VO2 Maximum Racing Team is a friendly Kent based Triathlon Club meeting in the Hildenborough, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks area. Our club caters for all abilities of triathlete and we welcome beginners as well as those with more experience.. The Teams objective is to provide members with access to quality coaching and group training sessions in a fun environment. New members are always welcomed.
- Hever Castle Sprint Plus
This has been my first season of triathlon and the Hever Sprint Plus was my fifth race. So far I’ve not written race reports, figuring that as a fledgling triathlete I should just keep my head down and get on with it, especially with so many accomplished triathletes in the club.
For my final race of the season I originally entered the Bexhill Tri at Olympic distance, which was sadly cancelled because of a lack of entrants but I wanted to finish the season by stretching to Olympic distance but the Hever Sprint Plus was the closest I was going to get because of other commitments.
Having been slightly unwell earlier in the week I didn’t feel in the best shape when I woke up – it would have been very easy to turn the alarm off and roll over but once I got to the car park at Hever the adrenaline started flowing and I felt up for it. Setting up at transition has become quicker (and lighter!) since my first event at Sevenoaks and having become a little more confident I was able to help the guy next to me with a few questions he had, this being his first tri. It was a nice feeling to be able to help as others had done for me at my first event, however, then a little distracted, I made it all the way to the start without attaching my timing chip! A quick dash back to transition fixed that and helped me warm up but a quick lesson learned about staying focussed and sticking to your little routines.
I was a late entry and started in wave 3 at 0840 – I needed to be back for my daughter’s birthday party so the pressure was on as I was already going to be 40 minutes later than planned! The race briefing was thorough, the swim course straightforward and you could tell that we all wanted to get on with it. It was a deep water start in 14 degree water – actually quite pleasant in a wetsuit but my hands and feet soon started to chill. The swim is my weakest discipline but bearing in mind that six months ago I couldn’t swim 50 metres front crawl without stopping I am pretty happy that I can now swim 3,000m at a reasonable pace. I started at the front thinking that wave three might include slower swimmers like myself and maybe I could hold my position from a front start. This was extraordinarily optimistic – what I hadn’t considered was that wave three included the relay guys, many of whom were quick anyway but who also didn’t mind giving the swim everything they had. I was soon overtaken and the outbound leg was choppy – I couldn’t get a rhythm and my sighting was all over the place but on the way back I found my stroke, got some clear water and in spite of the GPS trace, my path back was more direct but I was at least 90 secs slower than I should have been. A helping hand out the water was welcome as my feet were freezing but I had a pretty quick transition (despite hesitating after forgetting my race belt!). Bike out was like an ice rink and I had to scrape mud off my cleats before clipping in.
The ride was a two looper with a cheeky hill on the way out. This was my first race with a power meter and although I wasn’t looking too much at the numbers it did make me realise how lazy you can be on the flats and descents when you could be getting a bit of extra power down. I followed my normal plan which is to look for guys riding a bit faster than me then pick them off one at a time. I got overtaken twice I think and had a running duel with a Brad Wiggins lookalike – I eventually passed him about two km from T2 and kept going, feeling as if I still had something left when others seemed to be flagging. Mechanically, my gears were grinding a bit but more of an irritation than a real problem. Getting down on the bars was difficult, there were quite a few sharp turns and hazardous sections but I did it where I could – every second helps.
On this ride I made a point of getting two gels down me at 15km and 30km – I’ve found that I can’t take electrolyte drink very well after a swim, so the gels and water work best for me and so now I can save a kilo of weight on a sprint distance!
Because of the mud I pretty much moon-walked into T2 and would have managed a quick transition had I not got my rack lane wrong – one of the fence markers I’d used to identify my position had been moved and so a quick shimmy under the rack with my bike got me back on track – no drama but will look for more permanent markers in future.
My legs felt good going into the run but my feet were still numb from the swim and the cool morning air on the bike hadn’t helped defrost them – I ran like Forrest Gump for the first 3km but then my feet thawed, I got off my heels and found a pace. The run was another two looper, a little hilly and almost swamp-like in places – Hever is no PB course, there are also a few sections where it is difficult to pass and quite easy to twist a foot or an ankle if you aren’t careful. Unlike Leeds Castle where I lost steam up a couple of steep inclines and had to walk, my legs kept going all the way and I have become more confident about pushing myself harder.
My gun time was 2:23:09, which out of a field of 470 odd got me 39th overall and 12th in age group. I was a little disappointed, hoping for 2:20 and a top 10 AG finish for my last race of the season. I’m measuring myself by percentage ranking and I started the season at ‘top’ 41% at Sevenoaks and finished ‘top’ 8% at Hever – probably slightly spurious metrics but I’ve definitely improved and learned a lot. I was pleased to have held my position at a longer distance event but Hever reminded me that losing focus can cost you time unnecessarily and even 20 seconds can cost you placings. Also, there is no sense flogging yourself to shave a minute off your swim (in training and racing) only to drop it again during transition – every aspect of the race counts. I also need to rethink my swim-start plan and sight much better than I did – being honest, my sighting was poor on this swim and I paid the price.
So, thoughts at the end of my first season of triathlon? I absolutely love it!
I enjoy the adrenaline surge when you enter the car park and see people pumping their tyres up and readying their kit, the thrill of finishing, checking your times and reflecting on your performance on the way home and generally feeling pretty epic, especially when you can see that training is paying off or you’ve learned something you can apply next time. Everything I do is experience that will accumulate and hopefully make me a better triathlete. As well as racing I also really enjoy training – I feel much better for it and with Paula’s help I have become more disciplined about getting my training done.
I enjoy the variety that triathlon offers – if you don’t feel like swimming one day then you go out on the bike or for a run and when competing there are so many different distances, venues and individual challenges that this presents. I’m probably in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in and I’m also learning and improving technically, which is immensely satisfying even though some of my progression is quite slow. If I am honest the equipment and gadgets you can get are a guilty pleasure but I think I’ve been quite restrained so far, I’ve stuck with just the one bike and a borrowed Aldi tri suit although I have invested in a tri watch and a power meter, which have already been worth every penny.
I’m also glad I took the plunge and joined the VO2 training camp in Majorca this year – it really gave me confidence and brought me along, plus I met some cool people. It’s amazing how much you pick up from others and apply it during your racing. For next year it will be great to plan a few club races where we can get as many VO2 triathletes there as possible – although you always end up chatting to someone during and event it would be nice to get some of us together and really compete as a team.
For next year I’ve decided to pick up the pace a bit. Paula is now coaching me and I’ve entered Ironman UK in July with a view to just getting round and getting some experience at long distance racing. I’m looking forward to settling into winter training, which will apparently have a much more technical emphasis, especially focussing on my swimming and running technique – a run analysis session with Paula yesterday revealed that I have a lazy backside!