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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Southam Triathlon: My Garmin is a GIT

I'd had almost an entire year out from triathlon and was concerned that I'd forgotten how. Drown, fall off, fall over was pretty much what I remembered. If I did the first one properly, then I wouldn't even need the second and third disciplines of falling off and falling over. 

I'd not planned to do this event but had recced the bike course with Rich, a friend from Rugby Tri Club a few weeks earlier and had particularly enjoyed beating him up all the hills (only because he was ill but I'll take my wins where I find them). In fact it was something I'd been keen to repeat if Rich could stay ill for another week, so I'd entered Southam Triathlon. 

I don't tend to like sprint triathlons as they're maximum heart rate the whole time which basically means that although you're only racing for just over an hour, they hurt the WHOLE TIME. However, the race is over fairly quickly, the recovery is fairly swift and it's good transition training. Plus they're not a bank-breaking cost and this one was local too.

I didn't however tell anyone I'd entered (particularly not my tri club buddy in case he started hill training) but mainly because I'm a bit pants at short distance races and wanted to keep my crash-and-burn nice and quiet.

As per my usual race prep, I arrived ridiculously early. This is great for finding parking spaces but is terrible for finding coffee and loos open. Luckily on this occasion both toilets and coffee were available so things were already looking up. Particularly as there is a direct correlation between them and I tend to drink more coffee when anxious. And needing a wee makes me REALLY anxious. Wear wellies around me if I look nervous.

I set up my bike in transition early and did my standard 'standing around for 15 minutes just bike staring wondering what I forgot' while familiar faces racked their bikes around me. Despite my nerves it was lovely to see so many friends from Rugby Tri, Cov Tri and Spa Striders around. 

It was an early season race so weather followed suit with rain, cold winds and draughts up the tri suit. I decided I'd had my 'bike staring' time so got into kit and was standing at pool edge 30 minutes early as it was the warmest place in the area. Also I had NO CLUE how the 'swim 100 metres and swim under the rope' thing worked so wanted to watch and get an idea of what to do.

As usual the time was going massively slow, then in the 20 minutes before I had to start I went warp speed. I popped into the pool and told myself it was just 100m to swim, then swap lanes … and another 100m to swim … it all has to be mind games with me. I have to concentrate on the 'here and now' when I'm racing otherwise I start worrying about whats ahead. And that's no good in triathlon otherwise I start 'trying to save my legs for the run' or some such bollocks. I just have to go hard as I can and not be a wimp on the run.

Turbulence of Terror

My whistle went and I quickly overtook 2 people in the swim lane, probably as I went off like a rocket. One that quickly fizzled out, mind. I swapped elbows with someone at the pool end, in an open water kind of a way rather than a Frankenstein way but it's triathlon. I'm sure no-one took it personally.

I enjoyed this way of doing a 400m pool swim. Firstly, because it meant I couldn’t lose count of laps which I always do counting to 16, plus it meant that the lanes were less congested. If someone miscalculated their time, you only had to overtake them once. It was pretty simple and even having to duck the lane rope was very easy as you did it when pushing off the pool edge. 

Every person I overtook caught me up in transition as I was fannying about again. I try hard NOT to do this but cold fingers, trying to find bike shoes which have been booted halfway across transition by the earlier swimmer racked next to me and decisions such as 'spend 10 minutes trying to zip up jacket Vs freezing cold soaking wet on bike in April' take some time.

In case you're wondering, I decided not to bother with the bike jacket. I decided to do the equivalent of blow drying under a freezing cold hairdryer while pedalling like a lunatic. It wasn't quite cold enough for icicle bogies but probably could have had someone's eye out with the goosebumps.  

I enjoyed the bike. I always find it much easier on a course I know as don't subconsciously save something in the tank for any hills that may (or may not!) be in front of me. I set off fairly quickly, relying on a bit of speed to warm up and just concentrating on catching the cyclists in front of me. Southam Triathlon bike course is a lovely route with only two real hills - Snowford hill and Ufton Hill. They're both steady but neither are 'out of the saddle hills', they just slow you down a bit and warm you up. Perfect for a sprint triathlon course. It was a bit of a windy day and as usual I didn't notice the tailwind but the headwind felt like I was trying to claw my way through treacle. The car drivers were really courteous which was brilliant – very different to the usual cars out on a Sunday morning who seem to feel like a Sunday morning isn't complete without a few choice swearwords and a cyclist in the hedge. 

Got back into transition after a small take-off over an unexpected speed-bump, racked the bike, bike shoes off, trainers on and tried to sprint out of transition with helmet and glasses on. Promptly got told by a marshal to go back and take them off again. Just as well really as I hadn't realised and probably wouldn't have realised until I couldn't find my helmet in transition at the end. 

Despite being divested of half my kit, I kept my bright orange bike gloves on. I might have a chilly everything else but I'd have warm hands. Yeah I looked a plonker, but I was a plonker with warm hands. 

Surprisingly, the run felt pretty good. I guess this was because I knew there was only 5k of it. The terrain was wet grass which was sodden and muddy in places especially with the steady rain and 200 people doing 5 laps of 2 playing fields each. Runners had to collect 4 wristbands and then run another loop after this to finish. I miscounted and got confused about having to do a whole another lap after band 4. I thought it was 'collect a fourth band and then run up a finish chute' which was a horrible realisation when I collected my 4th band and realised that the finish chute was 1km away at the other side of 2 playing fields. 

Couldn’t check my Garmin for pace as it was showing me screen which I think it saves for race day which shows me absolutely nothing useful whatsoever. I don't like to affix a personality to my Garmin but it would basically be one of those people on the train who sits next to you and eats a smelly McDonalds and then gets their phone out and talks REALLY LOUDLY. Basically it's a complete git.

Look at this lovely lot! (Photo by Claire Walker)

I did realise that I sped up for the section by the finish funnel though as half of Rugby Tri seemed to be there and I got a nice cheer as I went past. Apparently I was easy to spot in my black and pink tri suit and MASSIVE ORANGE GLOVES. I don't think I help myself with my race photos sometimes.

I did same thing as I did for the bike and concentrated on catching the person in front of me. Whole run felt pretty good. Couldn’t really have gone much faster although could have probably taken time off without the hills and the mushy grass. Was glad with my choice to wear trail shoes for a bit of extra grip and they were really comfy. 

Last band collected, last lap done and I did my best for a sprint finish up the finish funnel which basically involves some gurning at the photographer and some appalling running technique. 

Yeah ... rocking the kit ... I've STILL got the orange gloves on too ...

Relieved to be over the line and even nicer to find out it was a sprint PB! Later found out was also 1st in AG and was 2nd overall as lady in front of me had accidentally missed a lap out of the run. Nice surprise for an early season tri.

Check out THIS bad boy!

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