My first experience of middle distance triathlon was the Woburner in 2019. It’s a fantastic race in a great setting, but a distinct lack of preparation on my part meant it was a tough day out. I finished in 7:45; not quite the last person on the course but it felt like it.
Undeterred, I entered not one but two 70.3s for 2020 – the Cotswold Classic and the Cotswold 113 – both on the same course with a 1900m swim in the fantastic Lake 32 in the Cotswold water park, 90km flat bike course, and a flat half-marathon run around the lake.
As we all know, everything changed in 2020, but despite this, the team at 113 Events persevered and ran both races in Covid safe conditions – one in August and one in September. I deferred my Classic entry to 2021 and raced the 113 in September. Unfortunately this time I DNF’d on the run.
In April 2021 with the Classic now planned for 11 July, I reached out to Richard Hughes of Peak Performance Multisport to help me with training plans and structure to try to prevent another DNF. Richard and I only had 2 months to get my fitness up and work on pacing, but the difference in just a short time has been marked. Training to heart rate, we focussed on long, steady rides and runs combined with Team Cherwell running track sessions on Mondays, BSCC Time Trials on Wednesdays, and 2-3 swims a week at the TC sessions in Woodgreen and in the lake at Berinsfield. We established a race plan for the day based on HR to ensure I would be able to complete the run and finish in good form.
Checking the bike the day before the race (another Richard suggestion) revealed very noisy front wheel bearings and an emergency trip to TY cycles saved the day with new bearings fitted while I waited. I rounded out Saturday with the obligatory Covid test, pasta dinner and an early night.
The advantage of racing relatively locally is sleeping in your own bed the night before. The flipside is having to get up at 3am on Sunday! I forced some breakfast down, filled many, many drinks bottles and finished packing, leaving the house so early that my neighbour thought someone was stealing my car. I arrived at the event at 5am, checked in and racked the bike. The first swimmers were due in the water at 6am, and I was due off at 6:40.
Those of you who have done this race before will know Dave – forever immortalised as Shouty Dave – the voice of 113 events and the chap who drags you out of the swim by the back of your wetsuit. At 5:30 Dave came through transition to tell us the start was delayed by 20 minutes. The lake was so fogged in that you couldn’t see the marker buoys, and the safety team and BTF officials couldn’t let us proceed until the fog cleared. It didn’t, and after 2 more delays, and some speculation of a shortened swim, it was eventually called off and the event turned into a bike:run. 800 competitors including fellow Team Cherwellians Rosie Weston and Denise Shepherd, filed out of transition and onto the bike course.
The first lap of the bike went well. I felt good, was comfortable on the tri bars and happy using heartrate to manage effort. I was pleasantly surprised to get round the first 45km lap in 1 hour 30minutes. This was despite slowing for traffic, other riders and 2 accidents on the course. Here’s hoping that the riders involved in these are ok.
The second lap was a little slower and I found it less comfortable staying on the tri bars. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before I passed Dave shouting that there was 100m to go, so I slipped my feet out of the shoes, dismounted before the line, and toddled into T2 in my socks. In summary, 10 gels, 2 mars bars and a bike time of 3 hours 13 minutes at an average of nearly 18mph.
In T2 I took time to change socks, grab some more gels and salt tablets, put on my trainers and headed out feeling really positive. The run is a flat, 3-lap course of about 7km per lap, and the first 2 laps went well, with steady running to manage heart rate, and walking the aid stations to make sure I got water, gels and salt tabs in to stave off cramp. From about 16km I started to struggle with core and leg muscle fatigue, and resorted to run/walking, but managed to run the last 1k and crossed the line in 2:56:28 with a smile on my face.
Overall time for the bike/run was 6:15:47. If we had been able to do the swim, then I think my time overall would have been sub 7 hours. However, I still have unfinished business at this distance and I will be back to try again at the 113 or the Classic next year.
Thanks to Richard Hughes, the TC coaches – Helen, Mabel, Andy and Alex, and to Graeme, Dave and the 113 team for putting on a really well-run race in difficult conditions.