The 15th July was super sport Sunday: the cobbled Roubaix stage of the men’s Tour de France, the men’s final of Wimbledon, the men’s football World Cup final and I lined up with 153 other women to compete in the York Sprint Distance Triathlon.
I’d been looking forward to this race for months. One of my best friends entered it last year as her first triathlon, and I was gutted I couldn’t join her as it clashed with my Edinborough half-ironman attempt. This year we were both entered, with both husbands and small children in tow. This year, I’d decided to concentrate on Sprint distance races for a few reasons: the professional sounding one is that it gave me an opportunity to work on improving my speed; the real one is that it takes a lot less training time and therefore greater opportunity to have a life outside training and work. It was my 3rd triathlon of the season and theoretically my A race. The pool based swim was a bonus with many summer races now being affected with blue-green algae or wet-suit banned swims. It’s also a closed road bike circuit, described by organisers as “technical”, so it should be a lot of fun.
OK so a bit about the organisers. I hadn’t done any “UK Triathlon” events before, but they seemed to have quite a big set up, putting on many races through the year. This is why I was more surprised and disappointed with the following: 1) instructions to rack bike no more than 20 mins before start and be at poolside 15 mins before start (err, pardon?!, don’t you know about laying out transition, checking exit/entry points, and general faffing to calm the nerves? This give just 5 mins to set everything up at be back at the pool – probably less time than my actually race transition) and 2) … no, well, I actually had a long list but I am so blown away by number 1 that I’m going to let it stand alone. In the end I racked my bike early (40 mins before start), and then was still late for poolside briefing due to ridiculous lack of toilets and long queues. Oh wait, I’m back on number 2 after all!
Several organisational annoyances aside the race itself was a lot of fun. I had a fairly steady swim and it was pleasant to exit the pool and be into transition in quite a short distance. I’d skilfully put my bike by the bike exit so I didn’t have to push it far. I hopped on after the mount line and was reminded once again why you should always check the course out “oh it’s cobbles!” The circuit was quite flat and probably fast for anyone with good bike handling skills. It was wide enough for one bike to pass in most places, maybe two bikes if the riders were experienced, but to be fair this was a beginner’s friendly event and I was sharing the circuit with quite a few inexperienced riders. This meant I had to take a lot of care when passing, but also meant I could enjoy over taking people for a change – wheeee!
It was a pretty bumpy ride over the cobbles in a lot of places (I say cobbles, it’s more like block paving, but a lot of it was loose and bumpy), but for me, this just made it more fun. The laps also meant I got to see my family and they got to see me several times in the race. My little boy had even found 2 sticks to bang together so he seemed to be having fun. I counted my 6 laps and then jumped off to get ready for the run.
In T2 I was slowed down by laughing at some guy with his mates taking the mick out of him as he tried to complete his T1. I tried to stay focused but it was too funny. Then I got my race head back on and dashed out of the run exit.
The run is 4 laps of the York Sport Cycle Circuit. It was great that it was a smooth, off road surface, but it was also baking hot. I paced the first lap by letting my legs go as fast as they liked (thinking they were still on the bike), then I settled into the 2nd lap at what I though was a faster pace (turned out mile 2 was a lot slower than mile 1 so that didn’t work). There was a drink station to pass at the end of each lap and by lap 3 they started putting more than one mouthful of water in the cup so that was a bonus. Full marks though for using paper rather than plastic cups. As I completed lap 3 I reflected on the fact that the hardest part of the race probably wasn’t the heat but the amount of counting to be done. 4 laps of each lane in the pool, 6 laps on the bike, 4 laps on the run. If you don’t like laps, don’t do this race. I don’t mind laps, but was finding it harder to keep track as I got more tired.
At the end of lap 3, I saw my friend complete her race just ahead of me. One more to go. I gave it one last push, one more smile at the race photographer, and one more kick up the “I can’t believe this is still uphill” section. I gave a final kick down the finishing straight and, rather like Mark Cavendish, found my legs just weren’t there, so cruised it in instead. I stood for a moment to enjoy the sensation of being still whilst the race commentator tried to work out my club name “Oh, HaTriC – I see what you did there!”, and then it was time for family cuddles, resumption of motherhood duties, and eventually a burger and a beer.
OK, so let’s talk about the title. Yes, everyone got a medal. Quite rightly so. This was an arduous event and not for the faint hearted. And like every other event I’ve taken part in for the last 6 years, my medal went straight to my little boy. He loved wearing it all afternoon, and I’ve even got the chocolate ice-cream smears on the ribbon to prove it. What about 3rd place? Well the thing I love about triathlon is that there is always some way to make yourself look good. Based on last year’s times I thought I had a good chance of making it onto the first page of results, but I missed out making it to the top of page 2. Then I noticed I was 11th in my age group! I should be very proud, but couldn’t help thinking I’d just missed out on a top 10. Then I noticed all the competitors’ ages were listed. I counted down. Yesssss! I was the 3rd place female age 42! What a result! Of course I’m still just 41, but let’s not split hairs.
I know I’ve complained a fair bit about the organisation in this report, but it’s only because it’s so frustrating to see how much better it could be with a few simple changes that other event organisers seem to be able to manage. If you are a triathlon novice this is a great first race, and you won’t notice my minor quibbles as you won’t have other events to compare against. For balance I would like to add that the marshals were brilliant, but especially the lady on the turnaround/lap finish point on the bike. What a superstar!
See you next year.