When I plan my race season I always like to throw in one UK ‘C race’, usually of a shorter distance, to mix up the season a bit and keep things fresh. I think there is also a great advantage in using a shorter race as a hard training day.
I raced the F3 Events Fugitive Olympic Distance Triathlon in Marlow two years ago so I knew the course pretty well, and when I saw a gap in my season I thought it would be a good one to go back to. Having won it in 2017 (overall female winner), I also had my eye on winning it again.
Shorter, local races are weird though, I was literally stood in my house the evening before wondering what I needed – I race all the time, COME ON YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS NOW! Then there was the “what nutrition do I even need!?” conundrum. I think it’s just generally the relaxed feeling about it as there’s no racking or briefing faff the day before, and the race is so short you don’t even need to halve your usual 70.3 nutrition plan. Couple of gels and you’re good to go!
I’d had a fair amount of emotional stress in the lead up to the race which wasn’t ideal prep, but it was a race we weren’t tapering for anyway so I was also loaded up with a 17 hour training week beforehand.
I felt pretty blasé about it in perfect honesty, but was absolutely stoked to have my friend Eloise there to support me, it made such a difference to the enjoyment level! As we messed around before the start I almost felt like I “couldn’t be bothered” to do the race, I wasn’t in the slightest bit nervous, felt super relaxed and almost a little bit unmotivated by it all!
Motivation levels dipped a bit lower when a spot of rain came along (THIS is why I don’t race in the UK!) but that soon cleared up and we had pretty calm and ideal conditions for the race itself. The water was colder than I anticipated and as I eased myself into the beautiful brown water of the Thames, I lined up by the inside buoy right at the front (always my ambitious swim start position!).
We set off and I went out typically a bit too hard but soon settled into my pace. By the first turnaround buoy, on lap one of two, I realised I was in the front pack, all of which consisted of men. There were a few anomalies up front but I knew I was swimming well (comparative to the field at least!). I managed to maintain this position and worked my way even further up the front of the front pack, so by the last turnaround buoy on the second lap, there was no-one actually in front of me anymore.
I exited the water and was swiftly informed that I was first lady out of the water. Good. That part went to plan then!
Out on the bike after what felt like the world’s longest T1 exit run on grass, gravel and unmade road, and we hit a short climb. Again I had a few men around me as we ‘cat and moused’ up and down the climb and once on the valley floor I got down on the bars and pushed on.
I wasn’t really that bothered what my power was, this was more of a ‘do it for fun’ race and as I wanted to race mostly by feel, but I kept an eye on it out of interest. It was about 10-15 watts higher than my 70.3 power plan – probably about right.
The bike route hits a climb towards the turnaround point – it’s more of a long drag really, which wasn’t particularly fast going until you turn around, and then it’s mega-speeds of 60kph back into Henley. I overtook quite a few guys on the descent and still no sign of any women, woohoo!
I biked into T2 after the last big hill with my quads feeling a bit on fire (that’ll be racing on a big training week, damn you lactic acid!), wondering if I had overcooked it on the bike a bit and that my run would be a struggle. I finished the bike in 1:08 so I’m definitely not breaking any records, but I think was a PB bike split for me.
After rapidly deciding to sack off socks, I ran out feeling pretty strong and knew immediately that it was going to be a good one. I felt excellent and was running at a pace I usually do my longer efforts on the track at. Might not be sustainable Kilpin, but let’s see what we’ve got! As I approached the end of the first (of two) laps I was still feeling awesome and went through 5k in just over 20 minutes. Jeez.
Thinking how everything goes so goddamn quickly when you race shorter distances, I started to see more people on the second lap and was burning past them trying to hold my pace. I knew I had a good lead but this was no longer about pushing myself to win the race, I knew (at the risk of sounding arrogant and smug!) that I had that in the bag. I wanted to see what I was capable of as I never race Olympic distance tris! May as well chuck a PB in alongside a win.
The last few kilometres were admittedly starting to hurt quite a bit but I was still managing to hold the pace, and as I ran down the finish chute I posted a run time of 41 minutes and a total finish time of 2:21, and went to give Eloise ALL the sweaty hugs for her hard cheering.
The best part was that I enjoyed every second. Shorter distance races are such a different beast mentally – you almost have no time to experience those lows and highs during the race, it’s just process and ticking off the disciplines, and all of a sudden, you’re done! BOOM!
I was so happy to win the race after leading it from start to finish, and ended up 10th overall including the men. Ok, so it’s not a huge international field but given the high volume of training and stress leading into the race, if nothing else it was a pretty good training day banked.
Now it’s time to see if I can keep this podium streak up for the rest of the season….!
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Knight Photography