We’re almost constantly in awe of Alex’s achievements at the sharp end of the triathlon world. We’re particularly proud of him right now after he bagged another major title….
Without bringing out the violins and getting too melodramatic, it would be fair to say I’ve had a grudge with this race over the years. From taking a wrong turns (or not turning at all to be more accurate), staying in a popular hotel chain above an all-night karaoke club, to a nasty bike crash the weekend before, the last two years have never gone quite as planned.
Most people will complain about some sort of niggle or injury before a race, as nothing is rarely ever perfect. I’m normally the same and some race weeks I’ve found getting up flights of stairs a draining challenge, but I actually felt fit and fresh this time, except for the fact I couldn’t run.
The week before the N.W. Sprint Champs (back in July) I’d done something to my hip/groin which meant it was just too painful. It wasn’t too bad that it couldn’t be ignored during the race itself, but it probably didn’t do it any favours in the long term. I booked myself in for a few sessions with Andy Chalmers, but had to DNF the Salford Quays Aquathlon after the swim. I kept things ticking over with my swimming and cycling, and just hoped it would fade away come race day.
Opting for a nearby Youth Hostel as my abode for the Saturday night, I got lucky and my early morning exit on Sunday coincided with the Saturday night return of the stag dos. Always the kind of thing which reminds you of how your interests and ambitions can change – my 20yr old self would be ashamed if he saw me now.
Time in transition quickly passed and we were soon lined up on the pontoon at just past 7am. I was in the 2nd wave of many and again was lucky enough to grab the only dry and clear part of the day.
Swim – 1500m
An ability to draft in the swim is always a bonus. It is this stage of the race which can potentially favour certain competitors in certain Age Groups more than others. I’m always hoping to have a couple of people slighter faster to draft off, and after the first buoy I found myself in a group of 3-4, but down on some of the much faster guys.
The pace felt way to easy, even when I took into account the benefits of my drafting, so I moved to the front and tried to speed things up. The front group were too far to catch, so after towing the others round for a bit, I slipped back behind some feet for the last few hundred meters.
1500k Swim Time: 20:58 – 22nd fastest on the day
Unusually for me, I had a really smooth transition and had put a big gap between me and the group – even before getting on the bike. I wasn’t too fussed about trying to work out my position, but kept an eye out for Stu Moore, who I knew would’ve been in the leading swim pack.
I like the simplicity of the 40k bike course, a straight 5km section along the waterfront with two dead turns, so really just the best part of an hour’s hard graft.
I passed Stu on lap 2 of 4, and as I could see no one behind was gaining any time on me, it was a sign that things were going pretty well. All of a sudden I’d gone around the final dead turn and made my way off the course back into transition at the Echo Arena.
40k Bike Time: 58:47 – 6th fastest
Another good transition, the Gods were in my favour. But more importantly the legs felt really strong, the long break from running seemed to do some good!
Whilst the bike course had been getting busier with the later wave starts, the run was still pretty deserted. In the first km or so I passed some of the guys who started in the earlier wave, 5 minutes before ours. I’d expected this to happen at some point during the run, but as it was so early on, I actually questioned myself as to whether I’d accidently skipped a lap on the bike?
I figured I was near if not at the front of our wave/Age Group, but it was really the Overall win which I wanted, so I couldn’t afford to take the foot off the pedal. The legs felt good throughout the run, surprisingly good, and stronger than normal, this confidence and knowledge also reinforced my mental strength and brought home just how nice it was to be running again.
One of the telltale signs that a race is going well is when you can kinda just float along and zone out, never comfortable but never suffering too much and almost blocking out the peripheries. The downside is that you can miss turn points and I nearly did the very same thing again, so thank you to everyone who shouted at me and got me back on course!
Back on track, I pushed on and as I crossed the finish line it was confirmed that I was the 1st man back in our Age Group, and the fastest time of the day………….so far.
10KM Run – 32:08 (3rd fastest)
All I could do now was wait, I knew there were some fast guys starting later in the morning. I’d been in the same scenario after the National Champs at Chester, and had eventually got knocked down into 2nd.
I knew Alex Foster and some others would be there or thereabouts, whilst the guy who’d pipped me to 1st at the Nationals was also present, but this time I’d done enough.
Finish time including transitions – 01:56
Position Overall – 1st
There’s not much more to say other than that I’m really proud to have won the event, and it eases the pain of some of the previous years. I’m actually almost (not quite) as pleased for Alex Foster who finished in 2nd Overall and 1st in his Age Group. We often train together, albeit mainly with the swimming (where he has the upper hand), but I know how much he applies himself and I’m delighted it’s been rewarded.
This result alone has made the season a good one, but I’ve still got some big (quite literally) races on the horizon, so hopefully there’s more to come.