Remember a Triathlon starts when you enter the water and finishes when you cross the finish line

Not every race goes according to plan but somehow we get the result / overall performance we want. An important part of what we do at Absolute Tri Coaching is to make sure our athletes focus on the overall performance in the first instance and then break down the components later. The components of the race may not be exactly as the athlete wants but if the overall is as planned or better then that should be the focus, not that the swim was 5 minutes slower than planned. Remember a Triathlon starts when you enter the water and finishes when you cross the finish line.

Here is one such report when a number of things happened in the race but the overall goal was achieved even if by a different route

Last race of the season… everything was perfectly planned (quoted from race plan):

* swim:  able to keep 1m50s/100m

* T1: I can do 2m20s for T1

* bike: I will try consuming lots of carbs and drink. Will maintain a steady power of 185w without ever creeping over 220w. I will ensure my normalized power is as close as possible to 185w as well. I would really like to hope this means a speed of 29km/h

* T2: … and 1m20s for T2

* run: I can do 5m04s/km

All was set for a 5h31m37s. However the universe didn’t want things to happen this way.

The race was in Dorney Lake, Windsor, the rowing venue for the 2012 Olympics. We decided to rent a flat for a night so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 3am and drive from Cambridge to Windsor during the night for a 7am start. Jenny and the kids wanted to come and cheer so the easiest was to go to Windsor on Saturday, relax, have a good night’s sleep and be at the race at 6am for registration.

I woke up at 4.30am for the usual pre-race breakfast of a coffee and then a porridge consisting of 30g ReadyBrek, 150ml soya milk, with 1 tbsp peanut butter and one banana drizzled with agave nectar. Packed everything and at 5.40am we packed the sleepy children into the car and we were off. Closer to the lake visibility was close to none due to the intense fog. Nobody actually seemed to have arrived. It was dark, cold, foggy and nothing seemed to be happening until we saw a car park with half a dozen cars. We parked and registration was done quickly. I was number 30. It was noticeably a small event with nothing much going on besides a tiny transition area and a finish line. I had some carb drink, a powerbar, prepared transition and was race ready by 6.55am. The 7am start time came and went… at around 7.15am I enquire what’s happening and I am told that the safety officer hasn’t given permission to start the race.

It’s hard to put into words what happened next but it’s a mix of cold, nothing to do, no communication from organizers, people heading home, children upset due to the long wait, hunger and lost of motivation. By 9.30am I tell Jenny that we are leaving if race is not starting by 10am.

By now I was actually not feeling so great as I was getting tired of standing in a wetsuit, hungry as my brekkie had gone down 5 hours before and quite upset. At 9.40am we are called to waters edge… we are told race will start in 5mins and so it started at 9.46am.

I head to the frontline of the swim full of confidence. The race starts and is generally calmer than expected. By now I could only think about how my children had been shoved into the car half-asleep at 5.40am, given a pack of milk and asked to wait for hours on end for a race start that almost didn’t happen, and now they had a further 5 or 6 hours of waiting without not much to eat. After 200m I lose my breath, swallow some water and lose the first wave of people I was chasing. Swallow some more water and I play with the idea of going home. I feel kind of lost in the water and decide that I should give up… but how do I do this?

Ah, turn around and raise my arm. So, I lift my head and one of the safety guys in a kaya shouts at me to change direction. My mind shifts from ‘giving up’ to ‘what the hell am i doing?’. I look around and I am completely off-course. So, I put my head down and start swimming. I focus on my technique, head down, strong pull all the way to the back. I just kept going but was completely alone until the end of my first lap.

I thought several times I was the last one but didn’t care. Kept pulling hard and finally started overtaking a few swimmers on my second lap.

Wasn’t last anymore… finally.

I leave the water and Jenny shouts ’36 minutes’. It was, more accurately, 35m19s (1m51s / 100m). I was dizzy and still upset with the whole situation. I walk to my bike, feels like ages for the wetsuit to come off, put my shoes, helmet, race belt, etc and take my bike of the rack. Start my GPS watch and off we go. 90km – 10 laps of 9km each in a horse shoe shape with 3 tight corners where you had to grind to almost a halt (meaning you would do 6 of these corners per lap).

It starts and 200meters into the bike I noticed the power value is not showing up. ‘Oh cr*p’. I cursed for awhile until I stop, unclip, look at the power meter. Press on the outside battery enclosure and my power meter comes to live. I get back on the bike and after a small bump later power meter is gone again. ‘What the …?’ No power meter with a stages power meter meter no cadence values either. As all my GPS computer screens were tailored to show power, avg power, normalized power, cadence, HR and distance, most of these would not be showing anything.

I made the decision of not stopping anymore and relying instead on my HR. I didn’t even have avg HR… so HR it was. I knew that a 156w in a 1h30m ride kept me at a steady 137bpm, so I reckoned that a 141bpm would put me around 185w. That’s what I tried to average, however I have most likely gone over it quite a few times. The tight corners means I would grind to almost a halt and then stand up in an attempt to quickly get back to speed. The laps were short so the whole 90k really didn’t feel like much at all. I had made the mistake of not taking any proper food for the bike so fed myself during the bike all with powerbar: 3 hydros red berry/cherry, 2 gels red berries, 1 pouch powerbar jellys and 1.5 liters of powerbar iso drink. At the end of this I could barely take any more powerbar. Worse… my running nutrition which consisted of a powerbar gel per lap was attached to my race belt and due to the wind on the bike I ended up losing one of those meaning I had now one less gel for the run leg.

I left the bike quite confident since I knew my speed had been good since the GPS marked 2h50m19s for the 90kms. Best I had ever done. Head for transition with renewed confidence, a quick change and I am off on the run. A quick check revealed my knee was not hurting and my pace was around 4m47s/km. That’s within what we wanted and pretty good. And indeed my first km on the run was at that pace but very quickly my quads just didn’t agree that was the right pace and at each step I felt both vastus medialis tightening as I put my leg on the floor. I decide to stop to check and as I stop, stretch the quads, my hamstrings cramp. I kneel at just the right angle such that no muscle cramps completely. I decide to massage them for a bit and keep going with a slight shuffle.

It doesn’t help much and muscles keep tightening and I shuffle instead of running, my pace suffers and I am now averaging close to 5m30s/km on the run. It was pure pain for all the 4km laps. I was quite desperate but Jenny saw me and shouts that I was 15 out of the bike. I was quite impressed and wonder how can everybody else be so much slower but boosted me enough to keep pressing onwards. The thought was almost consistently that I should walk and that it’s not worth it because the race was already so messed up anyway but every so often and towards the last two laps I decided to take my mind off these thoughts by greeting fellow athletes so each time I would pass someone I would say something like ‘great running’, or ‘keep going’. People would either ignore, smile, wave or in one case a fellow athlete stopped and said ‘cant do it’. The last 5k lap was pure pain with consistent quad cramping, which none of the gels I had or the water/coke served improved. Heading to the finish line felt great and after crossing the finish line I lied down and stretched. My run was 1h58m49s, pace 5m37s/km.


Swim: 35m19s

T1: 2m44s

Bike: 2h50m19s

T2: 1m03s

Run: 1h58m49s

Total: 5h28m14s

Finished 16th overall out of 40.


The last couple of days my legs have been very sore and a few aches and pains have surfaced, mainly on my hamstrings. However, nothing that a few more days of rest won’t fix.

The event organization was very poor. The delay was inevitable and due to safety issues but there was nothing to do there, or place to buy something to eat. There was not enough communication with the athletes about what was going on. Transition was not marked, it was first come, first serve. There was no timing panel at finish line meaning I only found out my chip time when I got home. Not even the event photographer stayed until the end of the event meaning there are no finish line photos for anybody. We were told wristbands would be distributed for counting running laps but there were none distributed. We were told initially it was one swimming lap and then they turned it into two swimming laps but we were only told a few minutes before the start.

There was a lack of nutrition in the run course. They had water and stale coke. For an event of this length you would expect much better organization. It’s a shame but it only means that I will certainly not register for any future votwo events.

For me it was a good result but it was not achieved the best way it could have been and it was not the end of season race I had in mind.

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