It was a bit of a last minute decision to race Stratford sprint triathlon last weekend, so I had to cram 6 months of nerves into a week and a half. Once I got there on Sunday morning I calmed down pretty quickly, pool sprints are always quite relaxed, even if this one was bigger than most.
The swim was interesting. With there being so many athletes, we were set off at 15 second intervals, and something that was new to me was having to do 4 lengths in each lane before moving to the next and repeating until we'd done 400m.
I'm not sure what order they set us off in because I was catching people straight away and it got pretty congested. I tried not to worry about the time as I figured 30 seconds lost here while not getting too stressed could easily be made up later.
With the roads through Stratford getting busy pretty quickly, even on a Sunday, they set the faster competitors off first. We were out of town with no issues and I felt pretty good despite the cold and started passing people straight away. The way out of town was great and the cold didn't bother me as I worked up towards the high point at about 12km, but then coming back down the hill into town the speed picked up and my effort dropped so the wind chill numbed my hands and feet.
It was tough to tell how many athletes were left in front of me, and trying to do very basic maths while racing is still beyond me sometimes. I worked out that by the end of the bike there were only a couple of people left ahead of me who had started before me in the pool.
I got out on to the run with numb feet from the cold and I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after coming back from a pretty serious knee injury, but it felt good so I pushed hard to try and catch the guys ahead. The run was 2 laps of an out and back course so I was doing mental checks of where I passed the leaders going the other way to see if I was catching them or losing ground. I hadn't been passed all race so I knew these guys must have started before me, I just didn't know by how much, or if anyone behind had closed the gap enough to put me under pressure.
In the end, I gave up counting and just pushed as hard as I could. I ended up with the fastest bike split and the second fastest run, coming away with the win by 6 whole seconds!
All in all it was an awesome event and the marshals were great. I'm really happy to have got an early season win and it's a huge confidence boost after having so long off running with my knee injury. I've now got around a month to go before my first 'A' race of the year with the Castle Triathlon Series in Ireland and then the following weekend I’m racing in my first elite race at Blenheim Palace.
About the author: David Dew is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.