After a disappointing end to the 2013 season getting injured just before the World Championships I took a little time to reflect on what I wanted to do with 2014 in terms of Triathlon and racing. It’s possible at one point I may have even mentioned retirement to the wife as it’s something which has been quoted back at me with increasing frequency as the Triathlon bug re-bit. I had a good 3 months off training as such, no running in an attempt to preserve my fragile calves/shins/Achilles for as long as possible, no swimming to save time and money travelling to and from the pool, which just left a spot of recreational cycling. During that time I got heinously unfit by triathlon standards and made a brief cameo for my old football club as I decided what to do with the upcoming season. Turns out that I couldn’t give up the buzz of racing, even if it means I have to reign in my aspirations slightly so by January I was officially back out of retirement. The Triharder boys kindly pointed out that retiring during the off season doesn’t count anyway!
Which ever way you look at it I had taken sufficiently long off training that it took a good couple of months to regain any semblance of fitness. I managed to clamber onto the podium at a Cross Country Duathlon at Fritton in February, but the lack of running made it hard work. Increasing running volume has always been tough, but the back injury I sustained at the end of last year has further impacted on my running and made any rides longer than an hour or so almost unbearably painful. As with most injuries core stability work has made a big difference and although my compliance to regular core work is not great, a bit of regular planking and the like has definitely improved the situation. I have been hopeful my back will hold out for Olympic distance Triathlon racing, but I had also organised a Coast to Coast ride from Aberystwyth to Norfolk with some friends that was nagging away at me as well. To my rescue came James and his Retul bike fitting service now being offered at the Triharder shop. Turns out my own attempts at bike fitting were drastically out of kilter with Mr Retul and to say my new position felt a little weird would be an understatement. However, I stuck with it and bearing in mind I had been struggling to ride more than an hour without pain and for less than 4 hours a week we managed to cover 340 miles in 3 days, nearly 20 hours in the saddle and I can honestly say I didn’t suffer with lower back pain at all. I would encourage anyone who has any aches in the saddle to have a bike fit as the difference it made to me was remarkable and I’m convinced was the difference between finishing what was a great ride and giving up on day one.
Just before we left for our Wales to Wells ride I raced in an early season pool based Sprint at East Leake back near my folks place in Nottingham. It’s a very well attended event attracting over 400 entrants twice a season including a few local Loughborough University Triathletes just to spice it up a bit. I had little in the way of expectations going into the race as I’ve been swimming around once a fortnight after a 3 month hiatus and my forays into a couple of early season Park Runs had produced times well below what I was hoping for. Still the race had been won in times just under the hour for the last couple of years and I was hopeful of hitting somewhere around that mark and an early season race is always a great way of getting some focus to your training and establishing where you’re at. I’d estimated a 5.45 swim time and started in a wave with 3 other similar paced guys. So similar in fact the 3 of us left the pool simultaneously, there is a minute or so run to transition so the time of 6.48 was about what I had expected. Onto the bike and I was overtaken by one of the guys in my wave who set a tough pace that left me trailing 100-200m behind him for the entire rolling ride. I’d close him down on the climbs and lose him on the flats, but just having someone to race in a pool based sprint was a pleasant novelty in itself as they normally end up being time trials. I was riding hard, averaging just under 25mph, and figured that the chap in front must’ve been on for a fast bike split, certainly compared with what I had see over the last half a dozen races over the course. I hopped off the bike and immediately cramped up, but from past experience it seems that most cramps through transition seem to wear off with a change in discipline. Fortunately this was the case and I set about trying to hunt down the guy in front over the undulating 3 lap run course. I finally caught him on the last turn of the last lap and pipped him by a second, the bad news was that the first runner from the next wave then pipped me by a second! As the results filtered through it seemed as though the top 6 had all run within 45 seconds of one another with 3rd-6th split by less than 10 seconds. Unfortunately I’d come in 4th, but in a time of 57.19 it was a couple of minutes faster than expected and a 17.50 5K equalled my triathlon PB to boot. Generally I was as happy as could be when coming 4th, largely due to altered expectations this year and also the knowledge that I physically couldn’t have left anything else out there (chasing someone down on the run pushed me harder than I ever would left to my own devices!). It was only when I got home and did the mandatory triathlon-geeking of race results when I realised the winner had posted a Phelps-esque 4.00min 400m swim time and 2nd and 3rd also around 45 seconds quicker than projected. The event was superb, but I’m slightly dubious that the lack of lane counters might have robbed me of my first result of the season. Still it was Mothers Day and it meant I was able to shoot straight off and be a dutiful son for the rest of the day!
It was a better than anticipated start to the season and getting a Tri under the belt before the end of March is always a bonus. I have since done a couple of 10mile TT’s and posted times similar to this time last year and I’m quietly hopeful that the treadmill I’ve invested in has helped with my run splits as well. The less said about my swimming the better and I’m just hoping I can make it out of the water next weekend at the first of the Nice Tri Series races before the hypothermia sets in!