I had been planning to drop into triathlon at some point for a wee while, and originally had been looking towards Iron distance events which seemed to slot in nicely with my ultra endurance focus. This changed a little in the aftermath of the Barcelona Marathon when I decided that I also wanted to improve my speedwork, and to get faster, and more competitive at what I have been doing. This combined with the likely unfeasibility of the Ultima Frontera 168 in October due to our current work circumstances (See my wife Vickie’s awesome bloggage for an idea of the manicness) to present an opportunity to do so.
I had perceived, as anecdotally most aspirant triathletes seem to, that the swim was my biggest obstacle to doing so, particularly given that I hadn’t swum crawl since school. I have been working on this with Karl since around October, and he has done some good work in getting me to a point where I now have a sort of efficient swim stroke which I can hold onto without drowning for a wee while at least.
So I joined my local triathlon club, signed up for my race licence from Triathlon Scotland and committed to a bunch of races to see how things went.
The first race that I had entered was the Galashiels Novice Triathlon. I entered the novice event as the primary purpose was to get a feel for how transition worked, and also not to overcommit myself in terms of swimming. In reality the latter is less of an issue now as I can swim Sprint distance and beyond quite happily in training. I also decided that I couldn’t possibly injure myself on a 400m swim 11km cycle and 2.5km run in the week leading up to the Highland Fling, so it was kind of perfect tapering!
So it was that on a beautiful Saturday morning Vickie and I loaded up Oìsin , my Orbea Onix road bike, and the rest of my race kit, into the back of my pickup truck and headed down to Galashiels to play at triathlon.
After stopping briefly at a capitalist burger chain for a cup of tea, and for Vickie to have lunch, we easily found the pool at Galashiels, parked up at the school next door, and headed over to the car park to register, rack up Oìsin , and set up the gear changes ready for the transitions.
I was in the second wave of swimmers, and so waited around for about 20 minutes for the first wave to complete their swim, before getting into the pool for a warm up (or cool down?) length before the swim.
The swim itself was a story of two halves, relatively fast, but technically poor/naive. Each lane had around 4 swimmers, one from each pace group, in theory presumably to prevent the need for overtaking at the end of each length. As it was I had passed the lead swimmer in my lane at the second turn, but lost control of my breathing shortly afterwards, switching to breathing on the second stroke rather than the third.
That said I had aimed for around 10 minutes for the swim, and got out of the pool at around 09:03, jogging out to be reunited with Oìsin in T1, keeping my prescription goggles on so that I could see where I was going!
I decided (probably correctly) that it made more sense to run to the mount line with shoes in hand rather than to be skating around on the cleats trying not to break my neck. I shouldn’t need to do this in future as I have a pair of triathlon bike shoes arriving this week which should enable me to mount, and fix the shoes on while on the bike. In any case 2:34 after leaving the pool I was out on the bike course.
The bike leg was pretty uneventful other than that none it was flat. I ascended and descended out for around 5.5km to a roundabout on the Peebles road from where we returned ascending and descending along the same route. My ascending has improved a bit over the last couple of weeks and this showed as I overtook a few people on the climbs, and was only passed once. My bike handling and descending needs some work though, and others caught me there.
I was slightly disappointed that the bike leg took 25 minutes, I would have liked to be nearer to 20 minutes. In reality though that pace matches what limited training I have done on the bike since returning from Spain at the New Year, and includes the shoe adornment and removal beyond the mount line.
The second transition was quicker at 1:45, and I was quickly out on to the run course.
Knowing that the run was only 2.5km I really wanted to attack it, given that it is probably the shortest timed run I have completed since school. In reality this wasn’t really possible as my legs felt like jelly coming of the bike leg. I got them back though after about a mile, just in time for a nice sprint finish down to the line.
I finished the run in 11:43, which again I was probably slightly disappointed with, but in retrospect I managed to lose a minute or so to a navigational error (Yes, I got lost on a 2.5km circular course around a building!), and that time is in the vicinity of half of my 5km PR, and I have not done any real speedwork since last summer to justify any improvement.
All said, I really enjoyed the event, I think that Vickie also preferred watching me compete from the central transition point rather than traipsing around Scotland after me all day in the rain and cold as is the norm at ultras!