Wotton Triathlon 2011 – Race Report

Setting up in the rain

Setting up in the rain

Once again it was time for the Wotton Triathlon, a small, local event to raise money for the local pool and last years event was the first time it had been run. Despite not training I managed to win it last year and it helped kickstart my return to Triathlon. I therefore had to return to defend my title,  once again beat my brothers and hopefully improve on last years time of 1 hour 30. I was hoping to get it down to 1:20.

Sunday dawned – well, actually it didn’t really ever dawn as it stayed pretty dark all day. Cold, wet, windy and miserable, not perfect conditions so I was already revising my target time in my head to 1:25.

Rain Rain Rain

Rain Rain Rain

The event is a little odd in that there are two transition areas, one by the pool for T1 (the swim to bike transition) and one by the school for T2 (the bike to run transition). This means we had to leave our running kit at the school before heading up to the pool for our 7:40am registration and 8am start. We got to the school at 7:25am to do this, only to find what we thought was the transition area all locked up and there was nobody around – Did we have the date right?

A few other people also turned up looking a little confused. My parents took a quick drive up to the pool to ask where we should set up and were told that the transition would be in the car park this year, so we left our running stuff there, and headed up to the pool. It was all a bit rushed bow but we registered, attached numbers to bikes and helmets and got changed ready for the swim.

Peter Bennett

Peter Bennett

Things were looking a little more serious this year with a number of decent bikes with aero wheels, tri-bars etc and a few people wandering around in Tri-Suits emblazoned with their team colours and names. I’d been hearing rumours about people who had been training hard and were out to beat me this year and it looked as though most of the serious competition was setting off in the same swim wave as me. At least this meant I’d know where I stood on the road. The guy who came 3rd last year (Peter Bennett) was in my lane and starting 1st with a 5 second lead over me. There was one other guy, Rich Shirley, who was also expecting to put in a fast time starting in the lane next to me, again with a 5 second lead.

The pool is only 15m long and with 4 of us to a lane it was always going to be busy.

Go!! the first guys were off and 5 seconds later I was off too. I caught Peter Bennet on the first length and overtook him so I was immediately first ‘on the road’. With such a small pool and 4 people per lane it was pretty busy so I was passing people on every length but I soon settled into a decent rhythm at a good pace. I also noticed that Rich Shirley in the lane next to me probably wasn’t going to be a threat either as he certainly wasn’t a swimmer.

Off on the bike

Off on the bike

Not a pretty sight!

Not a pretty sight!

Mike in T1

Mike in T1

Apparently a number of people commented on my speed in the pool and the 30 lengths flew by so I was soon out of the nice warm waters of the pool and out into the cold wet grey and downright miserable transition area. Into my wet shoes, on with a wet helmet and off onto the wet roads – Nice!

My parents and Anna and Morgan were there cheering me on and they waited by the pool for my brothers (Jay and Brad) and my sisters boyfriend (Mike) to exit the pool. The next person out of the pool was a couple of minutes behind me. From our group Brad was next, closely followed by Jay, but they spent ages in Transition. Mike was a little way behind but had dislocated his shoulder during the swim! Apparently it’s an old rugby injury and it happens all the time. He just popped it back in and continued on with the task in hand.

The bike ride is horrible. For some reason the organisers have tried to make it follow tiny little country lanes as much as possible rather than stick to the bigger, safer roads. The trouble with the little lanes is that the road surface is terrible at the best of times with potholes and gravel everywhere, they are also very narrow so you can’t go anywhere near as fast as you would like to because there is always a blind corner in front of you and the possibility of a car just around it. Needless to say it’s a fairly dangerous route and no one will ever set any blistering times on it. I had to stop on two occasions to let transit vans through the narrow road. On Sunday it was worse than ever thanks to the rain. The descents were scary to say the least as road bike brakes don’t work like mountain bike brakes do when wet. The cornering was sketchy thanks to the slippery surface and even the little climb up Nind Lane was a nightmare as there wasn’t any grip so the back wheel was spinning out all the time.

I just kept thinking to myself that it would be the same for everyone and although my time wasn’t great on the bike, considering the conditions it was pretty good and at least 3 minutes up on my time from last year. I was also pretty cold out there in just my tri-suite. The terrible roads meant that I couldn’t huddle up on the tri-bars much either and getting my legs going properly whilst they were turning blue wasn’t ideal. However, before long I was hurtling down the hill, the only bit of decent road on the course, towards the the school and Transition 2.

Me on the Bike

Me on the Bike

I was ready to turn into the main car park entrance where we had been told to set up our running shoes, but at the last minute I noticed some cones and tape and the fact that the transition area had actually been set up the same as it was last year. I had to jam on the brakes and try to make the corner because the transition area had moved whilst I’d been on the cycle! There was a car behind me not really expecting me to do this and I narrowly avoided getting mowed down by it, let it go past and then turned into the transition area and looked for my shoes. These had been moved for me whilst I was out on the bike as well.

Rich Shirley

Rich Shirley

Luckily I found them easily and didn’t really lose anytime, but the fact that the transition area wasn’t even opened and set up until we had finished the swim and set off on the bike is crazy! How are we supposed to set up our transition area after we’ve started the race?

The next guy in was Rich Shirley, 5 minutes behind me now so I’d increased my lead by a further 3 minutes during the bike. He had trouble finding his running shoes. My Dad helped him locate them, but even with this help he lost 2-3 minutes in the transition area looking for them so ended up 7-8 minutes behind me on the road by the start of the run. There was talk later of knocking a few minutes off his overall time to compensate for this but no official word on it as yet.

Further back, Jay had overtaken Brad on the bike and Mike had caught and passed both of them.

Out onto the run

Out onto the run

Out on the run I felt good from the start. My legs felt fresh and raring to go. Maybe the difficulties of the bike course had meant that I hadn’t been able push too hard so now was the time to do so. I took it easy for the first mile which is a gentle climb but picked up the pace once onto Nind Lane. The climb at the end of Nind Lane was of course a little tough, but my pace was good given the terrain and I was soon descending again and then at the bottom of the hill up through Wotton. I suddenly felt really good here and picked up the pace for the climb, overtaking a cyclist in the process – She was quite old though!

Me crossing the line

Me crossing the line

I quite often find that I feel good at around the hour mark of any event and today was no exception, I think I’d warmed back up following the cold bike ride as well, so flew up the hill and was soon sprinting towards the finish line and feeling as though I had plenty of energy left. I crossed the line with an unofficial (but accurate) time of 1:22:25.

Not quite the 1:20 I was hoping for but given the conditions it was a time that I was happy with and it.

I got changed into a dry tracksuit, t-shirt, two jumpers and a waterproof coat and waited for the other finishers. Next across the line was Rich Shirley, 10 minutes behind me so I’d pulled out another 2-3 minutes on the run which I was pleased about, then Peter Bennett about 5 minutes further behind. Unless there was anyone really fast in the later swim waves (which I don’t think there was) then I should have retained my title! The official times aren’t out yet though so we’ll have to wait and see.

Mike on the Bike

Mike on the Bike

I was now freezing and shivering like mad so I walked across to the refreshments stalls and successfully begged for a free cup of tea (We had provided them with several cakes that they could sell so I thought I should be entitled to one). Unfortunately I was shivering so much that I spilt most of it walking back across the car park so jumped into the car with the engine on and heater on full blast to try to warm up. Don’t you just love the British Summer!

Brad on the Bike

Brad on the Bike

Next across the line from our group was Mike in a time of about 1:40, followed by Brad in a time of around 2:02 having re-taken his place from Jay during the run. I’m not sure of Jay’s time, but he should at least have beaten his time from last year of 2:19 (with a puncture).

Not the most prestigious of events but I did well and put in a representative time so that’s what really counts. I did enjoy it whilst out there but the conditions were horrible. I feel more for the people doing it as a challenge rather than to put in a fast time. At least I only had to spend less than an hour and a half out there, those people that take twice as long had to put up with the cold and driving rain for a lot longer than I did. It can’t have been much fun for them so they are the ones that deserve the biggest cheers for not only sticking with it and completing the course but for turning up in the first place! The same goes for the spectators and volunteers who all had to endure the weather so that we could swim bike and run.

14 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    The official results are out: http://www.denisec.talktalk.net/home/entrants.html

    I was first overall again in a time of 1:19:55, and Nick Armitage was 2nd only a minute down, but saying that they only recorded the finish time in whole minutes and didn’t bother with the seconds so he could have been anywhere between one minute and two minutes down in reality!

    Rich Shirley was 3rd in a time of 1:26 after having 5 minutes deducted for the loss of shoes incident.

    Mike was 10th in a time of 1:39:45
    Brad was 30th in a time of 1:58:45
    Jay was 37th in a time of 2:07:50
    the final finisher was Geoff Keen in 48th place and a time of 2:58:00

    The organisers and all involved are just volunteers and I commend them for putting on the event and giving up their time to do so. I do however think they need to go to a proper triathlon or at least take a look at the results / write ups from one so that they know what people expect. If there was just a little bit more understanding about the details that count then it would make a huge difference. They are so close to putting on a good event that it’s a shame that some of the more important details are overlooked. Just a few changes here and there would make the world of difference. If the organisers read this then hopefully the suggestions below will help make the difference for next year.

    It shouldn’t be difficult to record peoples times properly, and seconds do count even if it isn’t billed as a ‘race’. Individual swim, bike and run splits would be good but that does take a little bit more organising so may not be achievable. The overall times should at least be accurate to seconds, not minutes. It would help to synchronise watches between the start and finish as well so that times can be compared year on year.

    The transition areas need to be open and set up at least an hour before the event starts so that the competitors can set their things up. Opening it after the event has started when competitors are already out on the bike just isn’t any use at all.

    Marshalls need to be in place before the event starts as well. I was first on the road and only saw one set of marshalls (these were at the bottom of Frog Lane and I obviously thanked them as I passed). I hadn’t realised that there were actually more marshalls out there, but apparently people behind me did see marshalls all around the course. Luckily I knew the course from last year and had ridden around it the day before too. If not, I would probably have got lost out there.

    Those simple improvements would make the event so much better for everyone involved. Although really the cycle route needs to be changed completely as well to make it less dangerous. There must be a more suitable route on bigger, better roads that could be used?


  2. Alan,

    Thanks very much for the comments; they’re very useful in looking at how we improve the event for next year. Well done by the way, your training has clearly paid dividends in terms of the performance on the day!

    You’ve made some very good points (and these echo some of the other feedback we’ve had). The issue around access to the transition area was exacerbated by the weather as we decided to sort out extra marshalling and first aid positions first – we certainly will look to improve this issue for next year.

    I just wanted to mention one point that is important (and to which you have already alluded), and that is that the purpose of the event is to raise money for the local pool. We deliberately don’t charge a representative entry fee (compared to local super sprint triathlons), and we target people who might like to try a multi-sport event so that completion is a challenge rather than the level of competition. To that end we ‘power down’ the event so that it is not exactly like a standard triathlon; it is a deliberate decision, rather than an accidental outcome.

    Part of this is the facility we use (Wotton Pool) which is an 18.1 metre covered lido that is an excellent facility for the town, having just been saved from closure by a determined community, and for which we were recognised by the award of a ‘Big Society 2011 Award’ from the Prime Minister (see http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/latest-news/2011/05/wotton-under-edge-swimming-pool-club-wins-prime-minister’s-big-society-award-63700for details).

    For those entrants that get a taste for triathlon, I point them at the local/regional events held at Westonbirt, Bradford, Springfield, Malmesbury and Bristol. There, the enjoyment is maintained and mixed with a heady concoction of competitive spirit, more than enough for us all to enjoy!

    For me, one of the greatest competitors is Geoff Keen. Having already completed it successfully last year, he could have declined the offer with his head high. However, he was the lead donation earner last year and, emboldened by that excellent effort, entered in 2011, and is looking like a strong contender for the title this year. Well done, Geoff!

    Anyway, great to have you all along and obviously enjoying the day. Well done to your family for their support; it was terrible weather for everybody concerned.

    Look forward to seeing you in 2012.

    Kind regards,


  3. shem says:

    Good work Al, nice one 🙂

  4. Rich says:

    Give me a dry race and I’ll have you on that cycle – and that’s a promise 😉

  5. mum and dad says:

    well done Al, still showing the young how it is done, even though offially you are a veteran class!!! We are very proud of you!

  6. Nick Armitage says:

    Hi Alan,
    V interesting to read your comments about the race and I completely agree!
    Unfortunately though, the results side was an absolute shocker. Being quite a competitive soul, I gave the Triathlon a good go and given my training, felt pretty confident that I could beat your winning time of the previous year. My only mistake was not to time my race personally. As I came over the finish line, I spoke with the lady recording the timings, who told me that my time was the fastest at that stage. Imagine my surprise then when I finally saw the results and saw that a) yours was quicker b) that I then heard from one of the organisers that you had been given a time allowance for shoes having been moved c) that when I saw this ‘amended’ time of yours a decision had been made on our two placings, despite the fact that our times were within a minute of each other (and so technically my time could well still have been quicker than yours!). In your blog, it was great to see your accurate time and so therefore to know that I had actually posted the fastest time!
    This might all seem a bit over the top, but I have pursued this since June and the organisers have only just apparently amended the website to say that they could not give placings because the timings were not accurate enough. They were not able to shed any light on these ‘amended times’. As it was the only event that I entered this year, it was also important to me that I got an accurate placing. Sadly that will not be the case now unless you are prepared to give them your actual finish time. In chasing this with the organisers, I have been made to feel as if I were hugely inconveniencing them. If they only realised all of the hard work we put into our training, they would realise how important the results were to us all, even if it is a charity event!
    All the best,

    • Alan says:

      Hi Nick,
      It wasn’t me who was given a time allowance for my shoes being moved, that was someone else called Rich Shirley. The watches at the start and finish lines weren’t synchronised so the actual time that they gave won’t bear any resemblance to what we actually did.The two watches used could easily have been a few minutes out with each other. This also means that the actual times won’t mean much from year to year either!

      Basically, the time of day we started was recorded accurately to within a second on the watch at the pool but the time of day we finished was only recorded to the nearest minute on a completely different watch at the finish line… There’s no way of knowing if either of us finished at 1 second past the minute or 59 seconds past the minute, so as far as I can tell the only fair way they could do it was to round everyones finish times down to the nearest minute. Not very accurate obviously and it does of course result in some discrepancies, but I guess you could say the same even if they had recorded it to a second – In theory someone could have the same finishing times but be split by 1/10th of a second in reality, or 1/100th, it just comes down to whatever resolution the final times are recorded to… In this case a highly unusual and very rough ‘minute’.

      The way it worked out though was that:
      if I had finished at 59 seconds past the minute you had finished at 1 second past, then you could have beaten me by 4 seconds,
      if you had finished at 2 seconds past and I had finished at 59 seconds past then you’d beat me by 3 seconds
      if you had finished at 2 seconds past and I had finished at 58 seconds past then you’d beat me by 2 seconds
      if you had finished at 3 seconds past and I had finished at 58 seconds past then you’d beat me by 1 seconds
      if you had finished at 3 seconds past and I had finished at 57 seconds past then we would have had exactly the same time…
      If you had finished at 3 seconds past and I had finished at 56 seconds past then I would have beaten you by 1 second.
      etc. etc. etc.

      As you can see, if I had finished at anything below 57 seconds past the minute and you had finished at anything above 3 seconds past the minute then my time would have been faster than yours. So, there are MANY more combinations that would have resulted in me placing higher than you and if you had finished at 59 seconds past the minute and I had finished at 1 second past the minute then I could in theory have beaten you by 57 seconds.

      However, without having any official timings down to the second for the finish, then the ONLY fair way to do it is to round everyones time up or down to the nearest minute (just as you would round to the nearest second if they had recorded the seconds). These are the times they released officially and that put me a minute ahead. The only way to make it so that you would win would have been for them to round your time DOWN to the nearest minute and mine UP to the nearest minute, which clearly isn’t fair.

      Yes, they should have recorded the times more accurately, but they didn’t and there’s nothing anyone could do about that after the fact, so the only fair thing to do was to do the same with everyones times (round them down to the nearest minute), which is what they did.


  7. Anna says:

    I don’t think Alan got any extra time for loosing his shoes, that was someone else. The time shown in the results is the time they recorded on the line.

    His time is different to the results time because they didn’t synchronise the watches at the start and finish lines, not because of any extra time.

    You say you didn’t time yourself so how can you know your actual time. The results on the website are still accurate, except for the fact seconds weren’t recorded at the finish and the time keepers watches weren’t the same. I don’t think you did post a faster time and given that they didn’t record the seconds at the finish line the fairest thing is to go with the times they did record.

  8. Nick Armitage says:

    Hi Alan,
    With all due respect – with the time allowance, I was simply going on what I had been told by one of the organisers. In terms of the the timings – if they are to be taken as you suggest, then the fact is that where results are rounded to the nearest minute, as I was told, as you pointed out, I could have actually posted the faster time, and so the only thing to do in that situation, where our times were less than a minute apart, would have been to put us as joint first.
    I was also impressed, and not a little bit surprised, that you had taken over 10 minutes off your winning time from the previous year, particularly given that I was told that the weather conditions in 2010 had been far better. That would have equated, for example, to you having run something like 2 mins per mile quicker in the run leg, which also made made me suspicious of the timings….

    • Alan says:

      Haha, you can’t really compare what I did the first year to what I did in 2011. The first year was my first event for over 20 years and I hadn’t done any training – I just got talked into doing it and did it on a 25 year old bike that had been in the shed unused for 20 years and in trainers that I found at the back of the wardrobe (also unused for quite some time)!. In 2011 I had been training, had a new bike and was expecting to be at least 10-15 minutes faster than the previous year….since doing it this year, the training has started properly, I have a coach, a proper training plan and have been doing some proper races. If I did the Wotton Triahtlon today I’d probably be at least another 10 minutes faster than I was earlier in the year as well.


  9. Nick Armitage says:

    My turn for a bit of a chuckle.
    Love the part about finding the pair of trainers found at the back of the wardrobe – presumably they were sat there with the heart rate monitor that you had on, having rec’ed the course the day before….
    As for the ‘If I did the Wotton Triathlon today I’d probably be at least another 10 minutes faster than I was earlier in the year as well’ comment – priceless – your ‘coach’ must be popping something into your isotonic drinks!
    All very entertaining for the rest of us that were clearly far more ‘amateur’ in our approach to what was a low-key fun charity event. It must be galling therefore to think that you might well have been beaten by someone that was able to get in 3 aerobic sessions a week beforehand if I was lucky, riding on a bike made of bits that a friend gave me, and running on a right knee that, following an operation the year before, I’m not really supposed to be running on. Oh yes, and without a coach.

  10. Anna says:

    Hi Nick,

    given that this was clearly a “low key fun charity event” I’m not sure why you’re making such a fuss about the results. There were no prizes and I agree with what Gideon says, it is much more of an achievement for those who don’t do triathlons and were out in the horrible weather conditions for much longer than those who completed the course quickly.

    The results are what they are, even if you don’t agree with them. I think Alan even agrees with you that the timing wasn’t well organised but there’s nothing to be done about it now.

    I think it is out of order though to question other peoples times. Its almost as if you think someone cheated when all they have done is a bit of training, something you said even you did.

    You put in a good time, be pleased with it and take your issues up with the organisers rather than someone who came along to help raise a bit of money for his family’s local facilities.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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