A welcoming club on the North West of Edinburgh

Leeds Standard 2022

By | Published | No Comments

It had been a while since I’d raced a standard and taking part in Leeds gave me a chance to watch the elite race and also get a good training session for my main goal of Sprints later in the season. Unfortunately, after a good start to the year getting Covid in March had pushed everything significantly backwards and all intensity work had to stop for about 8 weeks. This meant I knew going into the race I wouldn’t really be fit enough.

I went down on Friday with Ailsa who was doing her first standard and we were able to park the motorhome in Roundhay Park for the night which was a bit unexpected. On Saturday after watching the junior races in the morning we got to watch the elites in the afternoon. Leeds is a great venue for watching now they have made it a sprint. You see the athletes on multiple laps on the bike and run and can see what is going on from the big screen in the park. What no one had seen, and the TV missed, was the big crash in the men’s race which put out Johnny Brownlee and Alex Yee.

After all the excitement it was time to go and chill for the night before our race on Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, even though we were there on Saturday you had to collect your race numbers, timing chips, etc on Sunday morning. When I got mine the timing chip had no strip to connect it so I had to join another queue for a replacement. It wasn’t ideal when you are in one of the earliest heats but having done enough races now I knew my set up wouldn’t take too long so could remain calm about it.

Since having shoulder surgery I had been really struggling with my swimming and not enjoying going to the pool. I had found a new swim coaching method online which I had been experimenting with and found it was working for me. I decided going into the race I would just focus on this new technique and see what happened. Unlike the bike and run you obviously can’t get any pace information while racing so with no expectations for the race I could just try and see what happened.

I stayed on the right hand side for the start away from the buoy on the left and give myself a clean line. As we started I seemed to be in a reasonable place with clean water and could angle for the buoy with no one in the way. Going around the first buoy I thought it was going quite well and forced myself to stay relaxed and hold the technique. After about 1km coming around the bottom buoys I was still feeling comfortable and was moving through athletes from the previous 2 heats. Going around the last buoy and turning for the swim finish I turned inside someone who had started 2 heats ahead and felt him grab my leg. As we had turned he had his head up in breaststroke position and was at least 10 minutes slower than me in the swim. I couldn’t understand why he would think to do this (even if he’d been in the same heat), a short kick and he let go and tried to grab me again. This time he got a proper kick and I was able to swim away. Exit from the swim and the horrible long run up the hill to transition. It’s not the short distance to the blue carpet the elites use.

On to the bike mount which I’d done no practice for I was being squeezed into the barrier by another rider. My left pedal clipped the barrier leg and I immediately pushed down with my right leg and freewheeled to avoid crashing. Somewhere some historical practice had clicked in my brain to make the right reaction. I reached down to put my foot in and the shoe came off the pedal and I was left holding it. I slipped it on, clipped in and could finally get on with it.

After looking at the course map and with no time practicing on my TT bike I decided to use my road bike. It was probably the wrong decision but again just meant I was in for a hard and enjoyable training ride on the closed roads. It is a 2 lap race and an enjoyable course. It is hard enough that you had to put in a good effort for a reasonable time. It was smoothly back into transition and then the run which I wasn’t looking forward to.

It is a 3 lap course with a horrible climb up the hills every lap. After pushing the bike and with a lack of fitness the legs weren’t working from the start. It was going to be a long 10k. I tried to relax on the downhills and let gravity do its thing but it was still a painful slog. Fortunately, with crowds there for the elite race, there were always people cheering you on….and stopping you from walking 🙂

Eventually, it was time to go down the final stretch and onto the blue carpet for the finish.

It wasn’t the kind of race I’d visualised months before but it was good to race again. On a big positive my swim time was good and I had stayed relaxed the whole way through. If I hadn’t approached the race the way I did I would probably have gotten sucked into a race mentality and tried to power my way through the swim and been slower. Now I had something to build on for the rest of the year and was motivated to do so.