Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Grafman - National Middle Distance Champs

The Triathlon England National Middle Distance Champs where the last race for me in this little block of racing and the first race that I had a real goal for this year. Earlier in the year I said I was targeting an Age Group podium at this event and coming into the race I was feeling pretty good. A bit of a foot injury had put a halt to some of my final run sessions but I was feeling good and set myself the time goal of 4 hour 10 minutes for the race.  Having had a quick look on the start list there were a few names I recognised as guys who would be fast but that was the reason I was at this race, to see how I stack up against some of the best guys in the country.

Driving the 200 miles to Cambridge Saturday morning was pretty relaxed, Lisa's mum had a last minute weekend off and jumped in the car with us and we arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel before heading off to the race venue for registration and to have a look around.  I got my numbers, checked the maps of the course, drove the small first loop of the bike course then headed back for dinner and an attempt at an early night. 

After a restless night in a hot hotel room the alarm sounded at 5 am and it was time to get prepared. Breakfast went down well and I got dressed, woke the kids and packed the car. Car parking at the race site was easy and I got racked and transition sorted in plenty of time.   I was a little nervous about how the day would pan out as I sat in the cafe waiting to head to the start but just as it was starting to rain I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the swim start for the briefing and race time.

With a quick safety and course briefing done and a short warm up we lined up on the beach ready for the swim. The horn went and everyone piled into the water. Up to the first buoy there was quite a big group of guys with a few pulling away at the front. Round the buoy and it started to spread out, I found some feet to swim on but soon found myself wanting to swim harder and went past. For a few minutes I thought I was closing on the back of the front group but as we made our way to the Australian exit at the end of the first lap it wasn't much and I was left in no man's land, not fast enough to hang onto the leaders but swimming quicker than the second group. The second lap passed by and soon enough I was exiting the water and heading to my bike with a swim time of 25.40 which is a new P.B over the distance.

Into and out of T1 fairly smoothly, it was still raining and I headed off onto the small first loop of the bike course. Initially I did not feel comfortable on my bike and coming back towards transition only 15 or so minutes in I was feeling pretty bad and even thought about just riding back to the car and sacking it all off but knowing that Lisa would kill me if I did that I had a word with myself and convinced myself that I should at least give it a go.  

Heading out onto the main course I had been caught by a couple of guys but we stayed together in a pace line and started to catch a few of the faster swimmers.
Just after the first roundabout turn the fast riding Chris Goodfelow came past us all and split things up a bit. A few of us followed on with him and it stayed pretty much like that through the whole first lap. It was raining pretty hard at times and onto the second of the two laps back at the roundabout turn despite putting in a few efforts to get away there was still a large group of us rounding the turn.  After being passed pretty quickly after this turn so that I was sitting in the pace line it just felt all a bit too easy and seeing a rider about 200 or so metres ahead I made the decision to ride fairly hard for 5 minutes or so to see what happened. I rode to the front of the group and just focused on keeping it rubber side down in the rain and working well.

As we passed the main spectator point halfway through the lap someone shouted that it was only 40 seconds to the lead. I assumed this was Chris and shortly after a cyclist with a very high race number came through. I assumed he was part of a relay team and figured if I could sit legally behind him he may just drag me towards the front. We rounded the last of the out and back turns and the group behind seemed to have split up a bit but were still fairly close. I continued to ride and a few minutes later we caught Chris and that's how it stayed. We rode back to transition at a solid pace, we had a gap but I wasn't sure how big it was. As we rode back up the last stretch I looked at my Garmin ride time and knew we were at the front of the race and I was on for a decent Half distance bike P.B. I had a little rush of adrenaline then it was time to drop feet from shoes and prepare for transition and the run. Race data and Bike power/gps file HERE

We arrived into a damp transition but I ran straight to my racking and dropped bike gear, put on my trainers and watch and picked up a couple of gels. I was quickest of the three of us through hear and ran out onto the run course leading the race.  I knew chris was not far behind and had a much better run pedigree than me so I held a decent pace but ultimately waited for him to come past and sat in behind.  The first 2 kms to the turn point were done at under 4m/km pace. I knew it was suicide pace for me and I wouldn't be able to sustain it but I knew I had to hang in as long as I could. Around 3km in Tom Vickery came past and Chris picked up the pace to sit with him and as he did I knew I was burning matches and thought this was the point to run my race. Unfortunately around 10 minutes later that's where the good times ended. 

The last 16km of that run were one big mental battle. I was desperate to walk and my legs just felt like they had no spring left in them. Past the 10km point and I felt like I was slowing big time my left foot had pins and needles and I was starting to really suffer. Lisa was so positive in support but I knew I just had to get to the finish. I was negative in my mindset and although not many others had passed me and I was still on for the Age Group podium it was getting seriously tough, I just couldn't up the work rate and I was back to steady long run effort. Rounding the final aid station turn with about 3km it was mainly uphill to the finish but I knew I would make it and just had to push on a bit to hold onto my position.  I was very pleased to make the turn to the finish and go down the chute and across the line. A new half distance P.B but not the 4.10 i was shooting for.

Lisa, Jayne and the kids were there and I got my finishers medal and a few cups of coke before getting into some warm dry clothes and starting to pack my stuff.  Checking the results I had held onto 3rd in my Age Group but slipped to 11th overall. Every minute lost to the winner done so on the run! Talking to Chris after the race he said it was a hard course for strong cyclist and the fact we had to work so hard for only a 40 second gap definitely damaged the legs instead of sitting in the line at 30 watts less and saving energy. This race was a great learning curve for me and I learned a lot about racing at this level and the performance it takes to be successful.  It also proved how far I had come since starting this sport, at least being in the mix with athletes on this level is a real positive but also proves how far I still have to go.

The rain cleared for presentation and it was great to get onto the Tri England podium to get my medal. Ultimately it would have taken a run that I am not yet capable of to get higher in my age group but the result sugar coats the performance a bit. I have come away motivated for Challenge Weymouth though and with a plan of attack to hopefully see me strong and fit come September.

Thanks as always to those who support me on this journey.
Zone 3 wetsuits
Bustinskin Triathlon Club
Amphibia Sports Gear
And of course my family.

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