This year, NiceTri were hosting the English “standard” distance triathlon championships and as St Neots wasn’t too far away it seemed like a good way to open my account for the year and maybe a bit of a warm up for the national middle distance (½ ironman) champs a couple of weeks later.
The event got moved to Grafham water due to the original venue’s field being flooded, so it was even more like a warm up for the later championships, as that would be at Grafham too. I wasn’t taking this too seriously, it’s not really my distance, but was quietly confident I could manage to finish well into the top-10 in my age group. I raced the Cambridge Urban orienteering sprints the day before, but hoped that those two short 15-minute races wouldn’t take too much out of my legs – in the end I rather made a mess of those races, mis-punching in the second one and recording a DNF.
The weather was at least nice and sunny if a little cool, and we were warned that the lake would be rather cold (around 13°C). I decided to get some race experience in my new BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit. I’ve had it a year but never raced in it as I’ve found it quite tricky to get out of fast in transition – this proved to be a bit of a mistake.
Into the water as the last of four wave starts with the old gits, and the water was cold but not perhaps as bad as Lake Bala. I got my head under as much as possible to try to get as used to it before the start. We didn’t hang about long and were soon off, chasing after the other athletes. I didn’t feel that I was swimming too badly, there was a little group of green-hat veterans with me, but when I came out of the water I could see 24-something on my watch so I knew I’d not had a good swim (unless it was a ‘long’ swim, of course).
I stripped off the top of my suit and jogged into transition and could see that there were already quite a few M50 bikes gone, and as I struggled to get out of my super-flexible wetsuit with numb hands, more bikers were leaving. Every time I grabbed a bit of suit it would snap back, and eventually I managed to stamp the last of it off my feet and head out on the bike. Even getting out on to the road I made a bit of an error with the straps on my bike shoes and had to make a brief stop to sort it out – more time lost.
I was now well down the field, and chasing hard through the earlier-starting waves, but sort of knew that the game was up. There were some large crowds of slower riders to blast past, and I didn’t use the tribars much in the first 10 or 15 minutes until I was clear of them. Coming up to the turn I could already see Peter Younghusband, the likely M50 winner, powering back towards me so I settled into gaining as many places as I could. The bike course was only 37km, so not much riding for me to make up time in my strongest discipline.
The roads were a bit quieter on the way into transition and I didn’t make too bad a job of the swap to running shoes, just stopping to make sure I had some padding for my “broken” toe.
I ran the first few km at around 4:15/km pace, but it felt a bit quick and I could already see many M50 numbers coming towards me from the first turn so I parked my effort at something a bit more comfortable, hoping to lift it for the final 10 minutes to the line but in the end I came down with a touch of stomach cramp and it was all I could do to jog/walk into the finish, well down on my expectations with 16th in M50.
Swim 1450m/24:59 (14th M50)
Bike 37km/59:53 (8th fastest M50 bike split)
Run 10km/45:00 (19th)
Total 2:13:33, 126th M overall, 16th M50
(full results link HERE)