The Crawley Triathlon, like the Tunbridge Wells Tri last month, was entered on a bit of a whim. (See what I did there – passive voice – as though I personally am not responsible for the action of signing up… ).
I quit Tri in April 2012 due to a running injury, so before Tunbridge Wells hadn’t raced since September 2011. Major shock to the system.
SEWTTS on Saturday
Crawley’s event was on Sunday 21 Sept, and lucky for me, the last round of the SEWTTS (South East Women’s Time Trial Series) was on Saturday 20th. The series has been excellent, and I was determined to race since I was up for either 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in the 3rd cats, depending on result.
Long and short of it is that it took me 3 hours to get there (including a pit stop when ‘Oil Pressure Low’ appeared on my dash – NOT what you want), I had 20mins to get to the start when I arrived, the courses didn’t suit me, I’d lost my Garmin so had no idea what mile marker I was at and when, and I came 2nd in my catagory, knocking me off the podium by 2 points. Even more annoying, Bex told me afterwards if more ladies from my category had been there, I’d have had more points for 2nd place, and stayed on the podium (I’m not sure how the maths works, either..) But that’s racing, hey – and the lady who beat me did so by a good margin – and always does so whenever a race includes hills!
Regardless, the series has been a total success – all due to the hard work of Rebecca Slack. I know all the ladies who raced have been in awe of her hard work, and having other women to warm up in the carpark with, chase down in the race, and drink coffee with afterwards has revolutionized Time Trialling for many of us.
Crawley Tri on Sunday
I did title this on Crawley Tri, so here’s the focus.
My legs didn’t feel tired after the TT the previous day, it had been just a 10 so was arguably a perfect warm up.
Unfortunately, something was going on with my shin/Achilles, and I had a sharp pain with every step – a bit of a concern. I’m not sure where this came from, since it seemed very much running related, yet I’d not run since Wednesday – but it was there. Since this was the last race of the season, I decided it would probably fade once I was warmed up from pool and bike, so I’d race with it.
Registration included collecting numbers for helmet, bike, and self – then a short race briefing in an adjacent conference room. I’ve never been treated to a race briefing such as this, and really appreciated the added touch. I then had about 90 minutes between my allotted registration time and my start, so after racking my bike, and leaving my trainers outside the pool (for the epic long transition) I took the opportunity to explore the venue – K2 in Crawley.
K2 is a huge sports center, and I was really impressed. Had my sleepy husband been able to get out of bed he’d have enjoyed a leisurely coffee in a great looking cafe, but he’d also have been waiting around from 8am – 12pm when I left, so fair play. Since we both race quite a bit, we don’t tend to go in tandem, that would add up to a lot of time standing by the side line – but for anyone with a family, this would be a good race venue as there is lots to do for those guarding the car keys and cheering at the end.
I have never: raced 600m, or swum in a 50m pool. So – I worked out my suggested swim time (used to seed you in order for the swim) by adding 10 seconds to my 400m time, and extrapolating. All very clever – except I typed in 10.03, instead of 10.30.
Therefore, before my swim I located number 277 and 278, due to start behind me, and told them the story, promising to move over if my feet were tapped.
I got in the pool. Had my countdown. Nearly pushed off on ‘2’, then went.
600m is an odd distance – I’d usually expect 400m for a sprint, or 1.5k for an Oly. I wasn’t quite sure how to pace it, and didn’t yet know what to expect of the 50m effect. Thankfully, I found it much more pleasant, arguably since my turns aren’t great. Unlike a 400m sprint, I felt much calmer, much smoother… and I had 2 men chasing me whom I knew to be faster. I finished in 10.31 – which is actually faster than my average over 400m at the Tunbridge Wells Sprint – I think I just needed to get used to race swimming again and try not to panic.
The bike leg ahead was the least scary bit. Trainers on, faff with laces, run to bike – feel thankful that the shin doesn’t hurt – but my feet (still a bit sore from the sudden introduction of running after years off..) did.
Reach bike, remove trainers, don cycling shoes, grab Garmin, put on race belt, put on helmet, grab bike – carry it to the line. If you’re feeling pro you’d run with the bike, and I noticed competitors whose bikes were racked around mine (with similar swim times) had shoes ready attached to bike with elastic bands for flying mounts. I picked up the bike. Ain’t no respectable TT rider rolling a bike over GRASS before racing it. That’s asking for a PSSTTTT and a flat. Oh, and I didn’t fancy looking like this:
Got the the line, mounted… and rode under the underpasses, along a path – all neutralised with a 5mph speed limit. Que trying to ride on the line between super conservatively past marshalls, and as fast as could be deemed acceptable.
On to the road – and I’m home and dry. The route was basically the Horsham dual carriageway Time Trial that I’ve done a multitude of times, and marking was very clear – arrows and chalk on the road at every roundabout. Funny, I’ve seen that chalk when racing TTs and felt a little irritated by it, since the route is slightly different and during a TT you need to pointedly ignore it.
I spent my 13/14 miles picking off riders on road bikes (plus some hybrids, and some expensive looking TTs). It was pretty blowy, but not unbearable. I felt a little fraudulent with my TT bike, but I do know the other girls on the podium were on TTs, and there were a decent number of faster men on the bars, too. This kind of course, unlike Tunbridge Wells, was absolutely suited to aero.
My only concern was that I’d need to run afterwards – and I couldn’t remember how hard I could get away with going on the bike for an acceptable run.
Return to transition, dump bike (lovingly), remove cycling shoes and helmet, don trainers – go.
Nearly took the wrong exit. Corrected. Proceed to follow MANY marshalls instructions. The number of marshalls was incredibly reassuring, and on the whole they were alert and ready to call out instructions where needed.
Unlike the flat out/back bike – the 6km run was far from fast. A loop around the track sent runners off to Tilgate forest, where they run up hill for around 2 miles. There are a couple of descents (a nightmare on the return leg), but the majority was a slog.
It was around the second to last steep incline where I felt like I’d stopped racing, and started crawling to the finish. My sudden decision to enter some Tri’s hasn’t really given me much time for brick sessions, so my bike/run legs are pretty rusty.
Reaching the turn, I was almost walking my way up this beast of a hill – fully in the knowledge that after a descent, I’d be faced with another sharp hill which I’d just seen a bloke walking up. I rounded the turn and began the descent.
The girl who eventually came first whooshed past me – it turns out she used to be an International Squash player, and she was running strong, so I didn’t try and chase even a tiny bit – just carried on at my rather slow pace. Down a descent, up the hill where I’d seen some walkers. I overtook another lady here, which gave me a little boost – cruel but true. I did murmur an encouraging ‘keep it up, you’re doing well’ or something, too.
The path upped-and-downed for a bit – before the big down arrived. Bliss. I had a man in a blue tri suit in my sight, so I kept him in view all the way to the final 100m, where the race finished back on the spongy track outside K2.
Bottle of water, apple, and Tshirt collected, I sat down by the track and cheered on the remaining runners. There was free massage available, which was a lovely touch, and I was tempted but didn’t stay still long enough to be successful in the queue. It looked like they were spending a good amount of time on each massage-ee – great once on the table, less so in waiting.
Checking my time on the automatic system – I was presented with:
Similar to my reaction at Tunbridge Wells – I was quite shocked. There were plenty of fit looking women in tri suits, and I expected to be way down there.
The overall times looked like this:
4th overall of around 40 women (36 I think), and 3rd place in the under 40s. That got me a nice prize (Gift voucher, and weirdly a goody bag that at some point in my previous role at Evans I probably sent to print and had packed) and the chance to get on the podium for a picture (which I’ve still not got a copy of 😦 )
I was also 22nd of 130 overall (men and women). The mix at a Triathlon is a tad different to a Time Trial, but I was still chuffed with my performance, despite the fact my run felt like that of a sloth.
Of course – that 1 second is pretty frustrating, especially since my T1 was a minute slower than number 245. However, looking at splits her run time was considerably faster than mine so much of that might have been journey from pool to bike. If I plan to race Tri next year, which I might well do, alongside TT – I mainly need to learn to run again, especially after a bike ride.
The girl in 1st was a clear winner, but as mentioned – she does have a background in International sport so I’m pleased to even be that close to someone with such an engine.
All things considered, this was a great race – with a fast bike, a tough run, and fantastic organisation.
This racing weekend was in fact the final stint of the summer season.
This year’s racing has been very rollercoaster. I had a promising start, then it all went a little off course – and I imagine stressing over the small detail of planning my wedding, getting married, and honeymooning contributed.
Shortly after our wedding, results were suddenly back on track, and I’ve finished the season fairly happy with my performances. I’m pleased to be running and swimming again, and with the addition of Yoga on a weekly basis, I actually feel like a more balanced, and dare I say it, happier individual.
Racing this season has been less about seconds, and more about placing. Not only that, but it’s been about sharing moments with fellow racers – seeing new women take to borrowed TT bikes for the first time, watching nervous ladies flourish and achieve times they never though they could, and witnessing amazing performances from some of the sensational Cat 1s & 2s.
Chapeau to everyone involved – it’s been great.