Race Report Windsor Triathlon Olympic Distance 15 June 2008
Today – 15 June 2008 – I raced in the Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon. The race has been running for about 17 years and is usually sold out late December or early Jan. It has a 2500 limit so it selling out so soon, shows what a popular event it is. There were also 40+ other racers from Berkshire Tri Squad entered, so this is race is a good measure of how you are getting on compared to the other club members.
I had spent a fair amount of time servicing my bike and had changed both tyres and inner tubes. I fitted Continental Ultra Gatorskin tyres. These are not the fastest tyre around but they are supposed to offer a high level of puncture resistances. I fitted them instead of my normal race tyres in an attempt to break my run of races where I get a puncture (the last two races).
Bike racking was on Saturday, I met a few of the other BTS members on Saturday at 11.30ish to rack our bikes, have some lunch and talk over tomorrows race. The river has been flowing really fast for the last two weeks and a quick check showed that it had slowed a bit but was still flowing quickly. This would mean that the swim was going to be tough and probably slow.
I was due in the water at 7.00am, it means getting out of bed at 4.30ish to enable the coffee and porridge to be digested before the race start. Betty gave me a lift and dropped me off in Eton and I walked over the bridge at 6.00am just as the first wave in the sprint distance were starting. I stopped to watch.
The start is on the left bank of the river by a small island from here you cut across the river to the right bank. Its best to get as close to the right bank as soon as possible this is because the river is flowing a lot slower close to the bank. The only problem with this strategy is that everybody else is trying to swim there. Most of the swimmers were making some headway and getting close to the bank I continued to watch and then a lone orange clad head appeared around the island it was breast stroking madly in an attempt to get to the right bank they were getting pushed down the river, a canoe was in close attendance so I assumed they would be OK. I then looked up to see about 10 other swimmers walking along the right bank. I took it that the river was still flowing quite fast.
I walked around to transition to check my bike, set out my gear and get into my wetsuit. The start was getting close now and pre race excitement was beginning to take effect. I had a quick chat with Kevin who was in the water 10mins before me. Wished him good luck and walked to the start.
The swim waves are 5mins apart and there are roughly 100 people in each wave. This make the swim interesting because just as you fight your way into some clear water you are amongst the slower swimmers of the wave in front. Fight your way through these and the fast swimmers from the wave behind are fighting their way through you. Just as it gets clear again you are into the slow swimmers from the wave that started 10mins in front of your wave “Great fun“.
The Swim 1500m
My wave was being called to get in the water so I got in slowly to let my body and face get used to the colder temp of the water, to be honest this wasn’t necessary as the water was about 17C. The start horn fired and we were away. I had decided to stay on the left in an attempt to get some clear water, this meant I would have to swim in the centre of the river where the current was the strongest which would slow me down a bit but I thought this would be better than roughing it a bit at the start. The plan was to get in front of the main pack and then cut over to the right bank. The problem was that the current was that strong I couldn’t get in front. I was then a bit stuck as I couldn’t get across to the bank as there were about 20 swimmers between me and the right bank. I decided to try and fight my way over. I made it to the bank and started to make some headway it was then that I noticed that I had swam about 20 meter with someone walking along side me. I wasn’t going to stand up though. I had just caught the slower swimmers of the wave in front and adjusted my direction to swim past them. I was about half way through the swim at this stage with about 100m to go until the turn buoy. It would get a whole lot easier after the turn as I would be swimming with the flow on the way back to transition. I looked up to spot the buoy which was in the middle of the river. As I approached the buoy it seemed that it was moving away from me. This was because as I approached the buoy I eased back a bit and the flow of the river was pushing me back down the river. I decided to swim strongly past the buoy and then let the river flow take me back past it as I turned which worked OK. I was now swimming with the flow and It was lot easier. So much so that I was swimming along and could hear a lot of people shouting on the right bank and then realised that I was about to swim past the swim exit a quick right turn around the island and I was almost out of the water. There was a big step and two guys pulling you out of the water I fell on the first and second steps but got my legs under me and started on the long run into transition while peeling off my wet suit. Time out of transition was 00:33:52 this was a bit slower than I had hoped for. I was looking to do a 27min swim but with the flow of the river and the transition times added I wasn’t too disappointed.
The Bike 40km
I had a trouble free transition and was out on the road in no time. Just 40km of undulating road ahead. It felt good to be out of the water and on the bike. The bike is my strongest leg and it is an opportunity to make up some time. I got into a nice rhythm and was keeping my cadence high (this is the number of times you rotate the peddles in a minute) I usually ride at about 80rmp but I kept it high at the start just to get my legs working and not put too much strain on them in the early part of the ride. About 3km into the ride I upped the pace and still felt OK and I was passing a lot of the slower riders when I rode past a bloke on a £3500 Cervelo bike. I new I was going to have a good ride, or was he just pants rider that just had too much money to burn? Who knows? Well back to the ride and I was on the Drift Road and having a battle with this guy who keep riding past me on the flats but I was stronger on the hills and would past him again. Trying not to draft was tough in this situation but I would let him get far enough in front when he went past so that I wouldn’t get any advantage. The rules state that you have to have a 7m gap at all times. I saw a few guy stopping for a pee and though that they must need to go really badly to stop for a pee mid race. This is a sign that they got their hydration all wrong at the start of the race. It’s no good just necking two litres of water just before the start, you need to sip water during the morning, this enables your body to absorb it better rather that just filling your bladder. If I needed a pee I think I would just let it go on the bike anyway. I was at about the 30km mark and still riding strong. Just the climb up towards Ascot and the chase through Windsor Great Park. I passed the bloke that kept passing me on the flats up the hill and hit the turbo (hark at him, what turbo?) I did feel OK and pushed hard all the way through the park and back through Windsor into transition. A good bike for me I was hoping for a sub 1.20min bike and a check later showed that I had got round in 01:12:47 which included T2.
The Run 10km
This is a classic run course that take you out of transition along the river for about 100m around and up a hill alongside Windsor Castle, back down the hill past Windsor theatre out towards Datchet around a dead turn back towards Eton, over Eton bridge, up the high street to another dead turn and then back to the river. You do three legs of this run and there are hundreds of spectators to cheer you all along the run.
I had been told that the run up the hill to the Castle was a bugger but found it OK and was back down the hill in no time at all. It’s probably best to say that the run is my weakest of the three disciplines and was just looking to be under 50mins on this course. I have run a 46min personal best for 10km but that was on a dead flat course and was part of a Aquathon with a 750m swim. So me feeling OK and terms like “back in no time” are relative.
Any way the plan was to take it steady for the first two laps and then try to push a bit on the last half of the last lap. This went to plan and before I knew it the finish was in sight and I had what I like to call a sprint over the last 100m to complete the run in 48mins.
A quick hug with Betty and some post race hydration was the order of the day. At this point I should mention Betty who is always a great supporter and cheered me on all over the course “thanks very much my lover”. I a decided to show my thanks by writing her a note on the back of my Tri Suit as a surprise.
Swim: 00:33:52 Bike: 01:12:47 Run: 00:48:11 Total: 02:44:51