Shrewsbury Quadrathlon 2019
Once again it was off to Shrewsbury for the annual Quadrathlon and Triathlon. I’ll try not to write a huge blog post about it this year as from my perspective it was pretty much business as usual and everything went pretty much as I expected. [Edit: Well, it ended up fairly long in the end – sorry!]
As usual I arrived in Shrewsbury Saturday morning. I was on my own this year as Anna’s Mum was staying with us and we didn’t think she would appreciate a weekend camping in a field near Shrewsbury.
Bike Recce and Course Strengths
Once there I quickly headed out for a recce of the bike course. It was just as I remembered it, fairly flat with a few undulations, windy today and with some light rain too. It’s not really a course that suits me, but then neither is the entire race. I’m not complaining as part of what makes Quadrathlon fun is the variety of courses on offer at each event. Some suit some people better than others. Shrewsbury doesn’t really play to my strengths.
For a start the swim is very short at 500m. It’s also downstream so is really fast. This means that I’m only in the water for about 5 minutes and even the weaker swimmers are only in the water for a little longer than that. My swim is usually fairly fast in comparison to other people but at Shrewsbury there is simply not enough time spent swimming for me to capitalise on that advantage.
The Kayak is pretty standard fare and the normal distance. This is one of my weaker areas though and with everyone hot on my heels after the short swim the better kayakers soon overhaul me.
The bike course at Shrewsbury is slightly undulating but with no steep, prolonged climbs. It’s rarely flat though and often a little windy and the surface is quite rough. It’s suit bigger, more powerful athletes who can push a big gear and big watts and those that are comfortable at high speeds. That’s not me. I’m fairly lightweight, prefer to spin, get bumped and blown all over the place and get scared if I’m going too fast!
The run is fine though. 3 flat laps around the Showground. I like lapped runs and it has enough twists and turns to make it interesting and feel shorter than it is.
Efficiency counts in and on the Water
The water based disciplines of swimming and kayaking are very heavily dependent on technique. Yes, you need some general aerobic fitness as well, but what really makes the difference is technique. A good, efficient technique in these sports not only makes you significantly faster but also means that you are able to use less energy as well. I’m far from being the best swimmer in the world but my technique is fairly good. I can cruise along with little effort at a speed that is faster than most amateur triathletes and quadrathletes. Not only do I get out of the water ahead of them, but for every minute we’re in the water I’m using up less energy. The swim is pretty easy for me, it’s barely a warm up really and I come out of it feeling fresh and ready to go. For many though the swim is the hardest part. If their technique isn’t great then they’ll be using much more energy than they need to be and will be doing so for a longer time. A longer swim benefits me as I’m able to take it fairly easy, gain some time on those behind me and still feel fresh. Meanwhile behind me others are wasting energy and losing time.
The same is true in a kayak. It’s all about the technique. Those who have been doing it since they were young, and have trained for many years have that efficient technique and can cruise along quickly and easily and still feel fresh at the end of it. I didn’t sit in a kayak until a few years ago so what technique I do have isn’t great, I’ve had no coaching and therefore have probably been practising bad technique and probably waste a lot of energy going not very fast on the kayak leg. I’m not too bad and I’m still up towards the top of the kayak split times but there is quite a big gap between me and those that are really good at it. I’m sure any kayak speed I do have is coming down to sheer fitness and effort. An improved, more efficient technique is what I need so that I can not only go faster and reduce my time losses in the boat but could do so for less effort. Technique gains would be an easy win for me, but getting it right isn’t simple.
Once off the water, technique doesn’t play nearly such a big role and it is much more down to fitness, power and weight. Gains in fitness and power and a loss of weight are simple to achieve but do take effort and willpower so aren’t necessarily easy.
Shrewsbury for the Day
Following my bike recce it was time for a quick shower and then I dropped my kayak off by the river and had a chat with Phil and James as they were busy getting things ready for the race. I then headed into Shrewsbury for some retail therapy. I needed a new rucksack and succeeded in buying one – it’s really nice as well.
I then walked back to the Showground, chilled for an hour or so and then walked back through Shrewsbury to The Peach tree where I met Steve and Biddy for dinner. It was nice to see them as always especially as we don’t see Steve anywhere near as much as we used to. The food was good, as was the company but it was soon time to head off as we both had a race in the morning.
Steve was racing in the Triathlon having only done one or two triathlons before. He would be fairly quick though as he’s always been a good swimmer and does plenty of running and cycling. I would be lying if I said we wouldn’t be comparing split times after the race, even if I was doing to Quad and Steve the Triathlon! That said, if Steve beat me on the bike or the run I’d of course have the excuse that I had also had to do a kayak before them whereas he hadn’t. Steve of course had the excuse that he was in an older age category than me.
Steve and Biddy had offered for me to stay with them but I quite fancied a night in the camper and like a nice early start as there is always lots to do before a race, so they gave me a lift back to the Showground and I settled down for the night
I didn’t sleep at all but felt fine once race day was with us. As usual it’s a bit of a rush to get things set up at Shrewsbury. Registration opens at 7am after which there are stickers to apply to everything, number belts to sort out, a bike and run transition to set up, a separate kayak transition to set up and of course boat and paddles to be deposited on the little riverside beach.
There are drinks to be consumed, toilet visits to be made and tri-suits and wetsuits to be donned. There are people to chat to, excuses to be made and plenty to prepare. I forgot my towel when I first set up transition so had to walk back and forth to get that and return with it. I then noticed that I didn’t have a repair kit on the bike either so that was another journey to be made before rushing back to get into my wetsuit and head to the start line.
I didn’t have time to make too many excuses for a poor performance to people, so for the record, if I didn’t do as well as I should it was due to being too fat, too slow and not having done enough training! In reality I had been doing plenty of activities just no real structured training, and a flare up of pericarditis had prevented me from doing any really hard efforts over the past month or so. Other than that I pretty much knew where I should be. According to the start list I was likely to finish 5th with Billy, Steve King (not Steve that I had dinner with), Ferenc and James in front of me. Billy however wasn’t there and I don’t think he had planned to be thanks to attending a stag do the night before. 4th was probably the best I could do in that case, although there was a couple of unknown names on the start list and they could be faster than me. I was hoping to be out of the water at the front. From there Steve, Ferenc and James would overtake me fairly soon in the kayak and I would lose time to them. I’d probably lose a little more on the bike to Steve and Ferenc and would maybe start clawing back some time on James. I’d then claw back a little more on the run but not enough to make a difference to my position.
Things did indeed go pretty much as expected. I had a good swim and was out of the water in first place with a swim split for the 500m of 5:01 – isn’t swimming with the flow great!
T1 was OK and I was soon in my kayak and paddling off down the river. I should note that this was the first Quad I had done in a K1 rather than a surf ski so I was interested to see if it helped.
As expected I was soon overtaken by first Steve King, then Ferenc who was catching Steve and next James who was the fastest of all in the kayak. Nicholas Mahoney was also catching me so I was aware that I had to try to hold him off. I’m not convinced that the K1 was actually any faster than the surf ski for me. I posted a kayak time of 24:05 (including the run to T2) which was the 5th fastest split of the day. Last year my time was 24:19 so no difference really. That said, I should still be getting faster at paddling so all things being the same I should have been faster than last year. With that in mind maybe I would have been faster in my surf ski. In comparison, James and Ferenc posted times that were pretty much 4 minutes faster than me – too much of a loss to come back from.
T2 was good and I was soon out on the bike course where I just didn’t seem to be able to get going too well. My split time was 39:09 – 5th fastest and 50 seconds faster than last year so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I lost more time to both Steve and Ferenc but did claw a small amount back on James. Behind me Nicholas Mahoney was still closing in on me.
T3 was good and the commentator even commented on my dismount as I came back off the bike, saying that it “was the fastest dismount he’d seen”! It may only be a little victory but I’ll take that, fastest dismount of the day goes to me!
The run was pretty good. I went off at a decent pace, felt OK all the way around and actually started to feel good come the last lap. I could see James ahead of me and I was closing in on him but he was running well and the advantage he had was far too much to close so there was no need for a ‘do or die’ effort to try to catch him. Behind me I could see Nicholas but thankfully he was now losing ground to me so I didn’t have to work too hard to defend my position either. I didn’t ease up too much though as I would still have to compare my split times with Steve. Luckily Peter Tindall was a little ahead of me and heading out onto his second lap as I started my third. That did at least give me a carrot to chase so that I kept the pace up to finish the run with a time of 19:05. This was the 2nd fastest split of the day and 30 seconds faster than my time last year. Considering the fact that I had been struggling with any pace in run training lately the average pace of 6:40 mins/mile wasn’t too bad.
Up at the front Steve King had overtaken Ferenc on the the bike and managed to hold him off on the run to take the win. Ferenc was second and James 3rd.
As far as the ladies race was concerned, I don’t know much about what was going on, but fellow Team Scimitar athlete Helen took the win. I think Jacqui put up a good fight and gave her a run for her money on the swim, kayak and bike but Helen sealed the deal on the run and wrapped up the trophy series win in the process.
The full results and splits can be seen here. Here are the top 10.
My total time of 1:29:33 was about 2 minutes faster than last year so I can’t complain. Better still, it had been a good day of racing and the race was organised to perfection. As usual I thanked marshalls and organisers where I could, but extend those thanks to everyone else here. It was a good day of racing thanks to them.
Steve didn’t start his race until after I’d finished so I was able to watch and cheer him on. He definitely needs to work on his transitions but otherwise had a good race. I do of course need to compare splits with him. It’s difficult to compare swim times due to the differences in timing mat position and transition areas for the quad and triathlon but unless he took over 3 minutes to get to the transition area I think I probably had the upper hand there. I had an advantage of 51 seconds on the bike – not a huge amount. The run was even closer as I was only 2 seconds faster than him. I’m glad Peter Tindall was acting as a carrot on the final lap for me otherwise I would have eased up and lost that one to Steve. As I said above though, Steve could do with some transition training as he spent a total time of 4:05 in the transition area. By contrast I had one extra transition to do but still only spent a total of 2:15 in transition – There’s 2-3 minutes of free time for you there Steve.
The presentations were soon underway and I picked up some swag for the 1st V40 (thanks to roll down). Not only was there a trophy, but there was a cool pair of googles too. The towel in our race pack was a nice touch as well.
It was then time to say our goodbyes and for me to pack up and drive home. I was of course vowing (as usual) to actually get around to losing some weight and getting back up to speed ready for the next one. Although that process could wait until I’d finished off my burger and M&M’s!