One year ago I completed my first ever triathlon: The Montrose sprint. A great experience, I really enjoyed the event but also the friendly atmosphere created by the organisers, volunteers, participants and supporters.
I duly entered this years Sprint Event (750m swim, 20ish Km bike and 5k run) on the day it was released – just as well as it sold out in under 11 hours.
In the build-up this year I attended an excellent training weekend organised by Jeni Warden of Montrose Triathlon club. Matt and Martin, coaches from Masters of Tri, came to sunny Angus and had lots of great training advice. Given this was only about a month in advance of the race I was doubtful it would make much difference to my time. I was happy to be proved wrong.
So, with a good block of training behind me where I really felt I’d made progress, especially on my swimming, I was prepping for Sunday’s event. My bike was needing a good clean and I was swithering whether to bother as the weather forecast was pretty dreich. In the end I couldn’t get the mantra “a clean bike is a fast bike” out my head so I cleaned it up. Given that the Montrose cycle is quite technical (that seems to be cycling talk for hilly) I also stripped all the unnecessary accessories off the bike to save some weight and so gain some time on the uphill sections. Removed were:
- bike computer mount – planning to race on feel so no point carrying this
- cadence and speed sensors – only needed with computer
- Puncture and roadside repair kit – bit of a gamble
- water bottle cages – Scotland wasn’t going to be warm enough for me to need fluids
Depending on how much water I would have carried I reckon I saved between 0.5 and 1.0kg. Also the bike looked great, like a stripped back racing machine.
Registration was from 9:00 am and I arrived early knowing it would be busy. As before, the whole process was slick. I had my number written on my arm and leg in permanent marker – this makes me feel really pro – my lovely forest green swim cap, and timing chip for my leg. Then it was get the bike out the car and place it into the transition area. I was setting up next to some fellow Monrose Tri Club members and it was good to have a chat and kill some time, forgetting about pre-race nerves for a bit.
I’m fairly sensitive to caffeine and usually avoid it. However, I’ve often read that caffeine aids performance in sports so after registering I got myself my first ever espresso. I supped on this during the comprehensive race briefing. I’m certain I could feel the effects even within this time (and there was definitely still enough in my system to affect my sleep that night – something for me to save for “A” races only).
After the briefing I had a quick check on my transition set up, shoes upside down due to the damp conditions, and headed for my car. Before the race started I wanted to visualise my race, particularly my transitions. I thought firstly about my route from pool to bike, the order I’d put on my helmet, number and shoes, the route out of transition. Then a little about the bike route, before again concentrating on the bike to run transition, the way in, where my bike would rack, how to change into my running shoes, and the way out.
Before I knew it, it was time to be poolside and I spend an enjoyable half hour chatting with fellow club members. It’s amazing all the little hints and tips that can be picked up here. Apparently you shouldn’t start the swim too hard. And if you get cramp when running a shot of juice from the pickled gherkin jar will sort you out (rather you than me…).
I was second off in my lane: there’s a 5 second gap between each swimmer’s start time. There was a bit of overtaking back and forth and somehow I seemed to end up being the lead swimmer in my lane. During all this overtaking and being passed I lost track of my lap count (does anyone manage to count laps accurately?). The volunteers counting were under instructions to dunt each swimmer on the head when they had 2 laps to go. I was most pleased when I felt my dunt.
The next bit I’m not proud of; I had left my inhaler with the volunteers at lane end and as I clambered out the pool I shouted “inhaler!” as a one word instruction/demand. Let’s call it race excitement and my apologies to all volunteers everywhere. It was duly passed to me and I raced towards my bike. I wasn’t there long before fellow competitors were all around me. I felt my transition was pretty quick and faff-free, but kudos to Colin Ritchie who was out the water after me and was on his bike well ahead of me.
The bike leg was great. My most recent multi-sport experiences have been duathlons and, as a reasonable runner but poorer cyclist, I spend a lot of these cycle legs being overtaken. By starting in waves of 30 or so this triathlon put far fewer good cyclists immediately behind me. I even overtook a few people, but of course I was caught by some of the stronger cyclists. Notably a chap I’d just met earlier and been the same swim lane as, “Twiggy”, breezed past me. I gave him a friendly shout of encouragement as he seemed to fly past, not expecting to see him again. There were also some friendly faces volunteering around the route so I heard a few friendly shouts myself.
Transition went well again (it’s all a caffeinated blur but the results print off says it went well) and I was running, feeling great and feeling like I was motoring. Now, I had no technology to help me analyse my result post-race but I suspect my 3 mile run was in 3 distinct sections. 1st mile fast. Too fast it turns out. 2nd mile recovering from the first mile. 3rd mile a bit faster again. My breathing was hard the whole way round so I reckon I just about judged it right. I also caught Twiggy, that felt good, and he was good enough to pass on some encouragement to me.
I was ruined as I crossed the line and it took me a few moments to pull myself together before chatting to others. I also collected my time print off and was delighted to find I’d shaved about 3 minutes from my time last year. (Masters of Tri – Thanks!) Now I’m usually a bit anti-social, liking my own space, but the chat post-triathlon is great, everyone is on a high from finishing and I really enjoyed the time between finishing and being allowed in to pick up my stuff from transition (it’s kept locked until the last cyclist has returned).
A great day’s racing and a massive well done to Maggie Lawrie along with everyone involved in TriAngus and all the volunteers. I’m already looking forward to the Forfar Tri on the 21st of July and I imagine I’ll be signing up for next years Montrose sprint at the earliest opportunity.
On checking my results later, I was delighted to discover I’d finished in the top 10 overall and was actually 3rd in my age category. That might be as good as it ever gets. I should enjoy it while it lasts, but training is going well so let’s see how the season progresses. My big goal this year is completing the Montrose open water standard distance tri later in the year. The Montrose sprint and the training for it is an excellent stepping stone towards that goal.