TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper
TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper

The New Normal

TriHardAlanby TriHardAlanSep 17th 2020
The New Normal. Its become a bit of a Catchphrase in the Covid era and we all hope the current circumstances are not normal for too long but with real life races now aplenty what does The New Normal mean for the Triathlon world? Well, my Triathlon world :-)

I have completed two Sprint Triathlons in the last week but before talking about those experiences and how Covid regulations effected them its worth going over how Covid and my personal circumstances have affected training and these have been some of the factors:

- I have been on Furlough since April so able to train as much as I like
- This has included much more S&C than normal
- Due to having an elderly person at home have avoided all club training. Whilst my club have been excellent in their Covid regulations I simply view it as an unnecessary risk
- Similar to group training at the club I have avoided all pool swims and swam only at the lake. Overall, swim milage is low
- Bike training has been much more with higher milage and more intensity with lots of Zwift racing
- A higher run milage hasn't really bought great results. Not helped by two hamstring injury breaks in May and August. I was faster in Jan to March before Covid kicked in
- In build up to races I have decreased intensity but not milage keeping more active than before
- Have been on a vegetarian diet since the end of last year

On those last two points.... I will draw some conclusions at the end of the season.

So on that background and with a returning to racing announced I did do two more Virtual Races to follow up on my Virtual Half Ironman reported in my last Blog. Both races were by the same organiser, the good people at Cowman, and distances were Swim 1k-Bike 45k-Run 10k and the shorter one was Swim 400m-Bike 20K-Run 5k. And I performed OK. Swim was rubbish on both but on open roads averaged 35kph and 37kph respectively on the bike legs and 4.20 k per min and 4.10 k per min on the runs respectively. Swim was dreadful on both occasion but I had hardly swam up to that point. Straight after I panic swam for 3 weeks, just in the lake, before venturing in to real races. With run training limited due to injury I has happy with performances all round.

So, going in to the two races, after 3 weeks of swimming 3 times a week at the lake, I felt some speed returning on the swim, was in good shape on the bike and felt I would run OK as long as the hamstring held out. But that was a big if. I had been running for a week prior to the first race but only slowly. I could trot round the race slowly but decided to roll the dice, run as normal and see what happens. This is how they went how I found the Covid regulation experience.

FullSteam Midweek Sprint at Eton Dorney - 9th Sept - 750m Swim/23k Bike/5k Run

The organisers had a one way system at registration, which was out in the open, and were instructed to maintain 2m at all times. We were also asked to wear a mask in Transition which nearly everybody did. They also had the BTF enforced 3 people per rack with each portion of rack separated. At the swim start we all stood apart and when the race began were led to the lake entrance and over the timing mat in 10 second intervals in any order we want with faster people encouraged to go first. There wasn't exactly a rush to be honest so I was about the 5th or 6th person to enter. The swim was different as it was minus the mass brawl at the beginning but that certainly didn't slow me down and I was quicker than I expected and had been swimming in training. Despite being blinded by the sun on way back and goggles misting. The bike, well, that didn't really feel any different. Five laps of the lake and didn't know who I was really racing against. But on a multi lap course this is often the case anyway. And same for the run. A 13.20 swim was god for me, averaged 37kph on the bike on a windy evening and another 4.10 min per K run. Results are not the ultimate measure of performance, more of a bonus, but 13th out of 89 and 2nd in the Over 50's was pleasing. Having raced at Dorney more times than I can count the experience was no less enjoyable.

Blenheim - 13th Sept - 750m/20k Bike/5.6k Run

No registration here. And no masks in in Transition. And racking wasn't separated but did have still 3 people per section so all within regulations. As a bigger event with a larger field they were controlling the flow in to Transition so you were only allowed in a certain time before your start time and were also taking your temperature when you arrived on sight. The swim start was every 5 seconds and again the faster people encouraged to go first and I optimistically included myself in the first group. Overall, I would say the precautions were better at the Eton Dorney event but I felt plenty safe enough. I did this race last year and put on Facebook predictions for each leg which were of course all faster! Nothing like a bit of pressure eh? But I did beat all 3 main leg times from last year. Swim was 43 seconds quicker. On a 830 course I averaged 1.41 per 100m. Haven't swam that fast for a long while. Bike, where I expected the biggest gain, was only 25 seconds. The course was more hilly than I remembered! And run was a minute and half quicker. Funny enough, that was less hilly than I remembered! I lost a little across the two transitions for a total gain of two and half minutes. Finishing 69th from 2087 and 4th from 188 in the 50 to 54 Age Group was also pleasing.

So overall across the two races did The New Normal make much difference? Not really. I have had a couple, and it is probably literally a couple, of races where I have been aware of my position in a field and really racing the people behind or in front. But the majority of races it is essentially a time trial where you go from Start to Finish as quick as you can. And that is of course exactly what we are doing right now. Do I miss the mass start? Yes and no. Yes, its a big part of triathlon and adds to the fun but being able to get a clean start in still water is far more controlled. And it is certainly not impacting my times. And I have to say the extra space in Transition is very welcome and you can leave your bag by your bike. This is definitely far more pleasant. Overall, I was very happy to be racing again and didn't feel the restrictions were, well, restrictive.

Next up, a race with genuine GPS tracking. Even in the swim. I am dubious whether this has any real value and in fact may be a pain to implement. I shall report the outcome after the race!
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