Hardwick Sprint Triathlon – Race Report
Despite my lack of preparations and the excuses I turned up to do the Hardwick Sprint Triathlon near Tewkesbury on Sunday. I got there around 7.30am and was still unsure if my ankle injury and shin splints would allow me to actually complete the run.
I registered, chatted to a few people and then set up my transition area, wandered down to the lake to take a look at the course and then went to the race briefing. Tewkesbury Triathlon Club had done a brilliant job of organisation, everything was in place and all the details had been thought out well. The race briefing was succinct and to the point, explained everything well and unlike others that I’ve been to, audible!
This was the first open water swim triathlon that I’d done, so my first mass start as well. We were to start in 3 waves, the Senior men first, Veterans and older men, including me, in the second wave and the women in the third wave. I donned my wetsuit, watched the first wave set off and then got ready for my start.
We were off!
There was a little bit of ‘argy bargy’ off the start but nothing too bad. I’m fairly confident in open water so it all felt OK to me. I pulled out towards the front and by the first buoy was in about 3rd place with a couple of people to either side of me. Around the first buoy and on the next leg a couple of other people dropped back a little leaving just three of us together at the front around the next buoy. There was one guy out in front and then two of us next to each other. I decided to push a little harder on the next leg to catch the guy out in front and did so, so by the third turn there was just two of us out in front. I eased up a little and kept my stroke good, but kept myself in second place just a few metres behind the leader. I did think about picking up the speed a little in order to overtake him but decided that the extra effort that would be needed wasn’t worth it. I was swimming within my limits at a good pace and picking up the speed would have meant expending a lot of energy just for a few seconds of time, energy that might be needed to get out of the lake at the end of the swim.
I therefore exited the 750m swim in second place with an official time of 11:20, scrambled up the grassy bank and made the longish run to the transition area, taking the top half of my wetsuit off as I went. I got to the transition area and couldn’t find my bike! I had gone to the wrong rack and just couldn’t see it.
“I know it’s here somewhere….”
“Where’s my Bike?”
“Aha, there it is.” I’d spotted it, had to run around the rack to the next aisle along and could now at last change. In reality it was probably only around 10 seconds of wasted time but it felt like ages. Who knows, maybe the extra time allowed me to get my breathe back a little as I actually got out of my wetsuit and into my cycling kit pretty calmly and quickly once I found it, so I was soon running out of T2 and onto the bike.
I was still in second place as I left the transition area, but others behind me were now getting changed too. On the road I was now a couple of hundred metres behind the leader.
The cycle course was an out and back route along gently undulating but mainly flat roads. I could see the guy (Andrew Cogger) in front of me and I was slowly gaining on him the whole time. I caught him probably about a mile before the turning point. I’d only been gaining on him slowly, so rather than just go straight past him, as I got to within about 20-30m of him I eased back to his pace slightly so that I could recover a bit for a surge to pass him more convincingly. Again, this may have slowed me down by a second or two on the bike split but it meant that I could pass him easier and leave him behind me. If I’d gone past slowly he would have got more of a tow from me and would probably have seen that I couldn’t go much faster anyway.
I made the turn and headed back, but about a mile or so into the return leg was overtaken by someone in full aero kit on a Cervelo. He went past quite quickly with his disk wheel rumbling as he did so. There was no way I’d be able to stay with him, but I picked up the pace a little once he’d passed me and kept him in sight for a while, even gaining on him slightly on one of the little rises. We passed a number of senior men from the first wave of swimmers as well. A couple of miles from the end of the cycle the guy on the Cervelo put the power down, pulled away and was soon out of sight and never seen again.
The bike leg was 25 km and my official time was 42:11
I was soon back at the transition area and into T2. This went smoothly, bike racked, helmet off, cycling shoes off, picked up my Forerunner GPS watch, on with my running shoes, swizzled my race number around and headed out onto the run. I dropped my watch as I did so and had to turn around run back and pick it up, but it only cost me a second or two and I wanted it with me so that I could see how my running pace was.
The run was pretty much flat and consisted of 3 laps around the lake. There was a little descent on one side and a little climb on the other. They were only small, but the descent hurt my shins and the climb felt a lot worse than it should have.
The leaders of the veterans races had now caught many of the seniors who had started 15 minutes before us, so at times it was difficult to tell who I was actually racing against on the run. Especially as it was 3 laps so it was difficult to tell which lap people were on. One guy passed me towards the end of my first lap but he pulled off to the finish line so I wasn’t actually racing him. I passed plenty of people myself too and was passed by two others, both of which I thought were probably in the veterans. I didn’t pick up the pace to stay with them as I still wasn’t sure how my legs were going to cope with the run, let alone a really hard run, so stuck to my own race and kept going.
One of the guys who had passed me disappeared off into the distance. The other guy (Andrew Cogger) who I’d been racing with throughout only got a couple of hundred metres in front of me and then seemed to be fading. Once again I was catching him and by the time we got to the finish straight I was just behind him. I should really have put on a sprint for the finish line to overtake him, but I didn’t and eventually crossed the line 3 seconds behind him.
The Run was exactly 3 miles and my official time was a not too shabby 20:13.
I’d done it, the run did hurt my legs, but I’d finished and had put in a good time, 1:15:26 overall.
I collected my banana and water (finishers prizes!), handed back my timing chip and took a look at the results. There was a computer at the finish line with a little keypad that you could type your number into, get all of your splits, your position and even a little printout. I typed in number 63 and there I was. The first two guys were actually veterans, but because they had won the event overall were upped to the senior mens class. That meant that Andrew Cogger had won the veterans event, and I had come second by a measly 3 seconds! 3 seconds… I can’t believe it.
I was pretty pleased with second mind you, and that put me in 8th overall in the mens race and 10th overall. The full results were up online immediately and can be seen here: Hardwick Sprint Triathlon Results.
So, I came second by three seconds and in hindsight there were plenty of times I could have saved three seconds during the race. If only I’d overtaken him in the swim when I thought I could, that would have saved three seconds, but then again, I may have lost time later due to the excessive energy expenditure early on. If only I’d gone to the correct aisle in T1 and found my bike straight away, that would easily have saved 3 seconds, but I didn’t. If only I’d passed him slightly earlier on the bike, again, at the time I chose not to as that felt like the best thing to do there and then and probably was really. If only I hadn’t dropped my watch just after T2, but I did and there’s little I can do about that now. If only I’d sprinted for the line. I have no excuse for this last one, other than the fact that it would have hurt. I could have sprinted though, he may have responded if I had done, but he might not have. I had nothing to lose by sprinting but I didn’t and that’s why I was 2nd and not 1st.
Lots of ‘if only’s and every race has them. Who knows what the outcome would have been if I’d done a few things differently. It may have worked out for me on the day, it might not have, that’s the fun of racing. I did the best I could at the time and the results speak for themselves.
Overall I was really pleased, 2nd in my age group isn’t bad for someone just getting back into triathlons and 10th overall is pretty good too. I’d had a good day out, enjoyed the race, put in a good time and although my shins and ankle hurt in the evening, I’d managed to complete a race just a few weeks after tearing some ligaments in my ankle. Not only was it a good day with a good result but I’ve learnt a couple of lessons too.
1. If you rack your bike in the transition area early, then go back not long before the start to see where your bike is.When I racked my bike, there weren’t that many other bikes there, when I got there in T1, it was full and looked very different so I ended up in the wrong aisle within the racking and lost precious time.
2. Always, always, always sprint for the line. No matter how much it hurts, you’ve nothing to lose from a sprint finish so you should always do it.
The good news is, there’s still room for improvement. I feel as though I can do better and still get faster so I’m looking forward to future races.
As always, a big thanks to the organisers, volunteers and marshalls on the day. From what I saw, the whole event ran smoothly and everything seemed well organised. It’s a good course that was fun to compete on. It should be a good race to watch as well because everything (except for the bike leg) is contained within a small area around the water park.