NiceTri Anglian Water Standard Olympic Triathlon – Grafham Water

In a moment of madness and misplaced self confidence, I entered this race back at the start of may before I’d done any open water swimming, under the illusion (delusion?) that swimming in open water was just a formality.  The penny didn’t really drop straight away that this race being a “2014 European Qualifying Event” meant that the field of triathletes would be so high quality.  Still a very friendly and inclusive bunch though – I’ve never experienced any snobbery as a runner or as a triathlete  – I think people in general are very nice, and sharing a common interest at whatever level, means there’s no room for it.

The distances for an Olympic triathlon (also called a standard) are 1,500m swim, 40k bike (24.9 miles), 10k run (6.22 miles).

Training has been pretty awful for this race – I’ve been nursing a calf injury for the last few weeks, so have had to cut back on my running.  The weather was terrible last weekend, and we’re running out of daylight for running in the evening, so my bike hadn’t seen the light of day in the fortnight since my last triathlon.  My swimming is so terrible anyway, that it’s not going to improve much in a couple of weeks.

I’d only swam the race distance in open water once, and that was back in July.

Spin forward to race day – I was up at 5:45am, and out by 6am.  The bike was already in the back of the car, and everything was packed, so I was out the house without waking anyone up, or having to do much.  I arrived at the race HQ at Grafham water at 6:30, and went to register straight away.  I was given a red swim hat, as this race was split into 3 waves for the men – purple, red, orange grouped by age range, and all the girls together in pink hats.  My wave was set to start at 8:40, so time for a bit of hanging about.  On the way to registration, I took a snap of the water – looks cold and misty, but thankfully pretty still.

Grafham Water

Grafham Water

I went back to the car, and decided to have breakfast before sorting the bike out in transition – there seemed to be time to kill, so didn’t feel the need to rush really.  For these early morning starts, I’ve started taking a pot of instant porridge along, and a flask of hot water.  Here’s Lidl’s finest instant porridge.  It’s pretty ghastly, but a bit of fuel in the tummy.  I also scoffed a banana, and had some hydrating water.



Once that was troughed, it was time to set the bike up.  I was determined to have less gear this time around to faff with, and I did try to be neater:

Bike racked

Bike racked

After racking the bike, it was coffee time (sorry, no photo), and I bumped into fellow Freedom Tri member SJ.  We had a bit of a chat, and I predicted that she’d overtake me in the water, even though her wave was starting 20 minutes after mine.  I also saw Chris from the club too, and had a bit of a chat too.  Chris pointed out how rutted the ground was in and around transition – there were loads of rabbit holes, and there was actually a couple of blokes going round with a spade and a bucket of mud, trying to patch it up while people were setting their bikes up.  I hope everyone got away with it, but I would not be surprised if a few ankles were injured today.

Before long, it was time to don the wetsuit and goggles, and head out of transition for the race brief.  As it was cloudy and overcast at this point, I decided to not bother with my sunglasses, leaving those in my transition box, and leave my normal glasses on the bike.

Before the race, there was information on the NiceTri website about a shrimp infestation at Grafham Water, which while safe to swim in, it does need to be contained, so wetsuits would have to be dipped in a Milton solution to sanitize them after the race.  Fair enough I thought, but time can instill worries, and before I knew it, I’d built up in my mind that I’d be swimming through this:



The first, purple wave got off, and a few minutes later it was time for us reds to get in the water, and assemble in the deep water start area.  As is my way, I put myself right at the back of the pack, and we were soon off.  The water felt quite cool – 15C, so a couple of degrees cooler than I’m used to.

The shrimp weren’t actually very big thankfully, but there were a lot of them.  Literally billions of them.  They made the water murky, and very bitty.

I could feel them in my beard.  It was a deeply unpleasant sensation.  It didn’t seem to bother most of the other triathletes, but it did put me off a bit.  I found myself wanting to keep my head above the water more than usual, so did some breast stroke/freestyle mix and match swimming.  Despite that, and my zig-zag style of swimming – still being unable to sight properly or steer in the water, I was out of the water in 40:07.  I was overtaken a lot though, by pretty much all the people in the orange wave, and a good few (majority?) of the girls in their pink hats.  I did overtake a bloke in a purple hat though – he must have been having a very bad day for me to overtake him.  He must’ve been swimming for well over 50 minutes.  I had fully expected to be taken over by everyone in the swim though – my swimming is pretty terrible, especially when compared to a high quality field.

I managed to get out the water, and the sun was shining.  I had to find my transition box, and dig around for my sunglasses – not very slick at all!  I should have been more decisive, and left both pairs with my bike.  I am pretty precious with my glasses though, as they’re not cheap, and I would be proper lost without them!

After that faffing about, I was soon out of my wetsuit, and although a bit wobbly on my feet, I was soon toweled off, and into my bike helmet and cycle shoes.  The transition area was quite close to the bike mount area, so there wasn’t too far to run with the bike.  Before I knew it, I was zooming along the rural Cambridgeshire roads.  I caught up with SJ on the bike, and overtook her (albeit briefly!).  As predicted, she had overtaken my on the swim, (or I suppose in transition), so even though I was very temporarily ahead of her, she was in reality already a full 20 minutes ahead of me!  She soon overtook me, and I managed to keep sight of her for a few miles, but she was a good bit quicker than me on the bike as well as the swim.

The bike was hillier than I thought it was going to be.  It was one of those rides that felt like it was pretty much all up hill.  There wasn’t a lot of wind, but I did notice a headwind a few times.  I don’t know if I was just tired from the swim, but the bike did feel like a bit of a chore.

The course was basically 2 out and backs – up to a little village, do a small loop and back past transition, then up to St Neots, all the way around a roundabout, then back to transition to ditch the bikes.  I do prefer a course that’s just one loop.  I find it very demotivating passing transition, as I feel like that part of the event should be over.  For that reason, I try to avoid races that are laps as much as possible.

The bike leg was done in 1:24:21, and according to my watch I averaged 16.4mph, but according to my watch, the course was a couple of miles short.  Not sure what happened there.  Being a European qualifier event, I’d be surprised if it was measured incorrectly, and I’m sure I didn’t deviate from the course.  Weird.

I faffed about slightly less in the second transition, and was out and running in 1:16, which I think is a bit of progress.

The run was tough going.  It was surprisingly hilly.  I had in mind it would be pancake flat, as it’s around the reservoir.  There were also swarms upon swarms of midges and flies around the run course too.  I must have eaten a good few, which was completely unavoidable.  The run was also 2 out and backs  – a mile out and back, then past transition and a 2 mile out and back.  Again, still not a fan of laps, and this was even worse, as it the run took us through the carpark, and straight past my car after about 2 and a half miles.  I could have so easily got in the car and gone home at this point.  I was done in from the challenging swim and bike parts of the race, so the run was bad.  I set off too quickly, completing the first mile in 9:00 and the second in 9:51  I had to walk a number of times for the rest of the run leg, but the walking didn’t completely destroy my time.  I completed the 10k run in 1:03.  A few minutes slower than my 10k PB, but I’m not the sort of bloke to get a 10k PB at the back of a triathlon!

I was cheered in by John and Angela from the triathlon club, who had came out to support us, as well as Chris, who had finished a good bit before me.

We found SJ for a group photo (which I’ve shamelessly nicked from Angela who posted it on the club Facebook page):



Not sure why I decided to try and be “normal” height!

Here are my official splits:

1,500m swim: 00:40:07
Transition 1: 00:02:50
40k bike: 01:24:21
Transition 2: 00:01:15
10k run:  01:03:02
Total time: 03:11:38

So, would I do this race again?  NO!  The swim was horribly shrimpy, the transition was dangerously rutted, the bike was hilly, and I disliked the out and back, and the run was hilly and I disliked the out and back.

Would I do another Olympic distance triathlon?  Maybe.  If I could find a course that I liked the look of.

Oh, and here’s the race memento – a good quality technical running top, in handy high-viz.  This will come in very useful as the nights draw in – I’ll be doing a good bit of training in the dark in the months to come:

Be bright, be seen :D

Be bright, be seen 😀

NiceTri St Neots Sprint Triathlon 2013 – Race Report

I wasn’t really expecting to be racing again so soon, but I do like a race, and when one of my club mates suggested it on Tuesday, I thought “Why not?”, so signed up.

The distances are: 750m river swim, 25k bike (15.5 miles), 5k run (3.11 miles).

I got there nice and early, arriving at 6:30am for an 8am start.  I went to register, collect my race numbers and timing chip, then had a mooch about, to familiarise myself with the flow of the transition area a bit – where to exit on the bike and run, etc.

Here’s a pic of the river – it was slightly misty at dawn, and the grass was damp and dewy.  I spoke to one of the other competitors who said it was 9c when the arrived.



It was the first time I had swam in a river, so was a little bit apprehensive – worried about the current, as it was an out and back swim, starting down stream for the first half, turn at the buoys, then swim upstream back to the transition area.  There were also a load of these fellow about:



These guys can break your arm by all accounts (urban myth?), but either way, I did hope they’d make themselves scarce when we were in the water.

I got papped while setting up my bike in the transition by club mate and coach, so the next photo is credited to Gareth Charles of Freedom Tri:

Before the race

Before the race

Once set up in transition, I thought I’d nip to the little boys room.  Unfortunately, the queue was massive:



8 portaloos for 300 odd competitors, plus supporters really isn’t enough.  That is my only criticism of the race though – everything else was spot on.

It was soon time to assemble for the race briefing.  Tri-suited and wet-suited up, I had to ditch the glasses, and make my way to the river bank.  I can’t hear very well without my glasses on, but I assume the race briefing was: swim up and down a bit, steady on the bike, try not to do anything stupid.  I’m sure that was the gist of it.

We queued to enter the water, and in my usual style, stuck myself pretty much at the back of the pack – I’m not that quick in the water, so pointless being any further forward.  The water was pretty grim.  Quite shallow, and a lot of leavings from our white feathered friends had been churned up by the swimmers at the start.  I looked down at the water, and my initial thoughts were “I’m not putting my face down in that”.  It wasn’t quite knee deep in swan crap, but I did sink into it, up to about mid calf.

The starting klaxon sounded, and off we went.  I was reluctant to get my face in, so did a bit of breast stroke to start with, but as we got going, the water seemed a lot clearer, so I went for it.  Swim, swim, swim, swim.  The downstream went absolutely fine.  It felt like I was swimming pretty quickly, and the outward leg of the swim was soon over.  We had to go around a couple of buoys at the turn, so I edged my way around those – it was a bit of a scrum.    Now to swimming upstream, it didn’t actually feel much different at all.  Thankfully the River Great Ouse that runs through St Neots isn’t that fast flowing, so I don’t think the return leg took much longer than the outward leg.

I did have a bit of a problem when I got to the end of the swim though.  I was following all the swimmers in front of me, and went between the buoys, rather than around both of them.  To get my attention, the canoe based water marshal thought it fit to whack me with his oar.  He somehow positioned his canoe in front of me, so swam into his canoe.  Thankfully my face smashing into his canoe brought my attention to the error.  I was turned around to go and swim around the buoy, but I think a load of other people may have got away with the unintentional shortcut.

We were hauled out of the swim, and ran across to the transition area.  For some reason, I couldn’t find the string on the zip of my wetsuit for a minute, so that was a bit of a fumble.

I did manage to get out of the wetsuit, and quickly toweled off and got my socks and cycling shoes off.  I was already in my tri-suit already, and as it was a bright and sunny morning, decided I didn’t need to bother with any other layers, so I was soon out of transition and off on my bike.

The bike leg was good.  I like the bike, although I feel like I’m under trained on the bike.  I overtook more people than overtook me on the bike, which is nice.  I don’t know if my running helps with the bike, but I seem to manage a fairly respectable speed.  It has improved though  – my average speed for this triathlon was 17.3 mph, compared to 16.7 mph last time.   It’s very difficult to compare triathlons though really, and arguably a bit pointless.  There is always a variation in the course  – amount of entrants, terrain, elevation, straightness, road layouts, etc, etc, etc, and absolute distances too – I’ve done 4 sprint distance triathlons so far this year, which have varied from 12.3 to 15.2 miles on the bike leg – that’s a pretty big difference!

The bike course was fairly flat, but there were a couple of short sharp climbs, which forced me down into bottom gear.  The bike was soon over, and I was soon back to St Neots to ditch the bike and helmet, and swap shoes.

In the rush, I forgot to take off my bike mitts, but I don’t really think that made much difference to my performance.

The run part of the race was 2 laps of the park.  Mostly on footpaths, but a few bits were along grass and mud tracks.  Thankfully it was dry – I think if it had rained, it would have been pretty muddy.

I’m not a big fan of laps, but it wasn’t too bad.  I think 2 laps of a run is my limit.  I don’t know how people run 5,000m on a 400m track.  It’s just a bit tedious!

The run was pretty uneventful.  I overtook a few people, and a few people overtook me.

Before I knew it, I was turning into the finishing straight, and was across the line.

There was a queue at the finish line to check on finish time and position, but I was more interested in the drinks and banana table, so bypassed the queue to check the times, and went straight for the refreshments.

I exited the finishing area, and was met by my fellow club mates, who had finished already.

All in all, a great event, very well organised.  I’d definitely do this race again.  My next race in a couple of weeks is also organised by NiceTri, so I’m confident that’ll be another great race.  The only problem with that one is that it’s an Olympic distance, so double as far to go!

Getting to the numbers, here are my splits from my watch:

Swim: 19:05
T1: 3:21
Bike: 51:07
T2: 0:52
Run: 26:37
Total: 1:41:02

Official gun time: 1:41:31

Here’s my scruffy transition area after the race:

Messy crap all over the place

Messy crap all over the place


Thing to do differently next time:

Put number belt on under the wetsuit
Gulp – fill the wetsuit with water getting out of the swim, to help getting it off
Don’t bother with cycling gloves
Take less stuff!

Freedom Tri Duck and Dash Aquathlon Race Report

Howdy folks

Sorry for being quiet for a while – I’ve been away on holiday, being lazy, and eating and drinking way too much.  But enough about that boring stuff, it’s race report time 🙂

The Duck and Dash is the Freedom Tri race of the year.  An aquathlon is a race which is a run then a swim.  There were a few races going on today – races for the juniors – the Ducklings, different distances depending on the age.  There are 2 swim distances for the seniors – the Duck, which is a 400m pool swim and a 6km run, and the Drake, which is a 600m pool swim and a 6km run.  There’s also a relay race, where different people do each leg of the race.

The venue for the race is the Letchworth outdoor pool for the swim, followed by a couple of laps of the Norton Common for the run leg of the race.  The pool is a beautiful 50m length – long enough to get a bit of rhythm.  I’ve been in the pool quite a bit this summer, as it’s where the club has their pool training sessions during the summer months.

Letchworth Outdoor Pool

Letchworth Outdoor Pool

Here’s the transition area:  Seems a little bit weird that there aren’t any bikes 😀



It was an early start for me today, although pretty much the most local race I’ve ever entered, as a club member, I was helping to set up.  The alarm went at 6am, and I left the house at 6:15, and picked up my club mate Matt on the way, and we were at the pool before 6:30.

We’d done quite a bit of the setup yesterday afternoon, but there’s still a lot that can only be done on race day.  I know these races don’t happen by magic, and take people to organise and set up, but I didn’t really appreciate how many people, and how much effort it takes to put on a race!  There was lugging about to be done, PA systems to be set up, the finish gantry to be built, flags to put up, and a whole load of other stuff to do.  Thankfully there were a load of club members and helpers, and as we all know, many hands make light work.

The Ducklings race started promptly at 9am, followed by the Ducks, and the Drakes started entering the water at 10 second intervals just before 10am.

The races start with the slowest simmers first.  I must have been feeling somewhat optimistic when I entered the race, as I put down my projected finish time for the swim as 12 minutes.  I should have jumped up the line a bit, as I was overtaken quite a bit on the swim, which was a shame.  Being hustled and bustled past in the pool interrupted my rhythm (it doesn’t take much!), and made me slow down, and let people pass at the turn.  I think if I have placed my time a bit slower I’d have been a bit quicker.  Funny how these things work out!

I’m in there somewhere:



I think I got out of the pool after about 14 minutes, and ran through to the transition area.  A very quick towel off, socks, shoes and t-shirt on, and I was off on the 6km run.

I’d ran the route the last couple of Thursday nights with the club, so knew the route was a bit of a challenge.  Much more off road than I’m used to, and a few sneaky hills in there too, so I knew I was going to be slower on the run.  I’ve also never ran a 6km race before – it’s a bit of an odd distance, so just decided to run it, and see how I got on really.

Here’s a picture of me that Sam took, running like a loon!

Running like a loon

Running like a loon

I’m not really a big fan of laps, but 2 laps of the Common wasn’t too bad.  The run was quite nice.  I knew quite a few of the marshalls, so was high-fiving as I went around, and I also chatted to a few club mates on the run too.

My run time was 33:01, giving a total time, including transition of 49:36.

All in all, I feel fairly happy with the time.  I do feel like I could have swam quicker, and ran a bit faster, but despite a bit of a feeling that I under performed, I do feel like it was the most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in.

I think it’s due to having helped with the set up, being more part of the race, being in the club, and competing with club mates made it much more enjoyable.

Here’s me at the finish line:



I’ll definitely be there again next year, where it’s competing again, or helping out, it’ll be a great day on the race calendar.

Here’s the links for the stats of my clever little box of tricks.