Rachel races her 3rd Cat 1 Triathlon : Lough Neagh Sprint

Thursday, 20 August 2015  |  Admin

Lough Neagh Triathlon - Sprint

I did my first ever race in Ulster on Saturday, the Lough Neagh Triathlon. It was a Super Series event over the sprint distance. Luckily, my mom had happily agreed to come to Derry with me for the weekend so we made a little holiday out of it. We left early Friday morning, did some shopping in Belfast, strolled along the Giants Causeway and landed at our lovely B&B in Magherafelt at 9:30. Due to the afternoon start on Saturday, there was no early rise. I got up at nine, had breakfast and arrived at Ballyronan Marina at 10:40, in plenty of time to register, set up in transition, walk around the area and prepare for action.

After a very short briefing, we headed towards the beach and strolled through shallow water to the race start. Our small women’s wave was quite uncertain about where the start actually was though. The men seemed to get going from a random spot in the water and we did pretty much the same thing. No countdown at all, just a booming klaxon. As per my last two Super Series races, I swam the full route by myself. The speedsters shot off immediately and there was a group behind me… but I just did my own thing. There were big yellow buoys to aim for and I navigated the course solo. The small Super Series numbers certainly make for a different swim. There are moments when you feel completely isolated in the water and wonder if you’re going in the right direction at all. Frequent sighting has been absolutely essential. Anyway, the lake was choppy in parts and the current was strong. A quick look at the swim splits also indicates that the route was long. I exited after 17:55…

After a one-minute jaunt through transition, I mounted my bike and set off on the two-lap, 20km course. I had closely looked at the map before the race and knew there were many corners to negotiate… but there were few warnings out on the road. There was spray-paint pointing the way but I was still a bit cautious on some bends. The second lap was better from that point of view but also a lot busier, as later waves had now joined the course. I started the bike in roughly eighth place and finished it in fifth. I had hoped to catch one or two other competitors but my 35:09 split didn’t close the gap too much.

I set off on the run knowing there were strong runners ahead and behind. I have to say, the course was lovely: two laps, with each lap comprising a wooded section and an out-and-back road section. I passed another female early in the second lap to move into fourth place. I felt quite steady and strong but knew that I needed another gear to get a podium position. I did well to narrow the gap to third but was passed after about 4km, pushing me back into fifth. In the end, my 20:02 split and 1:14:54 finishing time put me 25 seconds off third and six seconds off fourth.

I could be unhappy and over-analyse the situation, highlighting all the areas that six seconds could be shaved off during a race. That’s not my outlook though. I went hard and got the result I deserved. Job done, I’m delighted. I have learned plenty over my last few races and keep adding things to my off-season “to-do” list: work on sprint at the end of a hard run, better control my breathing, improve my core strength, etc. The list goes on and on, which is great. There are always things to work on and shoot for. I really enjoy training so I’m excited about adding certain things to my skill-set over the winter. Be assured though, I’m not thinking that far ahead just yet. I have DCT to think about first: the draft-legal National Champs on Sunday…


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