Rob’s Cotswold Classic 2017

So the journey began back in August 2016 I was talked into racing the Cotswold Classic Middle distance triathlon. I completed it in a time of 5:41:41 Swim 36:10:7 Bike 2:51:57 Run 2:06:50. I decided after the race there was much room for improvement. So I set a target of doing a sub 5 hour.

The first thing I wanted to improve was my swimming, and the Triathlon Redditch technique sessions were a great help over the winter months; highly recommended for improving speed and efficiency. Also my run needed to be better so more of those long boring runs. Finally the forgotten part of longer distance triathlon – nutrition. I didn’t consume enough food resulting in me walking like a zombie the last few miles to the finish line.

I won’t bore you with my training……. Fast forward to June the 4th 2017 about 5:30am a transition area full of crazy people that wake up early to jump in a cold lake, and a man called Dave shouting, a lot! I prepared my bike and running gear in transition and got ready for the swim, I remember being a bit stressed out after building myself up for going sub 5 hours and I wasn’t fully confident that I could do it. I remember saying to Martin Potter that there was 3 options:

1. I would go under 5

2. I wouldn’t do it

3. It will be annoyingly close like 5:03:00

I started the swim a bit quick; how quick I hear you ask? From what Lily told me I was the lead swimmer for a while but quickly lost my breath and had to slow down – not the best start I could have hoped for. I got out of the water in 28:37 so I was happy with that and up on my schedule time. Onto the bike which went well for the first lap then I started to get stomach cramps and I struggled the last part of the second lap but I was still up on my target time. I started running strong but quickly started to slow due to the stomach cramps, I tried to push on but in the end I had to slow to ease the pain, about a mile from the end I started to up the pace again knowing that I probably wasn’t going to achieve my goal but I was still going to try. I crossed the finish line and although deep down I knew I could have gone under 5 hours I had to smile at the fact id finished exactly 5:03:00, I think Martin found it funny as well.

I didn’t do much training after the event but started to focus on losing some weight for another goal I have this year, but when Charlotte Hewer offered her place for the 113 Cotswold classic (same course) I jumped at the chance as I felt I had unfinished business.

I analysed my June race and concluded that nutrition was the contributing factor in my stomach cramps and did some research into nutrition before during and after races. I decided to go with gels and energy drink my stomach seems to cope ok with them in training and there really easy to consume while working hard on the bike and run.

I learnt my lesson from last time, I didn’t predict a desired time (but I’m sure most people could have guessed). In fact I think I was very quiet at the start line on that Sunday morning. I was asked by Kelly Massie what my race plan was – I shook my head and said there isn’t one. Truth is I hadn’t thought about it that much I’d been really relaxed building up to the day and now I just wanted to start.

The swim went better than last time I started slower just behind the faster group, coming up to the first buoy I could see people moving in front of me to get around the buoy but they were slower so I had to up my pace and managed to get through the gap before I got stuck, apart from that the swim was uneventful until the last buoy. I could hear shouting and was trying to figure out what it was. Oh yes Dave (anyone who has been down to the 113 Cotswold events, will have heard Dave!!) I was nowhere near the exit point but I could hear him shouting words of encouragement. I got to the exit point and was pulled out of the water. It’s a strange feeling going from horizontal in water to vertical on land I couldn’t tell you what I could see or what I could hear but I do know I ran into the fence twice. Swim done in 30:24 and transition felt like it was in slow motion but 2:40 wasn’t too bad.

Onto the bike and I like to get up the road as fast as possible and then settle in I always find there’s people strung out all over the road trying to clip in, put glasses on, taking gels, dropping water bottles, so I get up the road out the way and then sort myself out. The first lap of the bike went really well I felt strong and 3 bikes past me in the first few miles 2 of them were Canyon speedmax and 1 Giant trinity. I have been looking at new bikes and they are on my list so I spent a little time dreaming about them as they disappeared into the distance. You have two laps of the bike course and that means you go up the hill twice it’s nothing major but I have learnt to pace myself up to it and I climbed it with ease this time round. Second time round it was a bit harder as my legs were tiring. On the way back to T2 I decided to get another bottle from the feed station no need to stop riding just roll through and grab a bottle sound easy! I would highly suggest slowing down for this, I think I nearly pulled the poor girl who handed me the bottle over and managed to then drop the bottle so didn’t gain anything apart from annoying one of the event helpers. I was slowed down by the police, not for going too fast as you’re all thinking, but to cross the main road! I took this as an opportunity to grab my last gel before the run and in total we were stopped for 10-20 seconds before it was safe to cross. I will take that over a potential trip to hospital – however a fellow competitor seemed very miffed about the stopping. I was feeling good going into T2 I racked my bike up and started the run.

The run is 3 laps part mud/gravel path a bit uneven in places but when it is dry it’s ok and some tarmac path as well. There’s 1 section of the run that is narrow and you have runners in both directions so you can’t pass if you are behind a slower runner. There are 2 feed stations 1 is very well stocked up with food sweets and energy gels also water and coke about half way round and 1 towards the end of the lap with water and coke. I ran the first lap comfortably and felt great I didn’t want to look at the time but I thought I had best make sure I was on track. I was running great and feeling great I had plenty of time, all I needed to do was keep going not slow and not die (energy wise that is) after the second lap I started to relax a bit I looked at my watch again and I had loads of time to complete the last 4 miles. With 2 miles to go I started to smile I remember thinking I could walk the last 2 miles and finish in sub 5 hours. I had never felt so good and it’s funny how the pain disappears it just goes to show its all psychological. I sprinted around the corner and down the finish red carpet.

A time of 4:51:45.

I was greeted by my fiancée and bag carrier Lily Dewhurst. I wanted to give her a hug but I don’t think she wanted to be covered in sweat so just a kiss and a well done. I can’t thank Lily enough for all her support with training and getting up early to carry bags and take pictures, driving etc. My favourite thing about this triathlon is going to stand in the lake after the race to cool off, or floating around like Baloo from Jungle Book as Laura Abolins told me.

I think the 113 is the perfect course for anyone new to middle distance triathlon or wanting a challenge, the swim is spacious so don’t worry about overcrowding and its 1 lap. It’s a well organised event and lots of helpful marshals/event staff are on hand to help out. The bike course is flat with a small hill (twice) and quiet roads apart from the main road to the lake. If anything the run course lets it down as it’s narrow in places and can become congested with lots of runners, but I have found if you shout out your coming through and try to be as friendly as possible while out of breath going for a PB everyone is fine. I would highly recommend this triathlon and it’s a great course for a PB, I have had a PB every time I have raced here!

Finally I know Russ was expecting a master piece of a write up, something to rival Phil Hall. I don’t think it is anywhere near a master piece, writing is not my strong point. The point is though I set out to achieve a goal, and with the help and support of the club and friends swimming, cycling, running and a lot of hard work I achieved that goal. So thank you to everyone at the club who make it happen and the coaches for helping me improve.

Rob Williams