Following the success of last week’s shop opening it was another weekend out and about for Team TriHarder. This time around was the Fritton Triathlon Festival with 3 races spread over the two days, with Saturday hosting the Super Sprint and Sprint races and Sunday featuring the Olympic distance race and the TriHarder tent up and running from the crack of dawn both days!


A few years ago the Olympic distance race at Fritton was my first foray into the world of Triathlon and I’ve been back and raced there every season since. It’s always a great event, great support, good course- although it’s varied every race I’ve taken part in and this year was no different.


I’d planned this as one of my A-races for this season so as much as possible I’d tapered nicely and knew, with some of the athletes that would be lining up, it would be tough race. Fortunately the wind on Sunday had abated slightly from the full on gale force gusts that hammered the course on Saturday, but after changing my wheels 3 times in 24hrs I  finally opted not to ride deep rims and swapped them, along with my brake pads, one last time in transition at 7.30am!             


As I lined up for the swim, running my race plan through my mind, I realised the swim course had changed from last year and I didn’t actually know where I was going (always a useful part of any good “race plan”). Fortunately Gareth (Walker) nipped off, had a quick word with a marshal and Bobs your Uncle I set off in the right direction and the first leg went swimmingly. I exited the water second in our wave having foolishly trailed the lead guy by about 5 metres, convinced he was pulling away, rather than closing the gap and saving a little energy.


The run up to transition was well supported, especially in the new kit and I moved out onto the bike free of incident, except for the fact I’d forgotten to clear the memory on my Garmin so was without a speedo for the rest of the race (I only had 2 days off work and all Saturday to prepare for this race). Nutrition consisted of QNT carbohydrate drink and a single energy gel, none of this faffing around with multiple gels, one of those bad boys and you’re fixed for the race. I tend to have it over two sittings, to give myself something to look forward in the second half of the bike leg!


An interesting thing about the Fritton races is that what is generally the fastest wave starts last so the bike can consist of a lot of overtaking and a fair amount of congestion. Fortunately this year I had a much clearer run and only knowingly conceded one place during the ride. This was to Matt Chandler and I was fully expecting it to happen if he hadn’t already got out before me, but the decent swim meant I was fairly confident that he’d moved into first, from our wave at least. I was also aware that Steve Norris would be closing the gap on the second leg and the run could end up being pretty tight. Conscious that I didn’t know my average speed, something I like to use as a gauge during a race, I looked down to my watch as I moved into the second bike lap only to realise that I’d forgotten to start that as well! Anyway, riding on feel alone was probably a good thing because the run still ended up being one of the most painful I’d endured in a while.


Not wanting to sound like a wimp, and I know all triathlons when run hard are meant to be painful, but an unfortunate incident practicing my transitions 2 days prior to the race had resulted in a bare-footed fall/slip and the loss of a fair amount of skin off my toes (I’ve attached a couple of pics if you’re not squeamish of hairy toes!). So, as I forced my feet into my trainers in T2, I knew it was going to be a nasty end to the race, but with only 3 other bikes in transition (2 from earlier waves) there was the incentive of a good result at the end.


The run was a 3 lap course with a turn around at the half way point of each lap giving a timely reminder of who was in front and who was on your tail. I was surprised to find myself within 30 seconds of the race leader at that first mile mark, but quickly brought back to earth when I saw 3rd place only 30 seconds behind me. But I suppose that’s when racing gets really interesting; an hour and a half into the race and with less than a minute separating us the next 5 miles would decide the final placings. The nature of the course meant the race was quite spectator friendly and it was real boost to hear the support from Ben, James and all the Tri-Anglia supporters. By the turn around of the second lap I’d moved into first and away from Steve Norris in 3rd and was feeling quite confident. About 5 seconds later my hamstrings tied themselves in knots and Matt Chandler closed the gap back down as I tried to settle the cramp. Fortunately it eased after a mile or so and I started to feel stronger, briefly, until I saw 5 horses in the woods ahead. “How bizarre”, I thought, who in their right mind would choose to hack their beloved nags along a small track littered with runners jostling for position through the mud and puddles. “What the #*#*” I thought when one spooked and started backing up as I ran past forcing me to jump into chest high nettles squealing like a baby. Now I know that shouting at frightened animals isn’t an effective way of dealing with the situation, but the cramp resulting from my “fight or flight” response must have been worse than anything the horse was going through. Anyway, I staggered back onto the course, watched Steve slip over in the mud as he went past in the opposite direction, felt terribly bad for him, and was able to hold on for the remainder of the race to bring home a TriHarder win.


It was a great event for both participants and supporters with the new lay out probably being the most spectator friendly to date. Everything went well in terms of racing, the Aqua Sphere goggles have been something of a revelation for someone with a chequered past relationship with eye-wear, the QNT nutrition is something I have found works brilliantly and the new Tri Harder race threads havn’t let me down yet. A few scary moment on the bike justified my decision not to go with the deep section wheels and my only complaint would be that Compeed blister plasters are not 1500m swim- sandy beach run- bare foot cycling- resistant, but I suppose you cant have everything.


So the seasons started quite well for us all so far, next stop Norwich Triathlon. Fingers crossed for good weather, a good turnout, no algal blooms, quick healing feet and maybe even a shorter run? No? Just wondering . . . . . . .