Shrewsbury Triathlon 2011 – Race Report
I competed in the Shrewsbury Triathlon yesterday and had a great day out. This was the first time that the Shrewsbury Triathlon Club (Sy TRI) had organised the event, but they had thought of everything. They had a good setting for it, good swim, bike and run routes and from my point of view everything seemed to run smoothly.
It was the last race of my ‘comeback season’ into Triathlon and I was looking forward to it. What made it even more interesting was that Pete Jenkins, my coach from the INTR Tri Club was also competing. I didn’t know this when I signed up to it, but on recent form it was likely to be a close run thing between the two of us so there was some added competition to add spice into the mix. The last time we’d competed in the same race was my first proper race since starting triathlons again, back in March of this year in Pwllheli. I didn’t know Pete at the time, but in that race Pete finished in 5th overall, a full 3 minutes ahead of me in 7th overall.
My preparations were OK but not perfect. My ankle is still sore so I hadn’t done any real running for about 8 weeks. I did do a couple of runs a few weeks back but got shin splints when I did so and since then have laid off the running altogether. I had done a number of open water swims recently though and had been out on the bike quite a bit too. In fact, my legs were still a little tired from a hard ride on Friday and that wasn’t helped by not getting any sleep at all on Friday night and only a couple of hours on Saturday night. I function OK on little sleep though so, although tired, I felt OK on the day.
We got to the Shrewsbury Showground for the 8.30am registration, registered, wandered down to the river and then I set up my bike and kit in the transition area. By the time we’d done that, listened to the race briefing and had the obligatory toilet visit it was time to get into my wetsuit and get ready for the start.
The swim was a 500m course down the River Severn. Competitors were set off in waves of around 20-30 at 10 minute intervals. Pete was off in the second wave and I was off in the 4th wave, 20 minutes behind him. The water was 15ºC and felt nice to me and with a gentle flow helping us along we were in for some fast times.
The claxton sounded and we were off. This was only my second ever open water swim race but I’ve decided that I like to start off fast to get away from too much pushing and shoving and to either get onto the feet of a few faster swimmers or pull away from anyone trying to tow behind me. Sounds a bit mean, but it is a race afterall. In this case it was the latter of the two as within a few strokes I was already clear of the field and out on my own. I swam hard for the first hundred metres opening out a nice lead and then settled into my standard pace. Before I knew it the big green buoys marking the end of the swim were in sight and I was soon climbing out of the water and running up the banks of the River Severn. I took a quick glance behind me to see how close the next competitor was, but there was nothing but clear water.
My actual time in the water was 6 minutes, not bad for a 500m swim, I’d gone fairly hard but not flat out. As far as I can remember my official swim time was 6:59, but that included the run up the river bank and a grassy 150m run across to the transition area during which time I took off my hats and goggles and stripped my wetsuit off down to my waist.
I found my bike quickly in the transition area this time, took off my wetsuit and then tried to put on my shoes. I was a little wobbly as I bent down whilst balancing on one leg and had to take a step sideways. I get dizzy getting up off the sofa these days so after a 500m open water swim and a sprint up the river bank a little dizziness isn’t surprising. I stood up straight, re-composed myself and tried again, This time I got my shoes on, fastened my number belt around my waist, put my helmet on and set off on the bike.
We had another run out of the transition area and then 100m across the grassy field, this time with cleated shoes on, to the tarmac where we could mount our bikes and set off onto the bike course.
The bike route was a simple out and back affair. I’d driven along it on the way to the event and it looked quite straight forward, a little undulating but no big hills. Mind you, it wasn’t long before it felt as though it was going up hill significantly more than I’d expected. The ‘undulations’ were a little bigger once on the bike than they had been in the car. I couldn’t get into a decent rhythm on the bike and could really have done with some shifters on the end of my aero bars as I was often in the wrong gear, both on the climbs and the descents but didn’t want to get out of the tuck position to change gears.
Despite this, I was soon catching and overtaking some of the people who had set off in the previous waves and was making good progress. I then started looking out for Pete who should be heading back in the other direction any time now. I soon saw him and took note of where we were and my time so far on the bike – 10 minutes 31 seconds. He’d started exactly 20 minutes ahead of me so I now had to get out to the end of the cycle, turn around and get back to this spot before my cycle computer hit 30 minutes and 31 seconds to be ahead of him.
I still couldn’t get into a decent rhythm though and didn’t feel as though I was going fast enough on the bike. I was then overtaken by a guy who had started in the same wave as me. He flew past me with his disk wheel rumbling at a speed that I had no chance of emulating so I let him go and tried to concentrate on my own race. It turned out that this had been Andrew Moore who had gone on to win the entire event.
I was soon at the turn around point and heading back, overtaking lots of people in the process. My cycle computer hit 28 minutes, but where was that little climb after a wooded dip where I’d seen Pete, 29 minutes, this was going to be close… There it was, I crossed the imaginary line looked at my computer and it read 30:30, I was ahead by 1 second!
Good news in a way as I was at least ahead, but I knew I’d probably beat Pete in the swim, possibly by close to a minute so the fact that we were neck and neck 3/4 of the way into the cycle meant that he’d already clawed back that time and would therefore probably open up a lead of around 15-30 seconds by the time we got to T2. I didn’t think about it too much though, this wasn’t the time to be doing maths, I had to concentrate on my own race and putting in the best time I could. There was wry smile to myself though at how close this would be.
In some ways it would have been nice to have started in the same wave so that we were actually racing on the road, but in others starting separately turned it into a pure time trial meaning that it was you against the clock. There was no way to monitor how you were doing against the ‘competition’ so I just had to concentrate on the task at hand, keep enough in reserve for the rest of the race and do the best I could.
I settled down a little for the final 1/4 of the cycle and started to feel better, my legs came alive, the gears I was pushing felt better and I started to fly. I was soon back in Shrewsbury, took it easy around the sharp bend off the main road and even easier over the gravelly entrance into the showground. It was then a quick run across the grass to the transition area.
This felt like a pretty good transition to me. I turned my race number around whilst running into the transition area, racked my bike, took off my helmet and exchanged shoes, picked up my Garmin GPS watch and headed out onto the run. No pfaffing, no dropping anything, just a quick, efficient changeover.
The run was three laps around the showground on flat, gravelled tracks and grass. The first two laps were complete laps and you had to collect an elastic band at the end of them, the third lap was virtually a complete lap but you then peeled off onto a playing field which you ran around and spiralled into the middle of the field for the finish line.
I went off quite fast on the run, doing the first lap with an average pace of 6:22 mins/mile, overtaking lots of people in the process. I normally expect to run at around 6:45 mins/mile and slowed a little on the second lap but still overtook lots of people as I settled into my pace. This lap was at an average pace of 6:38 mins/mile, still quite good for me. I then picked it up again going into the third lap but got a stitch along the back leg. I ran through it and started to pick up the pace for the finish. I still hadn’t been overtaken by anyone except for Andrew Moore on the cycle and had caught and overtaken loads of people myself.
I was feeling good and from about half a mile out I started getting faster and faster and then turned onto the playing field finish. There were plenty of runners spaced out ahead of me so I continued to get faster and faster, spurred on by the sight of the finish line and the chance to overtake more people. Anna and Morgan and Pete and his family cheered me as I passed the pavilion and I continued to speed up into a full sprint across the finish line. I wasn’t going to ease up this time. After my result in the Hardwick Triathlon a few weeks ago, being beaten into 2nd place in my age group by 3 seconds I had to sprint for the line as every second counts.
I’d done it, it had felt good, I’d got stronger throughout the race and I was happy with my performance. I took a few seconds to recover, collected my finishers trophy – a very nice 3d glass block with a swimmer, cyclist and runner laser etched into it and then headed over to Anna, Morgan, Pete and his family.
I was pleased with my performance but talk immediately turned to who had won. Pete thought I had it, I suspected him, but as I hadn’t recorded my total time we couldn’t be sure. It was going to be close though. I’d have beaten him in the swim, he must have beaten me on the bike, it was anyones race in the run and he probably saved a few seconds over me in transition.
We waited around in the sunshine watching others finish and waiting for the results. A few preliminary results came out with only some of the field in it so the overall positions meant nothing, but Pete and my times were on there. The official results aren’t on the web yet and I can’t remember the exact details, but I’d beaten him! I think my overall time was 1:07:19 and Petes was 1:07:47. It’ll be interesting to see the official splits when they come out.
Pete and his family headed off, but we hung around for the prize-giving ceremonies. I’m glad we did as I picked up the prize for 1st Over 40 Veteran so INTR Tri club got a mention as I headed up to the pavilion balcony to collect a large shield as a trophy and a ‘North Face’ bag as a prize.
In truth, I was actually the 2nd veteran to finish, but as the 1st veteran was Andrew Moore who also finished in 1st place overall with an amazing time of 1:02, he got the overall prize meaning that I got the veterans prize.
All in all a great day out, perfect weather and a well organised event. The fact that the swim and the run were entirely within the grounds of the Showground meant that it was a nice event for the supporters and spectators too.
As always, thanks go to all the volunteers and helpers. I said thanks to as many as I could as I swam, cycled and ran past them but couldn’t say it to all of them. I certainly didn’t stop to say thanks to the canoeists lining the river during my swim. So, thanks to you all, everyone did a brilliant job that made for an enjoyable day. And well done to everyone who competed. I’m sure we’ll be back to do it again.