I’ll do my best to keep this report as short as I can, but it was a new experience for me of two triathlons in one day, so there’s a lot to tell! For reasons that are now long forgotten, I decided to challenge myself to enter the Sundowner Sprint Triathlon on Saturday morning, then the Middle Distance race in the afternoon.
The logistics were not too difficult, as the Freebird set up for the races at Allerthorpe is all contained in a small space and well organised. The only bit of extra thinking came in between the two races as I had to move my bike from one end of transition to the other, resticker all my kit, and then desperately try to remember the new location. The other big worry I had beforehand was that I would need to put on a dripping wet wetsuit for the second race which would be cold and unpleasant. However, I had a plan…
If I did the morning swim sans wetsuit, I would keep it dry for the longer race in the afternoon. The race referee said the water temperature was 16°, so that means wetsuit optional. Game on. As our wave strode confidently into the water, I realised – too late – that there was no way this water was 16°. Ah well, what’s the worst that could happen? The whistle blew, and we started striding through the shallow water towards the first buoy, diving in as soon as the depth became thigh high. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. My hands and feet were cold, but that would have been the same even with a wetsuit. My core never got too cold because I was working bloody hard to try to keep pace with the swimmers around me, and not get dunked. Without the buoyancy of a wetsuit, a hand in the back can be a bit harder to deal with.
After a lap and a half, I got out and was surprised to see the international duathlete Steve Denniss alongside me flailing for his zip. I grabbed it and yanked it down before screaming some abuse at him and heading into transition. (Swim 15.49.)
I deliberately took my sweet time in transition so as to avoid getting too competitive. The aim of the game was to take this shorter race relatively easy and keep some energy for the afternoon. By the time I got out on the bike course, Steve and a couple of other Wakefield teammates were long gone, and I avoided the temptation to try to chase them down. The ride went smoothly, and I just focused on eating and drinking a lot. This race would be over in an hour, but I needed to keep fuelling for the rest of the day. (Ride 34.17.)
Another slow transition as I forced socks onto my still numb feet – I usually wouldn’t bother for a sprint, but was again thinking of the long game. The run was the most frustrating of all as I still had lots of energy and had to force myself to maintain my planned pace of 5.30/km. I wanted to do this run and the longer run at the same pace. I took the opportunity of the out and back route to cheer on friends. I saw Sarah Hobbs looking strong as we crossed on the hump backed bridge that provided the only gradient of the course. (Run 28.07; Race time 1:23.08.)
After rearranging my bike for the next go, I ate some pasta and kept drinking electrolytes. There were just over two hours between races, so I threw on all the clothes I had and kept moving around. The sprint competitors hung around for a while, and some doughty supporters stayed for the whole day, but it was a little odd as a bunch of Wakefield people disappeared to be replaced by a new wave of afternoon competitors and their families. I felt like a kid who’d been held back a year at school and had to make new friends.
Now suitably dressed in neoprene, I got in the water for the second time of the day. People around me were grumbling about the water temperature – I laughed in their faces. (I smiled inwardly. I’m not that guy.) Again, we were whistled off, and I started swimming. This time felt less chaotic and there was less urgency, and I settled quickly into my stroke, focusing on my timing. My focus was on swimming smoothly, eliminating pauses in the stroke, and always applying backward pressure to the water. It always works fine in training, but can easily go astray in a race. I was pleased to be “consciously swimming” rather than just thrashing within a minute or two.
I also managed my most successful draft to date, swimming on some random bloke’s toes for about a lap and a half before easing past him. (Swim 38.24.)
Another slow T1, but this time it was because I was putting on a jersey, making sure I had all the right nutrition, and generally faffing around rather than any sense of taking it easy. By now the weather had dried up a little but there was a definite wind out on the course. The route is an anti clockwise loop but winds its way around and so there were plenty of opportunities to be buffeted by the wind from all sides. The bike route is completely flat, which makes for fast times, but the down side is the relentlessness. There are no climbs, but also there are no descents. Nowhere to freewheel, nowhere to relax, even for a moment.
I managed to stay on the aerobars for the whole 90km despite a nagging pain in my right shoulder, and maintain a decent average speed of 32kph for my best ever 90km bike split. (Bike 2:51.45.)
Throughout the bike, I had made sure I was taking gels and drinking plenty of High5 to try to leave me with a surplus of energy for the run. T2 was quicker this time than it had been in the sprint, but I had to stop for a wee before getting going on the first lap. The route takes you on a kilometre loop around the lake, through a wooded area where there’s a little mud, then onto the out and back road route. As with the sprint race, there were lots of Wakefield teammates to cheer on as we ran back and forth to the feed station and traffic cone that represented the end of the course. I managed to maintain my pace at a reasonable 5.40, except for yet another toilet stop after the second lap!
On the last lap, my legs certainly felt heavy, but I tried to focus on my form and avoid slumping into my stride. I stocked up on jelly beans at the feed station, and slowly popped them into my mouth on the way back to the lake. They did the trick, and I had enough energy to wind up for a sub five minute last kilometre. (Run 1:59.25; Race time 5:34.43.)
On reflection, this Sundowner Double went perfectly to plan, with a PB for the middle distance race. The biggest mental challenge was pacing myself through the earlier race and not getting carried away. Having done that, I was able to race strongly in the afternoon. Having also completed two middle distance training races in a weekend a couple of weeks ago, I am starting to train my body to recover quickly. This will be important to compete in the multi day events I have my eye on for 2018 and 2019.
Things I need to improve: stick to the nutrition plan. The urgent toilet stop towards the end suggest I asked too much of my digestive system today. Handfuls of jelly beans were not in the plan. Find more mental resilience strategies. The out and back course really helped today as there were lots of people to distract me. If I was on my own, I would have found it much more difficult to stay focused.