This year for me is all about benchmarking. I have big dreams over the next few years and I want to be sure that I’m on the right trajectory. Having self coached myself (first mistake) for the first three years of triathlon, I realised that I needed to be held accountable and have a training plan specific to me. I joined Team NFT in October 2020, shortly after Outlaw X half where I recorded a time of 5:02 with the swim being shortened to half due to the cold temperatures. 8 months later I delivered a personal best of 4hours 36mins at Outlaw half Nottingham and I couldn’t be more pleased with my performance. Here’s how it went down:
I wasn’t sure how pleased I was about the 3am wake up call, 6:04am start time or the forecasted 95% heavy rain but I woke up with an air of confidence and for once I wasn’t anxious about my performance ahead. I knew that I had done everything within my remit to control the controllables, all the hard work had been done in training and today’s race was just an indicator of progress to date. It would also mark the first race I got to wear the bright colours of Team NFT.
Swim: 30min 10s (PB in open water)
The swim took place at the National Water Sports Centre, Nottingham. A fairly straight forward out and back course in a time trial format, with athletes starting every 9 seconds from 3 different pontoons. I obviously gave it a good run and dive when it came to my turn, thankfully with my goggles and dignity intact.
I grew up as a competitive swimmer, so swimming is very much within my comfort zone and something I need not think too much about. Training indicators suggested I would go well under 30mins for the 1.9km, how wrong I was.
I was passing people continuously and didn’t think I was getting passed much, which gave me the false economy that I was putting in an impressive performance. There was however heavy traffic on the course and I found myself drifting out wide of the race line leading into the first buoy. At the turn I felt that I found some space and was able to get into a rhythm, that was until I again drifted off the race line. My strava map looks like a toddlers drawing and the poor sighting meant I had swam an extra 75 meters.
On the whole and whilst it was an open water PB, I felt I under delivered. I must spend more time in open water over the next few weeks leading into my next race.
T1: 5min 18s
I Thought IM Wales had a challenging T1. Transition was half a mile long with a mix of paving, gravel and grass on bare feet- certainly good for character building!
Bike: 2hour 19min (PB)
The bike course is known for being flat and fast with a mix of semi closed, closed and fully open roads. At times it felt like I was cycling across the moon with the amount of craters and speed bumps in the road, particularly the last mile; if there was anything loose on your bike, it would be here you’d lose it!
I knew I had a chance to gain time and positions here and I did just that, the course suited my strengths well with only a few short hills. I felt really good throughout and my legs felt strong, when I needed to give more on the hills or to bridge the gap to the group ahead I was able to do just that.
The feed station on route was unique in that you had to dismount your bike and walk through the area to help with Covid-19 compliance. I decided ahead of the race that I would carry enough nutrition and fluid not to have to stop mid race to refill. It was a good decision in the end as I didn’t even see the feed station whilst out on course.
On reflection, I was probably cruising a little too often at the mid-point of the race and I put this down to race inexperience. Knowing that my run was the weakest of the three disciplines I was conscious not to redline too hard on the bike and then find myself having to run on heavy fatigued legs. It didn’t help that I had to race on feel instead of power due to a last minute power meter issues during race week. Live and Learn.
Very pleased with my bike split and it gave me confidence going into the run in 6th for age group.
I ran the wrong way out of transition…my excuse was I needed the toilet and the nearest ones were located outside of transition. That might explain why I ended up top of the leaderboard whilst passing the timing mat in the wrong direction!
Run:1h 37s (PB)
This for me was my stand out performance of the day. Not the quickest by any stretch but I took over 5 minutes off my Half Marathon PB and it was the first time I didn’t need to walk or find an excuse to stop during the run of a triathlon. I felt strong.
The run course was three laps of the regatta lake that we had swam in only a few hours earlier. The plan was to start strong ahead of race pace and hold on for as long as I could. The first lap went quick and I felt comfortable despite the heavy head wind on the return to transition. Lap two was a tough lap mentally, there was a lot of self talk going on but by lap three I knew I was on for a good personal run split and was able to push on and get the job done. It was all smiles filtering left onto the orange carpet and I lapped up the atmosphere from the grandstand and my family as I headed under the Outlaw Half Nottingham Finish Line Gantry.
Am I happy with my overall performance? Yes. Was this a complete performance? No. This race has left me optimistic for the future and the drive to achieve more, a huge confidence booster for the remainder of this season- onwards and upwards.
To top the weekend off, my son Evan won his age group in the 1.2mile future outlaw race on the Saturday ahead of the main event. 10 mins 58 seconds; not bad for a 4 year old!
I look forward to continuing to work with Nathan and Team NFT leading into my next 70.3 race, Ironman Staffordshire with Ironman Wales towards the end of the year.