Mud, Sweat and Tears at The Tear Jerker Triathlon
Well we definitely got the sweat, with race day temperatures peaking in the high 20’s, the mud was fortunately absent or there would have been even more of the tears that did make a brief appearance (not mine by the way!)
I entered this race a couple of weeks ago thinking it’d make an interesting change, was fairly local and roughly equated to a Sprint Distance race- a nice way to break in the season. All those things are true, but as I found out on the day, 25km mountain biking, even in pan flat Thetford and a genuine cross country run makes for a hard day out.
The organisers ran this event as a tester last year so the 2012 race was the first official Tear Jerker and it ran like a well oiled machine, as far as I could tell.
Its run on the Elveden Estate, private for the rest of the year with large areas of forestry land interspersed among the onion fields that the event is named after. The swim was held in a small raised reservoir with transition at the bottom of a steep bank. The water clarity was by the far the best of anywhere I’ve raced and at 16 C, with four relatively small waves was almost idyllic. I started in the first wave and having trailed the lead canoe round the M-Shaped course came out of the water with a bit of a gap to second place. The next obstacle was negotiating the steep bank down into transition and emerging from T1 on the recently serviced mountain bike that was originally my 15th birthday present a few years ago, (well quite a few years ago). I’d deliberated over what might be best bike for the course before the race (not that I had any options, but I’m good at procrastinating), and there was an array of bikes on show, from full suspension MTB to cyclo-cross steeds, but having now experienced the course the only thing that suffered from the rigid steel frame were my wrists.
The bike course, for a standard triathlete like myself, was great. A complete mixture of terrains from heavy sand, pitted dirt forestry trails, stoney sections, 3 feet high grass and thankfully some sections of polished tarmac estate roads. I went out fairly hard hoping that if I rode fast enough I’d fly over most obstacles rather than over the handlebars, mainly for vanity reasons as I was wearing the new Triharder Tri Suit and didn’t want to shred it like I did my last “new” tri-suit. Being the first around the course I startled a few deer, hares and a couple of Marshals, but made it round unscathed and thankful of the QNT fluids I nearly didn’t take with me.
It might not have been technical by most MTB enthusiasts standards, but the constantly changing surfaces, turns and obstacles call for way more concentration than my daydreaming-self normally expends on a triathlon and works a lot more muscle groups that riding an hour in my normal TT position. This last factor was something I’d neither trained for nor really though tabout, until I hopped off my bike and stumbled into T2.
The run started with a short climb back up the bank of the reservoir across to the far end and down into a ploughed field. Out of the ploughed field and into untouched pasture, 2 feet high and rife with nettles, this was when the penny dropped. I suppose I’d imagined a trail run around public footpaths or bridle ways. Nope, this was an actual cross country run . . . . across country; fields, coppiced woodlands, some more sand and even a crater thrown in for good value. Any aspirations of a fast-ish run evaporated and I was content with ticking over and making sure I didn’t get overtaken. That was until I saw a figure about half a mile ahead and the competitive urge to cross the line first kicked in, even though I was sure something funny was going on having not knowingly been overtaken to that point.. Turns out the chap in question had suffered two punctures close to transition and called it a day on the bike and headed out for an early run. Still it meant everyone was expecting him to cross the line first so no tape, pictures or even applause when I appeared in the finish chute, arms aloft looking to the skies praising the lord (the last bit didn’t actually happen).
The race was very well put together, well attended for a new event (I saw few other Tri-Anglians there), well signposted, (even if a couple of people did deviate a little) the setting was stunning and the whole event well supported thanks to a few charity runners and first timers. Why you’d pick a cross country event named “The Tear Jerker” for a first crack at triathlon is anyones guess, but to the girl who punctured in the first 2 km of the ride and carried on with a flat tyre despite going over the handlebars twice to finish the whole event, my hat is doffed (hers were the tears by the way, and quite understandably).
For me it was a great chance to test out gear, new and old, nutrition, if you ever need a boost then QNT energy gels are more akin to rocket fuel than glucose, (I’m not entirely convinced they’re legal) and my legs, which just about held up.
So if anyone fancies a beautiful, cross country event to spice up next season then I would definitely recommend the Tear Jerker, oh, and if you win they give you a massive sack of onions as well!