The Thames Turbo sprint race series is the reason I've done more than one triathlon ever. It's really well run and organised, very very friendly and welcoming to those who are new to the sport, safe, well-marked, well-marshalled and given the standing of the triathlon club itself does tend to attract some pretty nippy triathletes too so there's a challenge. I first thought I might want to try triathlon in 2010 and went looking for a 'civilised' sprint distance one - having heard all the horror stories about open water mass starts, I wanted one that was in a pool! I ended up entering all 4 of the sprint series in 2010 (yes, we're a bit 'all or nothing' in our house) and sadly ended up missing the first one due to breaking my coccyx while skiing earlier in the year. So, I shivered in the freezing cold and cheered Mr TOTKat around for the first one and then froze myself to bits and got the transitions between each discipline awfully wrong in the second and third ones, improving bit by bit through each one through the year.
I enjoyed it, kinda liked it, wasn't that great at it, but wanted to get better so entered more in 2011 - all 4 Thames Turbo races and then some others... Blenheim, then the Virgin London one (Olympic distance) and having enjoyed that one, also entered the HSBC one... anyway, I digress. The Thames Turbo races really got me fired up and were proving a good benchmark course, with some people we started to get to know online through them as well as to say hi to at races.
And, well, although I'm having a bit of a broken brain at the moment, I logically know that this race was pretty bloody good.
This time, there were three waves. Seeded by overall race time into waves, then by 400m swim time within the waves, all of the athletes are sorted and allotted a start position and bib number. Usually, I'm in the first wave (being slower than 01:20:00) and near the start of the wave (being sort-of-quickish in the swim). This time, I was in the second of the three waves.
The first wave started off and plopped into the steaming water of Hampton Pool in 6C outside temperature as the sun started to come out and turn up the thermostat. As the pool filled up, athlete by athlete 15s apart, there was a bit of congestion as the sometimes optimistic 400m estimated swim times people had declared proved to be just that... a bit optimistic from some but not others. As the first wave completed, the marshals left a large gap in the swim starts to allow the first wave to almost clear the pool before starting the next wave. I was up in this wave so off came the 4x layers of tops, tracksuit bottoms, skiing socks and trainers and I paddled in the baby pool for a while before body marking and then my turn was up to get in and get on with it.
I made it about 6 lengths before 2 people wanted to overtake me at once, so I stopped at the end of the pool to wait for them to pass but everyone got very English and I ended up having to say "go on then!" before dropping onto the toes of the second one and then overtake someone else that length myself.
The swim felt... meh. I knew I'd lost time waiting for the two guys to pass and one of them was Mr 196 who I'd chatted to in the line to start. T1 and I had a long trot to the opposite end from the Swim In to where my bike was racked next to the Bike Out - handy as that meant I had a shorter run in my cleats before the bike mount line. I've not yet tried the trick where you attach your shoes to the bike with elastic bands as my bike handling skills aren't that good (or at least I don't have the confidence) that I can reach down and do up my shoes while cycling. Hopping onto my bike in the mount area, I took a few turns of the pedals to get going and down to the junction with the first turn. As soon as I was through that turn I got down onto the aero bars. This is still very new for me and I find the bike incredibly twitchy when down on the bars but it's a lot easier with race head on than when not. The tough bit is getting on and off the bars, once I'm on them I'm fine and that's why I got Stormtrooper (so I can change gear down on the bars rather than faffing on and off them).
Long story short, I overtook a lot of people on the bike and got properly overtaken by only one person that made it stick. Mr TOTKat! Mr 196 overtook and got overtaken by me 3-4 times and I won out in the end (he was faster in the swim by 23s and in the run by 3 minutes, so roundly beat me overall). Mr TOTKat and I had a bit of a chat in the non-compete zone back from the end of the bike to transition, which was nice. T2 was a little bit slow in that I nearly fell over a couple of times. Then the run, which I was a bit apprehensive about due to the awful stitch I got last time. I trotted out with a high cadence and just hoped the stitch wouldn't come. As ever, the marshals and the kids that help, were supportive and encouraging which is always nice on the last leg and I managed to run through most of the stitch that did come, only slowing to a walk for 4-5 paces to breathe through it and carry on.
The final km of the run, I cranked it up a notch and my legs felt completely fine, but my guts didn't (as is usual when I'm going reasonably quickly for me). Down to the path for the final stretch and opened it up a bit more, to the final bend and the last 100m sprinting past a couple of ladies to throw myself over the line and collapse onto the grass. I stopped my watch and looked at it - 01:22:14 including the non-compete zone! Even if I'd spent only 5 minutes in the dead time I'd've smashed my previous time! Very very happy and I said thanks to Mr 196 for the chase in the bike leg and we headed back to transition to get warm clothes, a cup of tea, cake and our results.
I scampered (er!) up the stairs to the results gazebo on the cafe terrace and printed out Mr TOTKat's first. Then tried to print mine and the paper got stuck, so I ejected the roll and the stuck bit of paper and tried again. Oops! The PC said it'd lost network and thereafter stopped printing anyone's splits. Er, I hope it wasn't because I'd opened the printer (it can't have been, srsly). So I didn't have any idea what my splits were until later on when the results were up on the timing site:-
- 3rd in VW40-44
- 3rd in F40-49
- 2nd bike split in VW40-44
- 2nd swim split in VW40-44
- (11th run split in VW-40-44!)
- 12th of 131 women on the bike
- 17th of 131 women overall
- 21st of 131 women in the swim
- (let's not talk about 58th of 131 women in the run *cough*)
- I beat Helen Smith (VW40-44) on the bike (17th in the ITU World Champs in 2010, 20th in the ITU Long Distance World Champs in 2011)
- I beat Clare Cunningham (SW35-39) on the bike (Paratriathlete - 2nd in ITU World Champs in 2011 and 2010, 1st in 2009 and many more)
I think I'm pleased with my bike performance, but I know there's more to give there. And there's _definitely_ more to give in the run!
So, thank you Thames Turbo for firing up my passion for triathlon and giving me a safe, inclusive, well-run set of races to take part in.