Following the success at the local sprint a fortnight ago – in terms of getting me to do some intensity, have some fun and finally getting me back into the racing groove – I signed up for a mixed team for the UK Triathlon Club Championships. Our club, Serpentine, had entered quite a few teams, and I got involved as part of a ‘fast mixed team’, with Jenny (tapering for Norseman next weekend), Helen and Andrew (both short course studs). The format to the Club Champs is a 500m swim, with each team member going in sequence, then a 15km bike, and a 5km run, with a band being passed between team members until the distances are complete.
Having not done the race before, I must admit to not realising how big the event was, and how seriously it was taken. All the major UK tri clubs were represented, and a few ‘pro’ teams were entered as well. Most clubs had branded tents, flags, kit etc – it all looked very slick! With several hundred teams competing in the morning (mixed and women’s teams) and the afternoon (mens), it made for a packed venue up in Nottingham.
Race morning was wet and miserable. Spirits were low, given that we’d driven up the night before and gotten lost for a while round the city looking for our accommodation, so were a bit under-slept. The format of the race meant that race morning as I usually do it was not necessary: it was only short course, and there would be plenty of time between legs to eat, get out of wetsuits, change kit and find toilets. With no previous experience of the event, I was pretty clueless as to how the handovers worked, where we passed the band and even the distances! Luckily, there are many organised individuals amongst the Serpies to fill in the blanks!
The swim start came round quick and I think I started a bit far over in the pack, even if I was right at the front. The sprinters were off like a shot, being well practiced at short course starts, so I was chasing through a rough pack from the outset. Out of the water probably around 20th, I handed over to Jenny who made good headway. Helen was third and got a little dazed at the handover – even 500m of swimming can heavily disorient you – and almost couldn’t find Andrew amongst all the bodies in neoprene waiting for handover.
Soon Andrew was done with the swim and I got to ride. We’d finished the swim leg in 15th, so there was some work to do. I lost my bike computer on the way out of transition, so had to do the 3 lap course on feel. This was completely experimental – not knowing how a 15km time trial should feel and not even having any speed data was going to make it interesting. So I concentrated on catching people ahead. I was trying not to think about my poor ears that were being squeezed by the aerohelmet I'd borrowed from Helen for the race (I was short on packingspace for the trip so hadn't brought my own beautiful - and comfortable - Rudy Project aerohelmet up from home!). For the first lap at least, it was easy to see who was ahead, before the hundreds of teams behind crowded onto the 5 km loop. The sun was out finally, and the wind was up, so most of the puddles were drying nicely. About 22minutes later, I handed over to Jenny and we were in 5th place. We made up another 2 places by the time Andrew steam rollered round the bike, and then we were onto the run. That was 5km of pain. The end of a long week of fairly high vol and intensity had left my running legs a little worse for wear, and I never found a top gear. Instead, I quickly overheated and just concentrated on getting round in one piece and damage limitation on the time we were probably losing on the team ahead – not that I saw anyone else on the entire run! Jenny hit out onto the run with tight calves following the bike, and we were a little concerned that she may have to jog some or all of the run, but she clearly warmed in quick and had no issues. Helen had a battle with the team in 4th on her leg, and the Andrew finished off the run with a sub-17min 5km on a tough course to put a big gap in on 4th. Given the highly standard of teams racing, 3rd was a fantastic result.
Good work team!
Finished off training for the day with a 2 hour run and then watched the racing in the afternoon. Unfortunately we missed the BBQ and partying that evening as we returned to London that eve, but it was a great day, and great fun to race with the Serpies – seeing some of the guys I’ve known a few years, and meet new faces.
Photos thanks to Ian and Sally Hodge - great pics of the entire day are here.