Race 4 of 6 : The Calfman
Another weekend, another race. Or at least that is how it’s starting to feel (and not in a bad way), and this time tThe Calfman organised by Big Cow Events and held at Emberton Park Buckinghamshire (04/08/19). As this rollercoaster season has worked out The Calfman ended up being an ‘A’ race for me. A strange event in that during the race it felt very good, after the race it felt good and initial impressions were that it was a ‘success’. But having sat down, looked at my times and comparisons… turns out it was passable at best. But actually a bit of of a ‘non event’ (on so many fronts!).
So what has displeased me *THIS* time? And what is The Calfman like as a race…
It was a ‘Bronze’ race, which I had set out as between 3:00 and 2:45. An improvement on last years 3:04, I finished in 02:53:10 this year. An eleven minute improvement is quite encouraging. First impressions of the event were that it had grown considerably. A new layout for transition, a few vans selling food and coffee, and a trailer that was selling Gin optimistically branded up and presented as a ‘Gin Bar’. There was even a mechanical bucking bronco ride. They certainly tried… But I think you can try too hard. As I looked around, it was a good attempt but in my view they didn’t quite manage to pull it off.
Still, even though the event had more cheese than the burgers that were (not) being sold, it is incredibly local for me so no stupid early o’clock start. A number of friends from different clubs were racing so it would be nice to socialise a little… Last year was a big social success with the Wootton club. This year… well it was always going to be hard to match the success of last year, but certainly they gave it a go.
The event had three distances Cowman (variation of a 70.3), Calfman (variation on a Standard) and new this year the Stampede which I guess will be a variation of a Sprint.
The Swim (21:40)
A little poor planning on the organisers behalf led to trying to get everyone into the water through a small timing gate and in single file into the lake. The first race was delayed because of this and predictably the Calfman also suffered the same fate. As I queued up, slowly cooking in my wetsuit I was surprised that they hadn’t gone for more ‘cheese’ and described this as a cattle crush…
As it happens I got into the water relatively early. And this worked out in my favour, giving me much more time to properly acclimatise. Mental note to self – give yourself much longer in the water than you think you need before the start. It paid off, by the time we eventually got going my breathing was settled and I got off to a good start,
Opted for a position towards the front of the pack and was fine with the inevitable chaos that ensued. I am secretly quite enjoying the added dimension of trying to survive! Felt that I was ‘in the race’ for the first half of the swim. Then, some supremely incompetent sighting, took me way out which then led to some breast stroke whilst I tried to get my bearings and get back to the others 🙁 Eventually I set sail to rejoin the main flotilla, but time had been wasted.
My feeling though was that I was swimming quite well and catching people up. This illusion was further reinforced by entering T1 and seeing bikes everywhere… So they hadn’t left without me which is always good 🙂
Looking at the data from the swim, it transpires that this was an illusion at best. Still it made me happy at the time! My time of 21:04 was only fractionally faster than last year (21:54) and a long way short of my target 18:30. I was approximately 86th out of a field of 176. Maybe everyone was swimming slowly… Strange it seemed like quite a flat swim course 😉
I know I keep writing this, but more work needed on this whole swim thing. And that would be in disgusting outdoor sessions, in weedy lakes, with repulsive shower blocks afterwards. Now I have bleated about it I can shut up and get on with it. I have a lot more to offer in the swim.
T1 was much more successful than last year when I couldn’t find my bike.
The Bike 1:28:03
This was always going to be my best hope of doing something useful! I have the advantage of riding this course all the time and therefore know it like the back of my hand. It’s a pretty straight forward course, with two climbs but neither of which are particularly material. Two rolling sections, one of which is on a very busy A road and then a particularly long flat and very fast B road section that has recently be resurfaced. In my opinion this should be a fast bike course.
I did have some minor concern as this was to be my first race on a TT bike. And to compound that I had changed the setup a few weeks earlier and only ridden in the new position three or four times. I will write more about that in a separate blog, but for now suffice to say the bike fit worked brilliantly! Improved comfort, improved aero position, all achieved through minor tweaks that did not unsettle me but still enough to deliver a benefit.
The bike was fun! I felt very fast, again an illusion (fools paradise?). Overtook many people very comfortably. In the back of my mind was could I catch my friend Pete??? Now, I have to confess that my eyesight is not great on a bike. Those of you that train or race near me might want to remember that if we are on our bicycles 😉 It’s hard for me to recognise people when I’m riding. But luckily Pete has a fairly distinctive beard… I did notice a woman from another club before the race that seemed to be trying to compete with Pete’s beard… But we don’t need to go there!! 🙂
Pete is a LOT faster, younger and more talented than I am. So imagine my surprise when I didn’t manage to catch him on the bike leg 🙄 Still it gave me enough motivation to keep chasing people down in the attempt, so it worked.
Overall though the bike felt better than the last couple of races. Familiarity with the course and nothing technical meant that I could carry speed around the corners and not keep having to wind it up again. A faster bike and a more comfy position helped. And also hours of structured turbo time will have improved my legs surely! More to do? YES. But this this was a good ride for me and power data is all heading in the right direction too.
Time was a little faster by four minutes or so than last year (1:32:37), but actually not a big improvement. Position in the race was good though as I moved up to something like 51st position entering T2.
What does need a serious rethink (in my humble opinion) is the route from transition to the road. The mount line is fine but still within the grounds of the park. Some care is needed as you are basically starting your race on a path being used by the general public (complete with dogs and toddlers) as well as it being part of the run course… So other athletes are running towards you. Then you need to make a sharp right and cycle (or not!!!) up a little grass bank, across a debris strewn lay-by and then down a kerb to join a very busy main road. Re-entering is basically the same but they managed to also add in two bollards with naff all space between them. All this, on a TT bike? Not cool!
T2 was not good, I racked, got read to head out for the run and just as I was leaving decided I wanted to put my socks on… So back to the bike, trainers off again… Well it doesn’t take a world class Olympic coach to tell me that’s a bloody stupid way to conduct myself through T2.
The Run 59:34
Ironically I always shrug my shoulders and feel the run will be what it will be and is in the lap of the Gods… I just don’t see myself as a runner. Ironic because this was the biggest improvement over last year. Co-incidentally I raced in the Olney Club 5k a few weeks back and set a PB (24:15 which for me was a big improvement) and then raced another 5k a few days before this Tri and again virtually hit my PB time. Maybe I need to rethink “Ed the Runner” and have a bit more confidence and actually see where I could go with it?
Last year I ran this course in 1:05:18 so I think circa 6 minute improvement over 10k was quite positive.
The run course is two laps, mostly hard surface with a cute little diversion around some fields. A bit of an incline after you leave the lake, but nothing too horrendous. Having said that you do notice you are going up a short hill 😉 Again, home course advantage for me, and that really helps I have decided!
I managed a sprint finish down the finishing chute … I think it looked OK 😉 Who knows!
It was OK. Nothing tragic. Nice to see people for sure. But other than it was a race that I didn’t need to get up early for there was really nothing particularly special about it. My times were OK, not a car crash but not a cause for celebration either. My swim needs work, but I knew that. My bike improved but still work in progress. I stayed for the main prize giving and then quietly left. Completely invisible. I think bland and mediocre aptly describe every aspect of the day really…
Just as an aside I tried to be some junk food… Patiently waited for 20 minutes and gave up. The Gin Bar (trailer) seemed empty and I didn’t see anyone on the Bucking Bronco… But maybe I was just looking at the wrong times.
Many seem to not like the course. Personally I do like it; the lake is not too weedy. The bike course is flat and quite fast. And the run is varied enough to keep my interest and is only two laps (four might get tedious). Having said all that, driving away I decided that whilst I will do the Calfman Duathlon with some friends in October, I shall not be ding the triathlon again.
Happier thoughts; time to get into a bigger training block in prep for Woburn in a few weeks time. I have decided France will be considered a big training day as opposed to thinking of it as a race particularly. But I will of course write it all up for you. How lucky are you 🤣🤣