2011 Race Reports
Hope all is well back in Cheltenham and the club had an enjoyable and successful triathlon season. Thought I would just drop you a line to let you know how the Cheltenham Tri Club Texas section is going!
It's strange to see the club competition final results (congratulations to all who raced and especially to the winners) as I just competed in my first race of the year; the weather here is a bit too hot throughout June, July and August and there are very few races organised in those months. However, come September there are races and I raced last Sunday in what, I guess, is now my hometown tri, the Memorial Hermann Houston Triathlon.
If this is the norm, then tri's are different over here; bigger and, possibly, better (maybe more expensive also; this one cost $120). There was a sprint race and an Olympic, 1500 athletes total with 800 in the Olympic; so quite a big field.
The swim was open-water but no wetsuits (that was a first for me) as the water temp was around 28-29 degrees. While we waited to start we had a pastor say prayers for us (he probably didn't know that by the time we get to the run most of us are praying for deliverance anyway!) and then, of course, we had a rendition of the 'Star-spangled Banner'. The swim was good with the usual scrums around the bouys. Because it's been too hot to do much else but swim, I think my swimming has improved and I came out of the water in 8th in my age-group; highly unusual!
The bike course was completely closed roads, pretty much pancake flat but very windy, so really quite different to most races back home; also began to notice the heat on the bike and had to be really conscious of trying to stay hydrated. One thing I liked about the race was that they marked the back of your left calf with your age, so you could tell if you passed or were passed by someone in your age group; I thought that was a great idea.
Got through the bike okay and out onto the run and that is where the heat really hit me. It was only about ten o'clock but the temperature turned out to be around 36-37 degrees, full sun, no shade and most of it on concrete paths, which just seemed to reflect the heat and sunlight straight back at me. Quite different to normal UK weather but I spoke to a couple of guys I've been training with afterwards, they're locals and they also thought it was hot, which made me feel a little better.
Once I got over the finish line I began to get good value for money on my entry fee. I must have looked a sweaty mess, as after I got my finishers medal I was immediately offered the use of the the medical tent! I declined, but accepted the offer of an ice bath; what a brilliant experience that was. A personal tub with a steady stream of volunteers topping me up with bags of ice, I stayed in that thing up to my neck in ice cold water for about ten minutes and felt unbelievably better. I then headed straight for the post race buffet (these guys know how to eat out here!); three different types of pizza, pasta dishes, rissotto, four different types of energy bar, gatorade, coke, water, recovery drink and loads of it all. I had my fair share, checked the results; just missed out on the prizes/podium as usual, 4th in my age-group, 28th from 800 overall and headed home, first US race completed.
My next race is Austin 70.3 in October, so with Mr Armstrong now returned to his original sport I'm hoping that he will decide to enter his hometown race; it would be cool to see my age-group results with Lance Armstrong in there! Here's hoping.
What turned out to be one of England's' warmest summer's days 6 triathletes from Cheltenham Triathlon raced the Swanage Triathlon.
7am Sunday morning down on the beach the first wave of 600 triathletes were waiting for the start horn. The sea was calm, the clouds dispersing and the sun shining. The swimmers took to the water where they swam across the bay to an adjoining bay up to land and back into the sea to the swim finish point 200 yds from the start point. The athletes then had a long run along the promenade and up into transition to exchange wetsuits for bikes and off onto the bike route.
The 40k bike route was both scenic and hilly which took you over to Corfe Castle and then onto Wareham where the turnaround point was and back over the hills and into Swanage to leave the bike and start the run.
The 10k run route is one of the most spectacular routes in triathlon. After roughly a mile out of the town the race starts in earnest as the athletes climb up a winding narrow coastal path onto the top of the cliffs and along the cliff edge with bays to your left and right. The turnaround point is at the end of a peninsular which overlooks 'Old Harry Rocks'. After retracing their steps the athletes then have to descend down a steep off road path and back to the finish.
First home from Cheltenham Triathlon Club was Tom Dudding (M25-29) in 2:25:52 Followed by Neil Hutson (M35-39) in 2:35:41 - Sue Bathgate first lady (F60-65) in 2:47:10 - Mikki Storey (M45-49) 2:53:00 - Alan Champion M(55-59) in 2:53:32 - Mary Sietsma F(45-49) and 3rd lady in her age group in 2:53:52
The very British summer did not disappoint we had wind, rain and 4 foot swells in the sea, but still 14 members of Cheltenham Triathlon Club started the Gower Triathlon with over 360 other triathletes.
As the marshals counted us onto the beach so as not to lose any bodies in the water, the horn went off and all 360 men and women started the swim which was a distance of 750 metres. To start the waves looked very innocuous, but after only a few minutes it was clear the swell was getting bigger and was a huge advantage for the strong swimmers who could get out of trouble in the front while the rest of the swimmers were caught in the washing machine of peoples arms and legs all trying to survive in the big swell. Some people resorted to breast stroke which made it impossible to navigate past or even get into any type of swimming rhythm.
Having survived the swim it was a run on the beach to the transition area where our bikes, helmets and shoes were waiting soaking wet and the wind still blowing a gale. The 15 mile bike course was quite technical and ended up treacherous because of the weather conditions. Starting up a steep hill out of Gower it then continued up and down into the mist which should have shown us the pretty peninsular. Still the sheep thought it very amusing these drowned rats on bicycles were up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the Welsh countryside. The cycle ended down a steep tricky hill and back into transition for the run.
The run was a joy just because we were on 'terra ferma' although soaked through we were safe and only needed to run 2 laps of 2.5K which crossed the beach went up board walks and through parts of the village with brave onlookers shouting encouragement at us. Brian with his dogs being one of them trying to take pictures of us all.
Emma Godson and Sue Bathgate were both prize winners. Emma came 2nd lady overall in a time of 1hr 32min and Sue won the super vet prize in a time of 1hr 36min. The very generous prizes included a free entry to next year's race!
Simon Clarke came 4th overall in a time of 1hour 19 mins with Oliver Hilton a very close 1hr 20min. Doug Waymark was not far behind in 9th position in a time of 1hr 22mins. Sally Freeman was 4th in the open category in a time of 1hr 33min and Karen Hilton 4th in the Vet 40 category in a time of 1hr 35min.
Other Cheltenham results were: Tommy Charles 1hr 35mins Anthony Lloyd 1hr 36min, Phil Henderson 1hr 37min, Thomas Cantle 1hr 39min who survived his first open water swim, Mary Sietsma 1hr 39min, Hazel Everett 1hr 40min and Cathy Booth 1hr 56min.
Anyone who has ever considered doing an Ironman distance race is likely to have heard of the Challenge series and Roth in particular - it is (allegedly) 'the' Ironman race to do which is not M-dot branded, and is heralded as the biggest in the world. Plus, it has the added bonus that Chrissie Wellington seems to like it, and keeps coming back to break her world record as was the case yet again this year!
So, what is it like? For those who don't know (which used to include me), Roth is a small town in Germany about 30 minutes from Nuremburg. It's not the easiest place to get to from the UK as the only direct flight to Nuremburg goes from Gatwick, although there are plenty of other options if you can cope with changing.
The race is one of the few I've ever done with a split transition - for anyone not in the know, this basically means that T1, where get out of the swim and get on to your bike, is in a different place to T2. This is Ok as long as you're organised as you had to put your running kit in the relevant bag and hand it in on Saturday, and didn't see it again until race day.
The swim takes place in a very wide shipping canal (which is shut to boats on race day) - the water was not bad at all, quite warm at 21 degrees, and not too murky. The main benefit of swimming in a canal is that it's really quite difficult to go off course and as it was flat, sighting was a bit of a doddle!
Out of the swim, grab your bike bag and into T1 where you're given your very own helper. Aforementioned helper tips everything out of your bag, hands you relevant items, puts anything you don't want back into your bag, wrestles your wetsuit in there too and sends you off very politely with many good wishes!
Find your bike (easy peasy), run to mount point and off you go. Now this course is renowned for being one of the fast ones, and despite the fact that there are 1000m of climbing on each of the two laps, I have to say that it certainly didn't feel like it. It was pretty, with some nice long straights, some very twisty bits through the villages, and some fast descents. There was lots of support, especially up Solar Hill, where you could literally only go up in single file such were the crowds at the sides of the road - completely bonkers, I'd seen the pictures, but it's something else when you actually experience it!
Into T2, and yet more helpful peeps take your bike off you, grab your bag for you and marshal you into the changing tent. Another helper (was the whole town here??), tip out bag, select relevant items, discard other items, into the bag they go and you're off (that probably makes it sound like I sped out of T2 at a cracking pace - I didn't). Now for the bit that really hurts. Unfortunately it could probably be classified as the most boring marathon course I have ever done - going out of the town was fine, then along the canal towpath... for miles.... and miles... and miles, then fiddle about a bit and back again, only to continue past where you came in to go along the towpath the other way for miles... and miles... etc... fiddle about a bit and come back, and all the while the temperature was rising - what a relief to finally turn back into Roth. The last 3K seemed to go on for ever, but once I crossed the railway line I knew I was nearly there, a little bit of grass, then you're on the red carpet and across the line to tumultuous applause and lots of noise!
So, am I glad I did it? Yes, it was a great race, well organised, well supported and (so I'm told) good for spectators as long as you can arrange to get from T1 to T2. Would I recommend it? Yes, if only for to totally mad experience of going up Solar hill! Would I do it again? Probably not, I'm just not sure I could face that run course again, and there are many others to choose from...
STOP PRESS... you may know that Chrissie is well known for always smiling, well, I saw her on my way out on the run as she was coming back in (miles ahead of the next lady), and she wasn't smiling then!