Banbury was a late addition to my race calendar; the wish to support my local race and do a course I liked overcame other commitments that made my preparation for the race less than ideal. In essence what I wanted to use Banbury for was as a start of season warm-up, to blow away the cobwebs of the long winter training months and to desperately remember how to do a transition. Banbury is also on the list of Team Cherwell Grand Prix races, so I also wanted to get some points on the board for that as well. This was my first race since starting being coached by Brian and Natural Ability Performance Coaching, and I wanted to do well on a race that Brian does so much to organise.
I already mentioned that my training for this was not as thorough as it might have been. My main focus on long course racing meant that I was going to have to switch focus, and remember not to pace myself too much. As I did not stop saying from the moment that I got to Woodgreen Leisure Centre to those who wanted to hear (and those who didn’t want to hear come to that) I had been at a wedding the day before and my bedtime was 1:00am on the morning of the race. In proper triathlete fashion I was getting my excuses in as early as possible. This did not turn out to be an issue though as my start was not until twenty past ten, and after registering at about eight there was plenty of time to get transition sorted out, do a couple of dry runs to make sure that I could find my bike and had everything prepared, and then relax, have a coffee and chat to the various friends, competitors and marshals, so by the time my start came around I was feeling pretty good.
Woodgreen is a 50m open air pool, and had been heated to 24 degrees, so conditions were absolutely perfect for putting in a good swim time. People were being started thirty seconds apart so by this point in the race there was not too much congestion in the lanes. I got into a good pace and rhythm very early and felt that I was swimming strongly. Due to the good space between people the swim was pretty uneventful. No-one came past me, which I took as a good sign, and I overtook one person about halfway through the 750m swim. I did not manage to pull away from him, however, and we came into transition neck and neck. The timing mats were playing up a little bit and mashed up the swim and T1 but I think that the swim was around 12.30 and T1 around a minute, so I was well pleased.
T1 at Banbury always comes with a choice to make. The mount line is about halfway up a short but fairly steep hill to the road. There is a speed bump on this hill as well. The question therefore is: leave shoes on the bike and mount as quickly as possible after the mount line, trusting to a low gear and balancing on open shoes to get over the obstacles OR shoes on the bike and mount at the top of the hill, slipping feet in whilst avoiding parked cars and traffic on the open roads OR Run in clips and mount at the top of the hill. This last one is the option that I went for and it certainly got me out of transition in front of my swimming rival. I wasted a little bit of time as my left cleat did not seem to want to connect but I only lost a second or two and took off on the bike as fast as possible. As I knew the route I did not really bother looking at my computer and focussed on getting the power down. There was quite a headwind for the first half of the bike course and I was glad that I had put in some time getting used to the deep section wheels I was riding, as it was quite gusty in places. The route can really be divided into two, the first half is predominantly uphill and into the wind, the second half mostly downhill with a tail wind and I managed to clock 65kph (sounds better than 45mph) on a particularly nice descent. Due to these factors I found the second half of the bike leg considerably easier than the first half, so I was able to let myself relax and prepare myself for the run before I was anywhere near transition.
I found myself coming into T2 having averaged 21mph to give a time on the bike of just under 35 minutes. Local knowledge of the transition is, again, a boon here as I had plenty of time to get my feet out of shoes, pedal round the roundabout, dismount and run into transition. (I did not attempt to run straight off the bike after standing on one pedal due to the aforementioned speed bump.) I was in and out of T2 in 40 seconds dead and was running strongly. Out of all the disciplines running is the one that I have improved most on since being coached by Brian and although a lot of this training was geared to longer distances all running seems to have been good running in this case. The run felt good, and I knew that compared to last year I was absolutely flying. No-one overtook me and the out and back nature of the course meant that I saw plenty of familiar faces to exchange encouragement with. The final rise made me dig just a little bit deeper and I came in with a total time of 01:08:57, having done an 00:18:19 run, which I was very pleased with. This was enough to come 4/204 overall and second male senior, clinching me a shiny trophy.
Overall I was delighted with this performance after my pimms and ceilidh based preparation (excuses again) and now I have got back into race mode I can’t wait for my next scheduled race to come around (Dambuster up at Rutland Water). I cannot stress how grateful I am to Brian for coaching me thus far (and hopefully for much longer!) and how much he has brought me on in the few short months we have been working together.