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Friday, 31 July 2015

Ding dong round 3

In 2012 my first ever triathlon was Hatfield. (2012 race report)

Since then I have raced it once more (2014 race report). As it is my most local race, it seems a shame not to race it whenever I can. I like to use it as a progress check.

So this year I made sure that I entered the race. Yes it was a week after the Jenson Button Trust Triahtlon and 4 days after the Doncaster 5k but like I said I use it as a check on progress.

The race is a 750m swim, 24km bike and 5km run.

I looked at the start list before the race and didn’t notice any of the local really quick swimmers entered. Could I pull off a cheeky #firstoutthewater? Who know buts it was something I would quite like.

On the morning of the race I had a bike mechanical. My front derailleur had slipped and was snagged on my chainring. After a lot of stress I managed to free this up with 15 minutes to go before my race start. I flew through transition setting things up, racking my bike and put on my new Huub Archimedes 2. I had a minute to spare before the hooter. Hardly ideal race preparation. No warm up whatsoever.

I had a quick splash in the water. Read manic flailing of arms while I tried to calm myself.

There was a slight format change this year, the race start was a beach start. I lined up at the front confident that my swim speed would enable me to break free of the melee. As the hooter went all 50 athletes set off together.

Wade, wade, dive, dolphin dive, start swimming. After about 30 seconds I looked up and realised I was not in the lead. Oh well there goes that #firstoutthewater I wanted. By 200m there was one swimmer about 50m in front of me and another 2 swimmers. By my reckoning I was 4th. The second place swimmer seemed to put in a burst of speed to break free of our pack of 3 after about 300m. Stay calm was all I kept telling myself.

One thing I noticed was that the other swimmers in front of me were not swimming to the buoys, they were swimming wide. Why they did this I have no idea but when you’re not part of the thrashing mass, it makes sense to swim the course as tight as you can. At the 5th buoy the 2nd place swimmer was now only a body length up on me. By the final turn buoy at about 500m the first swimmer had faded whereas as my slow and steady rhythm was easily maintainable. We turned this buoy and after another 10 strokes I was leading the swim.

After the first 200m I thought this was out of the question. Me leading a swim out. I got a bit giddy with myself. Calm down Michael. Keep it together. Stroke, stroke, breath. Repeat. I was making sure I was putting as much power down as I could maintain. A quick glance around and I confirmed I was leading the swim. It felt amazing leading the swim out. With 50m I felt someone on my feet, I put in a last burst of effort to ensure I was out of the water first. I was overjoyed getting to dry land in first place. At Hatfield the transition zone is up a short hill. There was no way I was losing whatever lead I had in this run to transition. I dug in to make sure I was first into T1. Whatever happened after that, nonone could take my #firstoutthewater away from me.

Suit off, helmet and belt on. I was first out of T1 as well.

Me leading a race. Woohoo.

Jump on my bike, pedal a bit, get feet in shoes. Oh crap there goes the lead. I was now 2nd and we had only just left the Water Park. Never mind. If you’d offered me this at the start, I’d have bit your hand off.
I know the course at Hatfield well, the course is flat with six hills (read motorway bridges) and the only trouble with the course is that it is in a wind corridor so at some point on the course you get a 4 mile straight with a headwind, either on the way out or on the way home. For this year it was a headwind back. That and the horrific rain made bike handling interesting.

I had set myself a wattage target. I wanted to hold 220/230W for the first two thirds of the bike and see how I felt for the last third. One biker passed me after 4 miles and another 10 seconds later. I was not in 4th. After another 2 miles the 5th place rider overtook me. I was now in 5th and sill had 7/8 miles to go. Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan. After a total of 8 miles, I pressed lap on my Garmin and made sure that the average watt for the remainder of the bike leg were above 250W. The second to last hill was horrific, I felt I had put too much into the bike. The run was going to be interesting.

I passed the 3rd and 4th placed runners as I was entering transition as they had just started running. They were only about a minute up on me. It felt odd getting back to transition with so few bikes there. A nice odd, though. Bike racked, helmet off, trainers on, spin number belt. Suck it up.

After racing the Doncaster 5k on Wednesday (which was perfectly paced according to a friend “first lap controlled, second lap barking like a seal (a noise I make when running hard), 3rd grunty and wonky”) where I posted a 23:07 finish I was hoping for a sub 24:30 run split from Hatfield.

It was weird being towards the pointy end and oddly quite lonely. There were no other runners to run with. I completely zoned out on the run. This is the first time I have done this. I dug in and gave it everything I had. I reached the turn point at one mile and was still in 5th. Well that was unexpected. I had expected to be caught by two people I knew by this point. I didn’t see anyone after the turn point before we veered off for the rest of the course which meant I had at least a 400m lead on 6th place. As I turned to the offroad section of the course, I was feeling good. I was completely zoned out and knew I was running well. I apparently saw some of my club mates after 2.5 miles as they were coming back in on the bike. I have no recollection of this at all. I remember signalling to a female clubmate as she was starting the run by raising a thumb. I wasn’t wasting precious energy on a verbal greeting. But apparently I stared through another clubmate who was finishing her bike. Sorry Amy. I still hadn’t been overtaken on the run with 600m to go. I was still 5th. OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!

I entered the final field and after 50m someone overtook me. 550m to go and I was in 6th. Dig in Michael. Don’t lose it now. Run strong. Check form and posture. Relax. Relax those shoulders.
I had now turned the final corner and managed a quick glance back, I could see one of my clubmates gaining on me. I had 150m to go finish this. Stay on target. Don’t sprint too soon. I continued to run strong. Nope he was still gaining. 50m to go. Time to engage the afterburners. Oh god this hurts…….
I crossed the line 3 seconds before my clubmate in 6th position overall. 6th. GET IN!!!!!! I was 6th male to finish but 7th overall because the female winner was slightly quicker than me.

My run time was 23:22 which was only 15 seconds worse than Wednesday after the swim and the bike and with an off road portion as well.

To put this into context. In 2012 I finished 161st out of 166. 



In 2014 I finished 68th  out of 141 



But now in 2015 I had finished 7th out of 64


An extreme sense of euphoria swept over me. The last time I was truly this happy was at my wedding in 2010. The hard hard work I had put in over the winter was paying off. Even after my arm fracture. I raced with no pressure at Hatfield and as a result raced relaxed. This is by far the best performance I have had in a triathlon and no one could take my 6th place and #firstoutthewater away from.
Well actually they could. Due to a timing cock up I was not given the correct swim time. Who knows how but I and all the spectators know who was first out.

Clearly ahead coming to dry land
Had I suspected my time was near my target of a sub 12:00 750m swim I would have complained but it wasn’t because I believe the swim was long. I saw some Garmin logs at over 900m. I never time my swims anymore. What will be, will be.

The most important thing was my finishing position was correct. 6th. I’m still a little in shock about this. I completed the race in 1:20:27 which was a 7 minute PB over the same race from last year and the wind was a lot worse this time round.

Now to knuckle back down before the next block of racing. I have 4 races on back to back weekends in August so it’s going to be a busy month.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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