I was coerced into entering the Thames Turbo by the lure of racing with a couple of buddies from the Woking #racestrongtri club. Only one of which could actually be bothered to pay their money on time and turn up. I’m looking at you Lee.
I suspect being in Porto for the preceding four days on a stag do probably wasn’t the best preparation – especially we were in a hostel with the shared living space, sleepless nights and flatulence that implies.
In fact, generally, the lead up wasn’t kind to me – on the way to the airport I backed the car into a lamp post and broke a tail light, and on the way home I stubbed my middle toe hard enough to (probably) fracture it. I really wasn’t in the best place when the alarm woke me at 0500 for the 20-minute drive to Hampton Pool.
Once I got there, I found parking relatively easily: I had been concerned that there wasn’t any parking for us, but actually it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when there wasn’t much traffic for Richmond park at 05:45 on a bank holiday Monday.
Dropping off the bike in transition I headed to the race briefing, which started a couple of minutes later than advertised. The race director gee-d us up and delivered the usual spiel about obeying the highway code: including a humorous bit about how the marshal would never wave us through a red traffic light.
The first racers were off shortly after this: but being a sequential snake style swim, there had to be 293 people (give or take) who started before me. True to their word they let people off at about 15 second intervals in what was supposed to be “accurate 400m swim time”. Having recently done a Sprint with a 400m swim I was confident that my time was accurate: but the evidence from the pool was that the first wave was NOT in strict swim time order as snakes of humans doing breaststroke built up very quickly and there were lines of 5 or 6 “racers” caught behind extremely slow swimmers and struggling to get past. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
It was cold, so for the hour between briefing and when I was due to start I hung about fully clothed and popped back to the men’s changing rooms to cast aside the warm outer layer. During the change I inadvertently dropped my phone on my foot. Predictably it hit the aforementioned broken toe. Full on. There was much screaming.
Back outside, I found my place in the queue, making friends with my number buddy. Realising it was still freezing and we still had a number of swimmers to wait for, we retired to the baby pool to keep the feet warm.
Swim – 07:35.5
Eventually (at about 07:50) I followed my number buddy into the gently steaming pool. The race director turned over his sheet and said firmly “Hello Valerie”. Ummm. No. Pause, realises he’s made a mistake, faffs with paperwork for a few seconds. I have to say I appreciate this, as it meant there was a clear length between myself and race buddy by the time I’d started.
Three, Two, Once… and we were off. Nothing much of excitement happened. Wasn’t overtaken, caught up number buddy a little, but not by much. Managed not to go too fast on the first length which is a bonus, and with a snake it’s almost impossible to mis-count….
Category Place: 29th – A disappointment.
T1 – 01:15.1
Quite WTAF I was doing for over a minute in T1 eludes me. The leaders got through in approximately 45 seconds.
The only mitigating factors I can think of were that I couldn’t find my tri shoes in my post-trip fog the night before, so I was in “normal” bike shoes. I did put on socks because of damaged toe, and I did put on gloves because I’d been cold before the race. Even with all that I can’t believe I was so slow.
Managed not to cock up either putting the the race number on, or putting my top on before my helmet, so there’s always a positive to be taken.
Category Place: 43rd (-14 places)
Bike – 41:04.4
Alongside number 300 who left just ahead of me, we shot out of transition and down to the aforementioned traffic lights, catching them on a green cycle and therefore not losing any time. It turns out that 300 and I were very evenly matched – in the end overtaking one another 4-5 times as we’d respectfully allow the other past before charging past again.
The bike course is a flat, rather unimaginative there and back again towards Chertsey (most of the roads I’d driven that morning to get to the race). The road surface was the usual Surrey mix of pot hole, ground glass, large stones and damaged tarmac. It turns out the second half was into the wind slightly, although I didn’t twig this until we went around the roundabout at the apogee of the course.
I must congratulate the drivers of Sunbury for not being dicks. Traffic was light but very respectful and I can’t really recall any nasty over-takes whilst I was out.
Lost a few places to some very nice bikes. Gained some that I wouldn’t otherwise have expected to overtake. All in all, I’m happy with the performance. One downside is that despite searching, I didn’t see my racestrong buddy at all, although I should have seen her somewhere before we switched back.
Category Place: 42nd (+1 place)
Dead Zone – 06:54.4 (Pretty damned close to the 7-minute cut off….)
There is a considerable non-compete “dead” zone between the end of the bike and the start of transition. Time to take on some liquid, have a quick breather and think about the upcoming run.
T2 – 00:59.4
Still slow in transition, all I was doing was ditching the bike and pulling on running shoes so it is hard to get it wrong. I managed.
Running out, this time (unlike Woking a few weeks ago) I comprehended what the marshal was shouting at me and turned my race belt around as I exited transition.
Category Place: 37th (+5 places)
Run – 25:17.2
I think the run is the best bit of this course by far. Out of Hampton pool it’s a right, up to a kissing gate (thanks to the non-competitors who waited patiently for me to go through) and into Richmond park for a figure of 8.
Underfoot was a mixture of hard pack, tarmac and grass, and there were plenty of co-competitors to overtake, be overtaken by, chat to, smile at etcetera, as we had some common ground on which to run.
There was a water station at the end of the belt of the 8, but I forwent it to run faster. It turns out all the people hanging around that area were also the finishing tunnel, but I didn’t twig that until I was finishing.
Up the chute and over the line, and there’s #racestrong to cheer me through.
That was, (according to Strava) a PB 5k time. So, I can’t have cycled hard enough?
Category Place: 35th (+2 places)
Category place, 35th. Overall place 158th.
Apart from losing 14 places in T1, I don’t think I raced too badly. I had some left for a sprint finish, and I could possibly have gone harder on the bike. I was pleased at how well I was able to pace the swim.
The facilities on offer were very convenient with lockers for valuables, plenty of toilets etc. Transition felt secure enough with a security wrist band that was cut off as soon as you took a bike out at the end.
Transition was on grass, and there wasn’t any drama getting from the pool to T1 or from the bike to T2 – and the one bit that could have been traitorous had a nice man telling you to be careful.
It was fecking cold though. I was jealous of those who were pottering around in their dry-robes. I may have to buy myself one.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. SFA. No photos were taken. No medal was given (unless you paid through the nose for one). No free shit other than a lukewarm cup of tap water during the race. Not impressed.
I enjoyed the race, despite an early start where I didn’t know if I was going to get up, and I was not really prepared given the lead up.
I’ll probably try and do the one in August, just because it may be a bit warmer, and it’s local.
On the other hand I may not bother because it is an expensive race, there are local ones that are as good, if not better (I am biased towards Woking but it’s my yardstick).
So if I was concentrating on a sprint distance, it would be worthwhile as the field is strong, but I’m going long(er) this year, so it’s just a really expensive brick!