Discovery Tri based in Chelmsford hosted the first ever East Region League Open Water triathlon at Writtle College. An open water triathlon takes so much more organizing with all the health and safety issues including getting numerous helpers in the lake on canoes and paddle boards and Ashley Nicholson, the race director should be commended for taking such a brave decision and putting on a fabulous event.
The course was made up of a man-made lake and the first transition to get wet suits off and put trainers on was by the lake side. A 150m run then took the kids to the next transition point where the bikes were waiting.
A bumpy grass course which also had a tarmac section which led to some exciting cornering ensued. Having re-racked the bike the kids headed back towards the start point and ran around most of the lake to a turn-around point on a slightly undulating and thick grassed cross country route before returning back towards the bike transition area and the finish.
10 members of the club took part and the level of experience could not have been more varied from complete novices who had only got their wet suits through the post a couple of days before the event and never swum in a lake to seasoned triathletes in their 3rd year of competing in open water events.
The weather forecast was not great, however it remained dry while the kids put all their kit into the 2 transition points and a very detailed race briefing was given. Some members of the club warmed up for the event playing what looked like a game of tug of war.
Just as the Tristar Starts began their race which was a duathlon the rain started which although not heavy made the conditions fairly miserable and the bike course became very slippery.
The first Tri-Force Juniors to take to the lake were Sophie Mabbs and Christy Durbin in the Tristar 2 girl’s event.
Sophie is the strongest swimmer in this category and so should have had a reasonable lead coming out of the lake. For some inexplicable reason, she forgot her Pythagoras theorem and lined up on the wrong side of the course (even with her Dad yelling and gesticulating at her before the start, which apparently all of Chelmsford could hear except Sophie) which meant that she had to swim a far greater distance to get to the first buoy than any of the other competitors. As a result she only had a 2 second lead coming into the first transition to remove her wetsuit. She did however extend the lead to 8 seconds by the time she exited the bike transition. Christy had a very good swim and was out in 3rd= place only 15 seconds behind Sophie, but had been hampered quite a bit in the early stages by other swimmers which is all part and parcel of open water swimming.
Christy came out onto the bike course in 3rd place but had lost time to the leading pair in transition due to using cleats. Christy cycled really well and gradually set about closing down Sophie who had lost the lead on the first lap of the cycle course. Christy flew past Sophie on the final lap of the bike course to take 2nd place and returned to transition having had the equal fastest bike time. And was 6 seconds ahead of Sophie who was 3rd in the bike discipline. As Christy had to then change from her bike shoes back into trainers she lost her 2nd place back to Sophie who had the fastest transition of all the competitors and started the run with a 21 second lead over Christy but over half a minute behind the leader.
Sophie has had a lot of leg issues due to growing and has found undulating courses very painful to compete on and near the end of the run was in quite a lot of pain. She still managed to hang on to 2nd place with Christy coming in an excellent 3rd 23 seconds behind and well clear of the rest of the field.
Next into the water were Sam Newman and Thomas Jarman in the Tristar 2 boys race.
Tom is a much stronger swimmer than Sam and came out in 6th place fully 1 minute 17 seconds in front. Sam then had the task of trying to catch Tom over the next 2 disciplines which he is often stronger at. Tom had an 8th place bike ride and was still in 6th place overall coming on to the run with Sam immediately behind him but still with 22 seconds to catch up. The chase then started and gradually Sam began to close the gap until as they passed the first transition point with 150 m to go they were neck and neck. A huge sprint ensued and Sam lunged at the line and if it had been an athletics race would probably have been declared the winner after a photograph. Unfortunately this being a triathlon it was all down to the timing chip which was worn on the left wrist and as can be seen Tom had his left arm in front of him and Sam had his behind him and as a result they finished tied 7th overall with Sam having had the 5th quickest run and Tom 8th quickest. What a fantastic race. It transpired that Sam managed to get to Tom by being 13 seconds quicker through transitions which shows the benefit of practicing.
Sam’s report on the race is as follows:
“The race was a good experience and I enjoyed it a lot more than the previous event at Grafham Water. Having a shorter wetsuit helped me a lot although I didn’t swim that quickly (12th). I wasn’t too cold and it was much easier to get off in transition and I saved a lot of time. However, I had forgotten to loosen my shoe laces so I wasted a few seconds in transition as a result. I also sat down which wasted even more time…! The bike leg went well (6th) and I managed to make up a few places but ended up doing a few laps on my own – if it had been a busier race, I wonder if I might have been able to set myself a few targets to overtake a few more people and make up time that way. The run went well (5th) and made up a few more places just at the end.”
The Tristar 3 girls were the next wave to enter the lake and Tri-Force Juniors made up nearly half the field with Tori Weston, Jessica Laitner, Emily Rayden, Alannah Mabbs and Hannah Newman. Ironically enough 2 pairs of the Tri-Force girls had tremendous battles between each other. The first pair were Tori Weston and Jessica Laitner who had a big battle in the swim until Jessica decided to tuck in behind Tori and draft – obviously she had learnt this skill from some coaching at Denham.
Tori was in 1st place coming out of the water, 5 seconds ahead of Jessica and then extended her lead by another 9 seconds after the 2 transitions and starting on the bike. After a 3rd place on the bike Tori had extended her lead over Jessica (5th place on the cycle) by a further three quarters of a minute but been overtaken by 2 other competitors. Jessica’s first big gain was in the final transition where she made up 22 seconds while Tori was changing out of her cleats into trainers. On to the run it was a straight fight between the two of them for the final podium position. Jessica is the stronger runner of the two and slowly but surely she closed the gap on Tori and passed her on the return leg of the run to come home in 3rd place overall. Tori came home in 4th place 34 seconds behind.
The second pair were Emily who was taking part in her first ever open water event (in fact her wetsuit had only arrived about 2 days earlier) and Alannah who is probably one of the most experienced open water competitors the club has. Experience told for nothing however as Emily came out of the water in 6th place and successfully negotiated getting out of the wetsuit meaning she had about a 30 second lead on Alannah who was in 8th place. Alannah’s cycling does seem to have improved this season and a 4th place in that discipline had moved her past Emily by 37 seconds and into 5th place. Emily was 8th on the bike but still 6th overall at that point and gradually started reeling in Alannah on the run. There are conflicting reports on what actually happened just before the finish with Alannah claiming she was initially directed by a marshall towards bike transition rather than the finish line and Emily stating she sprinted past her. Suffice to say Emily with a 6th place run came 5th overall with Alannah’s 7th place on the run meaning she dropped a place to 6th overall, 1 second behind Emily. This was to be the start of what proved to be a number of battles between the 2 of them during the season.
Our final competitor Hannah has only been doing open water events this year and is also in the younger age band and has found competition quite tough but is using this season to gain some valuable experience. Her own account of the race is as follows: “I enjoyed it a lot. The lake was a lot calmer than at Grafham. It was also a lot less smelly and there were fewer living things in it! I enjoyed the swim but I was slower than normal (9th). I got a bit cold as I was wearing a shorter wetsuit and I perhaps was a bit scared of sticking my head under-water, so this slowed me up too. Transition was good as the short wetsuit was easier to get off. The bike part went ok – I found the course a bit bumpy and some of the corners were a bit tricky – maybe I could have pushed myself a bit more to go a bit quicker as I was 10th. I was really pleased with my run – I really enjoyed it and made up quite a bit of time on the competitors in front of me, coming 8th on the run and 10th overall.”
The Tristar 3 boys race had a large field but only 1 Tri-Force Junior in James Mabbs. Unlike his younger sister he actually did position himself at the closest point between the start line and the first buoy and that obviously helped as although he was only 10th in that discipline he did come out much closer to the group of boys in front of him than normal. A quick transition out of the wetsuit and on to the bike meant he had picked up another couple of places to lie in 8th place. James overtook another competitor on the bike to be in 7th place going onto the run. James ran really strongly and was 7th in that discipline to come 7th overall, however there was some dispute that at least one of the boys who was placed in front of him had missed out doing part of the course as he started behind James on the run and James was adamant had not passed him. Unfortunately the race organizer was unable to clarify that as there had been some confusion identifying Tristar 2 and 3 boys and how many bands they had collected.
The final Tri-Force competitor was the girls captain, Hannah Rayden in the Youth category who spent a long while in the cold and rain watching everyone else compete and cheering them on in the transition area.
Her own account of the race is as follows:
“It was a nice day to start however the weather got considerably worse as everyone started to race. It was my first open water race and the water felt quite cold when we first entered but after a few minutes acclimatising and swimming it was warmed up. My swim was slow and I found it a lot more tiring. Then I struggled to take my wetsuit off because I couldn’t find my strap but I was soon running off to transition 2. The bike course was very bumpy with a nice steady hill and a quick straight tarmac road. 5 laps later, I was back in transition and luckily it was quicker than my first transition and I had moved up to 9th place overall. The run course was quite flat but you did have to run round in a lot of circles to complete the course. I did though manage to overtake 2 people on my strongest discipline (4th place) and came 7th overall. Well done to everyone competing and we had a lot of great results all round.”