The Grendon Sprint Triathlon marked the start of both mine and Just Racing Event’s open water triathlon season. You may know from my April 2014 Race Report that I had at least started the season with the first two stints of a pool-based event.
With the knee injury recovered a little further, the idea today was to put in a decent swim and cycle and to see what could be achieved on the 5km run.
Based at Grendon lakes, the triathlon consisted of 750m in the open water, a 23k cycle and a 5k run.
The Grendon Triathlon was also playing host to the Oxford/Cambridge Varsity Triathlon, which promised to provide a pretty lively spectator event as well as some stiff competition.
Grendon Lakes is a complex of 12 lakes set in 150 acres of Northamptonshire countryside. The 2 main lakes are used for a range of water-sports with the others designated as nature and fishing areas. Situated close to the M1 motorway, the event is easily accessible to anyone in the South and Midlands areas of the UK
As all 3 waves were set within 10 mins of each other (08.30am/08.35am/08.40am) pre-race was busy to ensure each of the 300+ competitors could collect their race numbers and rack in transition before 08.30am. The Just Racing admin area for collection of race packs/numbers had moved to a permanent marquee next to the main club house due to high winds the evening before. Despite the slightly further walk, the alternative collection point provided a good opportunity to take a peak at the swim route and also obtain a little bit of shelter from the wind and rain that was still persisting. Yes… it was cold!
The pre-race info is available here.
By the time I had racked my bike it was certainly noticeable that the place was already buzzing with the atmosphere of the Varsity race and the two opposing camps. That said, the spirit was fantastic and really made for an occasion before any of the waves had even entered the water.
I was also using this event as a bit of test bed for a new product which is just about to launch on to the cycling and multi-sports scene. ‘STRIP’ is a completely new brand by Secret Training which includes a range of multi-sports specific personal care products, that even includes items to assist during a race. I was using the ‘Start Oil’ and the ‘Anti-Chafing Cream’ for this event.
As usual, I was monitoring my progress with the Garmin Edge 810 & Forerunner 620 (see screen shots below).
It’s funny how far 750m can look when marked out with buoys over open water. It was a daunting sight compared with the safety of the local pool, made all the more daunting by the announcement at the race briefing that the temperature had dropped to 12°. Having said that (and as also pointed out by the race official), the water temperature was in fact still warmer than outside.
As the first dip in open water of 2014, I’m ecstatic that I’ve set a personal best of 00:13:15 over the 750m distance. Despite the temperature, I only really felt the cold in my feet whist waiting for the start gun. Following that the wetsuit did its job. The start was fairly spread but although there were 100 or so competitors all setting off at once, the usual ‘water scrum’ wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d experience in other races. I positioned myself toward the front to of the pack and made it to the first buoy in a decent time, from which point I was able to keep pace with a group until the swim exit. Sighting was assisted by a giant electricity pylon in the distance, behind the furthest buoy.
A great lake for swimming, but the length of the run to transition (although laid with mats) was tough on the bare feet.
Transition One was slowed by cold hands and feet plus my decision to put on a long-sleeved jersey. 00:02.23 is still acceptable though and I found myself out on the course in no-time. The pre-race info described the course as “undulating and fast” which was just about spot on as the route benefitted from fairly consistent gradients throughout with only a few moderate climbs. The only real challenge was the weather and particularly the wind direction in the final 5km,which made me very grateful for my TT bike. I had made a couple of quick tweaks to the saddle height and reach before hand, which increased my comfort in the aero position and hopefully my speed.
The screen shots from Garmin Connect showed the course a bit like this.
I was riding to maintain a cadence above 80 rpm (nearly) and also to keep a close eye on my average speed.
The rain did let up during the race meaning the road surfaces were relatively hazard free. As the race was split into three waves, only 10 mins apart, it was pleasing to be able to gauge progress against other competitors, particularly when passing people from the wave before.
Aside from a slight cramp on downhill section at around kilometre 18, I felt pretty good to take the challenge of my first triathlon run of the season.
I hadn’t appreciated that nearly all of the run course (split into two laps) would be either hardstanding and/or fields intersecting the lakes. My only concern was the injury recovery so I was pleased the knee held to allow me to finish the race with a run time of 00:23:54. I was aware of my pace throughout the run from the FR620 and was deliberately aiming or a negative split once I had gauged the recovery of the leg. The arrival of the second lap pretty much coincided with the feeling returning to my toes following the cold swim and cycle (darn the those summer triathlon shoes!)
As described in the pre-race info, the run course allowed for great spectator opportunities and a perfect sight of other competitors as we negotiated the hairpins and doubled back. I had a group that were close to me in during the cycle still in my sights and I was determined to keep with them.
The support for the Varsity match was great by this stage and really lifted the effect of the weather conditions.
By kilometre 4 I was feeling a good stride and was determined to catch a few people in front. This picture of the sprint finish has pretty much made my day.
I was absolutely delighted to complete the Grendon Triathlon with a strong finish to give me confidence for the rest of my training and season ahead.
As I crossed the line, I was handed a pint of beer which was actually a very welcome recovery drink from one of the race sponsors; Erdinger Alkohol Frei. Anyone sceptical at reading this should really give it a go after a tough work out.
The atmosphere at the finish line was buzzing with the many spectators who had braved the weather. The Varsity competitors were queuing eagerly for their print outs as I’m guessing there was a scoring system to determine the wining University.
This was my second race hosted by Just Racing and I really can’t fault the organisation. The weather was far from ideal yet the each stint was marshalled perfectly and the race went off dead on time without a hitch.
My final times were as follows which placed me 17th for my category. A little off my best but after my first real spell of injury, I’m happy that I’ll be making a full come back soon.
A few words of appreciation should be made not only to Just Racing but also Dale Nash who stepped in with the camera and also Hauora Sports Therapy for the some kinesiology taping to give me confidence in the run. The secret Training (SPIN – see above) products really came into their own too – look out for the full review later in the week.
Please share your own experiences below or feel free to get in touch.