I took part in the inaugural Huntsman Triathlon yesterday, and even twenty fours later have mixed emotions about it. I loved the bike, and the run wasn’t too bad either. The marshals on the ride were awesome. But the transition marshals, some of the organisers, and the sprint swim co-ordination left quite a lot to be desired. Of course, this is only my view, but as I’ve said before I want to keep this blog honest.
When I’d signed up to the event I hadn’t realised the cycle would be on open roads. Given the cost of entry, I’m not sure why they hadn’t been able to pay for road closures… Anyway, an email with details of registration etc. came out and advised all the road junctions where there could be issues with traffic! This did concern me a bit I’ll be honest. As it turned out it was fine, in part due to great marshalling.
Registration was possible the day before which I did and met up with some friends. It was good to see the location and to get an idea of what it would be like, although a lot of setting up still had to be done. Finding out the cafe run by the army was going to be open with hot drinks and food was pretty useful too. The snack we had was also very tasty.
It was nice to collect stuff without rushing beforehand, though registration was possible on the morning and when I called in to borrow a pen for my arm number it was a lot more manic.
I found the time before the race started was OK until we got close to the start time for the Olympic distance. Which the organisers (Always Aim High Events) casually mentioned during the race briefing now had a 47k cycle rather than the advertised 40k. I know the race rules permit them to change distances, but that’s a heck of an extra chunk to add in and could have affected race plans and all sorts.
We got the briefing which included the guy with the microphone going on for an inordinate amount of time about drafting and how it was forbidden and several rules around this. Which had already been sent out pre-race… He then wanted the transition area cleared before the Olympic distance started to reset the timing mats. However unlike the very well organised VO Two Super Sprint Triathlon I did a couple of weeks ago they had not got a means of anyone in the Sprint Triathlon then getting their stuff in or out. Since our start time was 30 minutes later and it was a cold morning many people still had extra clothing on, myself included. I had also not picked up my swim hat and goggles as I had not grasped that there was no way to get back to my stuff.
I asked the announcer how to get in and he suggested jumping over the barriers. Which were tw0-thirds my height… Whilst I had a wetsuit on my lower body… And because I’ve dislocated my ankle in the past am wary of such things. Also, this flew in the face of security. At the other event, there was a separate entrance/exit away from the mats that could be used by competitors and was staffed the whole way through.
I then tried to get in the other way and was told no. So I removed my chip and tried to get in. And was stopped. At this point, I lost it a little bit. (The husband said he got scared 😉 But that I was right to do so.) I pointed out the stupidity of their setup, and that I had removed my chip. I was panicked at this point about not being able to compete because of something that was not made clear to newbies in the briefing. Despite (and I quote) the event website saying:
The Huntsman Triathlon features both an Olympic distance and a Sprint distance making it perfect for pros and novices alike.
A friend has since told me this setup is how they run Ironman events. However, I have never done one of those. And surely it is sensible to look to build up from a Sprint event towards one?! I really think that the announcements need to be clearer (pun intended!) about “clearing of transition”. I was not the only one who needed to get back in, though many seemed able to vault the barriers.
Thankfully a senior woman came over and helped me out, let me in, and tried to placate me. I’m not proud of losing my temper (it’s been a long time since I’ve been that mad), but I still feel justified in doing so in the circumstances. Not one of the marshals (senior woman aside) was trying to help, or solve my problem. No-one volunteered to grab what I needed. Or to help me over the barrier. Or …
The Actual Triathlon
So, having had a major stress getting sorted, I then found out that we had to stand on some painful gravel and rocks to wait for ages in the cold to start our event whilst the Olympic guys were starting on their second laps. This did not help my mood in the slightest. Thankfully my husband was there and could take my shoes, but having loads of people leave stuff outside of transition as they needed it until near the start of their event was nuts.
To compound my frustrations (I just wish the water hadn’t been so cold as to dampen the energy I was expending!) we then had to go into the water via a rocky bank on bare feet. No rubber matting had been laid down at all. That’s really quite poor. Everyone around me was muttering about it so I know I was not alone in being unimpressed.
Once in the water we had a floating start. I hung back as I know I’m slow. And doing breast stroke. Neither of which are going to get me to the front of the pack. The water was a bit dirty and very cold. I think I could have done with neoprene booties! I started out OK, but the cold took its toll and I couldn’t increase my pace unlike when I’d been training at Tri2O. I seemed to warm up into a swim when I was there, but that just wasn’t happening.
I got round though and wasn’t the last (just 😉 ). Heading up to my bike in transition I struggled initially to undo the wetsuit because of the cold. Once I got moving it was OK though, and it came off pretty quickly. As usual I just abandoned it on the floor by my bike. I got socks and cycling shoes on OK, had a swig of drink, helmet on, race number on, and grabbed my bike.
I was still feeling the cold at this point. Wondering if my trisuit would be enough on the bike and run! However, no time for that and I got on the bike after the mount line and got going. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Once I’d done a couple of kilometres the blood was flowing again. I felt a lot better and started to put some effort into catching some people up. My nerves over road junctions had started to dissipate too given the brilliance of the cycling road marshals. Really I can’t emphasise how excellent they were. In return, I always tried to acknowledge them verbally or with a thumbs up. I know I’d had a bit of an upset before it started, but I do appreciate the efforts of the guys that do their job well.
Once I’d overtaken a few people I passed one guy who had to stop. I asked him if he was OK, and he said he’d broken his shoe 🙁 But I didn’t need to stop and do first aid or anything so carried on. Despite the hills, and having to go into a really low gear a few times, I was really enjoying the ride. The downhill sections where I finally got to use top gear on my bike were fantastic.
Near the end of the route, I was overtaken by a few guys on proper expensive tri bikes. I can live with that. I did however try to copy their cadence, which was impressive, and helped keep me going. Coming into the end of the cycle, I felt better than the shorter ride in the Super Sprint I’d done. I’m not sure why, although I had been quite precise on carb loading and nutrition prior to this race. That said I was again useless at fuelling up on the ride and only had a few sips of my energy drink.
Transitioning to the run was pretty quick. Rack bike, remove helmet, swap shoes, grab small water bottle and go. I didn’t have quite the heavy legs of the last event either so although I walked a few yards every so often in the first kilometre it was to sort out my breathing. Once into a rhythm I was able to keep going. I didn’t take water on the course as I had some with me, although I had very little of that going round. I really need to improve that.
For the first time in a long time (six-ish years!) I was paying attention to my pace. I had a target in mind and was keeping roughly to it. I hadn’t taken into account the fact it was a trail run though! So I wasn’t able to speed up as much as I would have liked until the last 400 metres on the road. I did pick it up there and even had a sort of sprint finish 🙂 My watch also clocked it at 5.36k which added a couple of minutes. That said it was a pleasant run, though I did have to dodge a few families out for walks. If I ran through your photo of some grand-kids – sorry! But trying to take it across a race route was a bit daft.
At the end there was stuff to drink (I wasn’t a fan), a slate coaster, and loads of chocolate, crisps, biscuits, and haribo! Despite being a fan of most of those items, it was the last thing I wanted after two hours of intense exercise. Very odd! I must do better in the future 🙂
I caught up with my husband and friends in the end enclosure (over the barrier), then came round and got my hoody on as I’d started to chill down very quickly. Tina offered to get me a drink and I had a very needed cup of tea. Cheers Tina! I pretty much packed up straight away to get it back to the car, so we could watch for friends still out on the course. And the husband and I popped into the army cafe to grab something warm. I had some really nice chicken and white sauce, though left much of the pasta. I just didn’t fancy it. I think the carb loading had done its job and I wanted protein at that point.
The cafe, plus a few food stalls were part of the good side of the organisation of this event. Plenty of places to get coffee and tea. Cans available. Burgers and sausage patties, as well as pasta and Bolognese/chicken/veggie sauces. And cake. I’m not too bothered about cake a lot of the time but I did enjoy a piece of carrot cake as a reward.
I would like to do this triathlon again if things were sorted out with regards to the swim. I would also like to do the Slateman Triathlon that the same company organises. But my experience yesterday has made me unsure about signing up to both. I know more now (and about the Ironman rules should I ever need them…) so some things would be improved anyway, but I might just look for race reports from others to see how they founds the swim and waves.
I was pleased with my result (though beating the two-hour mark would have been nice 😉 ) but the organisation was very different. If I’d done this event first I would have been even more lost than I was. Yet the first event showed me how things could be organised in a way that works for competitors as well as organisers. There were many waves in that event yet it still all worked. And they managed to cope with timing it all. *cough* Maybe that’s why I have a Polar watch not a Suunto one! 😉 *cough*
And I finally made my V800 tell me I was very strained in my training. A first! 🙂