End of August — end of summer?! Tom Pollard

As I put together this August review, the rain is pouring down the train window. How can August be so near, yet so, so far away?

But let’s not let the Autumn blues reduce the achievements of the last month. After all, we had some fantastic triathlon performances, a half ironman debut, and yours truly racing yet another aquathlon.

So let’s recapture that summer spirit. Turn the heating on, grab an Aperol spritz, and settle down with the lastest HPH triathlon round up…

Allerthorpe Classic Triathlon 4th August 2019 Dan Donnelly

My first Standard Distance Tri that didn’t also involve the logistical torture of the Leeds ITU … so I was looking forward to this! I’ve done ITU Standard 4 times and also a few smaller pool-based Sprints over the years but not a low-key open-water Standard.

I arrived about 08:30, parked up and went straight over to register and recce the venue. First impressions were good — everything seemed to be well organised, the lake looked great and the weather was good. Bumped into Chris Worfolk and then headed back to the car to collect the bike and gear before going to transition. By the time I was set up, the first swimmers were in the lake which was a good opportunity to work out the complicated swim route.

It was already getting warm, so I delayed as long as possible putting on the wet suit … until I realised you were allowed to wallow in the water near the start. I suited-up and got in! The shallow lake was warm and had a comfortable sandy base — I really liked it and it was a nice way to acclimatise!

The swim leg was two laps of a winding route and you had to get out the water half way, run along the shore, and then wade back in for lap 2. Unlike Leeds ITU_19, where I’d done very little swim training (and had terrible leaking goggles), this time I had done a 6 week block where I’d been swimming 14 times (and I also had the right goggles). The result was that the swim ended up 5 minutes faster than ITU_19 (although still slower than ITU_16 … I need to beat that time in 2020!).

T1 transition went smoothly (and so much better than the mammoth ITU slog!) and then it was time for the bike.

The route was flat but, as anyone who has done the Snake Lane 10 will know, these roads are pretty exposed and it was at this stage I realised that it was quite a blowy day. My very dodgy left knee and lack of a fancy bike puts some limits on what I could do but overall I was pleased with how the stage went with an average of 18.5 mph. At ITU my lower back had seized up early on, probably due to blasting out of the blocks too hard, so I was keen to control the effort this time. As tempting as it is in the wind, it was nevertheless disappointing to see so many people drafting in a non-draft race. In the last kilometre Chris W passed me and vanished off into the distance — he was on a flyer given he started 2 minutes after me and I’d gained an additional 6 min in the swim stage. After dismounting, I wasn’t sure my legs would ever work again as I hobbled off towards transition.

T2 was easy. However running was not! My total mileage over the last 8 months has been a paltry 54 miles — something I’d often do in a week in normal times. However, I had already decided that my race would effectively end at T2 and the run stage was just to get the medal. So I jogged off at LSR pace (about 9 min/mile, currently my only pace).

I was surprised to be overtaken by Chris again in the first kilometre — he’d obviously had a packed lunch and lie down in T2 — but it wasn’t long before he vanished off. I was wondering where the wind had gone as it was now sweltering. I stopped at each water station to make sure I had a couple of cups of water — I’d drank all my water on the bike and taken some at T2 but was still feeling dehydrated.

However, despite the lack of run training, I was relatively comfortable all the way and ended up with an average pace of 8:45 min/mile. Chris was waiting at the finish — he’d put another 3 minutes into me on the run. Once I’d stopped I felt pretty light-headed and really needed more water… I then took up Chris’s idea and went back into the lake to cool off! I didn’t come across Alison Pullan or Samuel Dent on the day but they both had good races by the looks of it!

Overall … I enjoyed it and was reasonably happy with the performance. The knee was OK although it did start getting painful on the drive home (I need an Automatic). It was good get back to having a decent open-water swim and hopefully I will keep up the swim-training habit now. Bike could be improved with some harder riding — I get the miles in but mostly it’s all a bit too easy. Going down to the Brownlee Centre for an hour at full gas was really useful last year — I should do more of that. Dropping the 15 lb I’ve accumulated this year would help as well! A better bike isn’t realistic at the moment but maybe tri-bars would be worth investigating. The running is the obvious gain — I’m losing a good 10+ minutes at that stage but that’s knee-dependent. I enjoyed Allerthorpe so much I’m now considering a return for the Sundowner on 31st.

Coalville triathlon Chris Worfolk

With a three week gap between races, my fingers were itching. It was bad enough that I had been willing to drive two hours down to Coalville for a race. But, at least, having driven to Leicestershire, at least I could expect a nice flat course.

But no. It turns out, Coalville is the hilliest place in Leicestershire. The first two kilometres of the two-lap bike course is all uphill. Having dispatched the 400-metre pool swim, I headed up the road only to find it was too hilly to use my aero bars most of the time.

At least my transitions were slick: 0:50 in T1 and 1:00 in T2. Watch out, mixed team relay competitors, my super-long transition times are going out of the window!

I finished in 1:17:13, which was good enough for 14th overall in a field of 106. Not too shabby, although it was a triathlon targetted at first-timers, so the competition was not too fierce. The real achievement of the day was not getting sunburnt.

Evolve Half at Blue Lagoon Jack Rose

A few months ago, I booked onto my first half iron triathlon due to a bit of an administration error. Having thought that Graeme, Naomi and Aron were entered for the Nottingham Outlaw which was fully booked, I thought I’d book into this cheaper more local one instead only to realise that they had actually entered the Outlaw X triathlon. I guess I’ll be doing both then!

Ongoing hamstring and glute issues had reduced my running down to a few short and painful jogs interspersed with ultramarathons just to make everything consistently worse. Listening to the wiser part of my brain, I decided to treat the Evolve Half as a warm up event and only complete the run if I couldn’t feel any pain during the first mile. To make the whole organisation and preparedness easier, I decided to camping in the Lake District with friends the Friday night with a hike on the Saturday the day before. It was fantastic!

We had apocalyptic rain storms on the Friday night offset by beers at the pub, and the next morning we were treated to a breezy but clear day for a short hike up High Seat near Keswick.

Bright and early Sunday morning and I was ready to swim at the Blue Lagoon for my first half ironman, the morning was stunning with the sun coming over the horizon as I was racking the bike up, feeling unusually calm before a race. I couldn’t wait to get started.

The swim was two laps of the full lake, taking on the usual 500m course on one half, before skirting round the diving lake, swimming up to the boat pontoon (which was surprisingly difficult to get out of) before a 100m swim run around to the beach for a running start to the second lap. I’d never felt so good swimming before! The light from the early sun, the temperature of the water, the slightly easier pace knowing that I was swimming further than I’d ever done before meant it was an incredible cathartic experience.

I took a bit more time with the first transition than normal, knowing that I needed to fuel and drink properly to get through the event, and that comfort was going to be important before I set out for a 90km solo cycle. The bike was quite tough, especially the second 45 km lap as the wind picked up and I was having to deal with a few issues. I started getting pretty horrid stomach cramps and my handle bars dropped down a few degrees making the drop position on the aero bars even less comfortable.

To make things easier, while trying to flip the foam pads which were starting to ache my forearms due to the lower angle of the bars, I ripped one of the pads off completely which subsequently blew away in the wind! Now I was resting on a hard carbon plate with a bolt sticking up through it on my arm — oh well!

After a T2 toilet break… and a stomach now feeling a whole load better, I started the run and couldn’t stop smiling. It was the first time running on roads without pain in months! I didn’t have much pace in my legs and basically just tried to keep my heart rate in zone 3 until the second 10km lap, where I decided to push up the pace with confidence I’d not collapse before the finish!

Overall, it was a fantastic event, really low key and low pressure, lovely flat and fast course on the bike and run and as always, a pleasure to swim in the blue lagoon. Was also good to get some unexpected HPH encouragement from Ruth at the half way point! Warm up half done — bring on the Outlaw X!

Final Splits:

Swim (2km): 42:32

T1: 02:05

Bike (90km): 3:07:13

T2: 03:24.

Run (21.1km): 1:46:43

Total: 05:41:59

London Aquathlon Tom Pollard

Swimming at the Olympic Pool? Very high on the ‘moving to London’ to-list. And having never been to the Olympic Park before (I only managed to get tickets to the tennis at Wimbledon) it was going to be an awesome experience!

With the event being a 400m swim and a 5km run, it would be a refreshing start to a gorgeous Saturday morning after slogging across most of London.

I can’t believe it took me so long to get over here. The facility itself is gorgeous, the pool fantastic, and the surrounding Queen Elizabeth Park inspirational. Although the race was slightly delayed by the inflatable assault course…

So after the 8 lengths and 3 laps, I managed to come home in third place overall. For the final aquathlon of the year, it was a good showing. Final aim of the year now — get through a half ironman without getting hypothermia…

And that’s it for another month! There’s already been some huge September performances to write about. So as we’re into the twilight of the triathlon season, keep sending in your race reports!