Dambuster Triathlon, English Standard Distance Championships:
This was most definitely my A-Race for the season, although I’d tried to peak for Nottingham 4 weeks before it was the Standard Distance Race that I was desperate to qualify for at this years World Championships. Having raced the week before Nottingham and again the week after, I’d aimed to keep my form and speed, whilst hoping that my endurance would just about hold out without my usual training volume. It was further put to the test after a wonderful present from my daughters first week at nursery- a gastroenteritis bug that laid me flat the Monday of the race. Thank you Eva. Fortunately it passed as quickly as it arrived and I was back training , all be it a little restrained by Wednesday.
I travelled down to Leicester the night before the race, got a decent nights kip and though I’d left myself plenty of time when I arrived in Rutland at 6am for the 7am start. Unfortunately over a thousand competitors, plus race officials and spectators meant that the single parking barrier went into system overload and the traffic for the race was backed up for miles alongside Rutland water! Fortunately the race start was postponed by a full 10mins giving me about 5 minutes to set up in transition, which isn’t too much of an issue as I generally like to daudle until I’m late and then rush everything at the last moment! Conditions on the day were far from perfect, a strong wind was kicking up some nice white horses on the reservoir and the be perfectly honest if I’d had more time I would have swapped my deep section wheels in light on the wet roads and nasty cross winds.
I’ve always liked Dambuster as the swim is honest, the bike a little long and undulating and the run has always been short so its played to my strengths. On this occasion, however, the race briefing confirmed a swim reduced to 1400m as a result of the canoeists being unable to keep position in the open water, always a tad worrying, and the run had been extended to a genuine 10km. Damn it! Oh and the swim start was now a running “beach start”, only the beach was more like sharp stones and flint. Still, I thought as I stood on the start line, its the same for everyone, until I caught sight of the smart b#*~#ds who’d run along the bank and dived into deep water 50ms ahead of the rest of us. The swim started in the shelter of the bay and as the melee reached the first buoy I took my first proper boot to the face. I’ve been punched and grabbed and clipped before, but this was an eye watering heel at the base of my nose. I reeled up only to be smashed in the face by the waves rolling across the reservoir. It was as close as I’ve come to panicking in open water but I forced myself to settle down, breath to the left and roll with the waves. I soon found some feet, more as a guide than to draft as the waves made sighting almost impossible. Fortunately we only had a couple of hundred metres in the open water before coming back into the bay where I was able to push on and leap frog from one small group to another desperate to make as much of the reduced swim as I could. I came into transition at the back of a small group that I saw contained Nick Dunn and another athlete both of whom I’ve already raced this season and who had put 20seconds into me over 750m so I knew I’d had a strong first leg of the race.
Out onto the bike and I moved past 5 athletes and settled into a rhythm whilst exchanging places with a couple of guys a few times in the first 5miles. There’s a lovely sweeping descent at about mile 3 where normally you can push speeds of 40 mph plus, but on this occasion it was the first reminder of why deep section wheels and strong crosswinds are not good together and why my upper body was about to have an extra hour workout on top of the 20mins in the water. The infamous Rutland Ripple rears its head about a third of the way round and I was able to move away from lads who’d be riding around me and gain another few places. As we finished the 3rd ripple Nick Dunn appeared on my shoulder and gradually moved away on the long fast A47 section. I would have liked to try track him (legally, of course), and use him as a marker, but with the draft busting police on super surveillance I left a sizeable gap that was too big to close by the time I really noticed. With the road ahead visible for some way I could see a small group of 5 riders with one becoming detached giving me another marker to aim for. A couple of miles later I caught the dropped guy and he told me the group ahead were the lead 4 athletes, which explained why they’d ridden away so comfortably! I knew it would be hard to stay in 5th and I lost another 2 places on the road back to Rutland, but getting back into transition I was in a strong place to qualify and even dared to dream of an age group podium spot. Moving out onto the run I had a few goals, running a sub 38minute 10k was the primary one and trying to lose as few places as possible was a close second. The plan was to reach the halfway point clocking 6.05 minute miles and then try and push on in the final 5km if I had anything to give. The last time I raced here I’d been in a decent position off the bike and just haemorrhaged places on the run, but for reasons unbeknown to me I’m running stronger off the bike these days and although I was overtaken twice I caught one of the runners in front meaning I only lost a single place during the 10km. One of those places was to a chap who clocked a 35minute 10km so fair’s fair, the 37.40 split I managed was more than I had anticipated at the start of the season.
I felt confident I’d managed to secure a qualifying spot as there were less than 10 of us in the finishing chute, but it was only a little later I found out I’d just missed the podium at a national championships for the second time in a month! I couldn’t have asked for much more on the day though, relatively I’d swam well, clocking 1.22/100m, I’d averaged 23.5mph on a hilly bike in tough conditions with the fastest bike splits only around 1mph faster and I’d run a triathlon 10km PB. Nick Dunn who came past me midway through the bike was the eventual winner, exactly 4 mins in front, which highlights how strong he was when the gradient kicked up on the bike and on the run. Frustratingly I know where my weaknesses lie, but addressing them, well, namely the run, is tricky when my running is so limited by injury. The plan now is to have a mid season break and then start building some endurance for a month and then phasing into speed work in the month running up to London. I now have a new A-Race to plan for . . . .