So thought it would be helpful to start writing down a my race experience, not just for you, the reader (not sure how many are out there) but for me as well. Currently I just save my results and rely on short little memos to my coach on how I felt or nuggets of information that cant be gleamed from the various meters during a race.
Originally I had only planned to do Exmoor and the World Championships this summer but after settling into a bit of routine here and seeing that my training was going reasonably well I figured (and wanted) to sign up for a race. It would serve to be a bit of status report on training as well check some other logistical boxes. I always had a bit of a nagging notion that I forgot my bike shoes or something stupid when packing up and I wouldn’t realize that till my 70.3 later this month. Also, while not the most glamorous way to spend a weekend it does serve to get Carly and I out of the city and being able to race in the shadow of Windsor Castle is a unique experience that I can now say I’ve had.
Woke up at 7ish to be at the pool by 7:30 for a light swim, which I was able to get this in without issue and was back home by 9. It is kinda amazing how many parents and kids show up for swimming at my pool on the weekends. The changing room was a madhouse when I got out of the pool with screaming kids and dad’s with “dear in the headlights” look as kids ran everywhere. The other odd thing I’ll mention and had to get used to, is that given while ok in the states people are much more willing to take children of the opposite sex into the changing rooms than in the states. Its not bad, just an odd culture thing I’ve had to adjust too.
After my swim back home for a quick change and out the door by for my ride to Windsor. My coach wanted me to get a decent ride in and then do a bit of a workout on the course Saturday before racking my bike. I had researched the route a bit and was comfortable as a set off. Though the nerves of riding a a brand new super bike around London traffic was a bit much.
Also, a fair amount of the route was on the cow path next to canals which wasn’t very smooth (concrete pavers) I eventually gave up when it turned to gravel about 12 miles out. I then jumped on B roads and sidewalks next to what seemed like highways to get out to Windsor.
All in all, pretty piss poor riding, incredibly bumpy, rough terrain. But I was able to get out to the race and stopped a couple times along the way to tighten/adjust the bike. I discovered a couple of little technical issues I that I need to review before my exmoor race so it was good to go through that as a warm-up. I then road about 70% of the course in the rain. I did the first bit watching power. I have a sensor on my bike which monitors and reports my power output which is one of the best/accurate ways to measure how hard you’re working and overall race management. The second and final bit of the course I did by feel. The ride on the course was moderately successful but it was getting later in the day (around 1) so there were people on the roads and I had a backpack (gear for bike and clothes for train home) so it was a bit chaotic at times.
After the ride I checked in and racked bike. I got into a bit of discussion regarding my bike and helmet with the race official. It was odd as he was saying the rules may change in the future but both were fine now, I noted that I understood, an confirmed that no issue racing today. He kept on going back to other races though, which while nice seemed to be a bit more of my problem than his. Its up to me know the rules and be prepared for a race, and my fault for showing up to a race with something that isnt allowed. After locking up my bike (yes despite security I still locked that thing up) I scoped out transition and the swim start. A quick run to the train station and I was on my way back to the city. I will say I’m pretty sure i was the only guy with a Dimond/beam bike at the race and I got quite a few looks and compliments on my new ride.
Along the way I stopped at the car rental and picked up my rental car for Sunday (to transport bike home and Carly to airport on way home as well). All in all I didn’t get home till like 5:30 which made for a long day. I spent the rest of the evening getting stuff together for my race and Carly made a good dinner and afterwards we went for a short walk (which oddly enough, ended up at the ice cream place). I developed a bit of a headache (I think from being dehydrated and not eating throughout the day) so I laid down around 8… woke up at 10 and then went back to bed… party animals….
Up at 4:45am , I packed up car while Carly took Bruno for a quick walk. We were off to Windsor by 5:15. I was a bit nervous about parking (not having seen where they could possibly park 1300 people in this small town) so got there pretty early. It ended up being ok (parking wise) as they overtook a local schools playing fields to park people. I typically don’t eat much before a race (stomach doesn’t sit well) so the half an english muffin with peanut butter i choked down was pretty impressive. Rain started shortly after showing up and as I set up my meager transition. I’m always amazed how much shit some people have in their space. I literally have my shoes and gel for run and bike helmet/number for bike, four things thats it…. The remainder of the time (about an hour) Carly and I waited at the edge of the Canal watching the earlier waves go off. Saw a few people who bailed out 50-100m in so that was pretty funny. I understand that a swim start can be a bit of a scary thing but I cant imagine getting all the way to a race starting and then realizing just after the start that you cant follow through…you’re already in the race… just keep going!!
The river temp was about 19C so not cold, and I wore a sleeveless suit. I forgot my customary gel before racing so no immediate fuel here, had to just go off of adrenalin. I felt like i pushed the pace on the swim and actually ended up leading my wave and was the first out of the water for my group with a 21:45 (good for 26th fastest swim overall).
Swim Start Video – I’m the one in the sleeveless suit far side of the group towards the front.
This was the first swim I’ve ever done in a river and I didn’t really notice the current while swimming except for one section when coming back up river where for 50-100m definitely could sense I was swimming into the current. But this was also 200m from the end so could just be tired.
Transition 1 was crazy long… up stairs out of canal, up short stairs to road, run around transition, grab bike and then out, run to mount line was maybe 300-400m along pavement (no joke) which was brutal on the bare feet.
So I knew I was first out of the water and had a decent swim but was unclear of how far ahead (and half of my age group was 2-3 waves ahead of me so no real idea where I was in that sense either) as I jumped on the bike. The rain was coming doing a bit heavier now while the roads were open they were generally quiet. I downed a Gel immediately after getting on the bike and slowly worked my way through one smaller water bottle with a half a pack of gel mixed into it. I also consumed a gel with about 8 miles to go on the bike. I felt like I pushing but definitely had to remind myself to keep going throughout the race (I kinda just zone out sometimes). I knew that the course was 24-25 miles and I wanted to be like 55 so I was aiming for an average of 27mph. However, about 8-10 miles in I saw I wasn’t doing that and became a little frustrated but resolved to soldier on and kept trying to stay on it but not relying on power data (coach wanted me to race blind). That said I was watching the time and average mph like a hawk. My legs were fatigued from the Saturday’s long day (more just the general day than the workout) though I was never really out of breath/labored. I was having to constantly remind myself to change into a higher gear and push it or really try and keep the momentum. Consistently flying by people was a nice pump up but I could tell I wasn’t going to be sub 1:00 so that was a bit disheartening. I ended with a 1:02 with was good for 7th fastest overall. By the end of the bike my upper body was killing me, not lifting the last weeks/months taken its toll on my TT position). There was a pretty good downhill section towards the end where I came out of the drops (not used to riding over 40 mph on deep dish front wheels) and riding half a mile or so on the bullhorns in aero position nearly killed me… I think i need to start doing some push ups or something after runs.
T2 was pretty standard.. outside of momentarily forgetting where my bike rack location…
The run was a three lapper. I had a gel as I was putting on my shoes and alternated between gatorade and water on the course. There was a pretty short but steep hill about 400m in (only like a 200-300m hill) the rest was pretty flat. I was pretty happy with my pace but looking back on it probably could have pushed it a bit harder but I think by that time I was starting to get a bit bummed out by my less than stellar bike split.
Run was crazy crowded by the time I was out there and I spent a fair amount of time picking around people and such. Utterly impossible to tell where I was in relation to other people, I was just running and looking at my watch ever now and then to confirm pace (around 5:55ish). Being a three lap deal did at least give some provide Carly with some photo opportunities. Started picking it up with about half a mile to go and pushed it in, didn’t come across the line feeling as tired as I probably should have (seemed to be a common problem)
Overall, final time was 2:06:52 which while a good time I was pretty disappointed with. I think it was mainly the bike portion that really got me. Oddly enough I actually feel like I let my bike down (yes my physical bike). In previous races I always prided myself on being able to dust guys with crazy expensive bikes with my secondhand machine. Now I have this amazing tool and I feel like I didn’t do it justice by giving it everything I had. I’ll get more comfortable with the bike and riding it fast but there is definitely a learning curve. Going into the race I had really wanted to go sub 2:00. I realize with the move, new course, new bike, long T’s etc etc that was a big ask, but I really thought I would have it in me so I was pretty bummed when I didn’t cross the line with that time.