I participated in the first Owler Middle Distance Triathlon in Kent back in 2013 and was really looking forward to taking part again this year. 5 years on, the race takes place at a new venue and features a new route but it's the same great race.
The 23rd July dawned a beautiful, warm, sunny day. So sunny that at 6.30am, the lake temperature was 24 degrees – eek, compulsory non-wetsuit swim. I was nervous as I had not swum that distance before without a wetsuit but hey, if I wasn’t up for a challenge I wouldn’t be a triathlete, right?
My swim was definitely a little slower than if I had been wearing a wet suit, but I enjoyed it – if I had worn a wetsuit I would have boiled. It was quite freeing to swim without a wetsuit. I recommend it.
The bike route is fantastically flat as it winds around the marshland of Kent and is a very pretty route if you ignore the brief detour to the Dungeness power station and for the 70.3 you complete the lap twice. No doubt a PB is possible in this race but with a beautiful flat route near the coast you get strong headwinds, which always adds to the fun and makes up for the lack of hills for those who a like a few lumps in the road. I was thrilled as I completed the fastest 90k of my triathlon life in 3 hours 6 minutes.
I can’t speak for other competitors, but I hit the run just as the heat was reaching its peak. I think the run is my favourite element of triathlon, but this was one of the tougher ones I have experienced due to the heat. It was 4 laps of farmland which was tough as it was uneven in places.
I want to commend the organisers, Trispirit Events, for the way they looked after all of us triathletes in the heat. I believe extra feed stations were put on around the run route, with water available at all of them and it lasted until everyone had finished. In addition, there were lots of cold, wet sponges to keep us from overheating. Having read/heard the tales of marathons and other triathlons where water has run out by the time the later competitors get there, I was hugely impressed – and grateful!
Although tough because of the heat, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. I beat my PB by 38 minutes and was so glad I could go back for another crack. Ultimately a crowning glory of any race is the bling and you do get a fabulous medal with an owl in the centre.
This was a really well organised event with an option of 3 different tri distances. I would recommend the Owler event to anyone and I will be back again in the future to try to beat my time again.
Ibiza. A glorious sun-kissed island, usually. But we timed this one a bit wrong. Heavy storms on the morning of the race caused a flooded bike course, burst sewers which started trickling into the sea, and a delayed start until 3pm. Lovely!
As we were running out of daylight for a half iron distance race (given that the fastest athletes take 4 hours and the slowest, 8.5) the format had to be changed due to darkness closing in on the bike leg, and was finally confirmed as a 45km bike instead of the usual 90. Usually good news for me, but in this case, I could have done with an extra buffer to Sarah, as you will see!
After a long old wait, made easy by joining my fellow GB elites in our manager’s hotel room for some laughs (what can you do but laugh?) the storms subsided and the race was finally on. Hurrah.
It was a tight affair. I was always within striking distance of the medals but the swim and bike saw me in around 5th place with a couple of minutes to make up on the run; which is the norm for me.
I was excited to see what I could do run-wise, but I wasn’t feeling ridiculously amazing (this phenomenon can happen maybe once or twice a year only). Solid enough, but no ‘magic’ today. Time of the month can have a huge influence on how good I feel, and the last day of Phase 4, whilst being nowhere near as bad as the first day of Phase 1 (close call!) is far from ideal timing (females would be looking to race in Phase 2 or on day 12-14 for peak performance). It’s great to have knowledge of all this stuff now as female athletes can suffer hugely with hormone fluctuations that are very performance-impacting. Some obviously have more issues than others.
And aside from science being able to explain things, there’s also the unknown of the human body - you can have a great day when you don’t expect it and a bad day when you do - so no matter what should happen, it’s important to race with an open mind: anything can happen and that’s what makes it interesting!
Back to the run. It was the least flat course I’ve ever seen described as flat! Described by many as an obstacle course, we had arbitrary bollards, twisty, slippy, cobbly, narrow roads, and a serious kicker of a climb every lap, with a treacherous, wet, cobbled descent then some steps to follow. It was challenging for each and every one. I was happy with my half marathon of 1.22 as I’m what I describe as a ‘rhythm-based’ runner: stick me in a straight line, wind me up (like a toy I mean, no shouting) and off I go.
Whilst not having the run of dreams, I was consistently fast enough for long enough to hold second place for 19km. Unfortunately for me, it’s 21.1km, and having been chased for the duration by one of the best runners in the sport, fellow Brit and good friend Sarah Lewis, she swept past at 1.19 pace (on that course, that’s seriously rapid) and I was suddenly struggling to hold it together for a medal. 4th and 5th were around 1-2 minutes back so there was a little time to spare, but I was starting to see stars and rock a bit; I’d really pushed the last few kilometres to make Sarah work for it and also be in a position to take advantage should the girl in the lead falter (no chance of that today; I’ve raced Alexandra for a few years and she’s taken a big step up now).
But having gambled a bit to go for gold/silver (because you have to, right?), I was paying the price. I was so close to the finish but as I’ve always said, it’s never over until that line is crossed. I’ve gone from second to fifth in the space of seconds in the closing stages before, so you absolutely cannot take anything for granted when you’re putting your body on the edge of its capability.
So, in hindsight, I think the best thing then happened. I stacked it on a turn with less than a mile to run. I got up straight away, my hip and elbow having taken quite the donk, but the adrenaline surge was exactly what I needed to hold myself together and squeeze out just another 3 minutes of effort to secure my third place.
It’s such a nice feeling to step on to a podium, especially at a championship with your country flag being raised, despite the FREEZINGNESS, and especially when a local gives you their pet parrot to join you on your shoulder! That really made my day; the parrot even tried to help me uncork my champagne with its beak. I’ve now added “buy a parrot” to my bucket list.
I’ll be looking to upgrade on my bronze in Romania next year, but if that’s the culmination of my past few years’ work, I’m cool with that.
My coach and support team believe there is some more ‘complete racing’ to come out (and so do I), so the decision has been made to stick at 70.3 for 2019, before moving on to a (possibly feeble) attempt at the British 100 mile run record from 2020 onwards, which is 14.43 and has been held since 1990 (exactly why it’s been held so long I’m sure I’ll be in for a treat finding out!) But I also just want to see how fast I can go, and wherever that places me on a list, who cares. From there, we’ll go full steam ahead for Badwater 135. But I’ll be a long time retired from pro triathlon, so whilst I can still improve, it’s time to embrace the bike for another year, get my head down in the pool and crack on with a solid winter’s work!
About the author: Alice Hector is a professional triathlete who has enjoyed some incredible wins over the course of her career. Sundried is proud to sponsor such an inspiring athlete.
Read more from Alice Hector
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.