Hamish Shaw travelled out to Wales to take on the beautiful North Welsh coastline. By having a superfast swim, he spent the majority of the race up front by himself, demonstrating excellent pace judgement with 1st in age group and 2nd place overall…
The week before this race I decided it would be a good idea to drive over and cycle the bike course for this slightly long standard distance race. The bike course was 53km rather than the normal 40km. I’m glad I did as it was invaluable in becoming familiar with the hills, descents and roads in general.
The course was pretty much uphill from transition to around 18km where it then became rolling before a fast, gentle downhill on decent quality roads. I remember when riding the course, a week before the race, thinking that it could be a road bike course with the hill first section. However, the moment I hit the main road on the fast section, there was no doubt in my mind to use the TT bike.
Race day came around quickly. The location was at the new building of Porth Eirias, a great facility which has recently opened and I am sure will improve in coming years to host this event. With an early start, we were all treated to a glorious sunrise:
The weather was set to be sunny all day with the wind increasing across the morning. After racking, I got to see the middle+ distance race commence. It was good to be able to see athletes going from the sea swim through transition and out onto the bike to help me visualise where to go when it was my turn.
From the elevated viewing position the sea looked relatively calm. After warming up there was a short swim to the start. It was a two loop swim and on the outward section sighting was going to be challenge looking straight into the sun. Thankfully there was a hill conveniently positioned on the horizon, which was useful. I knew Alex Foster was racing, a good athlete, so I planned to try and get on his feet in the swim. Within a few metres of the start I noticed him over to my right and drifted in behind him.
Just before we hit the first turn, he put a spurt in which I struggled to stay with. On the return leg, the waves were against us and I got bashed around a little and drifted just out of the drafting range of Alex. I swam the rest of the 1500m on my own. One of the canoeists annoyed me at one point by paddling in front of me and telling me to stay closer to the buoys even though I was on my last lap and would be heading to shore soon. Unfortunately, this made me swallow a mouthful of salt water. Not pleasant. I made the turn to shore soon after and exited the water with the second fastest swim of the day.
I had a swift T1 in a time of 35 seconds, equal fastest, and headed out on the familiar bike course. On the first couple of hills I could see Alex ahead. He had about a 1 minute lead. I knew not to push myself too hard on these hills as a lot of time could be lost on the faster sections if I was running out of steam. I reached the top of the hill and set about on the rolling top section:
It was soon that I began to catch a few athletes from the middle+ distance that started an hour before us. I was glad to have these athletes to motivate me to catch them otherwise it would have been a very lonely cycle.
I hit the fast main road section and got my head down and motored along. At times I was spinning out in my top gear, it was that quick. There was a brisk tailwind at this point on the course which also helped the speed. I knew there were still two short hills to come, so I ensured I was still taking on fluid and energy even on this fast section of the course were it could easily be forgotten. I powered over the last two hills feeling pretty good and mentally prepared myself for T2 and the run on the last kilometre of the bike. I finished the bike course a few minutes faster than I had hoped and I had the third fastest split of the day.
As I approached T2, I saw Alex on the run about 2 minutes ahead of me. I knew I would be hard pushed to catch him even if my fastest run legs turned up. I dashed through T2 in 26 seconds. The fastest out of everyone, meaning I had the fastest transitions of the race. It may not be much time spent in there and you can’t win a race in transition, but you can lose a race there. I headed out on the run. My legs felt quite good and then I realised that the wind had picked up and it was pushing me along.
The first section of the run went in opposite directions to the last section of the bike and I saw I had around a 5 minute lead to third place. I knew that was a comfortable gap. On the out section of the run there were two short sharp climbs then descents of 10-15% and 100-200m long. They were definite leg sappers, but I managed to run up them both realising that I would have to tackle them on the return section. On the last downhill section about 600m from the turn, Alex was coming the other way up the hill. He had a comfortable lead of a kilometre, but I kept running hard as I knew that if he had a bout of cramp on one of the hills, the distance could be made up.
The return leg was nothing short of horrible into the strong headwind. It was good to see I had opened the gap up to 3rd place, but there was no sign of Alex ahead who was having a good run. When I hit 2k to go, I could see the finish complex ahead. I dug in for the last few minutes and crossed the line in 2nd place overall and winning my age group:
It was a tough race with the hills on the bike and the wind on the run, but it is a really good course and event. After I caught my breath, I had a chat with one of the race commentators:
All in all, I enjoyed the event and was pleased with my efforts. The longer bike section will have definitely helped to increase my endurance for the remaining races to come this year.
I now look ahead to Salford Triathlon and then London for the World Championships.
Pictures courtesy of eventphotos.co.uk
As ever, thanks to the help of all our fantastic sponsors:
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