Sunday May 27th was the Emberton Park Sprint Triathlon, doubling up as the British Age Group Championship and Worlds Age Group qualifier. To my knowledge I was the only club member there, but I’d be amazed if that was the case again.
Near Milton Keynes, it is about 2 ½ hours away from Chichester so an overnight stay is essential, but it is well worth it (and it has a camp site for those so inclined). As a Big Cow event, with such a lot at stake for the elite athletes, the organisation was brilliant and the course was perfect. Fortunately, after the cold and rain in proceeding month, the weather turned out to be perfect too.
As you can imagine, the field was pretty good! I have only competed in the Chichester and Arundel triathlons before, so with athletes competing for World Championship places I was surrounded by the fittest group of people ever. Body and bike envy was rife, but as anyone could enter the event, there were fortunately a few other ‘participants’ like myself rather than ‘competitors’.
The course is a 750 lake swim, 20K bike and 5.5K run (billed as 5K). Those of you who know me know that I’m in the bottom lane for swimming and am generally at the back of our Sunday morning rides, so although I have a Arundel and Chichester still to come, this for me was my 2012 personal challenge. A lake swim – my first! 750 metres - my longest! The nerves were high, especially as my only attempt at open water swimming had been a freezing, choppy aborted sea swim a couple of weeks beforehand. However, Steve and Lisa were brilliant at the Tuesday club swim session. They allowed me to just plough up and down to try and do the distance to get confidence, and they gave me some really useful tips for the day. Without their reassurances I would have fared a great deal worse than I did. Surviving and not being pulled out by a canoe was my major goal. If I got to the bike stage I was going to be one happy man! Sure enough, Steve and Lisa’s advice paid off and I swam at my own pace, with good water all around me and got through it. Slow (almost last in my wave) but at times I was actually enjoying it. The lake was relatively warm and the course set out in a diamond shape, so there were markers to aim for every 200m or so. Not too much debris and the water that I swallowed didn’t taste too bad! Even the kick in the head didn’t dispel the euphoria I felt when finally hauled out by the marshalls at the end. For those of you who enjoy the open water swim, I cannot imagine a better setting that this one.
The bike route has a couple of lumpy inclines but is predominantly flattish with a couple of great 30mph+ gradual descents in there too. Certainly nothing to compare with Brian’s Sunday rides.! My average speed was 18.9 mph in completing the course in 39.50m so you speed merchants out there will fly round. Lovely quite roads and not at all technical, it really is “heads down” and on the tri bars for a good deal of the course. I loved it, but again thanks to Brian because of all the winter training on the Downs I knew that there was nothing to be daunted about. Even as one of the slower cyclists in our club (and not with the super-flash PlanetX/Cervello/Tri/TT bike and aero helmet as most others were) I approached the ride with confidence knowing that “only” 20K meant I could “go for it” relative to my ability.
Lastly the flat run course which is two laps of the lake. I’d done a couple of brick sessions and a PB in the Bognor 10K the week before so was fairly confident for the run. For me, 24.00m for the 5.5K course is about right so I was perfectly satisfied.
Crossing the finish line you were greeted with loads of fruit, Gatorade, water and a medal. There were stalls etc if you wanted/needed them, especially as there was a bit of a wait before you were allowed back into transition to collect your bike etc. This, and the lack of loos were the only two drawbacks of the event which was otherwise excellent. I think there were about 1000 competitors and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about anything other than those two points. They are running another one there in early September I believe and whilst I have no experience of any other events outside of Chi and Arundel, I would recommend this course to anyone interested. I’m already considering going back next year to do better in the swim…I may now be converted to this open water lark!