Brigg Bomber – My First Quadrathlon
When three sports isn’t enough what do you do? The Brigg Bomber Quadrathlon of course! My first ever quadrathlon and a bit of a mixed bag for me. All good fun though and that was the whole idea.
My First Quadrathlon
You may have noticed a lack of posts about triathlon training lately. Fewer than usual posts about swim training, bike training and run training too. That’s because I haven’t really been training lately. I’ve taken a bit of a break over the last couple of years. Proper swim training was put on hold due to my arthritic shoulder. There’s always some sort of injury to prevent me running properly and anything on the bike has just been for fun. There’s been no real structure or focus to my training and no triathlons to aim for. I’ve still been biking, running and swimming here and there but I’ve just been doing what I fancied doing when I fancied doing it. It is supposed to be fun and recreational after all.
I did still feel the need for the odd race here and there though. I wanted to keep the races fun and recreational too so decided to try something a little different. I’ve therefore decided that the three sports of triathlon just isn’t enough and it was time to do Quadrathlon instead. This adds an extra sport in the form of kayaking and of course and extra dimension to the whole thing. Not to mention the fact that I needed a kayak!
Kayaking was a completely new discipline for me. I already knew how to swim, bike and run, but kayaking was a mystery. I have of course played around in kayaks here and there but never had I raced one. I didn’t even have a kayak. Actually, I still don’t, but I did have a 30 year old surf life-saving spec surf ski behind the house. There was an equally old set of paddles that were delaminated and just about serviceable too. I checked with the organisers and people from the British Quadrathlon Association that it would be OK to compete on this and they said it was fine. My mind was made up. It was time to try quadrathlon.
I got out on my aging surf ski and got to grips with it. I patched up some holes, got the rudder working and all was going well. I even took it along to a kayak time trial up in Llyn Padarn and did OK there. I managed 5km in just under 30 minutes which I was quite pleased with. Considering the fact that I’d spent no money on it the surf-ski was holding up and looked as though it would serve me well. I wasn’t at full fitness anyway so my swimming, biking and running wouldn’t be up to scratch. The kayak leg may still be my weak point but hopefully I’d hold my own in my funky looking surf-ski.
The first race of the season was in a little market town in North Lincolnshire called Brigg. The BQA organise a National Trophy Series and this was the first event. Not only that, it was the third event in the World Cup Series and the British National Championships! Maybe not the easiest of races for my first race, but as with triathlon there is a wide range of abilities all competing together, from the best in the world down to first timers just giving it a go. My additional excuse for a bad race day was that I had been ill all week in the lead up to it and still wasn’t fully recovered. It was also twice the distance that I was used to with a 1500m swim, a 7km kayak, a 40km bike and a 10km run.
We had decided to go to the race and then have the best part of a week away in the Campervan. We therefore drove to Lincolnshire on Saturday and stayed overnight at a campsite about half an hour away. We then had a short drive to the event and Brigg Leisure Centre on Sunday morning. At the event everything seemed fairly friendly and relaxed and I was soon introduced to a few people and chatting to a few others.
It was then time to set things up ready to race. The transition area was very similar to that of a triathlon except for the fact that I had to leave my paddles there. So, my transition area kit consisted of a set of tatty old paddles, my bike with cycling shoes attached and my helmet, my running shoes, my number belt and a sun visor. My surf-ski was left on the bank of the River Ancholme which ran alongside the leisure centre. The River Ancholme was where we would be swimming and kayaking. Anna and Morgan were hanging around the leisure centre for support during the race.
The race briefing was the usual affair and before long we were all entering the water ready for the start of the race. I remembered just before the start that I hadn’t taken my wedding ring off. I’ll lose it while swimming if I don’t so quickly jumped out, gave it to Anna and jumped back into the river again. This put me at the far right hand side of the pack ready to start.
Many people aren’t that comfortable with open water swimming. If so, they are advised to start towards the back and at the edges of the field of swimmers. All sorts can happen at the start of a race. Duckings, kicks in the face, loss of goggles, bumping and barging are all part of the deal and keeping out of such argy-bargy is advised. I’m quite happy in open water and don’t mind a bit of argy-bargy. I therefore usually start in the middle at the front so as to take the shortest line to the first buoy. To be honest, if you start fast and get away from everyone else you don’t usually encounter too much physicality anyway. Today I was at the front but at the far right hand side when the start was sounded.
I usually breathe to my right in a race but as I was at the right of the pack I started breathing bilaterally so that I could at least keep an eye on the rest of the field. After a few breaths like this it was clear that I was out in front and that there wasn’t much of a chase either.
I didn’t know if there was anyone on my feet getting a nice tow so I decided to put in a really fast hundred metres or so. If there was someone there I hoped that an early sprint would drop them. If it didn’t then there wasn’t much I could do about them anyway. So, I switched to breathing every four strokes and put in a minute or so of hard effort before easing back off to a normal pace. The swim was 1500m and only the start of a long day so I didn’t want to waste too much energy.
The water was lovely, nice and warm and super calm in the fairly narrow channel of the River Ancholme. I was following the lead marshall in a kayak and swimming well. My stroke felt good, I felt good and I had clear water in front of me. As I rounded the buoy at the turnaround point I spiralled onto my back taking a stroke of backstroke on the turn and then spiralled back over into front crawl. This was to give me a good look around and to see if there was anyone with me. There wasn’t, and the next group of swimmers was already quite a way behind. So far so good as I started making my way back to the leisure centre. I pulled out more of a gap on the next swimmers on the return leg and emerged from the water in first place with a lead of almost 2 minutes having had a fairly easy swim.
My actual time for the swim was 20:46 – not bad for 1500m – maybe not training is a good thing!
This was all a little different for me. Into the transition area, off with my wetsuit as per usual but then it was time to grab my paddles and head back to the river bank to collect my ski. There it was, lined up and looking a little weird in comparison to all of the other K1 racing kayaks. A big blue and red carbuncle that weighed at least twice as much as the other kayaks, was a fair bit longer and with a giant wave scoop on the front. I heaved it up, lugged it down to the river and clumsily put it in the water and clambered on.
By the time I did, the wave scoop at the front had a huge piece of weed hanging off it and it felt as though the rudder did too. I was on though, I had the paddles in my hands and I was off onto the river still in first place.
This was always going to be something of an unknown. In the Time Trial I held 10 minute mile pace and in ‘training’ I could hold 11 minute mile pace without any bother but for some reason here I was at about 12 minute mile pace. I was still in first place though so on I went. It wasn’t that long though before someone caught and passed me. I’d never really seen anyone in a K1 kayak before but as he went past me it looked sleek, it looked smooth and it looked fast. There was I lumbering along in my antique surf-ski as the guy in the K1 went past at about twice the speed I was going. I thought to myself that maybe he was just a world class paddler but before long a couple of other people passed me at a similar pace. Next a Spanish guy went flying past me, he was going even faster and I felt as though I was standing still in comparison.
Soon, there were older guys going past me, women flying past and all manner of people cruising easily past. I didn’t give up of course and kept plodding on. I managed to get my average pace down to 11:30 mins/mile slower than usual and nowhere near fast enough for this race! I lost what little sense of urgency there was and ended up talking to people as they went past me and laughing at myself in my big blue and red surf-ski.
Eventually I emerged from under a bridge to see the leisure centre. Anna and Morgan were on the bank wondering what had happened to me. I jokingly asked them if I was last yet? I knew I wasn’t of course as there were still plenty of people behind me that I had seen on the out and back course but it felt as though the entire field had passed me.
My actual time was 51:54 – considerably slower than the time set by Ricardo Noval from Spain who only took 32:55 for the kayak. Id lost almost 20 minutes whilst paddling!
With the kayak section over at last there as just the small issue of an inelegant dismount from my ski and a struggle up the bank with it before jogging off to T2. My legs felt a little tight though after sitting on the surf ski for so long. It was time to don my helmet and jump on my bike though and head off onto the windy but flat course around North Lincolnshire.
The bike was fairly uneventful really. twice the distance that I’m used to in Sprint Distance races but I was going OK. Nothing spectacular from a speed point of view but I did regain a number of places. Better still, after the constant steam of people overtaking me on the kayak no one passed me on the bike. The course was easy to follow, the roads for the most part were good and the marshalls out on the course were all very helpful.
My bike split was 1:01:19, 8th fastest.
T3, what this, another transition? Yep, the familiar bike to run transition. Off with my helmet on with my running shoes and visor, swivel my race belt around and out I went.
The run was two 5k out and back laps. Out through Brigg and then along another part of the Ancholme River before turning around and tracing itself back to the leisure centre for lap two.
As I headed out, some of the leaders and people from teams were already on their way back from their first lap. My legs felt sore and I think the lurgy that I had been suffering from was adding to the fatigue. Gone are the days of a few years ago where I could hold sub-6 minute pace in a race. This was 10km not 5km, I was suffering and I’m heavier than I should be. The result was a 7:30ish pace and not a lot that I could do to make it any quicker. I was however still catching and overtaking people and pulling away from those behind me too.
It was hot in the midday sun which didn’t help. I kept going though grabbing some water at the halfway point and unsuccessfully trying to drink it on the go. At the 2nd turn-around point as it looked as though someone was catching me here so I managed to pick up the pace to hold him off. Once again although it was a slowish run I wasn’t overtaken and did regain a few more of those places lost in the kayak. Meanwhile up ahead the winners were flying around and people in teams were setting super quick 10km splits of 33:57.
My time was 43:16 – not great but not too bad either considering.
I recovered after crossing the line and then jumped in the river to cool off for a while. We then had some lunch and waited for the results and prize giving. As the prizes were given out, they included prizes for the fastest kayak split, the fastest run split and the fastest bike split. We got a little excited for a second thinking that there would be a prize for the fastest swim split too but alas, that wasn’t the case. I had come 5th overall though and 3rd in my age-group with a total time of 2:59:31.
Getting under 3 hours was nice. Mind you, the winners were well ahead with times of 2:31:47 for first place and 2:36:22 for second place. Even if I could improve my kayaking I couldn’t compete with that!
As it was part of the BQA National Trophy Series and a World Cup race too that was enough to earn me points in both. With one race done I’m currently in 4th place overall and 3rd in the 40-49 Age-Group of the BQA National Trophy Series. I’m also 16th overall and 8th in the World Cup, but as I won’t be doing any other races in the World Cup series I won’t be getting any more points in that.
We packed up and headed home, happy with my performance and with lots of room for improvement.
The event was well run with marshalls out in force. I tried to thank or speak to them as I went past but by the time I got to the run this wasn’t so easy. I did thank the little girl who was very helpfully shouting ‘all clear’ on a small road in Brigg but that was about it on the run so thanks to all the organisers and marshalls out on the course – I know what it’s like to stand there all day.
Well, another Quadrathlon of course and some serious thought about a new boat. K1 racing kayak maybe but first I need to try a few out just to see if I can stay in them. The are supposed to be very unstable, especially the faster ones and no matter how fast they are, they aren’t very fast if you’re falling out of it all the time!
The real challenge though will be keeping it fun and not trying to compete too much. I don’t have the time or the inclination to take it too seriously again so just keeping fit and healthy whilst having some fun is the name of the game.
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Thanks need to be made to Ceredigion County Council for supporting my training. - Diolch hefyd i Gyngor Sir Ceredigion.