Another year and another Cheltenham Triathlon, this was the 4th time i have done this and the 3rd time as part of the Leckhampton Rovers FC Tri-Team.
This is a short triathlon raced over 500m/13km/2.7km. I can normally do this without training, or rather without specifically training for it. Not like training for Olympic distance or greater where there is a more structured and dedicated approach required. That said, this year i have swam more than i did last year (i think last year i swam once just before the race to be confident i could make the distance), biked probably less and run much, much more. The increase in running relating directly to the decrease in biking.
Preparation started on the Saturday evening, trying on the tri-suit after a year in the bottom of the kit box (that never gets any better), cleaning and treating the goggles so they don't steam up (with fairy liquid) sorting out the cycle shoes, running shoes, helmet, race belt and bike. This year that meant a swap between bikes of the front wheel and also the tri-bars. A gel for tucking into the back of the tri-suit was to be carried for emergency and a power bar to eat half of just prior to the race and then finish on the bike.
Sunday morning and i woke up at 05:55:55 - i enjoyed that and smiled to myself that i was already wearing my digital watch i would wear for the race and not my normal analogue watch where the moment of symmetry would have been lost to a ticking hand. I got up straight away and was a bit distressed by my stomach behaviour. Apparently a nacho-cheese pizza the night before disagreeing with me. I was glad to be up early enough to sort this and out. I also had, unplanned, time for coffee and some breakfast. At 06:50 i headed out the door, grabbed my bike and cycled the short ride to the lido. At the lido there were a number of entrants milling about and signing in. I found my number to wear. There is also someone with a marker pen to write your number on the top of your arm and on your leg.
I was number 716. On my arm she wrote 706, then crossed out the zero and wrote a 1 above it - a mess! On my leg she wrote 726, realising her second mistake she set about turning the 2 into a 1. She confirmed that, thankfully, she was not a tattoo artist!
With transition set-up and lots of nervous pre race chatter and banter it was pool side to collect our timing chips and listen to the pre-race briefing.
Our wave started at 7:30 prompt and i was second off in a lane of 6 swimmers. There were a collection of swim hats for use that those with hair needed to put on, finally i have found a positive about being bald - no second-hand swim hats! There are other benefits too; bald is beautiful. The water at 7:30 was warmer than the outside air temperature. The first swimmer went off then me 10 seconds later. To say i struggled is a bit strong but i did not feel good on the swim. I have been training a lot for swimming 3.5 miles across a lake not for swimming 500m flat out. I tried to catch the chap in front of me and after one length was closer but then fell off the pace significantly. He pulled away from me and gained around 30 seconds or so. We did both lap everyone else in the lane though.
Out of the water and across the lawn and out to the bike. Helmet on fort then shoes and away. I went a bit wrong here and tried to leave via the entry, re-routed i ran out to the cones where you can mount the bike and set-off. The bike course is a nice route, out through town towards Bishops cleeve via Prestbury, this is where the early start time pays dividends as there's little traffic to negotiate. you can blast along the roads in relative security. Conditions were perfect, clear blue skies, the morning warming up and little or no wind. The traffic gods were also smiling on me as i never got caught by a single red light.At each junction i just sailed through on green.
The bike course was shortened with, instead of going through Southam and past the mushroom farm a left turn straight down towards the junction at the bottom of the racecourse hill. I had ridden this on Friday afternoon and was glad i had. The road is gently downhill with big sweeping turns. It was excellent, good speed and nice control. All the way to the lights that were green, so a left turn and up the hill.
I slogged a bit up the hill, once at the top it's downhill or flat to the lido. All the way around i was not overtaken once and actually overtook around 8 or 9 other cyclists.
Back into transition i racked the bike, helmet off and a quick change of shoes. Frustratingly i needed to put on my knee strap as i have been struggling with some tendonitis. I was most nervous about the run as at pace it has been 'going'. The strap (patella knee strap) works a treat though. I thought i'd have to be way more conservative but with the adrenaline flowing i just went for it deciding to run as fast as i could until i couldn't. It turned out that that was the right approach as i was able to run hard to the finish. I completed the run course in exactly 10 minutes a small improvement of 4 seconds from the previous year. Not bad for a bad knee!
My finish time was 46:22, around the same time as last year but with a shorter cycle route. My swim was not great and i was faffing a bit longer in T2 with the knee strap.
As ever a great event, the atmosphere is pretty unique with a mix of full carbon tri-bunnies and first timers on bikes with baskets. Athletes of all shapes and sizes. While you race as hard as you can it's still about being part of it. The lido has improved on some of the organisational elements; the breakfast bap process was much quicker with sandwiches pre-cooked and ready, the check-in and check-out processes were also slicker.
When i woke up in the morning i was struggling for mojo and think that if i were not part of a team i may not have bothered going. I'm not sure why i felt like that but then that's the thing with mojo i guess, if you knew how to get it back there might not even be a word for it. I'm glad i did it, i knew i would be, it was good fun, i raced as hard as i could and i was home before the kids were up!
The official results show that i was 42nd overall and 17th in my age group.
My splits were Swim - 09:18 :: T1 - 01:21 :: Bike & T2 - 25:44 :: Run - 10:00.