th would be possible. I tried to up the pace and closed in on 5th before catching him at about 7km. 4th place was good minute ahead but as the run went on the gap was getting smaller and smaller. As we came down the finishing straight I was only 7 seconds behind but simply ran out of ground and finished 5th overall and 3rd in my age group.
With this race coming at the end of a hard 3 weeks of racing and 8 days after the European Championships I knew it was unlikely that I was going to be 100%, so I think 5th overall is a decent result. Looking at the results I think my bike time was well below what it should’ve been so it’s a bit frustrating but that’s the way it goes. Triathlon finish areas are littered with the words of ‘I had a poor swim/bike/run/transition/sleep/cramp’ etc. and if we all had the ‘perfect’ race I’m sure we’d all be up there with the Brownlee’s!
With 3 races in the last 3 weeks there hasn’t been much consistent training as time is spent racing and recovering. With a short break from racing the next 3 weeks is all about training and focusing on the British Championships in Liverpool on the 13th July.