If you’ve been following Alex Lawton’s triathlon season, you’ll know that he’s probably earned a bit of a rest.
The last big race of the year was Big with a capital B. Here’s what happened…
While most of these posts are written whilst I’m handling some post-race aches and pains this one makes a change. The World Champs were the last race on the 2013 calendar so any aches and pains now are just those resulting from some long overdue late nights..
The race was about a week ago now, but I wanted to hold off writing anything up before I’d had chance to think about the result a bit more, plus I was a bit lazy.
These big events, when registrations, race briefings, bike racking etc. are all spread over multiple days, with specific time slots for each nationality, and each age group can be a bit of a logistical headache whether at home or abroad. I didn’t fancy the thought of lugging around a TT bike plus all the other kit on public transport so decided to make the trip to London by car. Pit stop on St. Albans on Thursday night, over to Fulham to stay with another friend Friday before checking into the hotel by Hyde Park on Saturday. Off to a good start arriving at registration 2 minutes before closing, no queues, no hanging around, perfect. Sat through the race briefing, standard silly questions asked by some, then back to the hotel to put the feet up.
Race Day: Up just before 4am for some breakfast before another snooze in bed. Out the hotel by 0500 and into transition by 0530, Weather was perfect, chilly, and definitely autumn but definitely dry for the bike, and hopefully no crashes for me or anyone else (it poured down during the Sprint race on Friday which led to a lot of crashes on a congested bike course with some tight turns).
Checked the bike was still in one piece, checked the swim, bike, run in/out routes, left plenty of time to get the wetsuit on properly. Off down to the swim start and I overheard someway say that the swim had been shortened to 750m, “ha ha yeah right, no chance” I thought. Into the athlete holding pen, more talk of a halved swim and then confirmed by someone looking official enough for me to believe it. Someone had decided that the contrast between the water and air temperature meant they felt it would be too cold?? The sports going soft! What did they expect in England in September??
Not a disaster for me, I’d be less far behind some but there’d be others less far behind me. I couldn’t help but feel for the stronger swimmers, a decision that would have a massive effect in such as important race.
Out onto the pontoon, looking into the murky green waters, down into the water, all quiet, horn goes, arms swing and legs kick. 250m to the first buoy, not to crowded, 25m to the first buoy, very crowded but round in one piece, around the second buoy and back towards the pontoon. Looking for some feet to follow, looking for the next buoy but the early morning sunshine was making the latter impossible.
Swim done and then the first of two long transitions. Wetsuit off, helmet, on, bum on saddle, feet on shoes, feet in shoes and off we go. A flat and fast 40KM around Hyde Park, through Wellington Arch, past the palace, Westminster, Trafalgar square then repeat. Lap 1 and felt ok, a close group of 6 riders from my wave had formed just ahead. Some blatant drafting and some less so. Stayed away, kept well clear and was sure I’d pass them whilst they were penalised by the referees, never happened, pack now getting further away….B******S!
Lap 2 and legs spinning better, but the course is getting busy, corners are getting slower, no idea where I’m placed in my wave. Back into Hyde Park…..bum off saddle and run shoes on. Lots of racers, lots of spectators, lots of shouts of “Go GB!”, “Go on Lawton!” Great support from friends and family on Serpentine Bridge, lots of shouts of ‘Go on Alex’ all around the course, didn’t take my eyes of the course but thanks whoever you were. Second lap and I passed a few from my wave, 3rd lap and the legs are starting to hurt. Trying to run hard, trying to give it everything. Coming up to Serpentine Bridge and less than 1km to go. People are on the course crossing at one of the marshalled points just ahead. People still crossing and I’m getting closer, next thing I know I’m blocked whilst by en elderly gent stops in the road. I’m trying to push round him and away I go again, but then I’m on the floor, my foot snared by the same rope used to prevent people from crossing the course, the Irony! Back up and a final sprint to end the race, to end the season.
10th in the Age Group, 21st overall, a pretty competitive age group. A few post-race congratulations to some other racers before looking for friends and family.
I’m pleased with the result but not delighted. If look at the names above yours on the results list and know you’ve beaten them before it can be easy to think you’ve had a bad race. But sport is never a linear path of progression and essentially it’s all about who performs on the day.
I’m taking these feelings as a sign of how my expectations and ambitions have changed so much during this year, for better or for worse. Two years ago when I started I was delighted to sneak inside the top 50 at the British Championships in 2011, and last year I was over the moon when I won my first ever race, a very small local event.
Of course to keep progressing and improving the desire to always get better and never be satisfied is absolutely vital, but every now and then there’s also the need to look back and take some satisfaction with the progress made, rather than how far and how much work is still left go.
This year was also very much about trying to set some benchmarks for the following seasons. I wanted to race a lot and gain some more experience, race in the National championship events to see how I’d match up against the top age groupers. It’s been a busy old year and a season which went well beyond my expectations…
- Manchester Senior Cross Country League – 1st
- Oulton Park Duathlon – 2nd
- North West Duathlon Championships – 1st
- Horwich Triathlon – 1st
- Wilmslow Sprint Triathlon – 1st
- Deva Triathlon – 4th
- European Age Group Championships – 2nd (25-29 AG)
- English Standard Distance Championships – 5th overall /3rd 25-29AG
- British Triathlon Age Group Championships – 2nd overall / 1st 25-29AG
- North West Sprint Triathlon Championships – 1st
- English Sprint Distance Championships – 2nd overall / 1st 25-29AG
- Salford Triathlon – 1st
- North West Sprint Triathlon – 1st
- World Age Group Championships – 21st overall / 10th 25-29AG
It won’t be easy but I’d be pretty pleased with something like this again next year! But I’m hoping that another good year of training, a continued focus on improving the swim and building the bike strength which can only come through year after year of hard consistent training will see some further improvements and progress (but isn’t everyone!)
Lots of racing means there’s always a few familiar faces at races who I’ve got to know well over the season whilst it’s been a pleasure training with lots of great people. My motivation would never have lasted the whole year if I was training alone and there’s no better way to improve your swimming than training with people who are a hell of a lot better at it than you are!
Right now I’m trying to have a proper break from all things triathlon, mentally as well as physically. The time management and planning required to fit in all the training around work and other aspects of life can make the daily grind a mental challenge as much as physical one. So now’s the time to be a bit more normal and make sure the same drive and desire I’ve had in the last 12 months is there again next season.