Yesterday was my first race of the season – the GTC Bishopbriggs Sprint Triathlon. Previously we would probably have done at least a couple of other races by now as we enjoyed racing most weekends, but now we have to be very selective about which races to participate in, as they can actually interfere a bit with training.
I had chosen to do this race for a number of reasons;
- It’s our club race. The atmosphere is great and there is tons of support from fellow club members who are out in force marshalling the event.
- I’ve done it a couple of times before so thought this would be a good benchmark to gauge how my training was progressing.
- I had a bit of a score to settle with this race – I did it two years ago in 1hr 36mins then last year, when I thought I was better, I did it in 1hr 39mins. There were a couple of reasons for this in retrospect, namely the unseasonably hot weather on the day last year (minor reason), but also because we’d been marshalling all morning at the earlier heats – I was on the main road crossing and was stood, with my arms out, for about four hours in the heat before racing. I was a bit tired and hadn’t eaten enough, none of which stood me in good stead.
I had a bit of a nervous run up to the day. I’ve had a niggly calf since La Santa – it had been a bit sore over there but I thought had settled after our return. Two weeks ago when we were back at Tighnabruaich for the Easter weekend, I had to run 13 miles and had followed the Kyles 10 Miles route (a lovely ten mile run around Ardlamont Point which is a lovely annual run in September) and added a bit on. It’s very hilly, and last year (before our Ironman training had started) I took part and was doing quite well until my ITB went with a mile to go. So I was a bit apprehensive about doing the route again, but hoped that a winter of strength and conditioning, and proper run training, would avoid any further ITB issues. Half way in, and I was doing well, until I reached the biggest climb and my right calf suddenly went again. I stopped running, tentatively walked up the rest of the hill, changed to the other side of the road (I’d wondered if running entirely on one side, with the pronounced camber, had exacerbated the problem) and managed to gently jog back the rest of the way. But since then, it’s continued to hurt and I’ve done much less running than I’d hoped.
I was also nervous, because although there are very clear signs that my training is paying off (see Improving), I haven’t done any races yet to really test this. Whilst I hoped to see a difference at Bishopbriggs, I was slightly terrified I’d end up racing in the same time as before which would throw me into a spiral of self doubt (I’m only slightly exaggerating). When Crawford and I first set up my Training Peaks account, I’d entered a select few events that we’d agreed I’d do, and also set a goal for Bipshopbriggs of 1hr 30mins. I’ve never completed a sprint triathlon anywhere near that and in my mind I’d done last year in 1hr 36mins. Taking off six minutes I thought optimistic but doable, until I checked our spreadsheet of race times (yes we have a spreadsheet with all our race times from the last three years) and realised that I was actually going to have to take nine minutes off my time to achieve this goal. Suddenly this seemed almost impossible.
In preparation for the race, I had regretfully not volunteered to marshall during the rest of the race. This didn’t sit particularly well as really the club need all hands on deck to man the event. But Paul wasn’t racing and would be volunteering all day on behalf of us, and it also meant that at lest one of us could cheer on Jamie and Holly who were racing in their junior events (they are usually a bit neglected on the support side during club events). It meant that I was able to relax and spectate in the morning, set up my transition stuff in a leisurely fashion, and eat and drink the right things at the right time before my heat. Having the junior heats to watch kept mind to a degree off my race, but I got increasingly nervous as the morning went on.
And before I knew it, I was gathering at the pool, receiving my coloured swim cap and we were off. I was starting towards the back of the lane which suits me fine (I get anxious at the front, panic and set off too quickly) and there’s always the hope of a wee draft if you’re behind similarly paced swimmers. Unfortunately there was no such luck on the drafting front – the man in front of me was actually a bit slower, so I needed to pass him, and the two in front of him were too fast to catch up with. But despite the no draft situation, I managed well over a minute less than my fastest ever 750m swim time.
Transitions were quick (for me) but the cycle, despite being a good bit faster than previously, didn’t feel quite fast enough to meet my sub 1hr 30min target. The cycle route is four loops of a closed road, which starts with what feels like a near vertical hill. This hill would be great fun to come down at the end of each lap, were it not for the fact that at the bottom of the hill there is a sharp dead turn which is quite difficult to manoeuvre, whilst braking, changing down gear and trying not to fall off whilst still clipped in. All in front of a cheering home crowd. What did encourage me about the cycle (other than the fact that it was still quicker than previously), was that I managed the majority of it down on my tri-bars which are permitted in non-drafting races. I’ve never raced with my tri-bars on and wasn’t sure I’d manage it, but I’m hopefully getting the hang of them.
And finally out to the run along the canal. Typically I’ve pushed it too hard on the cycle and start the run with a paralysing stitch, but I seemed to escape that affliction on this occasion. My calf, having rested all week, felt fine and I felt stronger than I ever have on a run leg. I started to think I might just get in under my target time, but it was difficult to know for sure as my watch just shows me my split times, rather than total duration. But my split times per km were faster than I usually run (have ever run in fact) and I managed to keep up the pace to the finish line. And I was completely delighted as I crossed the finish line, to find that my actual time was 1hr 27mins, shaving nearly 12 minutes off last year’s time. A feat I could not previously have hoped for.
Under the excellent guidance of Crawford, Fiona and the GTC coaches, and thanks also in part to the tremendous support on the day, I have met my first goal and with it, a real psychological boost. And to share it amongst my fellow club members made for a very special day – a moment of which was captured in the photo above.