Rachel Races Cat 1 : Tri Athy Sprint
Tuesday, 2 June 2015 | Admin
TriAthy : Category 1 Racing
I participated in the first category-one race of the season in Athy on Saturday. Unlike most races, the TriAthy sprint kick-started in the late afternoon, as the morning was set aside for the double-olympic and olympic events. I arrived at registration plenty early and moved through the long queue quickly enough. After the easy spin into town, I encountered another queue - this time, for transition. Wow, there were participants everywhere! The morning session had been delayed, meaning that transition hadn’t yet opened for the afternoon session. I found a spot in the makeshift, meandering queue and chatted with fellow club members until we got the go-ahead to enter. I arrived at my labelled racking position just as the race briefing was scheduled to start. Unsurprisingly, the briefing was delayed by about forty minutes. After receiving the necessary instructions from the race director and TI official, I set off towards the race start.
When I arrived at the pontoon, they were calling in wave two… so I immediately set off to the front to confirm with a marshal that the announcement was for the sprint event. It was, however, for the try-a-tri. I certainly didn’t mind a small delay but we ended up standing in the grass for a very long time. In addition to getting cold, the delay gave me plenty of time to over-think the race and get nervous. Before that point, it was just like any other event. I always get a bit anxious waiting to start but the unexpected delays and frequent mentions of “the first category-one race of the season” added to my unease. I recognised quite a few faces and was aware that our wave was going to be quite small. This is when the worry hit that everyone would abandon me in the water, as they shot off like fish. In a big wave, you’ll always find company for the swim, even if you don’t manage to draft effectively. There’s certainly never a moment when you feel alone in the water. With TriAthy though, there was the distinct possibility that our small group would completely splinter, leaving me pushing on alone.
You can probably guess from my train of thought that I was very happy/relieved to be eventually called into the river about an hour after our scheduled start-time… well, as happy as you can be to jump into a cold body of water! I had plenty of space at the flag to pick my position, as there were so few of us, and had an unimpeded start when the horn sounded. As expected, a group of athletes disappeared in no time, meaning that there was nothing but open water ahead. I’d guess that there were maybe five others near me that were of a similar ability but I just put my head down and got going according to my own rhythm. I am a lot more comfortable in a race than before a race… because I can actually act. The doubts were pushed aside as I simply focused on getting to T1 as quickly as I could. I had a draft-less swim by all accounts, with no one in front or behind. I felt strong though. I had had a good swim session the previous Tuesday, which had significantly boosted my confidence, so I knew I was making good progress and believed that the deficit to those ahead wouldn’t be completely insurmountable. I had a pretty high stroke rate and stayed tight the buoys, of which there were many. After conquering the slippery exit pontoon, my boyfriend Eoin yelled that I was in tenth position. My split had been 11:36, which I was very happy with.
After a 1:11 stay in T1, I set off towards the mount line. The bike is my strongest discipline so I was focused on catching as many athletes as possible in the following 20km. Knowing my position in such a small wave really focused my mind and drove me on. The fact that the road was so quiet also made it easy to spot those ahead. I powered on as best I could, continuing to breathe heavily and push a hard gear. By the turnaround, I had progressed well up the field. I then felt the benefit of a tailwind as I re-traced the route to T2. I dismounted with a split of 33:43, having moved up seven positions to third place, and sped through transition in 1:23. Eoin confirmed my position as I set off on the run, yelling encouragement to “go as hard as you can”.
In my two other races this season, I have started the run feeling like I have just completed a swim/bike. I just didn’t feel strong or bouncy. Granted, those were longer events, with 1500m/40km at Joey Hannon and 800m/40km at Lough Cutra preceding the foot race. Still, it was definitely a surprise to start the 5km at TriAthy feeling as if it was the first discipline of the day. I felt fresh. I also felt confident. I knew there were fast runners behind me so this newfound strength was fantastic. Well, it didn’t feel marvellous running at my limit and barely breathing… but it felt great being in a position to do that, rather than somewhat “surviving” to the finish. I felt like I was competing, which was absent in the run in my earlier races. Again, the course was largely empty so I focused on my form and effort, doing my best to maximise both. There was a tiny out-and-back section where I caught sight of the athlete in second and the two pursuing me from behind. That did nothing to my pace, as I was already going as hard as I could, but it made me aware of the small gap I had over fourth place. I continued to push on, with no obvious drop in my speed or deterioration in my strength. When I got to the riverbank, I thought the finish line would never arrive. The sprint course merged with the try-a-tri course near the end so there were some necessary manoeuvres to take the shortest line and smoothest path on the grassy bank. I crossed the finish line with a split of 19:42 (second fastest of the women) and total time of 1:07:35. It was then time to lean on a barrier for support and catch my breath…
I must admit that I was extremely happy with my performance. Yes, I managed to hold onto third place (by a mere six seconds). And yes, I justified my position on the start line, where I had felt (surprisingly) nervous and intimidated just over an hour previously. For me, the best part was my actual performance. If I had been caught on the run, so be it. I’m constantly saying that I always give 100%... but that full effort doesn’t always transfer into an honest portrayal of my abilities. At Joey and Lough Cutra, my run wasn’t anything more than decent. In contrast, I honestly feel that my swim/bike/run really came together in Athy. As I said before, part of that is due to the shortened distance. Running a 10km after 1:40 of racing is totally different to running a 5km after 0:50 of racing. Still, the strength and confidence I felt across the board on Saturday has given me new confidence and is something I will seek to repeat in races of all distances from now on. I guess that’s where training comes in. : )
Thanks to Gordon Thomson/TI Media for the pictures: Full album here.
Thanks to Ken Murphy/TI Media for the pictures: Full album here.