A second chance.
Result: 11th/47 in M35-39 (49th/509 overall)
(S: 8th, T1: 27th, C: 14th, T2: 14th, R: 12th)
Date: Sunday 23 June 2013
Format: 750m open water swim, 20km two-lap bike (closed roads), 5km run
Race website: http://www.tribristol.org/
Full results: Final results
Photos: by http://www.marathon-photos.com/ (my specific ones, photos for bib 876)
I didn’t qualify.
It’s taken me a long time to start writing this report, because the experience was another mix of highs and lows. In some ways of course, I was more ready for Bristol than I had been for Nottingham as simply having that race under my belt meant I knew better what to expect at this level. But the build-up was still stressful and the logistics were as complicated, or even a little more so. I was very glad the family came with me, and they helped immensely in keeping my pre-race nerves in check.
Registration was on the Saturday afternoon, in the middle of the nest of roads around the Cumberland Basin, close to the transition/finish area that was in the process of being assembled. Em and the kids and I were able to recce the routes in and out of transition, and the start and finish of the run, and find some places that might be good for cheering.
On the Saturday night, the wind forecast for race day was still for 20+ mph cross-winds, which made me nervous about using my new aero wheels, but eventually I decided I’d rather try them and know if I’d made a mistake. On Sunday morning, the wind was already whipping the trees around outside our hotel, and when we got to transition, it was almost blowing bikes off their racks, but I was reassured by the number of deeper aero rims and discs in evidence that I’d made the right decision.
The transition area was the largest I’ve seen, with numbered racking for all 1000+ competitors, but it was sensibly designed for a one way flow. I racked my bike while carefully watching out for triathletes already racing in the standard distance event which had started earlier in the morning. Once I’d got my wetsuit on, we were able to watch the last standard distance wave start the swim before I headed off to the swim pen for my race briefing. It didn’t amount to much, but well, what is there to say, really? 🙂 I had a chat to several other athletes before we trooped down the ramps and into the water.
There was the usual aggressive jockeying for space before the start, but once the “go” sounded, I found clear water pretty quickly. At Nottingham I’d been in a mêlée for the entire swim, but with a smaller wave (“only” a hundred-ish) I was quickly able to hit my rhythm and actually sight the buoys and some hips to draft. I exited the water in about 10:30 feeling better than at Nottingham. It seems to be impossible to compare swim times between races (9:36 at the transition mat at Box End, 11:33 at Nottingham, 10:52 here) but 8th/47 in M35-39, losing only 5 seconds versus the average of the 5 qualifiers in my AG, was a respectable showing I think.
On the other hand, I thought I had a reasonable T1, but apparently not. It was a long wetsuit run, the entire length of the transition area, but run I did and I had the wetsuit round my waist when I arrived at my rack. I struggled getting it down over my ankles… again… but I thought I was jogging out with the bike quite quickly. However, my 2:16 was 25 seconds slower than the qualifiers. Oops. Must try harder.
I enjoyed the bike leg. The wind may have been strong, but mostly I think it was whistling over the top of the Avon gorge and the Portway itself was quite protected. Even the spiral ramp off the dual carriageway at the end of the lap, the sharp left and descent at the (non-operational) traffic lights (closed roads, thank goodness) and the sweep across the swing bridge weren’t too bad. I even managed to smile at my wonderful supporters each time I passed. My average speed was 37.1 km/h, slower than at Nottingham but on a tougher course and closer to the qualifiers this time, who must have gone “only” about 1.5 km/h (1:19) faster on average.
I had a decent T2, on par with the competition, but maybe I had overcooked it on the bike: the run was hard. The route, which I’d scouted in a hailstorm with Duncan, is a mix of tarmac and trail which I’d normally enjoy, but I was in survival mode this time. I think I must have overtaken a couple of my age group and been gradually overtaken just once myself. A few hundred metres before the end, the course doubles back on itself and I could see one other runner who might have been in my age group coming up quite quickly behind. I gave it everything, shared high-fives with a couple of kids at the beginning of the finish chute, dived across the other side when I saw Kitty for another one, and then with 5m to go to the line, my whole body decided enough was enough. The photos at the finish are not pretty.
Judging from everybody’s times, it was neither a short nor easy run; I haven’t run slower than 20 minutes anywhere else this year. Since I can’t tell on a map exactly where the turn-around on the towpath was, I don’t know the exact distance or my pace for sure. Versus the average of the qualifiers I lost 30 seconds, which on the bright side is less than at Nottingham as well.
In fact, I failed in my second bid for a GB team spot by 38 seconds in total. With a decent T1 I might be talking just a handful of seconds, but I don’t want to go over and over what might have been. I guess I should feel proud to have come this close. The competitiveness of all the athletes was awe inspiring, and the GB team at Hyde Park is going to be fantastic. I will give my all for GB at the Aquathlon World Championships and have another go for the tri team next year.