A Half Hearted Affair
So there I was on a glorious sunny Saturday cruising north (ok crawling through the A14 roadworks), heading for the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham, ready to put all that hard earned virtual training to good use (it is the planning to do the training that counts…right?…).
First stop the campsite next to the centre and having set up my luxury overnight accommodation it was a short walk to registration followed by the mandatory 40 minute race briefing in a baking hot marquee crammed with 300 eager triathletes, where we were reminded of all the material in the race info that we had meant to read but never got round to, with some great video animations covering all aspects of the race. Race organiser Iain Hamilton casually mentioned that Will Clarke, Phil Graves, Lucy Charles and Lucy Gossage would be racing – ah so they’ve brought out the big guns to challenge me – glad I’d brought the faster of my ATC trisuits – the mark 1 ATC suit (aka Victorian bathing costume) would have to wait for another day. Just time for a few pints of the cold erdinger for hydration and a chance to catch the action from the Sprint Tri.
Fortunately, I avoided oversleeping thanks the fellow camper who had kindly primed their dog to start barking at 2am for a good 10 minutes, followed by the steady drones of cars arriving at 4am ready for the carpark to open at 5. Time to walk bleary eyed to transition and rack my bike and have those last minute – oh bugger I forgot to bring…. moments (despite having packed the kitchen sink). Still – bike, helmet, 2 types of shoes, wetsuit, sorted. With calm conditions and a beautiful day in store there were no kit choice dilemmas – just the main challenge – having gained a ‘few’ extra pounds, would that extra tight fitting wetsuit ever get on – just as well I had an hour or so before the start of my wave, which also gave me chance to see the elite wave exiting the swim in 24 minutes for the 1900m.
With about 300 in each wave and nearly the whole width of the lake to start in, the swim start wasn’t too much of a bun fight, although I spent most of the first section with someone feeling me up – friendly lot these triathletes.
After a tardy 41 minute swim, time to jump on the bike – first 3 miles is a circuit of the rowing lake, flat, no traffic and chance to get settled, before heading out to the dual carriageway and a coned off lane for the next few miles, all pan flat. With calm conditions and a warm start to the day it’s ideal conditions and we’re cruising at a steady 20mph+. We peel off the dual carriageway at Radcliffe and wend our way through the streets, with every junction well marshalled, followed by the slight climb up to Shelford before dropping back down to the main road. A right turn at the roundabout (or island in this part of the world) takes us north for the next 10 miles to Oxton, and, apart from the bridge over the Trent, the road surface is good and traffic is quiet.
At Oxton there is the only hill of any note, climbing 50m in about ½ Km before coming to the first aid station – slow down and take a bottle (or gels or bananas) from one the many helpers spread over about 50m of road – then a long fast descent to Southwell and a right turn to head south – more downhill on a quiet A road as we complete the northern loop by rejoining the A6097 to re-cross the Trent and pass over the A46 and begin the southern loop – this is mainly on smaller back roads with the occasional bad surfaces to keep you focussed. Another well run aid station to top up on fluids just before mile 35, as we complete the loop and retrace our steps to Radcliffe, where the course takes you back via a single lane access road with speed bumps, gravel, pot holes and a cattle grid to the Water Sports centre. Really enjoyed the bike – managed to keep a fairly steady pace and plenty of overtaking, being retaken and re-overtaking (no drafting Navin, honest!). 2:55 for the bike
Back into transition and the familiar post bike jelly legs for the start of the run – this is where the lack of winter bike miles really bites you in the bum – the temperature’s now a very pleasant 23/24oC and a mere 13 miles to go – smile/grimace – at least the course is pan flat. The run takes you out to a towpath along the Trent – hot dusty limestone, before returning you to complete a 5k lap of the rowing lake on the tarmac perimeter road, then repeat. Plenty of aid stations (about every 1.3 miles) and a great crowd cheering everyone on. Back to the top of the lake on the 2nd lap, 2.5k to go and 15 minutes left to beat the 6 hour mark – bugger, time to try running – a good final flourish saw me cross the line in 5:58, with a 2:15 for the run and just a tad behind the winning time of 4:02.