This is our first year of triathlon. In July 2017, Ben and I bought our 4 year old son his first proper bike, then after a few successful trips to the park teaching him the basics, we decided that it might be good fun if we bought bikes too so that we could go out riding as a family. So that’s exactly what we did. Two weeks later, Ben made the grand announcement that he was embarking upon a new challenge and that he had signed himself up to take part in the Wilmslow Sprint Triathlon in September, leaving him approximately six weeks to prepare for the event! After my initial concerns about this new quest, I decided that it was in fact a superb idea and I signed myself up too! Little did we know at the time, that this decision would begin an infatuation with triathlon that would transform our daily lives.
In January 2018, we decided that it would be helpful to join a triathlon club in the hope of getting a bit of tuition and learning from other triathletes so that we would be more prepared for the next season. Well, we discovered the Scarab Team and Pete Stock, and our triathlon journey truly began. Pete transformed our training from three gentle gym sessions per week, to six structured and purposeful sessions. We then completed the Wilmslow Triathlon again in May 2018 and both achieved new PBs – Ben managed to improve his time by 15 minutes and 27 seconds and I improved my time by 16 minutes 27 seconds. Following that, we signed up for the Cholmondeley Castle Super Sprint Triathlon in June and here is my race analysis for you. There’s a lot of text here but I conclude that it was a fabulous race: extremely well organised, professionally marshalled, a stunning setting and we were both delighted with our times.
Cholmondeley Castle Super Sprint Triathlon
The Cholmondeley Castle Super Sprint Triathlon takes place in the beautiful grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire. It commences with a 400m open water swim, followed by an undulating bike course on open roads and finishes with a run through the Castle estate.
Overall, we felt very well prepared for the race. We had arrived at Cholmondeley the afternoon before the race and had walked through transition, practised the open water swim, driven around the bike course and visualised every section of the race just as Pete had taught us. In addition to this, we had cycled the bike course a month prior to the race so that we knew what to expect on race morning which was particularly useful as it’s an undulating course with a few sharp corners which is helpful to know in advance. We were also able to register on the Friday evening too so that we could avoid queues race morning and put the stickers on our bikes/ helmets. In summary, we had done everything that we could to ensure race morning went as smoothly as possible and we planned to arrive at the venue 90 minutes before the start of our race. Race morning arrived and despite being up at 6am, to load the bikes onto the car and get there, we were only 60 minutes ahead of the race start and only just had enough time to avoid panic! We had a little jog to the start line after nipping to the Portaloos and made it just in time to catch the briefing! It was enough, but only just and a final run through of transition wouldn’t have gone amiss. Next time - 90 minutes and no less!
I was apprehensive about the swim prior to the race as it was my first race in open water and I hadn’t managed to do as much open water swimming as I had planned due to some cycling injuries. Consequently, I booked Ben and I in for the trial swim the night before the race so that I could squeeze in one more training session to lessen the nerves. Thankfully this all went very well so race morning I felt confident when I was floating on the line waiting for the countdown. The race then started, and I swam off too fast! All of the competitors around me seemed to be swimming at a similar pace which made it difficult to slow down so I just kept it up hoping to gain some space so that I could then settle into my usual swimming rhythm. Unfortunately, I then found myself trapped between two men and I got elbowed and kicked a bit which resulted in me taking in some water and going under for a few seconds. At that point I decided to slow down and just did a few strokes of breast stroke to gain some space and regain focus for the remainder of the swim. I then managed to carve out some clear water, regain my swimming rhythm and focus on form to finish the swim at what felt like a good pace. As I swam towards the shore, I started rehearsing T1 in my mind which was good prep. The shore seemed to come very quickly, the swim felt super short. I actually would have preferred a longer swim as I had just found my rhythm as we got out. Overall, it was a useful experience and I now know what to expect so I will be better prepared for it in the future. The time isn’t my best but considering the melee and being inexperienced, it is a fair reflection of my performance. My swim time was 7 minutes 43 seconds (6th fastest female).
When I first emerged out of the water I was feeling disappointed that my swim hadn’t gone to plan, but I have a rule that each part of a triathlon is a new race, so when I stepped out of the water I knew I had to put the swim behind me and begin race number 2. Ben had kindly spent an evening last week teaching me how to get out of my wetsuit for T1 so I confidently ran to my bike while effortlessly getting the top half of my wetsuit off and then was delighted to see that Ben was still in transition, so I knew that my swim time wasn’t as awful as I had concluded. Anyway, Ben raced out of transition and I then attempted to put into practice the final stages of wetsuit removal. Unfortunately, this didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned and resulted in me on the floor frantically pulling my legs out as quickly as I could. The rest of transition was executed perfectly and I raced off to catch my husband! My time for T1 was 2 minutes 20 seconds (3rd female).
I thoroughly enjoyed the bike section of this triathlon. I was slightly worried before we did the bike leg as the roads were extremely busy when we did our practice ride, however thankfully on race day, the roads were almost empty and all of the turning points were controlled by marshals. Anyway, the bike section started badly for me: when I arrived at the mount line one of the marshals decided my race number was twisted so he spent a good 10 seconds trying to straighten it so that it was clearly visible to all. I was fairly frustrated at this point as I knew Ben was gaining a bigger lead every second that I wasn’t moving! As soon as the problem was overcome, I knew I had to try to catch Ben, so I raced off overtaking several people on the drive out of the castle gardens. I worked hard at the start and kept repeating to myself ‘high cadence, high cadence’ and ‘focus on form’ to keep on track and I was pleased that I was having a good ride but despite all of my efforts Ben was still out of sight. But then, just before the 12km marker, I spotted Ben which gave me a whole new burst of energy! I worked even harder from this point on as I was now in a game of cat and mouse! From 12km all the way to 22km I almost caught him when going up every hill but then on each downhill he was gone – completely out of sight. It was on this ride that I realized just how bad I am at descending! Ben was cycling in a group with 4 other men, and when I was cycling over the flat sections and up each hill I would catch them up to within a few metres but then on the downhills, I watched them accelerate away from me and by the time I reached the bottom of each hill, they were always out of sight. This was a very useful lesson as I now know it is an area that I need to improve as it will save me a lot of time in future races. My bike time was 46 minutes 42 seconds (5th female).
I think this went well: I practised transition the week of the race and I had also been visualizing it daily the week of the race to ensure it could be as efficient as possible. I was quick into transition, everything went smoothly and then I sprinted off to start the run course. My time was 51 seconds (12th female) and the fastest female was 38 seconds. I had a quick drink in transition and started opening my gel while running in transition, so this is probably where I lost the seconds!
When I started the run, I was determined to build up to my usual running pace as quickly as possible as I had been disappointed with my run time at the Wilmslow Triathlon. I sprinted out of transition, looked at my watch to check my pace, and was horrified to find my watch displaying the home screen instead of my running pace! Not only did this mean that I didn’t have the data I thought I needed to keep me on track during the run, worse still it meant that I was going to be subjected to the ‘user error’ speech again from Ben! Anyway, it actually worked out extremely well as it meant that my pace was determined purely by how I felt and consequently I simply ran as fast as I could for the duration of the race and just hoped that my perceived effort would translate to a good running pace. I took the gel at the start of the run and then sprinted after the other competitors who I had been chasing on the bike leg and was delighted as I caught them one at a time - I overtook 4 of them! My run time was 16 minutes 49 seconds (2nd female).
Nutrition went very well for me on race day. I drank additional water the three days prior to the race and then just a normal amount on race morning. I had taken porridge pots and bananas for the morning as I figured it was very unlikely that our rural hotel would be serving breakfast at 6am and even more unlikely that they would be serving exactly what I wanted to eat pre-race! I got up early so that I could have breakfast 2.5 hours before the start of the race and then took a High 5 Aqua Gel at the start of run and had a quick sip of my sports drink. I felt like I had plenty of energy for the last part of the race and I also took snacks for us post-race to help with recovery and to rehydrate as I got this wrong after my last race.
Overall, it was an amazing day! I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the race and I am delighted that we both finished with times that we are proud of and most importantly, that we had fun doing it.