So when’s a triathlon not a triathlon? Now if you ask google to define what a triathlon is, she tells you that it’s “an athletic contest consisting of three different events, typically swimming, cycling, and running” – and what we did yesterday falls into that remit for sure, it just didn’t really feel like it. (What on earth are you on about? I hear you cry…)
The reason it felt a touch odd is because this is a new format offered by fullsteam events for something to titillate and amuse over the winter months: admittedly this was in July so it was a bit out of season but it was the inaugural event run primarily as a fact finding exercise (which meant there was probably more time spent than expected looking hopefully at the race organiser as he tapped maniacally at his iPad)
First a quick word about how the event was run: rather than a strict adherence to distance over time based results, each event is measured on a particular metric held over 20 minutes. This translated into a set number of points based on your relative position (e.g. if in your age group category there were 10 bodies, and you swam the fastest you’d get 10 points, and so on). Person with the most points after the three events, relative to the age group category, won. I’m not sure how you decide who wins outside the age groups: I’m not sure it really matters that much.
Taking each event in turn we started off with a swim (as is traditional) in which we had 4x200m intervals to do with a minute’s rest between them, and the time recorded was the average of the four intervals. Pretty basic thus far, and not much to go wrong. Unless you forget your goggles. Whoops.
Out of the water it was a quick dash into transition for a rapid leap into bike gea… wait, what, eh? Oh. The primary reason I think it didn’t feel terribly triathlony (if that’s even a word) was the lack of any meaningful transition. After the swim we had time for a rinse off, cup of tea, crossword, tap dancing lesson, and most importantly, a five minute walk across the campus from Pool in the Park to the Spin studio where the next event is. The advertised time between events is 20 minutes, which feels a little bit like cheating as you fully recover between them. However, as it’s the same(-ish) for everyone it is actually fair and negates the need for the spin studio to be right next to the pool.
The “ride” was on a spin bike, which (after a 5 minute warm up) was what amounted to an Functional Threshold Power test over 20 minutes (we actually only did 15), with points being allocated to the highest average wattage over the time. It was sweaty, and felt very much like a spin class, only a bit shorter with less shouting and abuse from the front.
Off the bike it was a mad dash into transition where all those bricks all paid off… no, wait, I still haven’t got the hang of this. Time to meander down from the spin studio to the park was 20 minutes again. I think in the winter proper there may be an option to do a run on a treadmill (highest distance gives most points) but as it was not actually the winter we ran (or ambled in my case) around the park with the most laps in 20 minutes taking the most points.
Crossing the finish line felt more triathlony than any of the rest of the ‘race’ (if you can call it that) as there were bodies strewn about the place busily panting, sweating and rehydrating.
So, was it worth it and what do I think in the cold light of day? I don’t have many criticisms, but if I was being pernickety (which given this is my blog I’m allowed to be)…
Compared to the other events, I don’t think the run differentiated enough in terms of points as there is quite a wide spread of lap times that nets the same number of points: I did 7, Kelly (who is a significantly better runner than me, it turns out, and trying to keep up with her results in a nasty stitch), only managed an extra point despite her dominance and doing an entire extra lap. This would be alleviated somewhat if running machines were used instead as you’d have more accurate distances over 20 minutes.
The ratio of time spent between the events when I do a “proper” triathlon is roughly 1:3:2 – so if an Olympic Tri takes 3 hours I would expect to spend 30 minutes swimming, 90 on the bike and 60 running. The ratios for this are planned to be entirely even. I can understand this from an organisational perspective as when running an event you’d want each chunk (swim, T1, bike, T2, run) to take 20 minutes as it would allow predictability and waves that were always on the way somewhere, but it’s not a true reflection of an actual race.
Having said that, I had a lot of fun, which is probably the most important bit. The long “transitions” allowed for recovery and did change the feel of the event from something serious & racey into something far more sociable – including relaxed banter among the competitors. I broke into a sweat, got to do the sports required of a triathlon and ignited my competitive spirit. In the winter I’d go for this as a training event / something to keep me honest for sure, and if you haven’t, try it!