Dorney Olympic triathlon – 06/09/20

6 months! I’ve got no idea how 6 months passed since I last entertained the world with tales of weird flat cap finance guy v. the world of triathlon. Some of you are probably aware that we’ve had a small pandemic on the go, and quite rightly people have been focusing on more important things for a while.

However, there are signs of society making a shift back towards something resembling normality, and with that races are trickling back on to the calendar. Brilliant – more opportunities for me to make a fool out of myself.

I thought before diving into a report of my most recent adventure, it’d be right to give a brief update of what’s happened in the last 6 months. For everyone’s benefit, I’ll do this in the form of an executive summary;

  • I rode for over 100 consecutive days on Zwift. No real idea why – just got into a bit of a rhythm and kept going.
  • I subsequently got an infection in my ‘nether-regions’, which resulted in a small operation to carve it out of my leg. Lesson learned.
  • I successfully ‘Everested‘ on Zwift – basically climbing a virtual hill in my spare room on my turbo trainer for nearly eleven hours. I did start writing a blog, but gave up halfway through. Activity here;
    https://www.strava.com/activities/3461211951
  • I ran 16:47 in a 5km time trial around Battersea Park – lowering my all-time PB by 10 seconds. That one hurt.
  • We went on an epic holiday to Scotland, where I convinced Katie to tag along on the ‘Tour du Trois Lochs‘ – 200km of riding over some lumpy terrain.
  • Headed north to Yorkshire for a mini-training camp Steph’s birthday where James Kessell attempted to expose me to temperatures so cold (around 8 degrees), that I thought my feet were going to fall off.

If I had to be even more concise, I’d say that in the last 6 months I’d done a bucket-load of cycling, a fair amount of running, and celebrating not being able to swim for the vast majority of that time.

However, the time had come to dip my toes back in the water (ho ho ho) and get racing again. With most of the big names settling on the ITU worlds in Hamburg to resume their racing seasons, I opted for the highly prestigious F3 events Dorney Lake triathlon, where the competition promised to be just as intense.

We’ve been told that events in the near future will run in a slightly different ‘socially distanced’ way, and so I found myself travelling solo to Eton Dorney lake, robbed of my number one supporter as no spectators were permitted. Upon arrival we had to meander about in the car park instead of head to the race site, only doing so when the start time approached. I took this opportunity to run around a tiny field 74 times as part of a super serious ‘warm-up’.

Soon enough it was time to head to transition and get the bike set-up, carefully lay out my shoes, and put my game face on. This face involved me telling naff jokes such as ‘Which bit comes first, the run or the swim?’ Oh Spraggins, you’re such a comedian, you little scamp.

Instead of the usual, everyone pile on top of each other and scrap as if your life depended on it, the new ‘socially distanced’ racing meant we’d start one person every 10 seconds. Knowing I definitely wouldn’t be the fastest swimmer, I decided not to start first, sensibly placing myself 2nd in the line.

Swim

I plopped myself into Eton Dorney lake, once a scene of multiple gold medals for team GB during the 2012 Olympics, but now about to witness average Joe with a hole in the armpit of his wetsuit attempt to splash around a 1500m loop as quickly as possible.

With zero fanfare I was set off and settled into what some might call a rhythm. With the lack of punching and kicking, the swim was completely uneventful, bordering on boring. The most surprising element of it was, that I wasn’t getting overtaken by anyone. I grew in confidence as the swim went on, thinking that maybe I actually wasn’t having an absolute shocker.

Either that, or I was swimming so far off the course that I couldn’t see anyone else. The course was 2 laps, so on the second one I started picking off a few of the later starters (you had a 30 minute window in which to set off), before barreling towards the swim exit point.

Swim: 25:40 – (15th/65)

Not, by any means, an absolute disaster. In fact, I think it’s my fastest ever 1500m swim. Not breaking any records, but that’ll do. Transition skills were a bit rusty – having not got dressed properly for the last 6 months, I’ve not had much practice changing clothes, but it was great to have the buzz of racing back.

Bike
I headed out onto a fairly empty bike course, with the risk of getting extremely dizzy a real one, with 8 laps of a 5km loop ahead of us. One of the reasons I wanted to start early was because I knew the course would get fairly busy as the morning went on.

The first couple of laps were great – I was able to get my head down and power through. There were a couple of other guys around me, but we were all riding legally and putting down a decent average speed. There was a slight headwind up one side of the lake, but we then flew back down the other side.

As feared, the bike course started getting a lot busier, and there were multiple times where I had to come off the gas completely and slow right down until it was safe to pass. Despite this, I passed the halfway point in under 30 minutes, comfortably on for a bike split under the hour, with a 25mph average speed.

However, that sounds much too boring and straightforward, and to be honest, doesn’t make great reading. That’s not what you’re here for. We need some sort of drama, or hardship, or Spraggins stupidity. So halfway through lap 5 of 8, my pedal just came clean off.

One minute I was cycling along, the next, I was nearly flung off my bike as the pedal broke away from the crank, now hanging uselessly underneath my shoe, still clipped in. Balls. ‘Mate, I think your pedals come off’, said a very helpful competitor as he cycled past. Sherlock Holmes, I think it was.

So I stopped, and had to get off and remove my shoe, twist it off my cleat, and try and reattach it to my bike. I didn’t have anything to tighten it with though, so just had to hope it stayed on. Obviously it didn’t, and 200m later I was down to one leg again.

I only had around a kilometre left of the lap, and I’m not one for throwing in the towel, so rather comically I cycled with one leg back to transition, the other one dangling down uselessly. Cycling with one leg is actually quite hard, especially on a TT bike. Who’d have thought it?

I managed to make it back to the side of transition and made a desperate plea for help, hoping someone might have a tool that I could tighten the pedal with. After shedding another few minutes, I managed to tighten it slightly and just had to hope it would hold for another 3 laps.

I’d lost around 5 minutes by this point, and with it any hopes of doing well in the race, but I knew I could still get a great training session out of the day and it’s all good practice/experience. So I just hammered onward, doing the stupid thing of trying to make up for lost time.

Thankfully the pedal held and I had no further mishaps (sorry readers), and came into transition in a pretty decent frame of mind all things considered – ready to just layer on some hurt during the run.

Bike: 1:03:24 – (14th/65)

6 guys went under the hour, and I’d like to think I’d have been among them without pedal-gate. But that would’ve been boring. To throw in some extra entertainment, I spent an obscene amount of time trying to put my shoes on. Someone had laced them up too tightly, and they were refusing to slip onto my feet.

Run

I charged out of transition like a man possessed, flinging a bottle of water around my mouth in the process, of which about 25ml actually went down my throat. Super straightforward run course – 4 laps out and back along the lake.

My running had been progressing nicely over the last couple of months, and I was highly motivated to put in a decent showing here. I really want to embrace the suffering and run hard from the off.

Annoyingly, once I’d finished one lap and only clocked 1.3 miles, I realised the route was going to be ridiculously short of 10km. Being a strong runner this isn’t great news, as I make time back on people on two feet, and I was having loads of fun passing people on the course.

I hit 5km in 17:50, and to my surprise I was speeding up, kilometre by kilometre. It was hurting like hell, but I had the bit between my teeth now. Coming into the last lap I emptied the tank. This was maybe harder than normal, as everyone had started at different times and you had absolutely no idea where you were in the field. (Example in point – I finished 4 seconds behind someone – probably would’ve provided some extra motivation).

Run: 31:05 (2nd/65) – 5.4 miles
As mentioned, the run came in at a laughable 5.4 miles instead of the advertised 6.2. Taking my average pace, I was looking good for a 10km time of 35:30, which would’ve been a standalone PB, never mind my fastest in triathlon, so that’s really encouraging. 2nd fastest run of the day was definitely something positive to take away.

Overall: 2:03:27 (9th/65)
So, an eventful return to racing, but great fun to be back out doing what I love. Minus bike disaster I reckon I would’ve been right in the mix, so I feel like I’m in a decent position. It was great to bump into my mate George Hudson at the end, who had been doing the duathlon, and we had a good chin wag over a bottle of water at the end.

What next, I hear no one asking? As the PTO have recently announced there’s a £15k prize pot at the Outlaw X in a couple of weeks time, I thought I might as well go and nick some money off Alistair Brownlee, who shouldn’t be too difficult to beat. I’ll have a set of working pedals by that point. Hope to see some of you there?

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