Newtown Triathlon – Race Report
My first race of the season, and I’d picked a fairly local, fairly low key event in the form of the Newtown Triathlon to get things started. With only about 60 places available in the race it was never going to be hugely competitive and would therefore hopefully allow me to get a bit of race practice in, get the first race of the season under my belt and not take too much out of me. The idea was not to taper beforehand, not to need recovery time afterwards and to just train through it.
Mind you, when I saw the start list there were a few names I recognised and a few fairly fast people too. Maybe I would have to make a race of it after all. I stuck to the plan though and trained right up to the race without any days off and without a taper. I did shorten a couple of sessions a little bit towards the end of the week as I was feeling a little tired, but they weren’t cut short by much. I had also decided not to bother with a weights session on the Thursday before the race. Other than that, it was business as usual and I was treating the race like my usual Sunday morning training session.
As is often the case, it was a fairly early start. Newtown is only an hours drive away from here, so no need to stay overnight, but with registration opening at 6:30am and Transition closing at 7:30am we needed to be there by 7 at the latest. I wanted a quick drive around the bike course as well so that I knew where I was going, so we planned to leave here at 5:30am. That meant getting up at 4:30am which wasn’t a problem for me. Anna and Morgan wanted to come along to support me as well, but weren’t so keen on the early morning start.
I loaded up the car and we headed off as dawn broke. We were in my new car as I wanted to take it for a longer drive. It was certainly chilly outside and as we approached Newtown it beeped at me and produced a ‘warning of ice’ message on the screen. I didn’t know it would do that, but the temperature was down to 2ºC and there was indeed frost in the fields.
Once there, everything was running efficiently, I’d checked out the bike course, registered and had set up my transition area. As usual, there were some fast looking people and some fast looking bikes in transition. It’s always the way – I know I do OK in races but I still start feeling out of place and wondering if I’m really up to it at this stage.
It was now 7:30am, the race was starting at 7:45am and it was freezing. I was beginning to wish I had some layers to put on for the bike ride as the single layer of lycra of my sleeveless tri suit was beginning to feel very thin indeed!
Unusually for a pool swim we were all to start in waves of 10 competitors at a time and each wave was seeded according to predicted swim time. The slower swimmers were off in the first wave, then there were waves every 15 minutes, except the last wave which was staring 10 minutes after the previous one. I was in the last wave with the fastest swimmers so wasn’t due to start until 8:55am. There were 60 starters in total (some of which were in teams) and my predicted 400m swim time of 5:50 had me seeded as number 58. I wonder if I would actually manage a 5:50 swim without a warm up?
We chatted to a few familiar faces, had the usual laugh with Andrea and Frank and then watched the start and the first few competitors go through T1. I then headed off to get changed and start the race myself. Everyone in my wave was obviously fairly fast and with people predicting crazy things like 21 minute bike splits (clearly not going to happen) and more achievable 16 minute run splits this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park!
We were soon in the pool with the starter counting down the seconds. I started my stopwatch with 10 seconds to go and prepared to push off the wall. We were off and swimming, so time to concentrate.
I could see the others in the pool and I was just ahead by the first turn. I can’t tumble turn so always lose out a little on the turns but most swims are open water so I don’t worry about it too much. I gradually edged it out to about half a body lengths lead and held it like that. We had to do 16 lengths in total so I settled into a rhythm and swam quite hard. I picked up the pace for lengths 10-14 and was now about 10-15m ahead of the guy in 2nd a couple of lanes over. I then eased back a little for the final two lengths so as to prepare for the swim exit and T1. I pressed the button on my watch as I exited the pool and it read 6:01. I therefore reckon my actual time in the pool was probably about 5:45 – not far off what I had predicted and I was first out of the water.
T1 went well. The guy who was 2nd out of the water was actually part of a team so all he had to do was hand over to his cyclist who was dressed and ready to go on his bike. I had to box my hat and goggles, put on my number belt, fasten my helmet, grab my bike and go, so we exited T1 together and set off on the bike. I then had to get my feet into my shoes so dropped back a bit from him as I did so. Not to worry though, he was in the team event so I wasn’t racing him and I was therefore first on the road.
The bike route was a simple affair with a few little twists, turns and speed ramps to start with but we were soon on the main road for a long drag from Newtown to the turnaround point in Llandinam. It was slightly uphill all the way out really and into a very slight headwind. I caught and overtook the guy from the team in front of me and soon started overtaking people from the previous waves as well. He then overtook me again as we headed towards Llandinam so I dropped back the regulation 10m or so, plus a little bit extra just in case but kept him in sight. As we came into Llandinam he hesitated a fair bit going into the turnaround, I’d already checked this out earlier whilst in the car so knew exactly where I was going so overtook him through the turn and headed off back towards Newtown, now in first place on the road. I checked out my stats and my average speed out to here had been 21mph. Not too bad seeing as it had been slightly uphill.
As I headed back I could see the people I was racing coming into Llandinam and they weren’t far behind. I put my head down picked up the pace and started to pile on the pressure. The way back was obviously faster as it was now an overall slight decline. Although now that I was up to closer to 27mph it still felt as though there was a headwind. I felt as though I was pulling away from people though and was soon flying past people from previous waves as though they were standing still. I didn’t see the guy from the team again so assumed I had left him behind. As we approached Newtown, a lorry overtook me and then got stuck behind a couple of slower cyclists. I had to put on the brakes and cycle slowly behind the lorry until he was able to overtake. It wasn’t for long but when you get held it up always feels like ages. The lorry did manage to overtake though and no doubt I got a little bit of a tow from it as I got back up to speed so it probably didn’t cost me much time. It must have let the guy from the team catch me back up though because as we headed off the main road and towards the leisure centre he went back past me, so I hadn’t left him behind at Llandinam after all. I then had to undo my shoes and get my feet out of them whereas he didn’t (because he wasn’t doing the run) so he gained a few more metres on me as we headed into T2.
My bike time for the 14.4 miles was around 36 minutes and my speedo was saying I’d averaged 23.2mph so that was OK. Certainly a lot faster than I’ve been managing lately on training rides where getting above a 20mph average has been difficult. But these have all been done on training tyres whilst wearing lots of clothes. Today I was on race tyres, had nothing but a skin-tight tri-suit on and I was wearing my aero helmet. I wonder if I would be any quicker still with the new bike and wheels I’m hankering after?
T2 went well, I racked my bike put my helmet in the box, slipped on my running shoes, swizzled my race belt around so that my number was on the front and headed off on the run.
My calves felt quite sore for the first part of the run, which was described as flat. It was nothing of the sort as far as my legs were concerned. In all fairness, there were no hills, but there were a few cheeky slopes that certainly weren’t flat. It started off with a little incline through some twisty lanes and then headed out onto a wide road through an industrial estate. The run then looped around from one end of this, through a turnaround point in a car park to the other end where there was a fairly steep slope down to another turnaround point. We then ran back up this slope and repeated the loop.
The guy I’d been chatting to before the race who had predicted a 16 minute 5km run went past me not long after the beginning of the first loop and edged ahead. He was indeed running well and I couldn’t stay with him so he opened up a gap. It looked as though I was now racing for second place so kept going. I saw John, Tony and Andrea and few other familiar faces as we looped around the course. I managed to peg the gap to the guy ahead of me at around 50-100m and at one point started to gain on him a little. I overtook the guy from the team at the beginning of the 2nd lap, but as we headed up the slope from the far turnaround point the second time, the gap to first place was back out to around 100m. I wasn’t going to be able to catch him and even if I did he would no doubt have a little in reserve to fight me off. As we headed into the twists and turns of the lane back to the leisure centre he went out of sight. I picked up the pace a little, but I think he did too and I didn’t see him again until after I crossed the line where we congratulated each other, collected our bananas, water and finishers medal (which was actually quite a nice one) and headed off to meet family, friends and eventually a nice warm shower.
Anna, Morgan and I then had lunch from the burger van and sat in the sunshine waiting for the prize-giving ceremonies. It still wasn’t warm mind you, but it was now at least pleasant in the sun with our jumpers and coats on. It had been quite cold on the bike, but not unbearable and it even warmed up once the sun came out on the run, but quite how I hadn’t been colder during the race I don’t know – I guess that’s adrenaline and exercise for you.
For some reason there wasn’t a photo of me receiving my trophy, but here are John and Andrea getting theirs – 1st female for Andrea, 2nd in Age-Group for John. Tony was 1st in the age-grouop but we don’t have a photo of him either. I don’t know, you can’t get the staff these days!
There was a bit of a mix up at the prize-giving. There were trophies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd male and female overall and then various age-group and team trophies too. Although if you got an overall prize then you didn’t get an age-group one. Andrea had got 1st overall female and for some reason they had me down as 1st overall male with the guy who had beaten me getting 2nd. We went up to discuss it with the officials afterwards and there seemed to be exactly a minute added to his time, meaning I was down as having beaten him by around 10-20 seconds. Clearly this wasn’t right as we had started together and he crossed the line ahead of me. Someone did point out to me that maybe he had been given a penalty and with exactly a minute added onto what he thought should have been his time that could indeed have been the case.
He was being perfectly good about it though and everything was good natured as the officials tried to sort things out. I knew he had beaten me on the road so once the officials confirmed that no penalties had been given we swapped over trophies and headed off, letting the officials sort out the actual times ready for publication. Official times aren’t out yet, but my watch had my time down as 1:04:59, so seeing as I started it 10 seconds early and stopped it just after the line I reckon my official time should be 1:04:48 – we’ll see.
It’s lucky that the race was started in waves really and that we were both in the same wave as if we hadn’t been then we would never have known that he had beaten me. I would have come away assuming I had been the winner and he would have left assuming that I had beaten him by a few seconds. As it was though, I was second overall and could at least console myself with the fact that he was in a younger age-group to me.
Next in my 40-49 age-group was David Gethin about 7 minutes behind me, followed by someone else who I can’t quite remember another 4 minutes behind David. I’ll confirm these once the official times are published
It was now still only midday, which is one of the advantages of the early start, so we headed into Newtown for some shopping in Tesco – we don’t get to go to different supermarkets very often so shopping somewhere different is always exciting! We then headed home eating eccles cakes and chocolate ready for an afternoon in the garden.
I know it isn’t necessary after a race that took an hour and probably only burnt 100o calories or so – less than I’d usually burn on a Sunday morning training session, but I like eating so what’s wrong with a treat or 5 after a race!
I’d already had a bacon and egg bap, some of Anna’s chips and half of Morgan’s hot dog. I then ate 4 eccles cakes on the way home. Unfortunately it was still quite chilly at home so after unpacking, we had a cup of tea and a huge slice of banana bread, Morgan played on his computer, Anna fell asleep on the sofa and I did some gardening. Halfway through the gardening I ate a big bowl of leftover prawn and coconut curry, along with some rice and some cabbage, carrot and coconut curry too.
Anna then started cooking a nice big pork satay stir fry for dinner which we polished off along with noodles and a bottle of wine. This was followed for me with about half a loaf of banana bread topped with butter, a bar of Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate and a handful of mint imperials. I still had the munchies later in the evening though so after a few spoonfuls of peanut butter it was time for a huge bowl or two of semolina mixed with ground almonds and a massive spoonful of honey. And then a few rich tea biscuits for good measure.
Race one of the season done and dusted, Not a bad result and a fairly good performance too.