Box End World Cup Quadrathlon – Race Report
The Box End Quadrathlon was always going to be a fast affair. Before we even got there we were notified that Ettiene Stott, the 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist in kayaking was going to be competing. The race itself was also a World Cup event and the current World Quadrathlon Champion Ferenc Csima would be racing too. Bryce Dyer would be there as well, looking for revenge on me following my win at the recent Dearne Valley Quad. With World and British trophy series points up for grabs and lots of fast racers it was going to be tough at the pointy end.
Box End Waterpark
We had planned a weekend of it as the Box End Quadrathlon takes place at Box End Waterpark. Just outside of Bedford, Box End Waterpark has a giant Aqua-park, the worlds only Lake-Ninja course, premium water-ski and wakeboarding facilities, a lakeside bar and restaurant. We had thought Morgan would like to come along with a friend to try out wake-boarding. As it turns out he didn’t fancy the four hour drive so decided not to come so it was just Anna and I that set off for a weekend in the campervan.
The heatwave of 2018 continued with temperatures up close to 30ºC and still no rain at home. We did pass through one or two showers on the way there and stopped off for some dinner but arrived just before 9pm and set up camp overlooking the wake-boarding lake. All was quiet, all was warm and we were looking forward to weekend of camping, chilling and racing. Just as we were set up, Jacqueline and Cliff arrived and asked if they could be our neighbours. They therefore set up their tents next to our van. Cliff had brought his large collection of tent pegs with him but spent most of the time unsuccessfully looking for them even though they were right in front of him. In his defence, the light was fading but that didn’t stop Jackie from mocking him. After a little chat and a few more camp chores it was off to bed.
Chilling at Box End
Saturday dawned hot and sunny.
There wasn’t anything planned for today other than a bike course recce later in the day. The plan was to chill. There were lots of people swimming in the lake first thing and it looked very inviting. I I didn’t get around to getting in myself, and didn’t really feel the need to pay £5 to swim in a lake when I can swim in the sea for free whenever I want. Things were heating up on the campsite and we were seeking shade. Cliff and Jackie headed off to do some shopping and returned with some very welcome Magnum Ice Creams. Just what we needed.
Once the Wake Board Cable-tow was up and running we wandered over to the lakes to take a closer look. This looked pretty inviting too and I wished Morgan was there to have a go as it would have given me an excuse to have a go as well. In some respects it was probably a good thing he wasn’t as wake-boarding the day before a race probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. It did look like fun though.
We had lunch from the lakeside cafÃ© and decided that the restaurant was a little too upmarket and expensive for dinner – we didn’t really have any suitable clothing for such dining! The venison did sound nice, but we would have to suffice with pasta ‘n’ sauce. The afternoon was a hot sweaty one chilling and chatting on the campsite before heading off to recce the bike course.
Other people arrived and set up camp and things were beginning to liven up.
Course Recce and Race Prep
The bike course was brilliant, some long bumpy grassy sections at one end and then a small hill at the far end around which the course snaked and weaved. There were some fast flowing corners through the trees, some little steep banks, some tighter off-camber bends, more bumps and some more bends followed by a short fast descent back down to the lake and a fast straight back to the transition area. It was like an elongated cyclo-cross course without the hurdles and today, without the mud. It was bone dry, the grass had been cut and it was actually a little slippery here and there as tyres skittered over the hard-packed bumpy surface topped by tinder dry dusty grass. I rode around with Cliff, Jackie and Jean and then headed off to session of few of the corners on the hill at the far end. I reduced the pressure in my tyres for this and tried to get things set up as best I could for the race. As I headed back, Bryce had arrived and was heading out with Cliff to do a lap of the course so I joined them for one more.
One of the good things about quadrathlon is that each course is different and with 4 sports to think about, there are plenty of opportunities to gain or lose time on competitors, different conditions and different courses throughout the year only exacerbate this which always makes for an interesting race.
Captain Odgers Fast Wax Speed Polish
There was then time for a quick shower, race registration, the usual sticking on of numbers to bikes, boats etc.
Cliff then brought out is secret weapon that he takes everywhere with him – his “Captain Odgers Fast Wax Speed Polish”. This brought his and Jackie’s boats up to a super slick shine. We obviously teased him about this as well as his tent pegs, and to tell the truth it was really only Turtlewax car polish but I’m taking bloggers creative rights here and it shall forever be known as Captain Odgers Fast Wax Speed Polish! Don’t tell him, but I didn’t let on that I had polished my boat with car wax just a few days prior to coming away as well!
More chatting and chilling, some dinner, and some wandering just about finished off the day. It was looking more and more likely that it would be a non-wetsuit swim as well. Water temperatures were quite a way above the 22ºC cut off point set by the BTF and BQA so the topic of discussion often revolved around this.
I didn’t sleep a single wink. Grrrr, not what I wanted.
As we have now become accustomed to though, race day dawned hot, dry and sunny once again. It wa already up in the 20ºs when I got out of the van at 4ish and was only going to get hotter. After breakfast it was time to take the boats over to transition then come back to get bikes, running shoes etc. With an 8am start there wasn’t much hanging around though and by the time everything was set up and ready to go it was pretty much time to gather for the race briefing. As well as the Ferenc, Ettiene and Bryce, I also spotted a few other fast people as we got ready. Michael Mason was here for the race as was Nigel Unwin, things were indeed going to be competitive and the trophy series points would be hard fought after.
The water temperature was over 28ºC and heading to 29. It was definitely a non-wetsuit swim. I’m easy either way really and would prefer that than having to make a choice. At least if everyone either has or doesn’t have a wetsuit then it’s an even playing field. Having to make a decision about which will be best is too much pressure for me! I’m faster with a wetsuit on but transition is obviously easier without it. There was some discussion (which I kept out of) as to whether or not Bryce could wear his calf guards though. I think he kept them on in the end as we all got into the warm waters ready for the swim start.
I was wearing my new Scimitar Endurance Tri-Suit. It felt a little tight around the arms but turned out to be fine throughout the race. This was the first Quad that I’d be racing in with my new team colours.
I did realise at this point that I haven’t actually swam without a wetsuit on for ages. Definitely not this year as I haven’t done any actual swim training, I’ve just been going for social swims in the sea whenever I can. I’d be fine without it of course but no doubt it would feel weird.
We had to tread water for ages waiting for the swim start.
Buoyancy was definitely lacking. Freshwater as opposed to the sea and no wetsuit made quite a big difference and after a few minutes of treading water I started to think that maybe the swim would be a little harder without the buoyancy I’ve been used to. We had to wait for the kids to walk up the lake and get to their starting positions as they were starting at the same time as us.
Eventually we were off and swimming. The race was on. I pulled out into the lead from the start. At least I thought I had, but after a 100 metres or so I noticed someone else a little way off to my left who was level with me. It was (as expected) World Champ Ferenc. I made my way over to him and we swam the first leg of the course together. I dropped back somewhat around the turns at the top of the course and looked back to see how close the others were. From what I could tell we had a gap on the rest of the field so I continued swimming strongly. Partway down the return leg I decided that it would be good to put in a bit more of an effort on the swim than I usually do. My thinking was that Ferenc, Ettiene and Michael at the very least would beat me on the kayak section, Bryce and probably Ferenc et al would beat me on the bike and no doubt Ferenc, Michael and few others would beat me on the run too. I could however get the fastest swim split if I put in some effort. That’s what I did so emerged out of the water in first place with Ferenc no more than a second or two behind me.
Transition one was a simpe, affair. With no wetsuit to deal with it was just a case of depositing our hat and goggles, picking up our paddles and for me putting on my paddling cap. We then ran out of transition to collect our boats. Surf Ski’s are a little more difficult to man-handle that a K1 kayak. Especially a surf-ski like mine which doesn’t have handles and has been polished to a slippery shine. Ferenc on the other hand was in a borrowed K1 so was happy to half drag it to the waters edge and jump in. He therefore got to the water just before me. I mounted a little quicker than he did but gave him room so that he set off on the kayak a second or two before me.
I made my way carefully under the bridge and out onto the lake.
Ferenc was already pulling away from me. Anna shouted at me to just stay with him. Easier said than done, he’s a world class paddler in a sleek K1. I’m a surf-ski wannabee! The water was calm though and I was going well.
The gap between Ferenc and myself was growing, but I had a lead on the others and soon fell into a nice rhythm at a decent speed.
Bryce was about half a lap down and the gap there remained about the same as the laps ticked by. Michael Mason passed me on the second lap but no one else flew by. Not even Ettiene who I had expected to come charging past at some point. I was passing back-markers as the race wore on. We had four laps of the lake to do to make up the 4.8km kayak.
As I went out onto my fourth lap as I was catching Cliff ready to lap him. He was going well though. It gave me an added impetus to close down the gap which was just what I needed at this point. I never did quite lap him but as I came to the end of lap 4 I was right on his tail.
I looked across to the beach but couldn’t see the boats of Ferenc and Michael as I expected. I started to doubt myself and wondered if I had indeed done four laps. I looked at my watch and it the distance said 3 point something (I couldn’t quite see the other figure). The kayak course was 4.8km maybe I’d only done 3 laps. Not quite sure what to do, and not wanting to do one lap too few I headed out onto another lap. I was certain it wasn’t right though and I was now hesitating, slowing and wondering what to do. I came to a stop at the next buoy, turned around and shouted across to the shore asking how many laps I’d done. I heard Anna shout back ‘FOUR!!!!’. That was all I needed. I knew that I’d done four as well, but my watch was telling me otherwise. It wasn’t until after the race that I realised I have my watch set to miles, not kilometres. 3 point something miles would indeed by 4.8km! What an idiot, and that’s exactly what I was shouting as I paddled back towards the beach having started an unecessary 5th lap of the course.
Looking at my GPS race data I only lost 40 seconds with this silly mistake, but they were 40 seconds that might make a difference and it was 40 seconds less of a gap over Bryce. I would need as much gap as I could between himself and me for the bike ride.
Transition 2 was fairly straight forward as well. Helpers were there to move our boats from the beach. They put them up over the other side of the bank which explained why I couldn’t see Ferenc and Michael’s boat from the lake. I took my paddles into transition, had a bit of trouble getting them to stand up against the rail and then it was off with my cap and on with my number belt, sunglasses, helmet and shoes. I was on my CX bike so had MTB shoes which aren’t as easy to get into as my Tri shoes. I therefore put them on in transition rather than having them attached to the bike. This is a little slower, but they are at least easy to run in so I was soon out of T2 and jumping on my bike CX style.
It was now very hot. The sun was blazing down and reflecting off the parched grass around us. There was no wind and 15km of hard riding to do. The course felt a little bumpier at race pace and with wet hands and no gloves grip on the bars was difficult. I was certainly glad of the high hoods on my CX bike a few times. The long straight felt like quite a slog as I bumped my way along it. There was at least some welcome shade once onto the twists and turns on the small hill but not a lot. I kept pushing, mindful of the fact that Bryce would be closing the gap behind me. I thought that Ferenc and Michael were way ahead by now and probably pulling yet further away. According to Anna I was actually catching them on the bike but I haven’t seen the official time splits yet.
I thought I could see Bryce here and there as we weaved our way around the twisty bits of the course. He wasn’t that far behind. Anna shouted some info at me as I passed the transition area telling me I was still in third place. We had three laps to do. On the second lap I could see that Bryce was closing the gap. I expected him to catch me soon. In fact, prior to the race I’d expected him to catch me towards the end of the second lap or beginning of the third lap. It would still all be to play for though as my run is usually faster than his.
Out onto the third lap and I was still feeling good. I couldn’t see those ahead of me but did have glimpses of Bryce cloing me down. He didn’t catch me, but was literally seconds behind as I came into T3.
As I came into T3 Anna shouted to tell me the others were about a minute and a half ahead and then shouted to say “And here comes Bryce”. As Bryce ran past me to his transition stall he shouted “Come on Alan, Let’s Do this!”. I was struggling to get my running shoe on at this point so just shouted back with an ‘Arrrgggghhh!. Bike and cycling kit deposited, running kit on and it was back out for the run.
The run was 5km following the exact same route as the bike. It was getting even hotter now. My calves were cramping a little as I started out so I took it steady and eased into it. I was ahead of Bryce and it should stay that way, but not if I took it too easy. It was a balance between going too hard and cramping and going too easy and getting passed. My legs soon eased off though and I was able to settle into a decent but not fast pace. It was fast enough to hold Bryce off though. I took a slurp of water at the feed station. Not something I usually do but it was super hot out there today and I wanted to pour some over my head as well. Half way around the run course and I was able to look back and see that Bryce wouldn’t catch me. I assumed that the two in front were long gone so there was no point killing myself any more. I eased up a little so as to maintain the gap between Bryce and myself and ran the rest of the run at a steady pace.
As I came onto the straight towards the finish line though I could see someone ahead of me. Maybe they weren’t as far ahead as I had thought. I couldn’t catch them now though so I kept it steady to the finish and crossed the line in 3rd place overall.
Presentations and Packing Up
I waited around for Bryce to cross the line and then Ettiene was behind him in 5th.
Time to re-hydrate and cheer on the others.
Ahead of me, Michael Mason had caught and passed Ferenc on the bike and then held him off on the run for the win with Ferenc in 2nd. A good race all round, an excellent course all within the confines of Box End Park and a good result for me too. We stood in the lake for a bit cooling off before packing up.
In the women’s race, Helen took the win with Jackie 2nd and Jean 3rd.
There were still people coming into T3 and heading out onto the run as I started to pack up. Anna and I quickly took our camp site down and loaded up the van ready for the drive back. We then headed back to the other side of the lake for the presentations. Trophies were presented by Olympian Ettiene Stott.
We then said our goodbyes, I had a quick shower and we headed off for the long drive home with a stop for burgers, coffee and sweets halfway.
A good weekend away, a good race and now all that was needed was a good sleep! As always, thanks goes to the organisers and marshalls, lots of hard work goes into making these races a success and it is much appreciated. Thanks to Scimitar Sports for providing me with racing kit and of course to Anna for putting up with me and helping out. Also to everyone else who took part as it’s the healthy competition that makes it fun, and fun it was.