Finally, after months of lockdown, it was time for my first triathlon! The Blenheim Palace Sprint Triathlon got their go-ahead to reopen entries and go ahead, so I grabbed a late ticket, booked up some accommodation and a van and set off for Oxford!
The weather forecast was great, the setting was amazing and I felt as prepared as I could, given I only had 4 weeks! My slot was on Sunday in the corporate wave: the most stereotypically competitive group. Game face on!
With the new social distancing rules in place, we were set off in waves with 5 second gaps between starts. There was a bucket of water to dip our goggles in, down the pontoon and I’m off!
Let me get my excuses in early: the sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t see the buoys my starting line was something like a 90º turn to the right until the lovely kayak point me back in the right direction. I see red caps, just follow the red caps! My route back towards T1 is a bit clearer, the buoys are to my right, so I can just bump into the ropes keep going. A swift kick to the finish and I’m out the water at 18 minutes, give or take.
Then the run to T1, a 5 minute hill climb to warm my legs up before the bike section. Wetsuit off, catch a 30 second recovery, helmet on, bike un-racked and time for my favourite bit! The course is 3 laps of a rapid descent with a steep climb back up to transition, my favourite kind of riding! I make the classic mistake of going all-out, dropping my chain on lap 2 (a twisted rear mech that’s since been replaced) and pulling back into T2 in 38 minutes. Fantastic fun, full-gas on the climbs, getting into the aero bars on the descents, the way cycling is meant to be!
T2 is a quicker transition, trainers on and… wow I really blew myself up on the bike! Legs are a bit heavy and the ramp over the bike course is a solid 45º up. The woman in front of me is running over, so I don’t want to be the odd one out! Straight down the pipe and coming up to the turn for the proper start of lap 1. I see the lady in front run to the finish line and my first thought is “wait… I gotta do that ramp 2 more times?” as I start the descent to the lake. Another lumpy course, cheering on the runners that I pass and the many more who pass me. The atmosphere, despite Covid restrictions, is fantastic and the run is the best time to soak it all in. Oh, and that ramp over the bike course never appears again. So… that lady before? She just set a PB by skipping the entire run course! Luckily I’ve counted my laps and my Garmin is giving me accurate distances so I complete my two laps to a cheering announcer calling out my name. Apparently I’m looking strong as I drag the two lead blocks that have replaced my legs over the finish! I need some cold water!
Water always tastes so much better after a hard day running in the heat! I chat with some of the other athletes on my way out of transition and start looking for my girlfriend who was supporting me throughout. A stop by the mechanic is in order to get my rear mech sorted, since I don’t fancy dropping my chain during a TT! My official times was 1:35. A little outside the 1:30 I would have liked but I’ll take it!
North Lancs TT
Alright, now for a pure bike race. I’ll not miss my starting slot this time! Luckily, it’s a bit easier to find: park the van in Garstang and ride across and it’s just past the A6. I pick up my number and I’m told the race has been reduced to a 10 miler due to road works. Given my legs are still store, I’m not upset at all by this! We’ve been given an extra 30 minutes, so I slowly ride along to the start line and notice the first obstacle: the farmers are all out so there’s going to be some tractor dodging!
I have a gentle warm-up, chat with some of the other riders and generally get myself ready. Almost feels like Park Run! My number gets called up, the countdown starts and I’m off!
There’s no tractors on my go round, luckily, so all I have is some nice corners, a gentle incline and clear road. The route goes up to Cockerham and everything is a lovely shade of green. Another beautiful day and it’s like being in a slightly warmer Northumberland. Thoroughly enjoying myself, I catch a tailwind and enjoy some easy riding at 30mph for a short stretch. The marshals were at the right spots and kept an eye open for traffic on the give way junctions. Thanks everyone!
I go through the finish line at 26 minutes. Not too bad for my first 10 miles and a gentle ride to drop my number back. I manage to get back to the van before the 3 hour parking limit is up and get back to the AirBnB for a well-earned tea and rest.
Official time 26:14
Overall, it was a great week leading up to my birthday! Blenheim Palace was fantastic and I really enjoyed my short stay in Lancaster too! If you get a chance to hire a van and hit a couple of races, I’d definitely recommend it!