Another week, another win for Alex Lawton. This time, our local triathlon and he destroyed it – read on…
Many years ago, well 2009 I think, but even as far back as 1992 when triathletes raced in budgie smugglers and tank tops, Manchester and later Salford were key fixtures on the triathlon race circuit that now sees the Brownlee’s et al racing through the streets of London, Yokohama, Stockholm and Madrid.
After a long hiatus 2013 saw the return Triathlon to the streets and although there weren’t any Olympic contenders or World Champions on the start line, fortunately there weren’t any of those budgie smugglers either.
I’d been looking forward to the race for a while. I loved the look of the fast flat course and being a local race meant a good chance to go up against some familiar faces.
When you tell most people that you swim in Salford Quays the reaction is always along the lines of ‘isn’t it filthy?’, strangely enough due to some expensive aeration system it’s probably one of the cleanest and clearest open water swim venues there is. The warn weather has meant swimming there twice a week through ‘Uswim’ who run the sessions, has been a pleasure rather than a chose. So the day before the race as the event was taking shape I was able to have quick dip in the water and familiarise myself with the swim course, followed by a couple of laps of the bike course.
Despite the race being nice and local it was still meant a 4am wake up call to have some breakfast before a nice long snooze. With registration and bike racking being done on Saturday it was really just a simple job of making the short trip down and making sure everything was looking ok.
It was looking like a great day for a race as the sun crept up above the quays. We made our way down for the race briefing before filing into the water. I knew that as long as I had a decent swim I would be in with a good shout of being on the podium. The hooter went and maybe I got lucky but the swim wasn’t as brutal frantic as some others this year.
I knew two of the guys who’d be a good minute or more ahead during the swim, but that as long as I was in 1st group things would go ok. As the swimmers separated I was in a decent position in the pack and finding it comfortable. In fact I was feeling good enough to move up through the pack and towards the front. As we turned around the two buoys at the top of the quays to make our way back down I spotted a third swimmer in no man’s land. Ahead of the main pack and too far away from the top 2 swimmers with no chance of catching them. An ideal swim would involve being maybe 2nd or 3rd swimmer in a main pack, easy enough to draft but not too far back that you’re going to be late onto the bike. I was in a good place but feeling good so I put in the effort bridge the gap to this swimmer, even though it meant pulling along a few others behind me. With the two other guys way off in front the rest of the 2 lap swim was spent cruising along in the pack.
As the group left the quays and made the run to transition all the racers in the group were those I expected, including Rob Bridges from Man Tri Club and Hamish Shaw from Knutsford Tri club. Luckily there was quite a long run from the swim to transition and I needed it all whilst I struggles to unzip the wetsuit. Thankfully I managed to undo the zip before having to consider the option of ripping myself out of it. Transition was relatively smooth and Me, Rob and Hamish left T1 close to each other. Nothing ever goes fully to plan though and as I tried to slip my left foot into the shoe I someone managed to detach the shoe from the pedal. Thankfully I still had hold of the shoe and managed to get it on before re-clipping into the pedal. This meant I’d lost a few seconds and was behind Rob and Hamish, so had a bit of work to do to get back up front.
The bike course consisted of 6 x 6km laps around the quays, through some back roads and roundabouts, past the imperial war museum, down Trafford Wharf Road before a hairpin turn and back up to the War museum and along the quays and across the bridge back to Media City. I’d been out on the course during the weekends before and the wind coming in off the quays and tight corners combined with some deep wheels meant bike handling was pretty tricky. But being out in the morning meant this wasn’t an issue on race day. Early in the first lap I’d passed Rob and Hamish, then caught Paul (one of the much, much quicker swimmers) and asked if anyone else was in front. I was happy to know I was in 2nd place and knew that Stuart Moore, also Man Tri Club, was the only person ahead. I caught and passed him about 8km in to move into the lead and from this point on the race became a lot more……enjoyable? It’s not necessarily that I don’t enjoy races when this isn’t the case, as it’s often not. But there is always that process in your head when you might be trying to calculate where you are, how far ahead are they? How far ahead am I? How far to go? Etc. etc. It can a lot of hard work mentally, as well as physically.
Anyway, knowing I was in first place I really started to relax and enjoy the moment a lot more. At the turnaround point on each lap I could see I was getting slightly further and further ahead of second place. By the 6th lap the lead had grown to the best part of two minutes. I was pretty chuffed with this and came back into transition for the run with a good lead. Starting on your strongest discipline in 1st place with a 2 minute lead was a pretty good feeling. Now it was just a case of navigating a quick a twisty tricky run course. But credit to the organisers had put out a ‘lead cyclist’ to guide me all the way around! One of the benefits of being in the lead I guess, wish he could come to all my races!
Nothing ever goes completely to plan though and I managed to make the run a little bit harder by slipping on a bit of Moss and take a heavy tumble to the ground. But apart from that it was pretty plain sailing and racing never hurts as much when you know you’re doing well.
As the season gets closer to the end this was a really good result which shows there is still some energy in the legs after quite a lot of racing this year. Next up is the most important and most competitive event of the year, the ITU World Age Group Championships in London. It’s hard to say what will be a good result as the level of competition will be a lot higher than any other races this season but I’ve got enough confidence from this season to know that I’ll be able to give it my best shot.
Photos Courtesy of Sport Sunday