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Sprint triathlon?! Whoever thought that was a good idea?! Apparently me, when I signed up for it a few weeks before the World Long Distance Champs, thinking that two weeks after I’d be recovered and ready to go again. Yeah, sure.

The snag is, I’m definitely not a sprinter. Oh no, most definitely not.

Actually the single only reason I signed up to this race was because my mum emailed me one day with a link to it saying it was close by, and why don’t I do it. For my mum to get involved in suggesting races for me is quite something, so I took heed of her suggestion and thought “why not!?”. Plus they basically blackmailed me by saying they’d come to watch if I did it. Would be rude not to then, right!?

Sprint triathlons are way harder than long distance. In some respects (marginal backtrack). Redlining the whole way hurts like HELL, and as a naturally ‘not very fast’ person, it’s so far outside the comfort zone it’s gone extra-terrestrial.

Typically, as for the only other triathlon I signed up to in the UK this year, the forecast was heavy rain. Brilliant. I was close to bailing (yet again), but before you all dismiss me as a wimpy fair-weather triathlete (I’m not, honest, *cough cough*) I thought it might not be the best idea to risk a crash/injury/illness before a big block of training and racing, for the sakes of a small local sprint tri.

Anyway, the weather gods were feeling generous and I woke up on race morning with dry roads and a nice casual start time of 11.15am.

This race was held in the grounds of Stowe Landscape Gardens, a National Trust Property with neo-classical architecture and beautiful countryside. Location – tick. (This tick gets revoked later, FYI). Unfortunately there were six simultaneous races of different distances and some run events too, so it made for quite a messy/disorganised race venue and operation.

People had warned me about the swim being a “bit grim” with the murky, weedy lake being far from pleasant, but honestly, I didn’t notice a thing. I guess if you’re pushing hard enough then you don’t even have awareness of your surroundings! My only awareness was that were about three people in front of me in a wave of about 40. YES. Oh, and all the weeds that I got caught up in. But I’m used to that. Definitely took a few seconds off my time trying to pull one from my leg which was causing considerable drag, though.

I exited the water in 11 minutes something or other, and they shouted that I was second lady out. I later found out I had the fifth fastest swim time of the day (out of the sprinters), not too shabby! Must be that speedy Zone3 wetsuit...

Out of T1 and we had to cycle up the most horrific 750m of appalling stony track I have ever experienced in a triathlon. I rode on the grass verge wondering how many people were getting instant punctures?!

The bike course was windy and rolling and my legs were burning. Where did all these hills come from? Hmm, probably not recovered from the Worlds after all… I was catching up with some of the Olympic distance athletes out on the course, and not many of the sprint guys overtook me so I knew I must be doing ok, but I was blowing! Badly! Swigging inelegantly on MyEndurance Train Sustain Formula (which works a treat for short hard racing), I thought about how weird it was being on a bike course on my own a lot of the time. I usually race big races, and there was no-one around. A couple of times I even wondered if I had missed a turn!

Into T2 (down the track of HELL, which was even more hellish in cleats – hello grass verge), and onto the run. Oh dear. Why do we have to run back up the track of hell again! Damn this course! Uphill, uneven, stony surface, with a load of bikes flying down towards you and no segmentation – it was a chaotic free for all. A sketchy moment nearly colliding with a bike over the one, narrow piece of rubber matting over the cattle grid, and I was safe (at least from bikes and face-plant-risk, for now).

The run was beautiful. I think. I didn’t look as all I could see was red. This was painful from start to finish and I was nowhere near my target run splits because after every couple of hundred metres there was some massive hill waiting to take delight in my pathetic plodding! One hill was so steep everyone was walking up it. I was the only idiot who ran (I say ran, it was more like a shuffle).

At 4.7k I decided to put the hammer down a bit but was seriously shot by this time, feeling nothing but relief that there was only a few hundred metres to go. But was there!? Apparently not. Because a whole kilometre later and the finish was nowhere to be seen or heard. WHAT.

This angered me so much that I couldn’t even be bothered to try hard anymore. I vaguely wondered if I had accidentally started another loop and was running with all the 10k-ers, but we hadn’t been anywhere near the start/finish area so must be impossible!

Eventually, after what felt like the longest (and slowest) 5k of my life (funny that), I went through the finish, in what was my slowest sprint time ever. I think (haven’t actually checked). A very un-5k-like 6.7k recorded on my Garmin. Not impressed! But at least my mum had brought me along a homemade sandwich to restore me :-)

No female had passed me in the run so I felt I had done ok at the race, but there was another wave start after mine, so anything could happen really. The organisers then announced that there would be no awards ceremony after all, it was being cancelled and they would post prizes. Oh dear, slightly shambolic.
Results were posted online the next day (!) and I found out I had won my age group and was 2nd female overall. I was 12th overall including the men, in a field of 85, so I was pretty happy with that performance!

It is very confidence-restoring to get a good solid result at a sprint race, which isn’t really my distance, and only two weeks after the Worlds which I was unlikely to have recovered sufficiently from. I was buzzing all the next day because I hadn’t expected such a satisfying result from such a dissatisfying and horrifically painful race.

I am now entering into a big volume, tough training block to prepare for my next block of races, and after sharpening things up a little and going a bit off-kilter into the wilderness of sprint racing, it’s time for some serious focus…