I could not make a decision whether to do this or not, it had the advantages of being local, Joe Skipper and another friend (Rob Brundish) were both down to do it and it would be a great pre-Vegas run out with Joe a good yardstick on the bike and Rob more than a match on the run (The bugger).
I had raced the very well run club 'Broadsman' event the week leading up and although I didnt push too hard on the swim/bike the run had, as usual taken quite a lot out of me and I was still recovering by the time the race came round, but hoped that it was more the loosening of stiff legs rather than fatigue
It has been my own doing but the lack of quality and frequent running had caused a deterioration in my running and lack of distance had made the recent 1/2 marathon more painful than those earlier in the year - I was hoping to get through both the Broadsman and the Monster without causing too much damage so I could begin to run on a daily basis again.
I had also stopped walking around in my Evo shoes which I am sure have made a difference in reducing calf injuries because of their neutral toe/heel height (i.e. both heel and toe are same level) - what this does is stop the shortening of the calf by wearing shoes with higher heels than toes - not sure of the science but it works for me......
So..... plunge taken I started to review and plan the race (fail to plan = plan to fail). I was luckily enough to get offered an 'Elite start' and was going to try and keep with the fastest swimmers there (Joe or Xterra champ Sam Gardner) aiming to come out close to him and use him to pace the bike (i.e. either leave him behind or base my pacing strategy on his ability to ride a strong bike leg by sitting 10m or more behind, but not let him get away). I had never done such a flat bike and was expecting a quick time......however...(see later :))
Andy A had agreed to lend me a Powertap and his Disc 808 setup to give a go - what a great set of wheels!! The disc was as light as my clincher 1080 rear (being a tub) despite having a PowerTap installed. The 808 was as light as my 404 - this was definitely going to help (although having never trained, raced or done anything off power I had no idea what to hold, push or cruise at).
Finally, the plan for the run was to run a 4min k pace and just see if I could hold this post bike. I had almost achieved this at the broadsman (until my calves started to hurt and I dropped off - running a 1:30).
Race morning came and arriving with what I thought would be enough time ended up being a bit of a panic as the organisers were hurrying people from transition very early on - quite a few of us didn't realise that there was a long (i.e. the length of the swim 1.9k) walk to the start line - there was a bus but this had already left.
The walk was no where near as frantic as I had expected as the Head marshal was among the stragglers walking down to the start. I passed Sam on the way down and had a chat with fellow Tri-Anglia guys as we admired the lovely setting and the early morning fishermen who were in for a bit of a surprise in about 15 minutes time!
The organisers had arranged for a swim entry further up the river so we all got a warm-up/swim to the start which I thought was a great touch. The Elites lined up in front and it wasn't long before the lead out craft (including the Mayor) positioned itself ready for the off.
The swim was great for me - I got a good start and decided to sit in behind another Elite (Beynon) and to try and draft him for as long as I could (I am not very good at this especially when the visibility is so poor). I stayed within touching distance for 600m or so then took a poor line and lost his feet - never to recover the gap on the swim. The swim was great, alongside the boats and past the old coffee shops and fishermen (who had packed up by this stage) under the bridges and out of the town towards the fens. Tip for the future - stay in the middle of the river, as you get towards the exit it gets very shallow but very muddy so you cant run and cant really swim - I lost a lot of time getting beached here and also cramped up in the mud on the way out....
It was a walk to T1 due to an imposed no-time section (for health and safety reasons/steep banks) and into a quick T1. I had managed to pull back a lot of time on the leader in T1 and set out to catch him over the first 40k.
I have never used a Powertap and had no idea what to keep my average watts at. I did note that for the first 60k or so the average was about 320 but then dropped off considerably ending with an average of circa 290 for the bike split (i removed the run from T1/into T2 with the bike)- is that good - no idea?!?!?
The bike felt solid enough and I caught Dan Beyond at around 40k and managed to stay in 1st place until about 60 k when Sam Gardner finally went past. I decided not to battle it out but to use his experience and give him the 10m but try and use this for pacing. Tactically I had decided that I would wait until the out and back/return leg and then push it back into T2 and try and gap him - this wasn't to happen though.
I had been racing well and when the rain came noticed a disturbing noise from what I thought was the disk/tyre rubbing the brakes. to try and stop this I released the front brake and carried on - it didn't work but obviously effected my braking. Unfortunately I did need my brakes just before the start of the out and back when Sam hit the roundabout before me and before a car going straight on. It didn't stop for me and this wasn't the marshals job at this event and due to the rain/no front brake I ran out of road and had to go left instead of right to avoid the collision - that put pay to my race plan and also cost me about 2 minutes on Sam as I struggled to get my pounding HR back down to an acceptable level. The out and back was arduous and I lost a lot of time here as the momentum was gone and so was my carrot.
Into T2 and I knew that Sam had at least 2 minutes on me. I couldn't rack my bike because someone had brought what looked like a suitcase for a travelling circus and put it right where I was going to rack. I donned the race shoes and headed off after Sam.
I know Sam is a runner but was told by a spectator that he was only 1 minute up the road - strange I thought, maybe he has bonked?!? so off I ran (taking care over the cattle grids which weren't covered at this stage) after the speck in the distance.
When the speck was eventually caught I realised it was less stick like and more tree stump like and that it was someone out for a daily jog - I had been mislead/deceived by some evil plan concocted by Sam (or so I liked to think). I reached the turnaround in a solid 2nd and at this stage was still running OK. I knew I had put enough into Dan Beynon and Rich Sumpter but Rob Brundish was running like a man possessed and could see that he was going to catch me sooner rather than later.
It happened at 9 or 10miles, the inevitable and a feeling I am all too familiar with.....dropping a place. It is very difficult knowing that I am a stage where my Bike ability outweighs my run considerably and that I am generally being hunted by much faster athletes. I hate to think how many places I have dropped in the run in a triathlon since I started but it's way more than I can count on the chainring teeth.
Rob gave me some encouragement (because he knew he would outrun me - and ended up with a 1:13) and set off after Sam. I tried to keep pace with him but ended up falling behind almost as soon as he had drawn shoulder to shoulder. Credit where credit is due a 1:13 Half is damn impressive and if I am going to be caught I would want it to be due to a run like that!
I came in 3rd overall and was pretty pleased, I got the podium place and felt it was a good warm up for Vegas.
It was a great race - the flat course is certainly challenging as there is no let up for your legs - try sitting on a turbo for two and a half hrs pushing the same wattage with no break - this is essentially what you are doing on a flat course. With hills you get a change of body position, cadence, power dictated by the course. It also requires increased awareness and handling of the bike.
P.S. The sweets at the end are worth the wait - some great touches, like going to a 5 star Boutique bed and breakfast rather than a chain hotel. You dont quite know what your gonna get but the little touches make the event. PS The Mayor would also run the the B&B.
- As an ex-National League Basketball player I took up triathlon as a development from cross training. I won my first Sprint distance race and placed second in my first Olympic distance. Since then I have raced the UK Elite Superseries coming 24th in the National Elite Champs, raced Vegas 70.3 WChamps and helped Paratriathlete Iain Dawson to World, European and National Titles. In 2011 I obtained Pro authorisation from the BTF and am pushing my development by stepping up to top level competition in 2012. Aside from this I am a L1 Swim and Tri coach and Professional Lloyds Broker.