Before the sun had even risen from behind the horizon, I was in transition setting up my bike, shoes and helmet for the approaching race. I would say the one downfall of this race is the transition - although it is so big that it can easily fit all of the competitors in, they decided to put the entrance and exit (for the people who hadn't started their race yet) in the same corner as the bike in and out, which made for some close collisions between cycles and people!
Soon enough, the swim was upon me. All of the men's waves went off before mine, and it was only then, watching them go off, that I realised that this is what I was so nervous about, having not done a full 1500m in training since my op without stopping before this I was unsure whether I would make it round! So you can imagine my relief when they announced that the swim would be reduced to 750m due to the amount of mist over the lake!
But of course, as usual, luck wasn't on my side - I was the first female wave after the men, and just happened to be the first wave that had the swim put back up to 1500m! In a way though, this was better, because I now know that I can do that distance This was my only Standard distance Triathlon before the Europeans, so at least I have actually done the correct distance before having to compete abroad.
After finding my racking spot back at transition it was time for the run, the section I probably felt most comfortable as there was no pressure on my shoulder.
For anyone following my blogs, you probably know that the running was the easiest discipline to get back to after the operation, so naturally I felt quite confident during this race. The first 5.4km of the 10km race run, I felt amazing. I had a really good rhythm, long strides, breathing easy, and honestly felt like I was on for a PB.
You are probably wondering why I was so precise about the 5.4km - it's because at that exact distance (I looked at my watch!), the whole lower half of my body cramped. I don't mean the slight pulling of the muscles, I mean the type of cramp where you can't bend your legs and you feel like someone has poured fire in your muscles. Yeah, you know what I mean! PAIN!
No stress, I just had to slow down my pace a bit for the rest of the race, and although it was quite frustrating knowing how good I felt at the beginning, it showed me what I have to work on and how much more I can improve.
I think most of it was down to the fact that cycling on a road bike compared to a TT bike uses totally different muscles, ones I haven't worked before, so it just means getting used to the position of the bike and powering through it. Although comparing with another competition last year I am thinking of ditching the energy gels as this could also be a contributing factor. That's one thing about triathlon, its completely a personal race. What is good for one person is not necessarily the same for another person and over time things change within your own training and body and you have to learn to adapt, or change.
Overall, it was a fairly decent race, and I managed to get 4 minutes quicker compared to last year even with the super slow run and slower swim and not having tapered the training for a race at all beforehand.
However I managed 3rd in my age group and got on the podium - not bad for my first race back and the British Champs!
It is only about a month now until the Europeans, so time to take the training up a gear and ready myself for that!
It's been about 4 months now since I had the operation, and I have finally been able to get on my TT bike on the road!
For the people who aren't as familiar with carbon TT bikes, I will explain why it has taken me so long to get on the road. It is common sense that a steel bike is much heavier than a carbon bike, hence why competitive cyclists or triathletes go for the carbon bike - the heavier the bike, the more weight you are having to push around, the more energy you are using up. so the slower you move.
That, of course, will be very handy in my races as I am cycling 40 kilometres in between a swim and a run.
I have been told many times that a TT bike makes a lot of difference compared to a carbon bike, but I don't think anyone can explain this properly, I think its something that you have to experience yourself. I have also been told that it is a lot more reactive. By this, I mean that one slight twitch of the handlebars and you could be going in a different direction (that is something that no one can prepare you for until you experience it yourself and that is not an exaggeration!). That is why I have made sure my shoulder is definitely ready to support me on this new bike - I wouldn't want to go and crash it on my first ride because I wasn't strong enough to control it!
However even though I was expecting some change once I started riding my TT, I did not think it possible to feel that much faster - and immediately - than when I was on my carbon bike.
The Trek is SO much lighter than my carbon bike, so much so that I feel like I am flying when I have a straight, open road to cycle. I could feel myself going faster and faster and I wasn't even pushing it that much. I could feel the grin on my face and even though my dad came with me to film beside me for a few snaps, I gradually left him behind so he only managed to get a couple of shots.
The aerodynamics make a massive difference and it is so smooth. Yes, it is very reactive, but that is just something I have to get used to and not be such a clumsy rider as I have been for the past few years, because the positives far outweigh the negatives with this bike.
It was also very comfortable, making the 2.5 hour ride feel a lot shorter (normally my arm positioning and butt starts hurting halfway through the ride - not this time!). I think the positioning on TT bikes ie leaning further forward over the front wheel and further forward on the seat means that your quads are stretched out more and therefore less chance of getting leg cramps before or during the next section of the race, the run. I didn't realise what a difference this would make and when I got off the bike after several miles of constant riding I had loads of life left in my legs, with no cramping.
Changing the gears is so smooth that you hardly even realise that it has happened, its like gliding a knife through butter. Leaning on the TT bars is so comfortable that I feel like I could stay there all day and that's a real positive statement to make after having a shoulder operation, and don't even get me started on the beautiful sound the wheels make when they are spinning (thankyou Ros 4 Jon) (Fellow cyclists will know what I mean on that one!)
All in all even though this was my first proper ride on a TT bike and my first ever Trek, I am very impressed and would have no hesitation in recommending anyone to try a Trek TT, but in particular a Speed Concept. For someone who has purposely used road bike for all triathlons and road races in the past, I was a little worried about not having the brakes near the gears incase I needed to get to them quickly and I never liked the position of them before (I always though how awkward I looked on them!) However a proper bike set up made a huge difference as well as a properly measured frame, flight deck and seating and I am surprised how quickly I have adapted to it.
Of course, I wouldn't even be writing this blog about this gorgeous machine if it wasn't for Richardsons Cycles, the amazing people who gave me this bike at the beginning of the year! I'm sorry it has taken so long to get on the bike, but it was definitely worth the wait. I love it even more now I've ridden it properly!!
Now for my first race on it.... this weekend, actually! My first Duathlon in over 2 years, and my first race back this season - no biggy!