Last night was my third sprint triathlon of the year. For this one we decided to try a different organisational company called Human Race, who are doing a monthly series sponsored by 220 Triathlon Magazine. They have a good reputation (and also organise the big Windsor Triathlon).
The organisation on their part was certainly better, I just wish the same could be said of myself. I was once again racing with Harry, however he'd been up working the previous night on a panic fix, so was somewhat off kilter. For part I have an interesting collection of leg injuries (a strained Achilles and a still broken toe), meaning my running has been non-existent. As I cycled to Harry's I also picked up a puncture (I've had a real issue with tyres recently, as the brand I use have been recalled due to manufacturing errors, and the replacements seem to be ropey as well). A stone had punched itself all the way through the tyre, leaving a fairly big hole. There was no time to fix it at Harry's place, and I had my spare at home, so I called Gill, who very kindly diverted to mine to grab the spare, and a new inner tube, before heading to Dorney Lake. As we set off the rain (which had been intermittent throughout the day) became a vicious deluge, making it pretty apparent that the tarmac would be wet for the race.
We arrived about 50 minutes before the race kick-off, and quickly registered and moved the kit to the transition area. As we were racking up Gill turned up with the tyre, so I quickly got to swapping the rubber over. The big benefit of folding tyres is that they are pretty easy to get on and off the wheel, and with the aid of a track pump I had the front wheel replaced in about 5 minutes. After that it was a hurried sort out of the rack and kit, before dropping off my bags with Gill (who I think is resigned to me throwing bags over the fence to her in a race...I really am a bit disorganised at the start), squeezing into the wetsuit, and walking over for the race briefing.
The route was a bit different to the last race at Dorney...for a start the swim route looked pretty close to the correct distance (previously it's been either too short or too long), the bike route was on the other side of the lake, and consisted of 6 laps of a flat loop, with 3 corners of real note. The run was on the island, and was a fairly simple 2 laps up and down. We waited for the final swimmers from the early wave to clear the water (to rapturous applause and encouragement...one lad had been breast-stroking it, but bravely put in a 25 metre front crawl for the crowds), and then everyone piled in. We were in the main wave, and over 150 people had registered for it...by far my biggest start to date. Harry and myself went through our customary good-lucks, then split up to avoid thumping each other over the head once the race got underway.
The swim start was hectic, and very violent. For the first 200 metres there was a lot of punching, bashing and climbing going on. I was wedged in between 2 other swimmers, and the guy on the right of me was pushing in pretty hard. I ended up pulling off a fairly nasty move, which involved rolling onto my side, and coming down on top of him with my shoulder, effectively dunking him. I think that made him pull up (I certainly didn't see him again). Once he was gone I was able to drift to the right a bit, find some clear water, and settle into my stroke. By the first turn I was just behind a big group of swimmers, however they had the decency of all going off course on the return stretch, while I managed to keep a straight line right back to the final turn, and ended up ahead of them by a good 25-30 metres, and was on the toes of a single other swimmer...we ended up coming out of the water together, and I just got ahead of him in the run into transition to swap over to the bike (end time for the swim was 13.47, with a transition time of 1.32...not bad, though there is time to be saved in transition).
The bike is quickly turning into my favourite leg, and last night was no exception. The weather, which had been looking ominous, had cleared up, the wind had dropped, effectively turning into great cycling conditions. I was able to quickly get up to speed (about 24-25mph) and start hunting down the faster swimmers. I'd remembered to tape a couple of energy gel sachets to my bike for this race, and it paid off, letting me keep my speed up for the 20km leg. As it was laps it got a bit tricky to work out who I was passing, and who was from a previous wave, or a lap behind, however no-one overtook me (well, one guy did, but he was a lap down, and I quickly took him back when he overcooked himself) and I was regularly flying past people. As the surface was wet I was taking the corners gently, but managed to get past lots of people accelerating out onto the straights. I'd targeted myself at sub-33 minutes for the bike section, and was chuffed to roll in 32.39. I then wasted half the effort by having a rubbish transition (the tongue of my trainers dived in as I pulled them on, so I had to sit down and re-fit them).
I'd decided beforehand that I couldn't risk pushing myself on the run leg...my Achilles is not in great condition, and I really don't want another 6-8 weeks of downtime while I let another bit of me recover. I ended up running with another chap who came out of transition with me, and quickly formed a gentleman's agreement to pace each other for the most part, and finish on a sprint. This worked really well, and coming into the last kilometre he said we should aim to take the 3 people in front of us. we got past the first 2, and then I had to let him go ahead, as I started to get the formation of a stitch (this is what a summer of not running does for you). I trundled in with a run time of 20.55 (which is a bit slow for me, by about a minute, but it was expected to some extent). Final time was 1:10.07, and a final position of 27th out of 233, which I'm really chuffed with.
No photos this time, but Gill borrowed a camcorder which I'll be sorting out tonight, so hopefully some video of Harry and myself swimming, cycling and running. We checked the footage out on the screen last night and it looks really good.
I have one more sprint triathlon this year, and then it's into winter training, which will consist of learning to run again (planning to do cross-country, and also train for Reading Half), learning to swim properly (without using a pullbouy), and building up cycling endurance and strength. I've signed up for Ride Across Britain for June next year as an incentive to get my endurance up...if cycling 110 miles a day doesn't sort me out, nothing will!