Another weekend, another race and this time the North West Sprint Champion title to be decided. Without giving too much away I can tell you it was even closer race than the 6 seconds that separated last week’s race…
Based in Allostock just outside Knutsford the race was also hosted by the Manchester Tri Club which meant there were a lot of familiar faces on the start line and volunteers helping to make the event possible (they even managed to make sure I stayed on course). With some tough competition lining up for the shorter sprint distance (750m swim, 23km bike, 5k run) the title was going to come down to the wire. The race was split into a number of staggered wave starts. Whilst there was a strong group of us starting together, Chris Standidge (who beat me by 6 seconds last week) was starting 15 minutes later in second wave and likely to be the main competition.
After the race in Liverpool on the 13th I’d felt well and truly exhausted all week and happily did very little training and instead spent the evenings watching Chris Froome in the Tour De France. As race day got closer I received the unwanted email that most triathletes from a non-swimming background dread, something along the lines of “due to the recent high temperatures, there is a high possibility that the swim will be non-wetsuit”. Now I’m not complaining as its much nicer swimming without one but it just meant I’d have to work a bit harder to limit my losses.
It was all friendly fun and smiles before getting into the water and fighting for positions. With only 750m of swimming and some sharp turns the swim was fast and furious from start to finish. I went out as hard as possible in an attempt to sit on the feet of a faster swimmer and settle in. After 200m the pace hadn’t dropped and I was fighting mentally and physically to stay near the front pack. I just about managed this and I was 5th out the water and 20-30 seconds down on the lead swimmers.
In a sprint distance triathlon there is no real chance to consolidate and ‘settle down’ as the race will be over before you know it. Knowing the race would be a close finish I tried to go as hard as possible from the start of the bike. My heart rate was sky high from the swim and didn’t settle down on the bike. I felt heavy, lethargic and every so slight sick from the start but just kept trying to grind through. I was finding it hard and just hoped that everyone else must be too! Encouragingly I was picking off those in front of me one by one and gradually moving up the field.
By the second lap of the bike I could only see Alex Foster ahead of me. I’ve raced against Alex many times before and we’re normally pretty close by the end of the bike. It always helps when you’re next to someone with the same name and they have lots of family and friends cheering him on!
By the end of the bike I’d just caught Alex and we entered transition together. I knew I was near the front of our wave and was a bit surprised to already see a bike racked in transition, putting me in 3rd place and indicating someone had already set off on the run. The 5k run left Allostock village hall before a short two lap out and back section alongside the lake. I caught and passed Alex but still no sign of the uber bike that was already out on the run?
As the run turned off the road and onto the out and back two laps track I saw 1st place, or what I thought was 1st place reaching the turn point. This put him a good 3 minutes ahead!?!? He must’ve been going some to open up such a big gap in a sprint race I thought!? I was then in that frustrating middle ground where you’re too far behind to catch first and too far ahead to be caught. I was then racing for 2nd place, but as there was a second wave of racers were still out on the course this was no guarantee.
On the second run lap I passed 1st place coming the opposite way. This time he stopped to give me a clap and some encouragement, ‘Cheeky ****’ I thought, he’s so far ahead he’s stopped to showboat, he didn’t even look tired. Something wasn’t quite right here but there was no time to find out what.
I reached the turnaround point, and yes I turned around instead of going past it! The legs were really burning by this point but there was no chance to ease off. I may have been leading my wave but there was no knowing how the later starters were doing. I turned off the track and onto the final straight before the finish. Finding something in the tank I managed to speed up ever so slightly and cross the line feeling absolutely spent!
Was I 1st? I asked the marshalls who confirmed I was 1st in our wave. I soon found that what I thought was 1st place had in fact punctured on the bike and was just using the run for a warm down. I’d won my wave so now it was time to wait for the second wave to finish and see how’d I’d done overall.
In an ideal world you want to cross the finishing line arms aloft knowing that you’ve won, rather than waiting and typing a number into a computer to find out. But the logistics of Triathlons means this is rarely the case. After the second wave started finished their race I typed the numbers in to see the results…………2 seconds! That was the only difference between me and Chris.
It was nice to be on the right side of this fine margin this week, put last weekend’s race behind me, and also claim the North West Sprint Triathlon Championship title.
After a good week off the race also seemed too act as a springboard to get back into a good 8 days of training. Stay tuned as next week I’m hoping to add another title to the resume at the National Sprint Championships on the 4th August.