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Ending the season on a high note - Hever Castle race report

prhimby prhimSep 27th 2010
Ending the season on a high note - Hever Castle race report
The Triathlon component of my 'Year of Living Painfully' came to its conclusion this past weekend with the Hever Castle triathlon in Kent.

The run-up to the event was filled with mixed (and contradictory) emotions - sadness that it was my last Tri of 2010, pleased that it was the last one of the year (I did say contradictory!) and a burning desire to end the season on a high note, thus setting me up for a good winter before coming back stronger and faster in 2011. I think it's fair to say that, after a lot of training and competing in what was only my first year of triathlon, I was on the verge (some might say over the edge) of burn-out, so I was looking forward to closing the chapter and earning myself a little downtime before re-energising and getting my enthusiasm for training back again.

So I arrived at Hever on Sunday morning with little in the way of 'self-pressure'. I felt more relaxed than I have done at recent races and was just determined to enjoy it.

And, without giving the game away, I ended up having my best 'psychological' race while at the same time having my worst 'mechanical' race!

The Hever event on Sunday was a 'near' Olympic distance race - 800m swim in the lake, 40km cycle and then 8km run around the grounds.

Slipping into the water for the swim, the water was predictably cold. An "official" 16 degrees felt a little generous, but it wasn't too bad really. I think there were probably less than 100 of us in my wave, so the start was less crowded and vicious that some races I've done this year and I was able to get into a steady strong rythm reasonably quickly. I guessed I was in around tenth place by the time we rounded the 400m buoy (the simple out and back course was welcome after the complex 'W' shape at Bristol in August). The return leg felt good and by the time we exited the water I had apparently made my way up to fourth or so (I had to double-check my sighting as I got concerned that I had taken the wrong line when I couldn't see many swim caps ahead of me!).

The exit to the swim was a ramp, which made things easy, but then there was a run up a greasy grass bank up to transition, which was on a stony area (an attempt had been made to lay matting, but this was already in disarray by the time I got there). A few curses may have been uttered as I trotted down to my bike, trying to miss the biggest stones!

I was pleased to have made the decision to leave my shoes off the bike for T1, making the run out to the mounting point a lot more bearable. However, the mounting point itself was still very stony and I feared puncturing a tyre as I lept on the bike. Thankfully no 'bang!'... I crossed the timing mat outside T1 at 17:26, so am guessing my 800m swim was around 15:30; reasonably happy with that.

After negotiating some vicious speed bumps on the cycle out to the main road, it was onto the cycle course 'proper'. The 20km loop course was best described as 'undulating' (bloody hilly would have been another fitting description) so it was difficult to realise much benefit from the newly-purchased deep section wheels or get into a good rythm. However, being in the fourth wave to start, there were already a number of competitors out on the bike course, so that gave me a little extra incentive to push as I 'picked off' those slower cyclists ahead. I even managed to rein in a couple of the elites, albeit they were on their second lap compared to my first! Thanks go out to the bike marshals who did a good job, and the Police who waved us through a few of the trickier junctions, stopping traffic for us (much appreciated).

The bike leg was made more 'interesting' by a skipping chain on 5 or so of my 10 rear gears - no real idea why, maybe I messed up getting the wheel onto the bike (and unfortunately there was nowhere at Hever to do a quick pre-race test ride). So I ended up having my top and bottom gears, and nothing in-between! And then my left elbow/forearm rest starting slipping down, so had to yank it back into place every 1km or so! Must invest in a proper torque wrench...

Lap two of the bike felt strong until around the 17/18km marker when the hills started to take their toll. I didn't time the individual laps but would be surprised if my pace didn't slow a little at the end. Back over the speed bumps into T2 and had the typical "I can't feel my fingers to change my shoes" scenario, but T2 went reasonably well and I crossed the mat out onto the run course 1hr 15 min after setting off on the bike. Far from my fastest bike split this year, but okay given the nature of the course.

If you've read my blog entries before, you know my triathlon nemesis is the run. So while I didn't expect to set the world alight with my run time at Hever, I was at least determined to think positively and just do the best I could (I'm indebted to both Kim Ingleby for the mental side of this and Mark Shepherd for the technique coaching). And surprisingly - I felt good! Yes, I still got passed a few times, but I also did a lot of passing and, more importantly, felt like I was in control and had enough in the tank to push (thanks again to the run marshals for their encouragement, much appreciated).

Finishing the first 4km lap to start the second lap (watching others diverting to cross the finish line!) was a little dispiriting, but those thoughts were quickly pushed aside as I ploughed on into the second 4km. There was a nasty, short but steep, hill right at the end of the run loop, before a downhill run into the finish line. On the second lap I was able to find some speed from somewhere and completed my 2010 triathlon season with a strong sprint to the finish, overtaking my last couple of 'victims' on the way. My run time was 37:15 for the 8km; not a personal best but still pleased.

Overall result was 31st out of 632 - not quite the top 20 I was secretly dreaming for, but a good end to my first ever year of triathlon.

So that was it; time to hang up the wetsuit for winter, enjoy my successes and focus on my improvements for next year. I really enjoyed the race, never really having a negative thought throughout (unusal for me, hopefully something I can continue in 2011).

As for the rest of 2010, just the Swindon Half Marathon (I did it two years ago and am just curious to compare times) and the Chilly Duathlon to go; but the real focus is on preparing for 2011 and beyond. Oh, and I am not going to feel remotely guilty about taking December off! No racing for me, no siree.

A small gallery of photos from the year can be found here:


Jan - Dorney Lake Duathlon
Feb - Chilly Duathlon, Castle Combe
Mar - Newbury Duathlon
Apr - Winchester Triathlon
May - Cotswold Super Sprint Triathlon
Jun - Marlborough Triathlon
Jul - Bristol Triathlon
Aug - Thames Swim (3.6km)
Aug - London Triathlon (Sprint)
Aug - Bristol City Centre Triathlon
Sep - Hever Castle Triathlon
Oct - Swindon Half Marathon
Nov - Chilly Duathlon
Dec - Month Off!!!
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