Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2014 – Race Report

Hi there sports fans!

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, you may well have read my race report from here last year:

Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2013

Last year, the Blenheim Palace Triathlon was my first open water triathlon, and back then, it was only my third ever open water swim, so I was pretty terrified about the swim!

Well, this years training has been somewhat different, as I’m in training for an Ironman distance swim of 3.8km (which is on Saturday!), I’ve been spending plenty of time in the water.

Blenheim Palace Triathlon

Blenheim Palace Triathlon

Here’s a comparison for year to date 2014, compared to the same period last year:
2013 – 1st January to 7th June
swim: 15.45 miles 13.97 miles pool, 1.48 miles open water
bike: 268.47 miles
run: 532.96 miles

2014 – 1st January to 7th June
swim: 24.63 miles 12.31 miles pool, 12.32 miles open water
bike: 620.97 miles
run: 455.28 miles

It does seem a little strange that I’ve ran less this year, despite running a marathon this year, but the swim and bike have made up for it. I’m pleased with how training is going, and how I’ve got the balance between all three disciplines.  I imagine the swim and bike miles will grow a bit more quickly over the summer and the running will be on the back burner until autumn.

So, this race is a sprint distance triathlon, which was a 750m open water swim, 19.8km bike, 5.7km run.  The normal sprint distance triathlon is 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run, but they can vary a bit, depending on geography, so this one, the bike was slightly short, and the run was slightly long.

We decided to commute from home this year rather than mess about with the expense and hassle of a hotel, the gains of sleeping in my own bed outweigh having an extra hours of poorer quality sleep in my book.  We were up at 7am and out at about 7:30, and arrived and parked up with no problems at all.  We were in the car park before 9am.  My race time was 10:55, so plenty of time.

I opted to take a mug of Ready Brek with pumpkin seeds and raisins, and a flask of hot water to make instant porridge in the car – this worked really well.  I’d already had a banana and a couple of slices of Soreen as pre-breakfast, so was pretty well fuelled.

We went to register, pick up the timing chip, and get my £5 refund for being a British Triathlon Federation member.  While I was queuing, I spotted a board with the water temperature – 18.2c!  Result!  That’s warmer than where I’ve been training, so happy days!  That really cheered me up, and put to bed the fearful memories of last years swim.

I went to set up in transition – racked my bike, and arrange my helmet and race number belt on my tri-bars, and arrange my cycling shoes and socks,  and running shoes, cap and bottle around my bike.  It was a warm day, so no need to bother with extra layers, and I decided not to bother with bike gloves either – it seemed a bit superfluous for a short race.  I also had a good look around the transition area, to familiarise myself with the bike and run exits, and to try to reduce wasting time looking for my bike.  5th rack along, opposite the second little tree – sorted!

I exited transition to have a chat with Sam, and we met up with my mate Stuart, and a couple of club mates, Dave and Jon, from Freedom Tri.  We had a bit of a pre-race chit chat, and it was soon time to head back to transition to don the wetsuits, and head down to the river side for the pre-race briefing.

Here I am – a game of “Where’s Wally”:

Swim Assembly

Swim Assembly

The swim briefing was really good – it really put everyone at ease, and remind everyone that we’re there for fun, which is the point – it is fun!

Our start time was 10:55, and we were chucked into the water for a few minutes to acclimatise.  You can see the pontoon at the far right of the photo below.  Quite a few people sat down and edged their way into the water, but I just jumped in.  It must be pretty shallow, because I hit the floor of the river!  The few minutes soon passed, and the start klaxon sounded promptly at 10:55.  There were 250 people in the 10:55 mixed wave, and I’m placed pretty much right at the back.  I’m much more confident in the water now, but I know I’m going to be slower than a lot of people in the race, so don’t want to be swam over, don’t want to get in anyone’s way, and don’t really want to get kicked in the face!

Swim start

Swim start

The swim went really well – I swam continuously for the whole 750m without stopping.  I was mostly breathing to my right, but I tend to in open water for some reason, even though I breathe bilaterally in the pool.  I did nudge a few people, and got my feet tickled a couple of times, but apart from overtaking someone doing backstroke, the swim was over quickly, and uneventfully.   The swim actually seemed pretty short – I suppose it’s probably because I’ve been swimming over twice the distance in training, so a 750m swim IS short in the context of my recent training.

I completed the swim in 18:14 this year, so 2:50 quicker than last years 21:04.  I’m VERY happy with that!  It’s good to see the swim training it paying off.  Swimming is still by far my weakest of the 3 disciplines of triathlon:  I was placed 3055

I filled the wetsuit with water by pulling the neck down as I was getting out the water to help get it off, and I managed to get my wetsuit unzipped and off to the waist, although I was fumbling with it a bit.  There’s a sharp hill to run up to the transition area, my watch measure it as pretty much 600m from where we exited the water to where my bike is, so T1 at Blenheim is never going to be very quick.

Here’s a photo of me just about to get to the transition area.  You can see Stuart in the back ground – he was quicker than me on the swim, but I managed to get ahead of him on the run up the hill:

T1

T1

It was a warm and sunny day, so I didn’t bother drying off of putting extra layer on, just glasses on, helmet on, race number on,  socks and cycling shoes on, and then out.  I thought 4:49 for that was pretty respectable for my T1 time.  It was 2:13 quicker than last year, and only 957 people were quicker than me in T1, so that’s my strongest discipline! 😀

The bike leg starts with a downhill, which is a result, so I went from 0 to 27mph in about 12 seconds!  The bike leg is 3 laps, and it’s certainly not what I’d call an easy course.  It’s quite twisty and hilly in places, and a couple of bits seem a bit narrow.  With all abilities of cyclist out there there was a lot of over taking, and quite a bit of being taken over.  On a couple of the hills, a few people were getting off to push.

Being on closed roads though, it is very safe, with no cars or other road users to worry about.  And being 3 laps, it’s great for spectators too, and they can get some great photo’s:

 

Cycling

Cycling

4bike

I was pleased with the bike leg of this triathlon.  The bike behaved beautifully, I did use the full range of gears though, and my speeds ranged from 6.2mph right up to 35.6mph.  The 19.8km bike ride took me 43:35 this year, so 3:55 quicker than last years 47:30.  It’s not really a fair comparison though – I’m on a better, faster bike this year, and last year there was a dismount point on the bike, due to a bus having crashed into a foot bridge.  That said, my highest speed last year was 31.9 mph so I was definitely genuinely quicker at some point!  Anyway, I was placed 1931 on the bike.

The bike leg was a bit short for my liking – looking at the results, the bike is actually my best discipline of the three, and certainly my preferred (although I am admittedly very fickle, and this may well change!)

I ditched the helmet, bike and cycling shoes in T2, and pulled on the running shoes, running cap and water bottle – it was too hot to not take on water!

The run was the only disappointing part of my race – I was actually slower on the run than last year 31:49 compared to 30:52.  Only 1:03 slower, but I really had in mind that I was likely to go under 30 minutes for the 5.7km run.  I think it was mostly down to the heat – it was really very hot!  I only stopped briefly on each of the 2 laps to take on water at the water station, but I would have really been suffering at the end if I’d ran it dry.

Run run run!

Run run run!

Above is a photo of me on the finishing straight.  My run time of 31:49  put me in 2397th place.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Erdinger were there again, giving away their alcohol free beer – it’s really very nice, and goes down very well after a race!

Here’s me and Stuart on the podium.  I’m standing on 3rd place, but still taller than him!

Podium!

Podium!

All in all a great day out, a strong PB in 4 of the 5 timings, so I’ll take that!

Here’s the splits:

Splits

Splits

Here’s the comparison from last year:

Go Compare!

Go Compare!

Definitely coming back for more next year!

Next race:  River Arun 3.8km Swim on 14th June

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