Henley Sprint Triathlon – very much a mixed bag

It’s 6.30am on Sunday 22nd June.  My alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Henley Sprint Triathlon.

I took the executive decision not to follow my usual pre Triathlon preparation of going out drinking and getting less than 3 hours sleep, and awoke after a relatively decent nights sleep.  I had already loaded the bike into the car, and was in definite danger of being close to being prepared.  That being said I had prepared nothing other than the putting the bike in the car the night before; however even this small step is a huge improvement in my normal organisational levels.

Quickly whizzing round the house gathering up my stuff, my ever supportive and beautiful wife Cat and bidding the dog a fond adieu, I jumped in the car and headed off to Henley.  It’s a long drive to Henley despite it being only 60 miles away from Portsmouth, and as usual the sat nav on the car took us a weird and wonderful route down some very picturesque country lanes.  We arrived around 9am, which was in plenty of time for my 9:56 start time in the swim.

Having not factored in that it was a 15 minute walk from the car park (well car parking field) to the triathlon venue, Cat and I arrived and wandered to the registration tent.  “Still plenty of time” I was thinking to myself.  By the time we had registered and procrastinated a bit more I realised it was only 20 minutes till I was due to start. I still had to put my bike in transition 1 (us cool triathlon people call this T1), my shoes in transition 2, get changed into my tri-suit and then get to the swim in time for my pre-race brief, which happens 10 minutes before your start time.  Essentially I was running very short on time.

I work in a pressurised environment Monday to Friday, so of course I am used to tight deadlines and having to do things at the last minute.  Naturally, rather than reacting like I would at work, with steely determination, I opted for the opposite and went into full on panic mode.  Mostly I just complained to Cat that I didn’t know what to do, where to put my shoes, where to put my bike, how to attach my race numbers to my race belt, where the pool was, what my name was and that I had forgotten how to walk.  Fortunately for me she calmed me down, took control, pointed out where T2 was (for the shoes), walked me to T1, sent me off to get changed whilst she did my race belt etc and I made it into the swim about a minute before my start time.

The Henley Tri was a 400m swim in a pool.  4 laps are swum in 4 consecutive lanes, and you move from one lane to another after completing the 4 laps until you jump out after 16 laps of a 25m pool.  With pool swims it is essential that you get the right starting group, as if you are in a group of swimmers that are too fast for you then they will be slowed down and this is very bad form.  Likewise if you are in with a group of swimmers who are slower than you then you are slowed down, which naturally affects your swim time.

Artist Impression of the pool during my swim

We were asked for our predicted 400m swim time when booking up the Triathlon.  I didn’t have a clue what time I put, but knew that Mike, Bushy and Curry had all started before me (meaning that they had put down faster swim times than me).  The fact is that I am probably a better swimmer than both Bushy and Curry, so my starting position being later than those meant I was most likely in a far too slow swim group.  When I saw the other swimmers in front of me my worst fears were realised.  Most of them were swimming breaststroke – VERY slowly.

Despite all this I jumped in the pool, was given the count and was off.  I overtook the slower swimmers when I could, but was horrendously held up at the end of at least 5 of the laps.  Finally getting a bit of open water on my last 4 laps I swam like I had never swam before.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought that I might have been Michael Phelps I was swimming so fast.  Just kept thinking how I had to make up for lost time.

Leaping out of the pool I instantly realised my sprinting the last 4 laps was a mistake.  I was dizzy and very out of breath.  I stumbled out of the pool exit, saw Cat, remember saying something bizarre to her like “see you later”, and then staggered into transition.  My hands were shaking like mad from the swimming exertion, and it took me an age to put my socks and bike shoes on.  I eventually got my race belt, helmet and sunnies on and was off out of transition.  

My view during the ride

The bike leg was two laps of 12.5km each for 25km in total.  I polished off the first 12.5km in 24 minutes and was happy that this was a good time.  I am strong on the bike, enjoy it and felt good.  The second lap was not so good.  I got stuck behind a Range Rover that simply could not overtake a slower rider up one of the climbs, which meant I had to grind my lowest gear super slowly just to get up the hill.  About 5 minutes later I got stuck behind another car which was doing a very bad job of overtaking some slower riders ahead, and then to cap it all off on the only decent downhill on the course a caravan overtook me at the top, then proceeded to ride the brakes the entire way down, sapping all my speed and causing me to say a swear word or two (sorry Mum).

Anyway I eventually rolled into T2 after 55 minutes on the bike, which I was very disappointed with after a quick first lap of only 24 minutes.  Continuing my poor transition form, I ran the wrong way towards where I thought I had left my running shoes, doubled back, found the shoes, on they went and I was off on my 5km run.

Running is my weakest discipline, and for the fist about 400 metres I felt OK.  Then things went downhill.  It was very, very hot.  I was not hydrated enough.  My mouth was a dry as Ghandi’s flip flops.  I knew there was water at the end of each 1.25km lap, so jogged round past Cat and the rest of the support crew, grabbed a cup and swigged it down.  This just gave me stomach ache, so on the second lap I decided not to drink and to keep on running.  The run felt very, very slow to me.  My stomach hurt, and once again, for the second triathlon in a row I knew I was facing a slow run.  After slogging out 2 more laps I crossed the line, to see my Grazing Saddles teammates waiting for me at the finish.  They all looked a lot better than I felt.

Waiting around for a while the results appeared on the main screen at the event, and I crossed the line in 1:35:16.  Amazingly this was exactly the same time as Curry, about 5 minutes behind Bushy and well over 20 behind Mike, who finished a very impressive 12th place.

If I am being honest I was disappointed with my performance.  The slow swim group did not help, and I could have gone at least 1-2 minutes faster in the pool.  Both of my transitions were poor.  The second lap on the bike was a disaster (although not really my fault) and because I did not hydrate properly on the ride my run suffered.

That being said this is only my second ever Triathlon, and I have learnt a lot.  It was great to compete with the team, superb to be so well supported by Ellie, Tymms, and the relevant WAG’s (remembering of course that Bushy’s girlfriend is not actually his girlfriend).

Next Triathlon is the Swanage Olympic Distance, which I am determined to put in an excellent performance at.  Onwards with the training.

TTFN

Snooky

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