Thorpe Park Sprint
Over the past few months it’s been a bit quiet for me compared to the start of the season as I decided to race less and train more in order to try to get fitter, improve my swimming and running and have a crack at qualifying for the 2018 Sprint Distance European Championships in Glasgow.
To do this I decided to enter the Thorpe Park Sprint Triathlon and try and improve upon my pretty woeful first open water swim event at Strathclyde Park earlier in the year. I’d like to begin by saying this aspirational goal was one which, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have even considered earlier this year on my own. Someone in the club talked me into sticking my name in the hat and seeing what happened just before Strathclyde Park back in May… said individual probably has no idea of the positive impact they have made in terms of providing a goal for me to focus on and train for when other aspects of life have been a bit challenging for one reason or another. To that person, you know who you are – thank you for your encouragement, I’m very grateful to you.
I decided to travel down to London on the Friday so that I would be well rested and chilled out for the race on the Sunday. It also gave me the chance to do a wee recce of the Bike course on the Saturday which revealed some really quite busy roads, very bumpy road conditions and a few fast roundabouts! I was also really pleased to find out that Arlene Lewis was also travelling down, and I was relieved when she suggested that we could do the recce together. Saturday afternoon was spent eating nice food, and wandering along the river Thames with Arlene and Brendan who very kindly put up with my company for most of the day (thanks guys!!).
I had prepped all my kit and had planned out my race morning routine so was pretty chilled on the Saturday evening. However, at around 7:30pm I got a worried message from a Glasgow Tri Club friend who had flown down and was re-assembling her bike when her seat post clamp had sheared (clearly far too strong Isla!!)… we tried contacting various shops for a replacement, most of whom were just about to close, unfortunately to no avail. At this point I tried to be a little more inventive and procured some 2-part epoxy and a light bracket clamp from Tesco and went to try and save the day! Despite the terrible bad luck for Isla, it actually kept me distracted and meant when I got back and went to bed I had no time to worry about the race the next day.
Race morning was a 5:20am alarm, porridge and trundle to the car before a short drive to the park. It was still pretty dark when I arrived and walked to registration which was within the park itself. Going into the main hall revealed that the registration was very well set-up – meaning I had my race pack in hand in a matter of minutes!! Having everyone register at a desk limited to the number of people in each wave kept the queues moving and was a really good way of doing things – it also helped avoid the utter panic I experienced at the Strathclyde event earlier in the year!
I got set up in transition and spoke to a few fellow competitors before joining Isla for a bit before the race. Despite my best engineering efforts the night before, my attempt to fix the clamp was a bit of a failure, but luckily the on-site mechanic managed to tape Isla’s bike sufficiently to allow her to get round.
The swim was set in the Thorpe Park Lake and was an anticlockwise course. On entering the water I was pleasantly surprised with how warm it seemed – and it did amuse me greatly that all the southerners were complaining of the cold. At 15°C it was quite frankly tropical compared to Pinkston that week which was just over 13°C…perhaps excitement and adrenaline also had a part to play! The horn sounded for my wave which was the under 30 females and relay team swimmers, and everyone went for it. It was a bit of a fight to begin with, which I really dislike, but I was glad of the Pinkston sessions to at least prepare me for the feeling of being kicked and punched (albeit accidentally) during the mass start. Very quickly things started to spread out, I was able to sight well and within no time I was round the first two buoys. Just after the third buoy I had a slight moment of panic when a rather large piece of green vegetation stuck to my face and obscured my view….after a brief freak-out I got back on with my stroke and was soon passing through the funnel buoys. It felt quick for me, but my excitement led me to try and stand a bit too early and I sunk very rapidly into deep reedy mud, which caused a little more panic before I managed to clamber out. The run out to the timing matt seemed quite far but could have only been about 50-70m away. T1 involved a run out to the end of transition then back towards my bike and kit. I was a little disorientated and in trying to get my wetsuit off I probably looked rather clumsy. Many of the bikes were also already away so I knew I had a bit of making up to do, my transition time was abysmal. (T1 – 01:36)
Prior to the race I had been practicing my “flying mount” much to the amusement of fellow park-users at Bellahouston outdoor track and I had decided that I would attempt this “expert” move for the first time during this race. This was all going okay until I flew onto the saddle and dislodged my left bike shoe from the pedal sending it flying behind me…. This resulted in me faffing about, getting off my bike and trying to re-clip my shoe in before climbing back on somewhat more sedately and proceeding to the route. The route consisted of a mostly flat horse-shoe circuit on surrounding roads with a few junctions, roundabouts and little inclines…and lots of crappy surfaces!
Eventually I got my feet into my shoes but certainly not as gracefully as I could have, nor had practiced. I knew I’d lost time so went into TT mode and decided to pick-off as many people as possible. This strategy helped me regain my confidence from what was a bit of an embarrassing start, and I was quickly moving up the field. I set a goal not to be overtaken by any other female competitors and managed to maintain this with only one super speedy guy passing me on the whole route.
The second half of the bike course revealed lots of women in my category who were blatantly drafting in packs which was frustrating, but I knew I’d just need to concentrate on myself and leave cheats to be cheats! It was also a rather uncomfortable ride as the surface was terrible and I’d decided to ride with 120psi tyres… I got back into T2 without incident although knew I’d pushed it quite hard and was therefore a bit bedraggled getting my trainers on! (T2 – 1:39, again – must try harder!) On the plus side, I also discovered based on the amount of pre-race stalking I had done that only one bike was back from the 4 ladies in the 25-29 category who I knew were moving up with me to the 30-34 category trying to qualify. I just needed to not be overtaken by them…and hope the 30-34’s who were in the wave behind didn’t catch me either!
One thing I’m not great at is pacing, so I decided to consciously not kill myself in the first km and see if I could build from there. I set off and quickly realised my feet were really really cold, but knew they’d eventually heat up, I wasn’t wrong and by the second km was already getting too warm. The run was a two loop affair, with plenty of interesting things to see which was great as it ran through the middle of the theme park past rollercoasters and amusements. On the way out to the first turn I saw the girl who came off the bike ahead of me already going in the opposite direction. She was running really strong and I knew it’d be futile to chase her, so I concentrated on my own race. Within no time I was on the second lap and feeling good, I tried to push on a bit but it seems I actually ran pretty much identical splits the whole route despite thinking I was going a little faster. Before I knew it I seen the lap 2 / finish sign for the second time and headed in the direction of the latter. I checked my watch which told me I had ~350m to go…except I didn’t – the finish was right around the corner and any opportunity to push for a sprint finish was lost. That said I was absolutely delighted to cross the line and when I properly checked my watch I realised I had beaten my personal best by quite a margin despite two really poor transition times!
Finishing Time: 1:19:27
Previous Best: 1:23:07 (Stirling Triathlon – May 2017)
I was absolutely buzzing the whole day!
Massive well done to Isla Goldie and Arlene Lewis who both raced really well and were fantastic company and banter over the weekend!
I await the “official” results from British Triathlon on the race and my qualification standings, but from what I calculate and based on those who were registered online prior to the race I think I finished 5th which is just outside automatic qualification. Despite this, I’m really really pleased with the difference I’ve been able to prove to myself is possible with a few months of consistent and structured training.. I also really enjoyed the race on the day which is ultimately what it’s all about!
I drove back from London on Monday with lots still to learn and improve upon but with a little more confidence in my own ability and a massive smile on my face. It’s all about the journey x