West Lancs Spring Triathlon - limbering up for the season ahead
This is a triathlon I did for the first time last year and found it to be a great warm up event for the season ahead. It is well organised and a nice course – most of the bike route is on closed roads and the run takes place around the university sports grounds. Also it is a sprint distance (so nice and short!), the swim is in a pool (normally not my preference but in the middle of April open water is too cold!) and the run finishes on a running track (which is a bit different and fun). I find it really useful to get a triathlon done early in the year to help me remember how it all works, before my main races come later in the year.
When I did it last year I learnt two important things – firstly the “emergency” registration on the Sunday morning is fine and you don’t need to register on the Saturday, and secondly your start time is defined by how long you put for your swim, with the longest times going off first and the shortest times going off last.
This year I needed to be back at home before midday so I decided to be a bit pessimistic about my swim time and went for 10 minutes for the 400m. While I am not great at swimming this was definitely on the slow side for me, however it would mean an 8:50am start and therefore plenty of time to knock out a triathlon and not be late home.
However, as I arrived and began to set up in transition I started to regret my earlier start time. It was freezing – definitely colder than last year. I think it really hit home when I had stripped down to just my trisuit and my teeth started chattering from the cold. I did spare a thought for my fellow Scarabs who were doing an open water triathlon the same day – crazy people! Then I promptly legged it inside to warm up by the pool.
The briefing was nice, clear and fairly short, although it became apparent that the run course had changed compared to last year. I quickly put that out of my mind and tried to concentrate on the upcoming swim.
Swimming is definitely my weakness but I gave it my best shot. As I powered along (or at least in my head!) for the first few lengths I was feeling good, but around the halfway mark I felt my pace slow. I could literally feel my legs dragging behind me – I was missing my trusted pull buoy! I made a mental note to practise more without it, although I have a suspicion I thought exactly the same thing last year and then didn’t do anything about it!
After the swim it was a quick run across to transition where I didn’t make a massive mess of anything, so that was a great result. Although I did wimp out and add on a second layer in readiness for the cycle, given how cold it felt.
This was my first tri using a set of tri bars on my bike. During the ride I felt they were making a difference with some extra speed being gained when I tucked down onto them. The bike leg is about 18.5km and involves 3 laps, mostly on closed roads. I always enjoy riding on closed roads and this was no exception. It is a great feeling to be whizzing down the road and not having to worry about traffic. The course is undulating but with no real hills, which does not really play to my strengths but I gave it a good go and came into transition for the second time feeling ready for the run.
With the transition successfully navigated it was straight out onto the run course and time for a nasty surprise. The previous year the run course had featured a nice flat section before some up and downs to finish with. It became quickly apparent that the run course change had effectively cut out the nice flat bit and just repeated the hilly bit twice instead. Luckily for me the run is my strongest element and I quite enjoy the hills, but still it took a few moments to process this change in run course and turn it into a positive, well as much as I could. I cracked on with the run and enjoy some good cheers as I went through a couple of sections where there was great support. I decided to just hit the run hard and then see how my pace was looking. As I neared the end I realised that I was on track for a 5k PB and gave it my all as I came around the running track to finish it off. I always enjoy a good celebration at the finish line, no matter how well or badly I have done. This time I went for the leap-across-the-finish-line look and the photographer was please to tell me I had the best finish line photo so far, which is better than nothing.
As I did a cool down run (first time I have done one and I think it helped, although the jury is still out…) I reflected on the race and felt it had gone well. Then as I got home I made the inevitable mistake of comparing it to last year. Initially this led to an overwhelming feeling of disappointment – I feel like I have trained fairly hard over the last year but had only improved my time by 20 seconds! However, I then compared other aspects to last year and started to feel a little better. I had improved from 45th overall to 30th overall and my placing on the bike and run times had both improved. In fairness there are several possible explanations for this… one being that the conditions were not as good as last year, which meant other people went slower so I have effectively improved by more than 20 seconds. Or that the people who raced this year were slower than the people who did the race last year. I think I have managed to convince myself it is mainly the first reason, at least that is what I keep on telling myself!
Overall it was a great event and a good first race of the season. I am now looking forward to my next few races and am hoping they will be both warmer and faster.