Writing this whilst sitting outside a French Cafe in glorious sunshine, it is hard to recall any negatives about yesterday’s race… But of course in my own well documented style I will try 🙂
Yesterday, I participated in the Standard Distance triathlon set in the grounds of the very picturesque Chateau de Chantilly and hosted by Castle Series Events. Overall a disappointing outcome for me of 3hrs 7min but a very well organised and hugely popular event. Certainly one that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. And if circumstances permit, then I would add to my calendar for next year without hesitation.
So how did I mess this one up?
It was all lost at the start as they say! And whilst this is becoming a repetitive theme of my 2019 season, I had another rubbish swim and need to get my arse in gear and put some OW training sessions into my plan. Or do I???
This time I really had no excuse 🙈 The swim is held in a very pretty little lake and is basically a T shape course. No goggle issues. Positioned to the back of the pack so not caught up in the ‘washing machine’ although there was a ton of space, and a small number in the wave, so there really wasn’t a bun fight anyway, even for the racing line.
The water was pretty warm (not sure of the exact temperature), but it was certainly a wetsuit optional race. Learning from previous races. I made sure I was in the water early to acclimatise (although this time really no need as it was pretty warm from the get go or so I thought).
Quite why I decided, approaching the first buoy, that I was in some form of mortal danger I have no idea… This led to an internal dialogue around “you are surely going to die… Right here… from hyperthermia… or exhaustion!!” Which of course is highly unlikely in what amounts to a warm ornamental lake after swimming a whopping 500 meters! But maybe I do have an idea why this happened.
If you try to swim 500m holding your breath, it will be VERY hard. In fact impossible. I recall from my pilot days the effects of Hypoxia (basically a lack of oxygen to the brain). And that dear read is what I think this is all about… 🙄 I simply was not breathing properly and therefore ended up in a very mild hypoxic state and had an “irrational moment”. It’s not a panic attack (that is something altogether different I think), this is simply an effect of not getting enough oxygen into my system. Easy to do… Especially when you are mildly exerting yourself swimming at the time…
Something that I am pretty sure actually happened (and wasn’t a figment of my oxygen starved brain) was that a few people were swimming backstroke. Naturally, when in France… However in the English version of the briefing I do recall the standard safety advice of “roll onto your back”. What I also recall is nobody paddling over to ‘aide’ the people that were trying to swim backstroke. Maybe two or three of them. I suppose in a country where the Tri Officials get hyper excited if you have not got three safety pins holding your bib to your race belt, then why would a few backstroke swimmers cause any concern!! Ooo La La!!
Anyway, back to my hypoxia, unfortunately this led to swimming maybe another 300m or so of breast stroke. And even putting my feet down and having a little walk FFS (Yes it is a very weedy and shallow ornamental lake!).
Once I had had a word with myself, concluded that I would die one day but it wasn’t going to be just at that moment, I had wasted a fair bit of time.
Then, with my normal lack of sighting ability added a further 250m of navigation issues… I so need to train in OW grrrr !! Add all this together and you end up with a proper car crash of a swim 🙁
One point to make about the swim, and specifically the water, was that they did have a water quality issue. The lake had failed it’s water quality tests and therefore all swims for the junior races had been cancelled. Adults were given the option to transfer to a non-swim based event. What I would say is that the organisers managed this situation very professionally. I did note that some people had elected to opt out of the swim, but I decided that having been in Box End (lake and showers) and lived this was not likely to present any greater health risk 😉
No particular drama. Could have been quicker getting it together for the bike, but actually this was just a long trek from leaving the lake (including three flights of stone steps which is just what you need) and a big transition area. It just takes time!
Though I say so myself, and with no pretence of modesty, I thought I was bloody good on my bicycle!
First things first though. Getting from bike mount to the main road involves riding on a looses gravel path. Which also offers pot holes the size you find in the UK and the general public wondering back and forth. You also navigate this path on the way back. It is slippy and a puncture opportunity waiting to happen. So brace yourself and hope that you don’t fall off, need to break, or worst still puncture before the bike leg really gets going. Luckily none of these issues beset me and I made it onto the French highway.
Those of you that have ridden in Europe and specifically France will know that the quality of the roads is a really joy! And the region around Chantilly is no exception. Fast, smooth, nothing particularly technical and I would say relatively flat. It was perfect for riding a TT bike on 🙂
Except for maybe 1k through a village that was proper cobblestones. Call it “Pave” or any other cyclista expression, be as pretentious as you like… It was still a bloody nightmare on a very stiff TT bike with tyres at 105psi (or maybe more given the heat!). As I rattled along trying hard to not think about the damage I was doing to my bike and possibly myself (!!) I was very glad that I still had my Fulcrum Racing Zero’s on rather than my Zipp 404.
I bought the Zeros as cheap, light, training wheels (they were in a sale) and have to say that I have been super impressed with them! Spin up easily, roll forever, quiet and robust. Shallow so cause no problems in a cross wind. A proper good set of wheels.
The cobbles did get me… Chain bounced off through an ill timed gear change. This obviously led to some delay in putting it back on. But also the subsequent problem of getting going as I was now on an incline (the reason for the gear change) and with slippy cobbles to contend with. Lost some time.
BUT. Despite the slow start and end due to rubbish surfaces and the problems at the Pave section, I still turned in an average 19.5mph across the ride and did that at a conservative power output of 170w average with a few efforts going up to threshold power. I was / am delighted with this. The training worked: power and intensity sessions on the turbo, LOTS of EASY long miles (the Cafe Rides), and basically stick to the 80/20 theory of less intensity but when you do a hard sessions make it HARD. Avoid z3 middle of the road stuff. It’s either easy (80% of the time) or sweat blood and swear type hard (20%).
What I found was that where there were inclines I started to smile!! As I watched others start to slow I just kicked it up a pace and flew past them. Looking and feeling strong 💪 Apart from moving me through the field this also (I believe) had a dual psychological advantage… It made me feel great and therefore pushed to me to be stronger and it will have demotivated those being overtaken.
Unlike a few I saw, I didn’t bother drafting in a non-draft legal race 🙄
And on that point I would also say how brilliantly well this was marshalled. It was an open road event, however at most junctions there were police on hand to stop the traffic and give us priority. Loads of signage. Ample notice of the feed station, which was also well organised. Although I would say that handing me a paper cup of water is great on the run… But on the bike not so much. Bottle exchange would be an improvement.
I have no idea how I spent four minutes in T2… I can only conclude that the timing gate was at the start of the particularly rough gravel track (described in the bike section). Ultimately it hardly matters really the time would either have made my Bike look slower or T2 implausibly slow. It was actually quite well executed. I knew I was going to be putting socks on (I don’t for the bike). And I also know that putting shoes and socks on can not be done in a hurry standing. Armed with this knowledge it’s just most efficient to plonk ones arse on the grass and get on with it. Yes – prepared socks… I’m not a total newbie now you know 😉
Let me start by saying it was bloody hot by the time I started my run! But lets closely follow that up by also saying it was one of the prettiest run courses that I can recall doing. One lap (which suits me well!) taking in quite a bit of flat forest paths, part of the famous horse racing track and then finally a little ‘trot’ through the Le Gardain Englais (which is almost certainly not spelt like that). Three aid stations and in deference to the heat each armed with hosepipes and sprinklers should a small cup of water over the head just not cut it!
Under normal circumstances, if I ran a 55minute 10k I would be very happy. To do it in a Triathlon has made me very happy. I still had enough left to put in a sprint finish too 😉
One lesson that I have learned though from this run is the potential risk of looking at the wrong data. From the 6k mark I was looking at total race time and doing the maths as to what I needed to do in order to get under 3 hours. Once it was impossible to achieve that goal I almost slowed down and ‘gave up’. Had it not been for the fact that this was a training sessions for Woburn, I could easily have just given up. Completely missing the fact that the only reason the overall time was crap was due to the swim and I could still put together a very credible (for me) run.
Three other observations (and similar about the bike actually); I had no issue getting out of T2 and doing the first couple of K. Secondly my heart rate through the run was in z3 but only just. And thirdly picking it up into a sprint for the last 500m was easy. All this leads me to conclude that I have the potential to massively improve the run. This is good!From a performance perspective I do now wonder if I should just accept that swimming will always be a problem and stop thinking about it rather than trying to do more of it. But use that time more productively and invest it in bike / run volume. With only two weeks to Woburn and then a further two weeks two Portugal, a change of training focus will have no effect this year. But as I start to work out and build my plan for next year it will certainly be something to ponder.
There was no bloody finisher t-shirt! I know we often only stash them at the back of the draw never to be seen again, but that is not the point! Increasingly I am wearing them… Regardless, for £110 entry fee I want a bloody t-shirt as well as a medal. End of moan.
Other than that I can’t fault it! Well organised, beautiful location, huge variety of race formats and distances, exceptional marshalling on the bike course, well sign posted and enjoyable routes (particularly the run).
OK, by the time you factor in the accommodation, travel and entry fees it becomes a little pricy for a Standard distance event. Or you could just shrug 🤷🏻♂️ your shoulders, roll your eyes 🙄 and ask the big question: “What price can you put on happiness??”