St Neot’s Triathlon – Olympic Distance. 13th May 2018

I swore that I’d never do another ‘qualifier’ race again. I have horrendous memories of Liverypool 2013 which I think was the British Championships. My age group wave was the last of the waves to set off and whilst I always used to joke about not wanting to come in last, this time, that was a very real threat. Hottest day of the year, all the fastest age groupers in the UK…..and me. Fond memories include Jellyfish, having to be escorted around the swim by a lovely Scouser in a Kayak, horrid tight turns on the bike, running through treacle and to top it off being overtaken by some of the Para Triathletes. It was also my birthday. Slowest race ever. Yes, fair to say, I thought I’d had my fill of racing with the ‘best’.

Fast forward to 2018. The ‘A race’ this year is Ironman Hamburg. So I’m following a plan. And the plan said that at week 18, I should do an Olympic distance. It’s not actually that easy finding an Olympic distance in May in the UK, Finding a nice flat and easy one is even harder. However St Neots fitted the bill. But it was a world championship qualifier. Oh well, I thought, I’ll put my big girl’s pants on and who cares if I’m last.

A week before the event, the route was changed. Heavy flooding affects the area around St Neots so they were to hold it at Grafham Water which is just a bit further up the A1. The main concern for me was the temperature of the water. We’d swum up at Gaddings the week before in 14 degrees and Grafham wasn’t realistically going to be much warmer. Added complexity of shrimps in the water. Fortunately they were invisible shrimps so I didn’t have to panic.

It’s a lovely setting, very pretty and most importantly flat! Or flat for us Yorkshire folk. Lots of Age Groupers seem to all know each other and there’s quite a bit of pre race psyching out of each other. Fortunately I knew no-one and just got on with my prep.

Psychologically I can recommend doing an Olympic Distance race when it’s not your A race. I had pretty much zero pre-race nerves (rare). The swim was a personal best (28.25) – lovely clean lines, no silly turns, just nice and straightforward. 15 degrees – warmer than I was expecting! Into transition…it was my first race of the season and I actually forgot to start stripping off the wetsuit until I arrived at the bike. Lost a few seconds there. Onto the bike leg. Whilst I was definitely in the minority without tri bars, a pointy hat or a fancy rear wheel, there were some normies out there (albeit no-one on a mountain bike). The women had all set off in one wave and whilst it was the last wave, at least it was a big one. I left T1 with plenty of other bikes left on the racks!

It makes a real change to have a bike leg without mountains. This was flat, possibly undulating. There was one hill…..and I did see 2 people walking up it. But it wasn’t a Yorkshire style hill at all. Quite a bit of traffic though (odd for a Sunday morning) and the traffic made non-drafting tricky as there was a lot of bunching. Bit paranoid with all the Bike Marshalls – more than I’ve ever seen. Straightforward route with no technical turns. Had one psycho horse which required a bunch of us to put a foot down – caused by an idiot who had all the gear and not one iota of common sense or road safety awareness. Anyway, a decent bike course and I made it into T2 feeling pretty good. I think it might have been a teensy bit short of 40km but I’m not going to say that too loudly.

A nice run, combination of track and tarmac, mostly flat. Lots of support on route. It was here I saw lots of women over-take me. Whilst it seems that my swimming and biking saw me holding my own

in the field, these women are running 45 minute 10kms. And I’m not. And that’s why they’re trying to qualify for the Worlds. And I’m not.

However, at the end of the day it was a great race. Felt like I ticked the box. Olympic event done. Just a training day. Really took the nerves out of it and I enjoyed it. Don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Well organised, communications were all good. The freebie was a mug (disappointing)…. Pint of Erdinger at the end.

Nice part of the world. We should head that way for a nice flat away day! Incidentally the Grafman middle distance was the week after. Organised by the same people, I’d probably recommend that too.

Next part of the plan. Week 21. Chester Middle distance. Let’s see how that one goes.

Oh. And I was 18th in the Age Group. Out of 26. Wouldn’t qualify me for anything but nowhere near last!