This year is the year of half iron, and the extensive training plan includes doing some sprints for fun, and also as training aids to practice transition / expensive brick sessions.
The Woking sprints are organised by FullSteam events and run concurrently with the GoTri beginner level triathlons. I’m inclined to favour this event as I’m closely affiliated with the organiser who also runs the Tri club in Woking (#RaceStrongTri) – I also know a lot of the marshals and the whole experience was enhanced by this (also – had a great time abusing them on the way through). Despite that, I’ll try not to be too sycophantic.
The Woking Sprint is based around Pool In The Park in Woking, and consist of a fairly flat and fast course. In terms of price it’s a touch cheaper than your average sprint, but there is a disturbing lack of swag unless you pony up for it separately (I abstained).
Being at PITP means that there is plenty of parking, indoor toilets, lockers and other good stuff that you don’t miss until it’s not there because you’re in a field.
We have a new format this year – there is an immutable 0900 swim lesson at the pool, and in previous years the triathlon was run after this, and in a severely limited number of lanes. This was the first time it was organised before the swim, with the first wave off at something like 0630. The waves were organised in groups of 4 based on an estimated 400m swim time, with the slowest off first so that everyone would be overtaking and being overtaken in the latter stages of the race. At least in theory. The primary benefit was that it meant that there were 5 lanes available, which is a significant improvement.
Timing is done with a chip – this year with the addition of two non-compete zones to discourage red light jumping and allow safe passage onto the bike course.
Transition is by the bandstand, which acted as race HQ, and seemed secure enough with marshals at the various entrances. I would describe the facilities in transition as ‘agricultural’, in fact the BTF man who was policing transition as only a BTF man can, was seen holding bits up after over-exuberant racers had destroyed the A frames on the way through. It was grassy and soft underfoot though, so no real complaints.
After having set up the various piles of detritus, valuables are put into the pool lockers and the key attached to your wrist. Cue hilarity as some people had Garmin and chip on one wrist, and fitbit and pool key on the other.
400m pool swim
After a very short wait, I was called almost exactly at the advertised 0740 to join 4 similarly paced swimmers in the lane. Each of us had a uniquely coloured hat (for the wave) to assist the lane bunny in counting our lengths. As it was as far as I know we exited in the same order as we went off in so it wasn’t a hard job for him. Which is good, as our lane bunny isn’t that bright. (He works in Human Resources, so he can’t be.)
Waving the chip over the reader I was off. As usual, overly enthusiastic for the first couple of lengths, and then calming down into a rhythm as I realised that I couldn’t sustain that pace, and that none of my wave compatriots were going to beat me comprehensively.
Seal-like I emerged from the water 7:16 later (according to Garmin) feeling strong. Out the door into what felt quite cold after the warm moistness of the pool. Steaming, gently.
T1, helmet on first. Race number. No socks. New triathlon shoes. Bugger, I can’t put my top on over the helmet. Helmet off. Top on. Helmet on. Run to gate. Shout obscenities at Kelly who’s manning transition bike out. Into non-compete zone. Pedal gently. Bugger. Forgot my gloves. Conversation with co-wave compatriot number 98 (‘ginger beard’) who has tri bars and gloves, damn him. Left turn out of non-compete zone.
Bike – 22.8km Open Road
(These distances are according to my Garmin – according to the organiser it’s the perfect Super-Sprint length of course…)
Ginger beard and I traded places several times (not drafting, of course, that would be cheating) over the first half of the first loop. Hitting the non-compete zone at the start of the second loop there was a slowdown but no stop at the lights and I zipped through.
The bike course is mostly over shaded, undulating country lanes. The road surface is relatively good and being at about eight o’clock on a Sunday morning, devoid of traffic for most of it. I heard some horns directed at other riders at roundabouts, but managed to avoid enraging any car drivers on the loops.
I did however manage to enrage fellow #racestronti buddy Simon. I was shouting encouragement at as I overtook someone who was wearing team colours. Then I realised it was him. He’s half my weight and I’m old enough to be his dad. “Ride faster boy!” is what I should have said. What I did say is unprintable even on the internet. Sorry Simon.
This was the inaugural tri for my new bike, a black Planet-X EC130E, and it performed admirably. It was significantly lighter than the Crox de Fer, combine that with the kgs I have shed since this time last year and there’s no surprise I was quicker overall.
Pressed the button on my Garmin as I got to the dismount line (22.8km) in 44:38.
T2. Off bike. Show my Garmin (on left wrist) to Kelly when she wants to see the timing chip (on right wrist). Find kit. Dump bike. Newish shoes, so socks on to rather cold / numb and dry feet. Stretchy laces in new configuration. I like the way it feels. Helmet off. Set off. BTF man yells at me. Several minutes later it sinks in what he’s asking me to do. Turn race number around to face front.
Running out of transition, whoops no number on my front.
Run – 4.75km Woking park
The run route has also been tweaked for this year – although I can’t really recall what the differences from last year are. I should check Strava. The new route shares much of its DNA with the local park run, and is a mixture of tarmac paths and hard pack off road. I know from park-run that the hard pack has the potential to be very muddy, but mother nature had been kind and it was firm all the way around.
Once out of T2 I seemed to be overtaking more people at this stage – I suspect helped by the fact that this was a three lap race and some of those I overtook would have been on lap 2 or three. I also lost of few places as the faster racers began to overhaul the slower racers.
My favourite HR employee was on hand (having been promoted from pool bunny to run bunny) for some friendly banter. Managed to get a good slap on his harris as I went past, so I think I won that round.
One of the things I like about Triathlon is the community spirit. So as is my wont I chatted to some random people as I passed them or they passed me. Everyone was friendly and in a good state of mind. I assume they don’t mind being chatted at, although if I stopped to think about it they would probably run away.
Over the line in (official time of) 01:17:56. Cheeky lap of the cricket pitch to make sure it’s actually 5km and stop the Garmin at 23:30.
Free medal which will be recycled later. Probably.
Go and collect official timing – annoyingly one of the non-compete zone starts hasn’t recorded me, so I should be a little bit faster than the official time (although only by 10~15 seconds, not enough to worry or do anything about). Also, amusingly, according to the timing chit: ‘You are the current leader!!!’ – as I said, the faster people started later…
Water. Banana. Chocolate chip cookie. Go and chat up the race organiser’s wife and buy her a coffee. Then off to go & coach rugby.
30th Overall (Out of 130)
9th of 26 men 40-49.
28th of 93 men overall.
I really like the Woking Sprint triathlon.
There have been tweaks to the format over all three disciplines since last year. The new format which gets people through the pool significantly quicker is probably the best innovation. I don’t have a problem with early mornings so it suited me. I think next time there will be a “mates’ wave” that leaves as late as possible for those that struggle to get to Woking for an 0630 start.
The non-compete zones on the bike apparently need a little work if the timing chips can fail to read, but are a worthwhile addition. Like all open road triathlons it’s difficult to get too excited about the bike leg timings as “common sense” and “fear of death by accident with white van” probably have more effect on overall speed than they would on, say, a closed road.
It’s well organised, local, run by people I like and marshalled by my friends. What’s not to like?