I must admit when I signed up to Blenheim Triathlon I thought, ‘No problem, it’s only a sprint triathlon.’ For those that don’t know the Blenheim sprint tri consists of a 750m swim, 19.8km bike and 5.4km run. For some that might seem like a lot and for ironman athletes it might look like a walk in the park, but I can assure you it’s not easy.
My wave started at 10am and as a relatively newbie to triathlon I rock up to transition with 15 minutes until my wave starts. Do not do this. Race organisers like having you all sorted and at the lake 10 mins before the start, so I was cutting it fine. I got my wetsuit on and tried my best to lay everything out in an orderly fashion so I’m not faffing about too much during the race. Once ready I take a Caffeine Shot. I don’t drink a huge amount of coffee, so these really work by giving me a bit of focus before I start.
I grab my hat and googles and jog to the lake, past the anxious looking queue for the loos, relieved I made my wave. We get a quick safety briefing and in we jump into the amazing lake within the grounds of Blenheim Palace. There’s probably about 70 people in my wave. We tread water for a few minutes and wish each other good luck before the starter blows his hooter. The swim is probably my weakest leg, but I try not to get carried away in the excitement and stay away from any flailing limbs. Within 14 minutes (seemed a lot longer) it was over and I’m jogging to transition. This is the bit where I feel really pro, unzipping my wetsuit on the go and ripping off my hat and goggles looking like I really know what I’m doing, but I’m already knackered.
Into transition I go to try and find my bike amongst the thousands racked up. Despite every row of bikes being numbered I always have that moment of thinking ‘will it be there?’ As my bike comes into sight I think about what I need to do. I wrestle the wetsuit off and on goes the helmet, race belt and shoes and I’m off in a sluggish 5.07 mins. The best athletes on the day were out the water and on the bike within 3 minutes.
The bike course is all within the palace grounds and it’s a fairly rolling course of 3 laps. It was on the second lap when I caught a few riders on an uphill section and I hear a ‘Matt!’ from the group behind. I look around to see Rob Hudson from Cycling Weekly. Rob’s an ex rugby player, so I’d caught him on the hill but on the flat he was a different animal so instead of burning myself out, I let him go. Sadly for Rob he miscounted his laps and I overtook him having a word with an race organiser on the road side. With the run in mind I took a gel on the second lap on the flatter section. The bike is the easiest section to eat and drink so I was taking on plenty of fluid and fuelling up for the 5.4km run.
In my opinion the most physically demanding leg is the run. There’s simply nowhere to hide and if you’ve over cooked the bike then you can lose a lot of time here. After yet another slow transition I’m on the run course. The crowds have built up by now which gave me a real boost. The first 2km were bad, heavy legs and no end in sight. 5km might not seem far , but during that first lap I had some dark moments. Once the legs got going and the psychological advantage of being on the last lap I emptied the tank to cross the line in a time of 1.23.34.
Nothing beats that feeling of finishing a race. A mixture of relief and pride knowing you’ve given it everything and the pain can finally stop. I stumble over to the Science in Sport stand in the event village where Ben, our performance nutritionist, hands me a WHEY20, full of protein to help repair my broken calf muscles.
It’s very easy to get caught up in an event and not be aware of your surroundings, but at Blenheim Palace you can’t help but to take it all in. A beautifully clear swim, spacious roads for the cycle and run with no cars in sight. So, if you’re thinking of a triathlon for 2019 I’d recommend this one.
I’ll leave you with a couple of lessons I learnt about triathlon over the weekend.
Don’t set up at transition at the last minute, nobody needs that stress.
Don’t underestimate a sprint, yes it might be shorter, but you just go faster!
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