Having tested the triathlon water with GOTRI BIDDULPH back in July and committing to Ironman UK in July 2018, I decided it would be a smart idea to keep increasing the distance and keep learning and gaining triathlon experience, specifically in transition. The Last of the Summer Tri was my first crack at a proper triathlon, a sprint tri. This was made up of a 400m pool swim (20m pool), 24km bike and 5.7km run.
I came into this race feeling far from 100% due to running the Berlin marathon the week before, feeling ill and having a cold all week, giving blood on Wednesday and taking part in the Bear Grylls Survival Race the day before. So I was never going to be racing this one to my full potential, it was more of a learning exercise, obviously I will try my best but not go crazy, and yes I know!! I say that all of the time and end up racing flat out but my body just wont let me be silly this week.
After driving for an hour & a half to get to Holmfirth I arrived 90 minutes before my 9:37am start time. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to be prepared, part of this includes arriving for anything early, I will just not be late for anything I really hate being late and other people showing up late. I checked in, attended the second of three race briefs at 8:30am and set my bike, cycle and running gear up in transition. I spent the next hour waiting in the warmth of the pool watching and supporting the other triathletes start their races.
Swim – 400 meters – 10:08
Ok so, 9:35 came and wave 42 were called up, it was a 27 time sprint triathlete, a young girl new to triathlon and myself also a newbie. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked this triathlon but the pool is small, just three swimming lanes and only 20m, the waves were being sent off 2 – 3 mins apart and bear in mind this is a 400m swim so the earlier quick people were in and out in under 6 minutes (I know right!! 6 mins!!) but as I am not the best swimmer or even what I would class as mediocre, the later waves are in the water for longer, yet the wave starts still had the same stagger time of 2-3 minutes. I was in the middle of the three lanes which already had six other swimmers in and just looked crowded. The start guy sent me to the wrong lane, gave me the wrong cap and then had the audacity to ask what I was doing in the wrong lane with the wrong colour cap on. I mean WTF dude, at least own up to your own mistake, this messing around meant that he left me with 10 seconds to move lanes, swap caps and get my goggles on, he wouldn’t hold back one minute whilst I sorted his mistake out. Feeling needlessly under pressure my first attempt at putting my swim cap on resulted in it flying off my hand into the pool (sounds funny now but I was pissed right off at the time) as I was getting it out he sent my wave off so I quickly got my cap on, completely forgot my goggles were onto of my head so they were stuck under my cap, jumped in and set off 20 seconds late. Fuming doesn’t sum that moment up.
Feeling in a bit of a rage and getting water in my eyes just adding to the annoyance I swam my 20 lengths weaving in and out around the five other swimmers still in the pool. The swim as a whole felt a mess, the starts need to be further apart when they get to the slower waves. The whole start process just put me needlessly under pressure and once in the pool I couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm as I was catching other swimmers and going around them. I swam the Swim Serpentine last month with over 800 people in my mass start and today felt more crowded and busy than that swim. Somehow I swam that in 10:08 which is quicker than I have swam 400m before, I think the adrenaline of the start mess up and pure swim rage kicked in and got me through far quicker than normal.
Bike – 24k – 55:53
The bike route was three laps of an 8k loop around a few local villages, it started off with a fairly steep climb and then had another similar steep climb 6k into the loop, this made me think that I was on the second lap and further through the ride than I actually was, I was gutted to reach the start point 10 minutes later. The bike ride for me was where I start to feel comfortable, I am ok at riding and put the swim debacle behind me and quickly overtaking people. I caught up with and passed the other two girls who had started in the same wave as me.
Run – 5.7k – 26:20
Ahhh that feeling of putting your running shoes on and doing something that I know I am good at, I know I can outpace pretty much everyone here over a 5k run but held back a little, my running legs have put in a big shift over the past week. The run course was mostly along the same roads as the bike with a couple of big hills just as you thought they were done with after the bike section. I passed a further 14 people of the run despite running 8 minutes over PB pace.
A few final thoughts on my first sprint triathlon.
Firstly I did enjoy this experience and did not feel out of my depth with the distance, lets face it, a 400m swim is not far, a 24km bike ride isn’t going to break me and a 5.7km run is nothing…. doing all three back to back? more of a challenge as you would expect but still well within my comfort zone, next spring I will move up to olympic distance and still might try my hand at Staffs 70.3 Ironman in June before doing the full 140.6 mile Ironman in July, I think that might push me massively outside of my comfort zone.
Thoughts on today’s event, despite a poor swim start and an over crowded pool I did really enjoy the race. Other than the two previous points the event was well organised and in a friendly atmosphere, it was too serious but all ran within British Tri rules which is good for my learning and experience. Will I do it again? personally I probably wouldn’t, that is mostly because of the distance I have to travel to get here. I picked this as it was the last chance for me to have a go at a sprint tri this year. Next spring I will look at more local sprint and olympic races.