Return to the scene of the crime…
Ringwood triathlon is my annual ‘get the first race under the belt’ session. You could say that it’s too cold, too early or give some other reason not to race but it’s always been a good barometer for me coming out of the off season and helps identify what I need to focus on for the season ahead.
The red flag being waved (this year) was the fact that I booked my entry whilst sat on an island in the Maldives two weeks before the race. At the time I said to myself ‘Self, this is not the best preparation’. I wasn’t far off!
Last year I came off a training block that consisted of some serious weight training in the off season and built strength. The learning that brought about that approach to training related to the outcome of races in the previous season (2014) where I was lacking the strength to drive up the hills. The resistance training fixed the problem but brought another issue in the form of debilitating cramp from a lack of fitness in the run which resulted in a DNF: not good.
No such issues this time round. In the training block leading up to my two week holiday (which ended four days before the race) I included aerobic training, brick sessions (bike/run) and a limited, focused period of resistance training in order to cover all the bases which largely worked.
My swim wave went at 7:40am so had an hour after my 5:30am wake up to do breakfast which was three scrambled eggs on sour dough bread, load the car etc… I left a little late but still had plenty of time to register, scope the new transition layout which was emailed two days before the race and I set up my transition. I’d done the briefing before so mostly skipped that and did some warm up stretching. I also made use of the lockers in the changing room so I setup transition in my warm weather gear and had my tri-suit on underneath. I packed everything away in a locker and walked over to my swim wave warm and ready to go. Watching other athletes hopping around on the cold concrete wasn’t nice but I felt more prepared than some.
The distances set for the day were the same as the previous year:
- 600 meter pool swim
- 45 km bike ride through the New Forest
- 10 km road run
I was feeling pretty nervous as it had been a while since my last triathlon. I’d completed Weymouth Half marathon recently so knew I was in good shape but the logistics involved in completing a triathlon are very different to a half marathon and I had nagging feelings that my setup wasn’t quite right, or the weather would change, or I’d have a mechanical or just something left field coming in and screwing my race.
Contrary to last year I picked the right swim wave. I had three other people sharing the lane of a similar speed so the order changed only minimally during the 24 lengths and I was able to push quite hard. Last year I picked a slower wave and ended up in traffic and lapping the other swimmers sharing my lane twice so lesson learned and applied.
The swim completed and I knocked 20 seconds of my time from last year. I came out of the pool a little disoriented, partly due to the new transition setup and effort, and ran to the bike rack; I couldn’t find my bike…”S**t someone’s nicked my bike”!! No, I was in the wrong row! It seemed like ages but after what was probably about 5-10 seconds I found my bike with a little help from a marshal and got my gear on. Everything panned out in T1 as planned and validated the get there early mantra: with time you can lay out your setup and visualise the process. I shot out of T1 and onto the bike.
The elastic bands clipping my shoes to the frame held and I slipped into my shoes as I rode, picked up speed and pedaled into the New Forest. By this time the sun was out but it was still around 1-2 degrees so the shell top and winter riding gloves were paying dividends. I’d also anti-fogged my riding sunglasses which meant I could actually see the road during the early part of the ride – a valuable lesson from previous years.
For the 45 kms ahead I’d packed three gels, a flap jack and one 650ml water bottle which was adequate. The course is largely flat with two significant hills (Bolderwood and Linwood); I got out of the seat and nailed them. Conscious of what happened last year with cramp I was limiting my power output but without a power meter I was making it up. I’d setup my bike computer to capture laps and knew what my pace should be but as I hadn’t used that setting before my computer didn’t help and it was counting 10km laps rather than 1km pace. I ended up adapting and working out time based on distance on the fly which wasn’t ideal with fueling and other things so another lesson learned – setup your fuel AND your gadg before a race…
I came in to T2 feeling good and ready for the run but conscious of a nagging ache in my right hamstring that I nursed on and off for the last 10kms. I opted not to slip off my shoes on the bike and ran into transition in by bike shoes which may have lost me a little time but the bigger focus on whether I had enough to finish the run well. Transition went well and I padded out onto the run course opting for the sunglasses rather than the cap as by now it was pretty warm. At about 2km the cramps started to kick off…
I stopped straight away and stretched out. It was gauling to watch people jog past, some of whom I’d passed on the bike leg or I recognised from my swim wave. Never mind, I was finishing this race! To cut a long story short I walked a large part of the run and managed to run some of it too but completed my first triathlon of the season.
Swim- 14:34 Bike – 01:49:29 Run – 01:22:59
One of the reasons I got into triathlon initially was that I was blown away by two things:
- The killer levels of fitness and grit shown by competitors
- The infectious levels of love extended by fellow competitors
Both were out in force at Ringwood Triathlon 2016 and I love this race! As the morning wore on more locals came out and clapped, cheered, cajoled and egged on the athletes. The marshals were relaxed, proficient and stationed at all the right places. The course was littered with athletes joking, swearing, chatting and regularly sharing that classic British gallows humour that cuts through your own personal pain and forces you to respond in kind.
My focus now is Swanage Bay Triathlon in June and I’m all over it.
- Brick sessions – 30 mins on the turbo trainer then 5km run (first 2km hard) x 2
- Speed swim sessions in the pool
- Developing my open water swim technique out in Sandbanks
With Swanage Bay being a sprint and three months before my half IronMan in September I’ll be working on speed, AVOIDING injury and trying really hard to balance strength training in the gym with the #getoutside aerobic, endurance effort.
It’s the business end of my training block, every training session has a purpose and is critical. I’m loving it! Need to post some recipes soon though otherwise I’m not sharing the yin to the yang am I?