On Sunday 10th November 2019, I kicked off my season in Tauranga at the Tinman Triathlon. I'm stoked to say that my first race in over 12 months was awesome!
We were all faced with very challenging conditions on the day; horrendous winds and torrential rain followed the great weather we'd had for the past couple weeks.
Albeit a little nervous having not raced nationally for a while, I think my time over the last 12 months has really allowed me to develop my mental skills. I found my head space to be the best it's been during racing, and that resulted in my best ever open water swim performance to date.
My coach Will and I have spent some time figuring out why I may have under-performed in open water in the past, and it looks like we've been on the money and I achieved a performance I'm very proud of.
Unfortunately, this performance was not enough to get me into a top group for the draft-legal bike leg, but I can't deny the obvious gains I've made over just the last 3 months.
The bike leg was incredibly windy and the roads were very wet. I struggled for the first quarter to find anybody I could work with to make a pack as I moved up the field, but eventually I found someone willing and hungry to get stuck in and fight the wind.
This proved to be a hard partnership as he didn't seem willing to share the work or work with me, instead he seemed to want to work alone, and often put in surges to drop me. I held on with everything I could as the lone wolf strategy was never going to be a good option in the conditions we had. Instead I just let him do all the work and held his wheel!
This left my matchbox pretty empty after 20km on the bike and entering onto the tough run course that Tinman faces us all with. I left Transition 2 with the goal of getting around the course in the best shape I could, with the focus on technical proficiency.
All in all, I put in a very good performance and I'm stoked to be back on the circuit once again. I still have a very long road ahead of me, but everything looks promising for a great season ahead.
About the author: James Harvey is a New Zealand triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
I rounded out my 2019 season by racing the Challenge Paguera-Mallorca Middle Distance Triathlon. Set in the small tourist town of Paguera, it is a popular and competitive end-of-season European race. It has a reputation of being friendly and well organised, as you would expect from a Challenge Family event. I arrived with high hopes of a new PB despite the heat and bumpy bike course. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
To start with (apart from the hotel we booked being closed! – Expedia sorted that) all went well. The town welcomes the triathletes, there are a range of events on the Thursday/Friday including Zumba, a kids race, a ladies 5k race as well as organised entertainment of a traditional fire/firework display and concert in the square.
Registration was painless; the briefing was focused and the pasta party actually had good choice! There was a single transition just off the beach, where we had to rack our bikes and leave transition bags on Friday evening – though you could get to both before the race.
The swim is 1900m out-and-back in the sea. At the briefing, the concern was going to be the impact of potential wind. It was very windy. Because of the sandbars, this means there can be a swell; the photo of pros going in doesn’t really do the size of the waves justice.
I would say it was the roughest swim I have ever done where the distance wasn’t reduced (and I’ve been racing for 16 years). So, in this rough sea I struggled with spotting and the rolling waves. However, finishing the swim in 35 minutes meant I was only 5 minutes down on my plan when I got out.
The bike course is 2 laps, it climbs two hills during the first 15km and then is largely downhill rolling until the last 4km where there is another lump to go over. On the 2nd hill the road is narrow, with bikes going both ways, meaning the descent is quite technical.
This started well, my heart was pounding a bit after the swim so I paced my way over the first hill to get myself back in control and then was enjoying the ascent of the second. As I was nearing the top, another triathlete lost control coming down and ploughed into me and the lady behind, damaging my gear levers, cracking the carbon on my rear wheel, and my helmet had a flat side to it from my head hitting the road.
I lost a couple of minutes but got going, gingerly at first, but then had a fantastic adrenaline rush! This soon wore off and I started to feel like my ribs and upper arm were bruised. Also, I realised that I’d lost my spare water bottle and it was nearly 20 miles to the aid station and I only had about a quarter of a bottle left!
This required all of my mental strength to focus, shut out the distractions, re-organise my race plan and keep going. The rolling roads of the lap’s second half enabled me to get back to it and by the time I’d caught up on eating and drinking after the aid station I was in a place to push on a bit. Thankfully, the second lap was incident-free. I made it round in 2 hours 55 minutes (another 5 minutes down on plan).
As I started to put on my running shoes in transition, I knew that my ribs weren’t in a good way. The run is four laps up and down the high street with excursions onto adjoining roads. It’s not hilly but does rise and fall a bit. I dug in and steadily paced my way around as it was now in the high 20s degrees Celsius.
I made sure I walked the aid stations to eat and drink. Although my pace dropped in the second half, relatively this was less than others, meaning that I was overtaking people on the run (something of a rarity for me!) I crossed the line with in 1 hour 50 minutes, guess what, another 5 minutes behind plan.
Overall, I finished in 5 hours 29 minutes (the plan was 5 hours 15 minutes, which would have been a PB). I managed to finish 19th out of 87 in the men's 50-54 age group. In overall terms I was a bit disappointed.
A few weeks on, my ribs are still tender, my bike wheel is back with Hed and I'm researching which aero helmet to buy! However, with some reflection, it was my second fastest middle distance time and there are a number of positive elements about my performance which will help build towards next season.
Finally, a thought to the family of the competitor who died during the swim.
About the author: Stephen Vaughan is a triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
On Sunday 19th May 2019 I took on the 100 mile Vélo sportive ride from Birmingham City Centre. The route took over 17,000 cyclists from Birmingham through Warwickshire to Coventry before heading back to the city centre.
To say I was a little apprehensive about completing this ride would be an understatement. Having only been out on my bike twice since October last year and completing all my bike training in my cellar on the turbo, I wasn’t sure how I would fare or even whether I’d make the full distance.
To my surprise, I found the majority of the ride relatively easy going and it was a great opportunity to practise my drafting skills and to meet fellow cyclists. The only point at which I experienced real discomfort and pain was at the 86-mile mark. This was at a stage of the race when the main section of the climbing took place and my back and feet started to really hurt.
A brief stop at one of the feed stations to take some ibuprofen and take my shoes off for a few minutes eased the pain and I pushed through the final miles before hitting the home straight and proudly crossing the finish line. Throughout the ride there was a fantastic atmosphere and the support en route was tremendous with families cheering us on and locals handing out drinks, sweets and biscuits which I politely declined as I had packed enough endurance snacks to sink a ship. I was aware that the feed stations would be busy so I made sure I had my energy bars and jam bagel to keep me going. Not including stops I completed the ride in just over 6 hours which I was very pleased with all things considered.
During the days following the ride I experienced very little aching or muscle fatigue, however I found myself needing to be in bed by 8pm and sleeping for anything up to 11 hours in a night! The ride had clearly taken its toll on my body so I listened to it and only did light training before I felt my energy levels were back to normal.
About the author: Kate Miller is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Benjamin Franklin (most quoted man ever, I’d say) is purported to have claimed “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise”.
3:50am is certainly early to rise, as my journey, complete with wife and dogs, needed to get underway at 4:45 to reach Grafham Water by 7:00. The early start, coupled with an early bedtime the previous night (circa 9:30pm), should have ensured military precision in organising the toughest part of the day – leaving the house on time.
We left at 5:05. Fail.
An uneventful journey across quiet roads, negotiating an M6 closure (thanks for the warning Highways Agency…not) and a sleeping navigator – they always say they’ll stay awake to keep us company - got us to the venue by 7:15. And it was worth it.
Early mornings overlooking any calm waters are always special, with the gentle rippling of water on shore momentarily distracting us from the waves of pain that would inevitably follow. The flicker of a sunrise teasing warmth on a freezing morning reminding us that the elements would play their part during the race.
The early rising man, me, was due some wisdom after adhering to the old wives’ tale, and the complete antithesis of this forced an abrupt abandonment of my warm up. Yep, I was that guy announced on the PA system who had lost his wedding ring. I lost it after feeling very smug that there wasn’t a long queue for the portaloos, and before jogging to my wife to give her my jacket.
I briefly considered lying to her about my naked finger, ignoring the situation altogether and devilishly blaming her for not taking it from me sooner knowing that I wouldn’t race wearing it.
But as many a man will admit, weakness prevailed, and I came clean. Ring hunting ensued and after about 15 minutes it was fortunately found, and divorce avoided. Possibly more important than a proper warm up. Although 42% of couples would disagree.
Straight to the start line I jogged, arriving just in time to muscle my way along the narrow path to somewhere near the front of pack, and we were off!
My two initial observations of the run, as it was my first time at this event, became apparent. 1) It was not flat and 2) my new running shoes would look 10 years old by the end of the race leg. The run was 10km of a trail/stony hybrid not suited for road or trail shoes. Areas of slippery mud were interspersed with rocky trails, which were often unavoidable due to the ‘out-and-back’ course on a very narrow shared path. The moment that first volley of mud hit my pristine white shoes my heart sank. Not even losing my ring earlier made me feel that bad. Priorities, priorities…
The course was the same for everyone and required full concentration to avoid fellow competitors and members of the public, both on foot and mountain bike. A loud humming, which turned to buzzing, often permeated my headband and filled my head. Luckily it wasn’t a bike (yes, this is the collective noun!) of hornets but the local pylons making their presence known in the only way they could.
I’m certain the epic levels of condensation inside my sunglasses were about to cause a personal tsunami by the time I came into T1, as the temperature had increased by a few degrees. My copious levels of sweat proved that wearing a base layer and arm warmers was a pants decision. Early morning wisdom indeed…
The 40km bike leg was fairly uneventful, and fairly flat. The dark patches on the tarmac from the previous day’s rain were no match for my own sweat patches, and I considered this a win. Winning, however, on a non-closed road bike course, is not coming first. It is avoiding the masses of angry drivers (since when was cyclist hate so militant?) who persist in driving dangerously. One very clever driver nearly wiped out three of us at one point, before screaming profanities about cyclists not being on the road (top logic). All this next to a sign warning drivers about the race. Priceless.
But on a positive note, it is always a pleasure to hear the whirring of a disc wheel creeping up on you before shooting off into the distance. There were some beautiful bikes on show, which certainly offers some respite from the pain of the race, thinking about the potential pain on the wallet.
After a little cramping in T2, the final 5km run was simply a shortened version of the first leg. Prepared for an undulating run, and now with dirty shoes, my elevated heart rate post-cycle carried me for the first mile or so. By now, the temperature was in double figures and the local residents had come out en masse to enjoy this beautiful place. And where better to walk, cycle and unleash dogs than on the same path as an ITU World Championships Qualifier. But this was a blessing in disguise, as such traffic definitely slowed down those in pursuit of me meaning nobody overtook me on this run, possibly for the first time ever. I promise this wasn’t planned – as you will know by now, my planning is rubbish.
Finishing with a solid 8th AG place, and comfortably inside the champs qualifying time required, the day could be considered a great success…
…Although it was also evident that Benjamin Franklin chats rubbish. Following his advice on race day, I gained an Achilles issue (health?), used a full tank of diesel (wealth?), and wore 2 base layers in the sunshine (wisdom?)
Onto the next one, and I’m having a lie in.
It was just getting light when I woke up on Sunday morning. I woke up before my alarm which is always a nice surprise to me. It looked like it was going to be a sunny day which was great news for my duathlon!
I started the day with three slices of fruit toast and a big glass of water. Then I packed my bags and bike into the car and started the short journey to the Lee Valley Velo Park in Stratford, London.
I was excited to test out my new Sundried race suit for the first time. It felt super comfortable and I loved the way it fitted. I racked my bike, warmed up, and headed to the start line. The day wasn’t as warm as I had hoped and I was jumping around to keep warm, however the start noise went off soon enough and we were on our way.
This was a sprint duathlon. I started with a 2 mile run where I found myself the leading lady and within the first group of men. A good start! I kept the lead feeling comfortable and then hopped onto my bike.
Now I started the 10 mile bike course. The course at Lee Valley is fun. Constant hills, however where there was an uphill there was always a downhill! The men started to pull away from me at this point however I remained first lady. My bike is not as strong as my run but I powered through.
Finally, I reached the end of the bike, still ahead of all the other females. I racked my bike and dived into my running shoes as quick as I could. All I had to do was keep a good pace and I could win! The final run was only 1 mile so I gave it all I had. The final 100m to the finish line was the best bit! I gave a glance around and not another female runner in sight! There was lots of cheering and people saying I was ‘first lady!’.
My mum met me at the finish line and handed me a much needed bottle of water. Then I got some warm clothes on and did a nice cool down. Later in the awards ceremony I was happy to take first in age group and first overall female. Many thanks to Sundried for the fantastic race suit!
About the author: Holly Dixon is a Team GB triathlete and Sundried ambassador.