The Only Way is Essex

XLab Tri Tool Kit-0

After the disappointment of puncturing in last weeks Norwich Triathlon this was an opportunity to exorcise those demons and get a decent race in again. I’d eyed Gosfield up a while ago as a good option as it featured as part of The Eastern Regions League, had a good reputation from its days as the Eastern Regions Relay venue and had attracted some quality athletes to the field. In addition it was around an hour and a half away, just about close enough to get back to Norfolk if my other half went in to labour! (she’s seven and a half months at the moment). 

The last few weeks have been a bit of a mixed bag in terms of both training and racing. I’d pencilled Fritton and Norwich as “A” races and planned to peak accordingly. Tacking on Gosfield this week and North Walsham Sprint next week wasn’t perfect planning in anyone’s book as it will entail 4 races in 5 weeks and I’ve never been one to recover quickly from races. However, with a new addition to the family due in late August I’ve had to compress my season a little and was hoping to wing it through the busy period with a few days holiday dotted around here and there. What I hadn’t planned for was getting ill the week before Norwich with a lingering cold that didn’t shift properly for nearly 2 weeks. By that time I’d missed 10 days of training and not even finished the one race that I’d be tapering for! All in all it had meant that by the time last week came around I’d raced once and managed a handful of decent sessions in the previous 3 weeks. So against my better judgement I doubled up training sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, as much to build confidence again as fitness, as the benefits of training in the week leading up to a race are limited. Now, a year ago this would have been a recipe for disaster as, like I mentioned, I’m not one to recover quickly from high intensity training. However, having opened my mind to the world of nutrition and the science behind it I have become much more diligent in terms of post training intake, currently taking on QNT Recall 50/50 after every HIT or race I do and the improvements have been dramatic. Despite 6 sessions in 3 days during last week, a short power brick on Saturday and a hard race on Sunday I am not only walking the day after, which would have been an uncomfortable hobble a while back, but actually raced well to boot.

Anyway, back to race day. A couple of mates had agreed to join me on the trip to Essex, Chris Beck, who’d finished 7th at Norwich the week before and Will Chrome embarking on his first Olympic Distance race. The day started very early Sunday morning with 3 men and their bikes squeezed into my Vauxhall Astra for the anticipated hour and a half drive. Two and a bit hours later we found ourselves a tad late and running to race registration as it was about to shut. Far too close for comfort and I only just remembered, as I was putting my wet suit on, that I’d forgotten to raise my seat post that I’d dropped to squeeze it into the car, which would have made for a rather uncomfortable/comic bike leg. Fortunately I found a bike tool, re-adjusted things and made my way to the race briefing. The weather had been pretty bad over the weekend and as a result the race details had been doctored slightly. The first change was a mandatory stop 30 metres after transition as the bike leg met the main road, the second was an enforced shortening of the run leg to 9.5km as part of the course was under water.

The venue was aesthetically great and as a race site worked pretty well, but definitely lends itself to dry weather. Waterlogged grass and footpaths with inclines/declines every way into transition made things a little sketchy at times.

On the plus side, the grey skies meant sighting the bright orange pencil buoys that made up the swim route was a dream. After a below par swim the week before I made a conscious effort to go out hard from the start and maintain the pace for as long as possible. Steve Norris who was back on home soil and had raced well the previous weekend would again be racing hard so I wanted to put some distance between us in the water. At about 500m I got a bit concerned I might have blown up completely, but settled into a rhythm after that and maintained a fairly constant gap to the two swimmers in front, one of which was Olly Milk winner of Norwich Sprint last weekend (and most other races he enters!). Getting out of the water onto a steep, slippery wet grass bank was a challenge in itself and my transition to the bike didn’t get much better from there. After falling out of my wetsuit I put my wet sunglasses on my face and by the time I left transition I could hardly see through the misted lenses to pick up the timing chip that had just fallen off my ankle. I hopped onto my bike, shoes attached, broke the elastic bands keeping them upright and failed miserably to get my feet into them before I had to stop at the junction. Looking left I saw the road pitch up and, in front of the small crowd that gathers at points of interest on any triathlon, demonstrated why uphill bike mounting with pre-attached shoes dangling upside down is not conducive with speed, or grace for that matter. Then my gel fell of my bike, leaving me with just my drinks bottle for the race and feeling a bit like a Chuckle Brother. Turns out it was all much better than Steve who’d come out of transition a minute or so down and punctured almost immediately as he mounted his bike.

So, with my glasses tucked into the neck of my Trisuit like a tourist, I’d had enough time fannying around to recover nicely from my exertions in the swim and was able to settle straight into a good pace on the bike. A two lap, slightly over distance bike course took in a few decent hills and some lovely fast stretches of road. I always enjoy multiple lap courses as you get a chance to figure them out and have a second bite at the cherry, which was especially helpful on this occasion due to the wet roads and tight turns. We’d set off in the second wave of three so there was a fair amount of overtaking to be done, including a rather dodgy episode with a hay lorry, but the course was never crowded and with minimal traffic on the roads it was ideal.

I made it back to transition in one piece, having taken more caution on the corners than I used to (re-Beijing 2011), and, having not been overtaken, figured I’d moved into second somewhere behind Mr Milk. As I left T2 and headed into the first saturated, muddy field and looked up to see Olly a couple of hundred metres ahead. He’s not a massive fan of downhill biking or wet roads, so I think the combination of the two had played into my hands and, although a little bit of me was picturing a Charriots of Fire style race to the line, the other, more reasonable 99% of my brain put me in my place as I watched him gradually move away. Still I always find running a great time for thinking (swimming I’m rather pre-occupied and cycling seems more conducive with idle daydreaming), and the race in my head kept me well motivated.  I’ve actually started carrying my Garmin with me so I can focus on pace rather than letting my mind wander, something that’s definitely helped reduce episodes of focus-loss on the bike . I wasn’t hitting the min/mile speeds I’d hoped for on the run, but I also hadn’t envisaged running through 20m long puddles and paths so muddy it was more akin to skating than running. In fact, it seemed quite ironic that the run had been cut short due to water-logging when a large proportion of what was left was under water anyway! Still, 5 miles in when I hit the worst part of the course I was the last person complaining about shaving off half a mile.

The run course finished with a short out and back section with a turn around point on the grass, handily placed to induce a few falls as people raced for the line, but fortunately this time I wasn’t one of them. I’d lost sight of Olly around half way into the first lap of the run and he’d stormed home to another victory to back up last weeks win at Norwich.

Given the terrible weather it was a great event and Born 2 Tri put together a very well organised and marshalled race. I’d had the race I was hoping for last week at our club’s home event, but you can’t account for punctures and illness, so I was relieved just to finish, the rest was a bonus. The aim is to carry the extended peak into next weekend then take a break before returning to a little base training to rebuild some endurance in the hope I can squeeze a couple more late season races in as a dad!





1st     Oliver Milk         1:57: 43

2nd     Toby Morrell     1:59: 58

3rd    Alastair Brown  2:01: 36


10th  Chris Beck           2:15: 51

13th Will Chrome        2:16: 08