Norwich Triathlon- how long can you maintain a peak of form?
The answer to that question is not 6 weeks! Having tried to string out a peak for 4 weeks to Dambuster I took the following week off as a transition week and started some steady endurance work in the week leading up to Norwich. Being the big regional race and our club flagship event I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but equally it fell at an awkward time and made it into my schedule as a training event. That’s not to say I wasn’t going to go hard, but I trained up to the race with minimal recovery afterwards.
In stark contrast to Dambuster 2 weeks earlier the weather was sweltering and standing on the decking at Whitlingham Outdoor Centre at 8am in 28C heat made it clear is was going to be a hard day out. I lined up next to Matt Ellis and Triharder’s very own Sam Proctor. Unless there were any suprise packages we figured the race would probably be between the three of us. I’d had the better of Sam a couple of months earlier, but he’d been racing well and is a very strong runner on his day so I knew he could run me close. Matt on the other hand is coming back from injury, which is why I fancied a pop at him! We’d raced each other at Dambuster with Matt coming out of the water 20 seconds down on me, only to post a storming bike split and ultimately finish 1min 15 secs ahead. I wasn’t really expecting to beat him, but I was hoping that if I had a lead coming out of the swim then we might have a bit of a ding dong.
The swim start was considerably more relaxed than a fortnight earlier and I found myself on Matt’s feet coming into the first buoy, not the lead I was hoping for and I wasn’t in any position to push on and go ahead. In stead I breathed to the opposite side a couple of times and when I looked back he’d gone. I moved up to the next set of feet and reassuringly they were those of my ever helpful team mate Sam! Knowing Sam would post a strong swim time and secretly hoping that the two swimmers up ahead weren’t Matt I stuck where I was and came out of the water in 22.14, 30seconds down on Matt. At this point I rather let myself down, dropping first my swim hat and then my goggles, each time unwittingly and having to run back and fetch them under threats from race officials. To make things worse I ran up the wrong aisle and couldn’t find my bike so by the time I left transition I was a couple of hundred metres down on Sam. All very schoolboy, and I was meant to be the old hand!
My plan had been to leave transition with Sam, settle into a comfortable rhythm for a few miles and then push on and try and distance myself from him. Instead I had a battle to close down the gap I’d managed to create floundering around in transition. I wasn’t hanging around and I didn’t wait to find my bike legs, but it still took around 6 miles before I moved past Sam and into third place. Fortunately it happened around the hills of Stoke Holy Cross so I figured I’d have a good chance of putting enough space between us that he couldn’t track me too closely. Just after this point I caught Andy “the fish” Bourne and took the opportunity to check whether he’d been overtaken by a certain Matt Ellis, which he had, leaving me with little hope of forcing the issue for first. Knowing that Matt would smash the bike and Sam was no slouch himself I kept riding hard, averaging 24.2mph, which was not far off what I’d aimed for and came into T2 posting a 59.08 bike split. As I left transition “In a Spin’s” Simon told me I was less than 90seconds down on Matt, which was a boost, but by that point I was already a little worried about what lay ahead. My running volume is nothing to write home about at the best of times, but I’d barely run at all due to enforced recovery from racing most weekends for the previous 8 weeks. At Dambuster 2 weeks earlier I still felt sharp and my endurance had just about held out, but on this day I found out that you can’t hold run fitness for 2 months on racing alone. The 30C heat and probably forcing the issue on the bike too much meant it was one of the most painful 10kms I’ve had the displeasure to run. That and the fact that I felt like I was being chased! Sam had come off the bike only a minute or so down and on his day is a great runner, on this particular day I definitely wasn’t a great runner so I tried to get tactical. I ran the first 5km harder than I would have liked to give the impression I wouldn’t be caught (there were a few switch backs where Matt was able to check on my inroads to his lead, which were minimal, and I could check on Sam). Despite pushing on I just couldn’t maintain much under 6.20min/miles, well down on what I’d been running recently. Fortunately, I soon realised, everyone was struggling and there was no sign of any change in podium positions. Matt clocked a 39.02, I followed it up with a 39.29 and Sam was only able to post a 40.26 after struggling with stomach cramps, all well down on where we’d normally expect to be, which I suspect was a combination of the heat and the loose gravel/chippings that made up much of the run.
I’d found the race really tough going in the heat, struggled on the run and fallen a little short of my aspirations. Ultimately I’d finished second, which I’d expected, and learned a few valuable lessons. Race performance is dictated a lot by where you’re at in your training cycle and you can’t expect to race consistently throughout the season. It also rid me of any complacency regarding my running form, I now realise that I need to run consistently, even if it is low mileage, in the lead up to London otherwise I’ll be well short of my early season form.
The most positive note was the almost clean sweep achieved by Team Triharder at the event as a whole. Sam and I had taken second and third in the Standard Distance event and Iain Robertson (the teams latest recruit) had won the Sprint Distance Race, with Becky Schofield breaking her own course record to once again secure the win in the womens Sprint Race. Not a bad days work, we’re now just waiting for the team of Ben, James and Simon the clean up at The Anglian Iron distance race in a few weeks!