It’s hard to look back and analyse a race that didn’t go exactly to plan, but that’s the nature of competitive sport: sometimes a race goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Taking home 3rd in an ITU International race is a great achievement but there will always be the question of what could have been if I hadn’t had a bike mechanical issue?
Training For The Race
After the hype of the elite mixed relays, I was raring to go for my next race and I couldn’t resist entering the triathlon held in Vouglan whilst out in The Jura (France) for our annual family getaway (what’s a holiday without triathlon after all?) I say holiday, but in reality, it is a pretty intense few weeks swimming in the local lakes, running through forests, and hanging onto my dad’s wheel whilst he tackles the Jura’s climbs (he adopts the old-fashioned training approach of ‘more is more’ so easy rides turn into TT’s through the mountain ranges…pray for my legs). In addition, we can add rock climbing and general hippy antics into the mix now that my sister has found a love for the great outdoors.
With the perfect taper week leading up to Vouglan Triathlon, I was raring to go. The course couldn’t have been better: a shortened swim, a longer bike course consisting of 3 hefty climbs, and an undulating trail run… bring it on!
It was safe to say that on arrival to registration this morning, I was a little unnerved to reveal exactly what I had let myself in for (the problems of not speaking French and using Google translate to acquire my race information). The standard was much higher than I had originally anticipated with athletes racing from the elite triathlon circuit.
After racking and warming up, the female athletes lined up for the start of the swim. I stood there clueless, hoping for the best as French instructions were read out at warp speed (there was a large white buoy which I presumed would be the direction we would be heading…but there were also many yellow buoys scattered around, so who knew?). The swim was a battle from the start and there was a lot of hustle and bustle. When I first started triathlon I adopted the friendly swimming approach, but I soon realised that you must hold your own in the water… so sorry (not sorry) for anyone I swim over/into/on today.
I was 4th Out of the swim, up the hill to transition, and onto the bike… TIME TO CHASE THE LEADERS DOWN. I knew I would hit the 18% climb after a few minutes on the road and was looking forward to being able to hit it hard. Unfortunately, an unexpected mechanical issue resulted in my bike being stuck in the big ring (THE THIGH BURN WAS REAL) and the only way I was making it up that hill was by a ridiculous amount of traversing across the road, trying not to take out spectators in the process (I don’t have to speak French to know I was getting a fair amount of banter thrown my way). The remainder of the bike was hard work, battling with a shifter that was not playing ball. It would have been so easy to throw to towel in but I am always an advocate of pushing on and ALWAYS FINISHING (I’ll take last place over a DNF any day). The run felt good, especially after such a thigh burning bike, and I crossed the line as the 3rd senior female.
There was nothing I could do on the bike, but giving up was not an option. It’s hard to stay focused when a race is slipping through your fingertips but I am glad I pushed through and persevered. Today wasn’t my day but it’s left me hungry for upcoming races and has given me confidence in my current form and training.
As always, thank you for all the support from Sundried who have been great with kitting me out for training and racing. The performance tri suit did not only look the part but fit like a glove. Its breathable fabric was ideal in the French heat and the padding was enough to give me a comfy ride whilst not affecting my run. All in all, I can’t recommend the suit enough, and I’ll definitely be sporting it in my future races.
So you've taken the plunge, signed up, and now the training begins. The early morning brick sessions and the late night foam rolling will all make a difference in the end, right? Here are 5 things you'd only understand if you're training for a triathlon.
1. Now you realise why it's called a 'brick' session
Because your legs feel like bricks afterwards! Running is one thing, cycling is another, but putting both together can be brutal! Not to mention the jelly legs after a tough swim session. But this is why we train!
2. The world is surprisingly peaceful at 5 am
Getting those early morning training sessions in before work or just before the rest of the world has woken up can seem like a chore, but in reality, it's one of the most peaceful and enjoyable parts of the whole process. Those Sunday morning rides when there's no traffic on the road and it's just you against the world give you plenty of time to gather your thoughts, reflect, and mentally sort out anything that's been stressing you lately.
3. Checking training stats is addictive
If you use Garmin, Strava, or anything similar, you'll appreciate how addictive it can be to try to beat your previous performance or to beat your friends on a particular segment. Maximum cycling speed of 26mph on your last ride? Better get that to 30!
4. Triathlon burns HOW MANY calories!?
You never realised just how many calories you'd be burning and how much you get to eat now! Your average run can burn around 600 calories, a long ride maybe up to 1,000, but doing a big brick session can get you closer to the 2,000 calorie mark! That means lots of pizza to refuel!
5. Getting an early night and not drinking so that you can get up early the next morning is surprisingly enjoyable
You used to laugh at the people who went home early to get to bed, but now you're one of them. You definitely don't miss the hangovers, and your new cycling and running friends are super supportive! Who knew that training for a triathlon could be so fun! Enjoy!
Sundried ambassador Matt Leeman gives us a race report of the tough and challenging Outlaw Iron Distance Triathlon in Nottinghamshire, UK.
When my coach and I first decided I was going to race two full distance triathlons in two weeks, I was intimidated to say the least! But I have great trust in my coach and we have been at work getting myself into the best possible shape going into these two races. I won the first race which was the Bastion triathlon at Hever Castle and immediately got to work on my recovery ready to go again in a short space of time.
At first, I seemed to recover quite well and felt good pretty quickly, but as I got back into a more substantial training load I began to feel tired, not the ideal feeling going into a full iron distance triathlon. However, when you're racing at an elite level you have to make the most of the race season, get your head down, trust in the training you've done and get the job done on race day.
As soon as the gun went off for the swim I felt relaxed and controlled. Others were around me for the first few meters but soon dropped off the pace, which is always a good boost! I exited the water in first place with no idea of the time as I was just focused on getting myself ready and out on the bike as soon as possible. As I emerged from the changing tent I heard the race commentator announce I had completed the swim in 46:38, taking the swim course record. This gave me a massive buzz as I set off on the 180km bike.
My coach had given me a talk the day before the race and instructed me to start the bike conservatively and allow the strong bikers to catch me then let the bike race begin! There was a group of three of us changing positions until about half way through the bike, then the lead biker broke away. I pushed on to limit the time lost along with second place but once we had hit 100km I lost second and was in third position. This is when the race became very tough. I was riding out of my ability in an effort to stay at the very front of the race and now found myself in no man's land. Triathlon is an individual sport, therefore you have to be mentally tough to dig in and keep going, even when you feel like just pulling over to the side of a road and lying down on a hay bale (a genuine thought I had as I passed a farm). But the feeling of giving up and not doing all the hard work and sacrifice justice would stick with me a lot longer than a few hours of pain. I kept pushing on and got off the bike in third place.
Second to swimming, running is my next favoured discipline. But after all that exertion, running a marathon is still a daunting prospect. The run course at the Outlaw takes in laps of the rowing lake followed by a more or less out and back loop along the Trent river into the city of Nottingham. I broke the marathon down into more manageable chunks in my head and paced myself accordingly. I was in third place and knew I would be happy with a podium finish. As I was running along one of the straight sections of the river I saw an athlete sitting on the side of the course and thought it was the second place runner, as I got closer I found out I was correct and they had pulled out of the race. This meant I was in second and so I kept pushing as I knew there was a strong runner behind me. Eventually, I was caught with around 10km to go putting me back down to third place. I was able to hold this position and finish in a time of 8 hours and 54 minutes.
All the times I felt like giving in and said no, was fully the right decision. I had managed to hit the podium and perform at two big races in two weeks. Taking a long standing course record in the swim and a personal best improvement of 37 minutes in the process. Very happy to be in the sub 9-hour club!
Sundried ambassador Lori Westcott gives us a race report of the Marlow Classic half iron distance triathlon which she completed last month in Buckinghamshire, UK.
After finishing 3rd woman overall at Windsor Triathlon the previous week, I decided on a last minute whim to enter Marlow Classic Half Iron distance triathlon. With Lanzarote and Weymouth 70.3 fast approaching, I felt it was important I did a 70.3 distance before my biggest two races of the season.
Windsor had been tough; the weather was extremely hot and racing in my first elite wave, the race had taken a lot out of my body. So in my head, I would use Marlow as a hard training race. My confidence was high after Windsor's podium finish, so I was ready to push my body again to its limit and see what I could do.
I was first out of the swim, which I was happy with after being only a few weeks post elbow fracture. The bike was very hilly and had lots of pot holes, and I was still getting used to my new TT bike, but I pushed hard and entered the second transition still in 1st position. I knew the athlete in 2nd place was just behind, as I saw her enter transition as I left for the run. 4 laps and a friend giving me splits helped me keep the lead and finish with a PB of 5.11, 4 minutes ahead of 2nd place. This was only my second race at this distance and my first half distance with Team Dillon. Emma Pallant has been my coach for the last year and has worked me hard all winter, so the miles are finally paying off.
My first season has had some highs and lows, however, the key has been consistency. I think I can count on one hand how many sessions I have missed in the last year. Next week I am off to Club La Santa in Lanzarote for a hard training block. Bring on the rest of the season!
Harrison is a bright, intelligent, promising young athlete who already has some impressive titles under his belt. After winning the Sundried Southend Triathlon, we had to invite him on board the team. He tells us more.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, it has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I mainly ran and played rugby, dabbling unsuccessfully in football and golf before choosing to focus on triathlon in year 10 (age 15).
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
I went down to the local triathlon club (East Essex Tri) initially just to improve my running. However, after they encouraged me to try swimming and I’d got to the point where I could swim 400m without drowning, I borrowed my dad’s bike and entered my first triathlon.
What’s been your best race to date?
I won the World Duathlon Championships for the Under 20 age group in 2016; the race went perfectly, a rare occurrence in multisport.
And your proudest achievement?
Probably winning the recent Sundried Southend Triathlon; there’s nothing quite like winning your home race by over two minutes in front of a huge crowd.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
A couple of years ago I won the Great Notley Duathlon... at least I thought I won the Great Notley Duathlon until I crossed the line to find I’d been disqualified for improper racking.
How do you overcome setbacks?
By returning to Great Notley the next year and winning it by the biggest ever margin.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
To get my swimming stroke sorted before I started doing regular swimming sessions; it took Gill and Dawn at Tri ‘n’ Swim Well months to fix all the bad habits I had developed.
What are your goals for 2017?
2017 has, so far, had to be painstakingly quiet because I’m doing my A-level exams. That said, I have already achieved a few of my targets; I won the European Duathlon Championships and captained the Essex Cross Country team at the English Schools, both targets of mine for a couple of years now. I want to test myself over an Olympic distance triathlon at some point, break the 1-hour mark for a 25-mile time trial, run a sub-4 minute 1500m and swim a sub-4 minute 400m.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, and my grandfather, who, at 82, still cycles every day.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I really like the fact that a brand so local to me is so radical and progressive in its vision. My favourite bit of kit is the Olperer t-shirt; it looks great, fits perfectly, and – because it’s made from coffee it stops you from overheating on your long summer runs.