Thorpe Sprint Tri – September 2019

Preamble

Initially I was going to do Thorpe after some gentle bullying by TRO who was doing IM Wales on the same day, but then the decision was made to have it as the club championships.

The inaugural club championships no less. This was only decided upon about a month beforehand, so it’s probably the lowest attended “club” event I’ve ever been to – we had more bodies at both Marbella and Holkham, and probably the same doing Weymouth last year – and they are all 70.3 – but that’s a discussion for another time.

As is customary I packed a light bag the night before as I intended to ride to the park (it’s only about a mile) – and then spent half the night worrying I may forget to pick up my driving licence.

The alarm went off at a reasonable time and I DO remember to grab my driving licence, but as I’m doing the morning ablutions I realize it’s almost pitch black outside: typically I always have a rear light on the back but have to spend a few minutes foraging for a front light with some charge. Find one.  Sigh of relief.

Ride the mile or so to Thorpe without incident, although it’s a bit bloody parky. Walk across the bridge onto the Island – there is a beautiful sunrise / moonset going on – see Lee in registration so leave my bike with him and register. Minor panic sets in when I can’t find my race belt. Resign myself to safety pins.

Find a spot in transition, near the front but not too near. Man pulls up opposite – I’m sure I know him from somewhere. We converse and it turns out he works at the school my wife teaches at.

A Race official wanders up and tells me I can’t clip my helmet to my bike. He then unclips another competitor’s helmet.

A few moments later he shuffles back and tells me I can only have garments on the bike I will wear on the course. I ask him if he cycled here this morning – pointed out that I did and it was effing cold!

Wander over to race briefing without incident. Updated bike course advertised. No drama.

Shuffle over bridge to swim in. Start chatting to random bodies. Man next to me mentions he did Woburn last week. Happy coincidence. Chat about that for a few minutes whilst the red caps (those < 40yo) get in and are set off. Then it’s our turn.

Swim – 750m / 00:15:34

The swim is a single loop of the lake inside Thorpe Park. Water temperature was “wetsuit optional” but I’m not sure I’d have wanted to get in without one.

We were corralled down a short floating dock and leapt off the end like penguins – landing knee deep into soft mud.

With just time to shout “have a good race” we were off. Right in the middle of the pack and instantly it went wrong with my left google lens flooding with water. With one eye shut I bear left to get out of the washing machine but find it hard to find any space. By the time I get to the fist buoy both lenses are full. Pull off to the side, swearing gently, and re-seat the lenses, set off, same problem, try again and this time adjust the strap a bit and that seems to solve the problem.

I was swimming well and managed to find some good drafting targets. There was a large group around me as we turned past the second buoy, and it was relatively easy to stay in the pack.

Past the third buoy I thought we had to go to the right of the next one and I was steered gently back onto course by a canoe. Turning left at the next (double) buoy (there was my mistake) we were told “swim to us!” by the volunteers hooking bodies out of the water – the mud was inches thick when you tried to put any weight down and coming out of the water made me feel like the monster from the blue lagoon.

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T1 – 00:01:58

Up and out of the water, over a wooden bridge and on a plastic mat over the rocky ground to transition. In previous years I’m sure it was freshly mown & therefore I did the race with grass stuck to my extremities, this year it was mostly dead leaf and step wrong and you got a thistle underfoot, most painful.

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Anyway, wetsuit off, on with the cycling top (I was one of the only ones who bothered, maybe I need to rethink sprint races as the work rate on the bike is such you wouldn’t be cold for too long?) and helmet, race number, sunglasses in a pocket (they stayed there all cycle) and off I set to the mount line.

Bike – 21km / 00:39:20

Bike ride had changed this year – the original course had had a particularly annoying set of lights on the Thorpe Bypass for gas/water works. Although the repairs were done, the lights hadn’t been removed.

The first half of the route was the same, starting with a technical winding section along the access road to the A320, then left up to Staines, 180 around the main roundabout, and back past the entrance again. By the time I got to the end of the access road there was a fair stream of riders heading left to right, so I turned left and set out after them. 180 and back past the park. By the time I got to the roundabout at Twynersh the first U40 men were coming up the other way to finish their rides. Speedy!

I think the course change was actually for the better as it involved turning left at my house (give or take) and going up to Virginia Water and turning left, then left again along Bridge Lane / Lyne Crossing Road and back over St Anne’s Hill. This meant it was a bit lumpier and much more interesting than the Thorpe Bypass. A good thing.

I am pleased to report that my wife & daughter had made the effort this year to stand by the roundabout and cheer me on. Most grateful to see them I was too. Although apparently they annoyed the locals by cheering and waking up small children.

I was in the usual place of both overtaking and being overtaken in equal measure. I passed John-Luke on Bridge Road and exchanged pleasantries.

Up over St. Anne’s Hill and back to the Twynersh roundabout, then back up to the service road. On the lead up to the Park Roundabout I was caught by the first women riders. Held on to them through the service road and it was over.

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Strava tells me there were many PB over the course, which is nice.

T2 – 00:01:04

Ouch. My feet both seem to have pins & needles (hadn’t notice on the bike) and I’m laughed at as I jog into transition say “ouch, legs, where are you, where have you gone?”

Quick dump of everything and into no-socks running shoes. Fetch Cap on. Head out onto the run.

Uneventful.

Run – 5k / 00:23:00

Out of transition and it’s 180 onto a grass track before joining the main route which is paved. The lead females are pretty much streaming past me at this point as I endeavour to deal with jelly legs.

I haven’t done a lot of park-run this year, and I think my 5k time has suffered because of it. I managed to retain a fairly steady 4:45-5:00/km pace but I did have to keep telling myself to slow down otherwise I’d blow up.

I kept a look out for friendly faces ad did get to see John-Luke twice on the out & back section.

I’ve grumbled about the fact the run course isn’t really IN the park, well it is, but not any interesting bits, it’s all on access road and behind the rides. I supposed on a happy note it wasn’t strewn with the dead fauna that have featured in past years.

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Past the finish cute for lap one a number of runners I was trying to keep pace with peeled off and suddenly it seemed I was all alone, but then past transition I was fighting for space all of a sudden.

Second lap was uneventful: high fived John-Luke and thought “he’s going to catch me up at that rate” – he didn’t, although photographic evidence suggests it was a very close thing (he’s in the white tee shirt).

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Over the finish and receive a wooden medal and grab a drink of water before wandering to find Lee and my valuables before shooting off home to get to rugby coaching on time.

Ruminations

Not my best race. Certainly not my worst. Comparing myself to the field I was 13/24 in the Veteran 45 – 49 category, which is mid-table obscurity.

A glance at the relative times I’ve put in over the years shows I’m faster than when I started this journey, but not as fast as just post Holkham. I put that down to the extra weight and general laziness. Next year is shaping up nicely with one June 70.3 on the cards already and another probably in September.

  2016 2017 2019  
s 00:18:24 00:15:08 00:15:34  
t1 00:05:59 00:01:34 00:01:58  
b 00:44:37 00:39:38 00:39:20 2019 Bike Different Route
t2 00:01:29 00:01:21 00:01:04  
r 00:24:13 00:21:24 00:23:00  
  1:34:42 1:19:05  1:20:58  

I’ve got the Tri bug again after a rest year, and it feels good.

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