In addition to all the great race reports we are seeing, your Club Captain and I thought we’d share our views on the weekends races. Well done everyone, lots of tough battles were fought out there, some physical, some very much mental! What a cracking weekend at all levels.
The Grafman Report
Following a very wet and windy Saturday, the Sunday at Grafham Waters was calm, sunny and with the inevitable buzz of excitement.
Within minutes of arrival club members came pouring out from the carparks, and transition area to have a chat and gear each other up. It was great to see the club spirit in full action and the support being provided to each other.
The race went from being a tough Middle distance to a challenge where mental agility and strength was really going to make the difference! The swim is sometimes viewed as an obstacle to be overcome before you get to the bike section, (and I still say it is one of the best bike routes) but I have rarely seen an event wide collective sigh of relief when the swim was shortened from 2 laps to 1 due to regulations. The swim was busy, crowded, and as it was short, left no real room for the field to stretch out, and this led to the most frenetic T1s I have ever witnessed. 660 competitors all vying for changing space. Adam W appeared first, followed by the rest of the club. We spotted most but sadly not all.
Not only did the short swim cause fun in the transition area, but it also led to large groups of cyclists drafting and chainganging, something that there is very little your draftbuster motos can do anything about on that scale. Very few people racing were heard to say anything good about the bike section. So by the time everyone hit the run, they were frustrated from a short busy swim, an overcrowded transition and a busy ride.
The run was hot, and for anyone who has not seen the Grafman course, the run heads out and back along a flat endless concrete reservoir wall, perfect when the sun comes out, it allows everyone to get thoroughly roasted very early on in the run. This is where it turned out that the placement of the cheer station accidentally became quite important. As everyone returned from the first out and back, they were met by the club flags flying, Laura, James, Michelle, Payton, Fiona, Edward, Ben and myself, later to be joined by others too. As our tired athletes appeared by the midway point, the volume levels rocketed well beyond any cheering I have heard before. I think it is fair to say that the ETC presence was well and truly felt by all at the event. For the first lap at least the smiles, and tears, were there, and despite injuries, cramps, mind games and hot weather, everyone pushed through and nobody quit.
Those performances were fantastic in very tough conditions, but I want to call out a special pat-on-the-back for Nadia. Having struggled with injury over recent months, she turned up with a plan to swim and bike only. She has been unable to train fully and to even get to the start line is an achievement, and Nadia stuck exactly to her plan. It is all too easy to get caught up in the competitive heat of the moment. Top effort Nadia and great to see you back in action.
And when Sandie reached the line, there was still a large group of us waiting to cheer her to the end. It was a very hard race for everyone, even those who were finishing towards to the top of the field were saying how hard it had been. To see everyone pushing their limits was fantastic, we really are quite a brilliant club!
The Newmarket Report
On the same day as Grafman was the popular early season super-sprint Newmarket Triathlon and ETC turned out in force. We had a great mix of experienced and less-experienced athletes lining up to put their all into the 300m pool swim, 22k rolling bike and 4k mixed terrain run. I (Alan) was racing myself so can’t vouch for the accuracy of all my facts 🙂
A recce of the course was conducted a couple of weeks before the race with Tony, Emma, John and myself trundling around the course discussing how to approach the various foot down points and turns. As this was also a training session we did the obligatory fast loop of the “lollipop” at our own pace before heading back into town. A recce is always useful and I hope it helped give confidence to the team. It did act as a good reminder for one of the group to make sure their tyres were fully inflated.
On race day the blue hooded ETC clan naturally gravitated towards one another and we were all racked pretty much next to each other. Alan though changed his mind once he saw an opportunity to save a couple of seconds in transition (and perhaps because another Dolan Scala in red was racked 2 bikes down and didn’t want the shame of running of with someone else’s bike!). Transition done we all gathered for the briefing before a team photo. Unfortunately one of the team had gone walkies and couldn’t be found – next time.
The swim is 12 lengths with competitors swimming up and down one lane before going under the lane rope and doing the same in lane 2 and so on. The swimmers are separated by 30 seconds which rarely leads to overtakes but is enough of an incentive to not slow down too much! Unusually everyone was made to wear a swim cap – a new rule for 2017 apparently in all events.
A short walk out of the sport centre and straight into transition to collect the race belt, helmet and bike and we’re off. The bike course is the best bit about Newmarket. Long straight roads with gentle ups and downs make for a pretty speedy course. There was little traffic and, as always, excellent guidance from the NC&TC marshals. The early morning sun had really warmed things up and so tri suits were more than enough for the bike – earlier temperatures did make an extra layer a consideration for some. The breeze was gentle and the road surface, for the most part (3rd exit off the horse-roundabout is awful), was good for getting low into the drops or TT position and putting some power down. We were all warned in the brief to make sure we did 2 laps of the lollipop and I’m glad to see all ETC members managed to adhere despite all available blood and oxygen being diverted to the legs. At least one person was DQ for not doing the second lap. At the end of the bike was a short final climb to sap the legs before re-entering transition.
T2 is always a blur. Bike in, helmet off, left shoe on, right shoe on and go. It’s usually within 10-60 seconds of exiting T2 that you know where your run will be. Legs are heavy, muscles refuse to spring and cramps can be felt coming on. With such a short race though there’s no time to stop for a stretch so it’s all managed on the fly. A slight change of cadence, altering the gait a bit; it must look a bit funny to a bystander…. The loop starts with a short run on flat tarmac before a short, steep downhill leading onto grass. The grassy section feels like wading through treacle despite being well maintained and fairly short. Thankfully you’re soon back on pavement for a bit before the dreaded climb (same as on the bike). In truth it’s not a big one but any incline is unwelcome. Back on the flat and into the sports centre again, ready for lap 2. By now the legs should have recovered and the running style should have returned rather than looking like someone rather flustered looking for the nearest public conveniences.
Regrouping after the race and it was clear some superb performances had been put in. Lots of talk around PB’s and time saved. I will struggle to do everyone justice here (hint – write a race report and tell us your story 🙂 but here’s a few of the stats that I know:
ETC had 3 in the top 10 (Rory 2nd, Me 5th and Alex in 7th) UEA and Cambridge only managed 2 a piece. We did well in the age groups too with me in 1st, Maddie and Alex 2nd and Thea 3rd. PB’s were coming left, right and centre. I know Tony surprised himself and smashed his estimated time, new member Emma took significant time from previous efforts and excellent finishing times from Richard, Sam and Jennifer.
Fabulous effort by everyone.