Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

- T.S. Eliot -

Windsor Triathlon 2013: Race report

Windsor Triathlon 2013

This past weekend saw me tackle the Windsor Triathlon 2013,  it was the first of three events that will define this year’s racing and I was therefore hoping to put down a marker for the rest of the year.  The Windsor Triathlon is a big event organised by Human Events and is based around the beautiful Alexandra Park , Windsor.  I entered the standard (or Olympic if you prefer) event, so 1500m swim, 42km bike and a 10km run. It was my first standard length triathlon for a few years (about 15), the first time I had swam in a river and the first time I had stayed away from home since the birth of baby number 2!

The build up

I’d booked myself in to the Windsor Central Travelodge, whilst sounding very glamorous  I wasn’t expecting too much. I was proved right, more on that later. I had a compulsory bike racking and registration on Saturday (the day before the race) so I traveled down pretty early, got registered, racked my bike and headed to the hotel for an afternoon of thumb twiddling!! The registration process was hugely slick and very impressive, I was in and out in about 10 minutes. Compared to some other events I’ve done this was incredible and a real testament to the planning that goes into these events.

Walk the course

Windsor is a pretty town and with nothing to do on Saturday night I went for a wander around the course. I was worried about the swim, firstly because it is my weakest discipline and secondly because it was a river swim.  I had read the guidance concerning the start of the swim where competitors are advised to swim ‘hard’ for the far bank, crossing the current and therefore having an easier swim on the outward leg.  Having wandered along the river on Saturday night it didn’t look to be flowing that fast and I began to wonder what was going on under the surface. I watched a few swams to see if they were paddling like mad, but it looked OK. I’m glad I had a walk by the river because my confidence started to grow and the river didn’t look as intimidating as I had expected.

However, the run route was another matter. I had been told the course was three laps and included a bit of a hill at the start of each lap. There was indeed a hill and it looked like it might be a bit stiff, nothing too bad but a hill none the less. I imagined it would be harder than it looked after the swim and bike. Normally running would be one of my stronger disciplines but I started to doubt the time I could put in on this route!!

Get some sleep

So, back to the hotel. The room was the normal functional Travelodge affair, nice and clean, bed, TV, doors etc. I utilised the power of the internet to order Wagamama’s noodles for dinner and headed to bed nice and early.  The moment my head touched the pillow a rather large booming noise started. Being in close proximity to the train station I assumed a train was passing and the noise would soon stop. Ten minutes later it was still banging and I decided a little investigation was required. Peering out of the window I could see two queues of young people streaming into a night club, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there earlier in the day…oh well, not much sleep tonight then! So I climbed back into bed and tried to ignore the high-pitched wailing from over excited alcohol-fueled youngsters and banging bass-line  It must have worked as I woke up at 03:00 just as the club closed and a few (very) intoxicated people stumbled away from the scene of their enjoyment.

The race

I was off at 07:40, which was actually fairly civilised, given some of the other start times (from 06:00). I’m led to believe that triathlon events start early, with the aim of clearing the roads before church going, car driving lunatics start to fill the roads. The alarm was set for 06:00, breakfast laid out alongside race gear and bag packed ready for a quick exit.

I wandered down to the start, chucked my excess gear in the car and headed for transition, deposited running and riding gear before searching out the swim start. Fortunately, the organisers had provided plenty of toilets for early morning bowel movements and I was ready to go in plenty of time. I reached the swim start and realised I had forgotten my ear plugs, bugger! After a quick dash back to transition (running along a rather stoney footpath), I was back at the swim start with about 2 mins to go. Before I knew it, I was in the water and swimming for the far bank (as described earlier). After the initial washing machine effect of 50 blokes splashing around, the water calmed down and I go into my (slow) rhythm. Despite my initial concerns, the water was lovely, very murky, but fine and I felt pretty comfortable. All of my concerns about the swim were figuratively washed away and I started to enjoy myself. I particularly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the start, the leg and arm bashing and the jostling for position. I felt I held my own and gave as good as I got!

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Running at Windsor Triathlon 2013
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Riding at Windsor Triathlon 2013
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Riding at Windsor Triathlon 2013
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Before I knew it, the swim was over and I was out of the water and looking for my bike. Helmet on, number belt on, glasses on, energy gels stashed my up tri-suit legs and off I went. Dashing out of transition I jumped on my bike, one pedal revolution and whack…my left hand shoe hit the ground and span off into the crowd (opps!). Fortunately, a friendly marshal returned a few seconds later with the shoe and I was off again.  Having turned right at the first roundabout, I looked up the road and set myself a few targets.  Cycling is my background and I have a tendency to over do it and trash my legs, I spent most of the ride trying to remember to stay calm, keep the cadence high and not push a big gear. The ride was over in the blink of an eye, it was great blasting around roundabouts while marshals held back the traffic, it made me feel like a pro for a few moments!

And so on to the run. Initially my legs felt like they had turned to stone, the first time up the hill was tough but after about 10 minutes the blood returned to my feet and I got into my stride. The run route was a sort of three pronged out and back arrangement with three laps. I was hoping for about 42-43 minutes and I knew I had to get a move on to beat my target time of 2 hrs 30 mins. At each turn, I picked a runner who I wanted to pass by the next point and set about trying to chase them down, most of the I caught, some of them I didn’t! The first two laps felt rather long but the third lap was rather enjoyable, I turned the final bend wishing it wasn’t the end.

Then I looked at my watch, the run and ride had taken 1 hr 58 mins. I had hope for about a 35 minute swim so it was going to be close to 21/2 hours. Turns out it was 2hrs 34 mins, which I’m reasonably happy about but had hope for more. Roll on Milton Keynes Tri and another attempt to go under 2 hr 30 mins.