Custom designed triathlon t-shirt

My First Triathlon (sort of)

After a few half-mentions over the past couple of years, three of us finally got our heads together and arranged to enter a triathlon relay.  We headed to Dorney Lake for the Lidl Bananaman Triathlon for the first outing of Team Soggy, Coggy and Joggy!

I can’t remember the last time I rode a bike and my swimming skills are only one step above drowning so competing in a triathlon was never on my agenda.  That was until a conversation or two between myself and a friend or two.  And there was born a triathlon team that would be named Soggy, Coggy and Joggy.

Let’s meet the team:

Picking up the “Soggy” first leg is Kate, who swam a lot as a child and has more recently completed a solo triathlon at Blenheim and swam Padstow to Rock.  A cracking choice for our swim leg.

Taking over from “Soggy” is Rich, who is so keen on cycling that he can be seen going backwards and forwards on the A40 cycle path through (almost) all weathers commuting to work.  He’s also got triathlon in his genes; his mother is a triathlon coach and completed her first of many full Ironman races at the age of 50.  No pressure “Coggy”!

And then I’ll be picking up the final leg as “Joggy”.  Many of you know my running story but if you don’t you can check out my running CV by clicking here.

None of us really knew what to expect but that was kind of the point with this triathlon; we had in fact already entered a second triathlon relay at Dorney Lake, the HSBC Triathlon, and this was to be the practice.

A reasonable wave start of 10:35 still meant an early start for us to make the journey from Oxfordshire.  The journey was easy enough although I missed a couple of sat nav instructions so not sure we went the most direct way.  Rich, his wife Gemma and daughter Esme arrived just behind myself, my wife Tamsyn and Kate.

View across Dorney Lake
The view that greeted us at Dorney Lake

We were there in plenty of time and after a trip to the portaloos we headed to registration to get our numbers and the timing chip that would double as our baton.

I felt a little bit of a fraud as I watched Kate and Rich gather all their bits and change into their kit – my shorts, shirt, shoes & sunnies were all I needed and I was wearing them all already!

Pre-race photo of Team Soggy, Coggy & Joggy
From L-R: Coggy (Rich), Soggy (Kate) & Joggy (me!)

We headed to transition to scope out the literal ins and outs and it was soon time for Kate to get down to the water – which was a toasty 21.7 degrees.

The swim started in the water (rather than on a pontoon) which seemed to provide for a smoother start, although Kate said it took a while to settle in her rhythm.  It was difficult to follow her progress round the two 400m laps – there were 60-odd yellow hats bobbing up and down!

Soggy during her swim leg
Soggy (Kate), with the yellow arms

Rich and I kept watch across transition trying to spot Kate’s yellow flashes on her wetsuit and yelled as we saw her legging it up the ramp out of the lake.

Kate unstrapped the timing chip and looped it onto Rich’s ankle allowing him to grab his bike and totter off in his cleats towards the mounting point.

With Rich taking on 6 laps (the best part of 20 miles) we had around an hour before he’d be back in transition so Kate and I headed out to meet up with our support crew.  It gave us the chance to cheer on Rich a couple of times too!  His lap times were looking good so Kate and I headed back to transition to wait for him.

Coggy during the cycle leg
Coggy (Rich) powering round the lake

We were lucky to be the edge row of the whole transition area but given that all the triathlon relay teams were together it was a bit crowded, but nothing a few shouts didn’t clear as we saw Rich coming off the bike course.

It was finally time for me to get involved; the runner is tasked with taking the chip from the cyclist, strapping it onto themselves and getting the hell out onto the course!

I zoomed away from the bike rack ready to start the three 2.5k laps alongside the lake.

The 7.5k distance is a strange one so I’d spent time this week trying to work out a target time.  With a 5k PB of 21:22 and a 10k PB of 44:37 I’d opted to aim for a sub 33 minute finish time, with an attempt to be conservative and gradually build up pace.

Joggy running
Joggy (me) heading out on the 3rd of 3 out-and-back loops

I was so excited to be running I set off a little eager (surprise, surprise!) and I found it difficult to get settled.  The run course is a pan-flat, straight-as-a-die out and back and you’re running, not only with people in your wave but slower people from previous waves and faster people from subsequent waves.

At one point, I’d fallen into the trap of matching my pace with another runner only to find he was slowing down.  D’oh!  I concentrated on upping my cadence and found a decent rhythm.

The “out” legs were hard as there was a decent breeze coming down the lake but at least that meant the “back” legs had some assistance.  The start of the third lap was tough with the final hairpin turn even tougher.

Joggy crossing the finish line
Joggy eeking out every last second as he crosses the line

I tried to keep the rhythm going whilst saving something for the last 500m.  The sun was getting hotter again and my chest was bursting but I kept it going and with the cheers from my team mates and our supporters, I pulled out the Wymer sprint finish.  I couldn’t quite do enough to catch the guy in front but I felt I’d done all I could.  Looking at my watch I was over the 33 minutes but I had started the watch before the end of transition in all the excitement.

The post race feeling was I’m some ways similar to a normal running race: I was a little disappointed not to be quicker and a little frustrated that I didn’t run to plan.

There was also a new feeling: have I done the team proud?

Bent double and sucking huge gulps of air I was soon reassured, hearing the congratulations from my team mates and supporters.

With my breath caught and water guzzled it was time to dig in to the free BBQ laid on by the sponsors, Lidl, and catch up with Rich to see how he found his leg. As any good triathlon coach will tell you, every second counts in transition so there had been no chance to chat!

Now nicely fed, Rich and I went to pick up the last bits from transition and on the way back noticed the timing company had a self-serve results printer.

So we tapped in 8 – 4 – 0 and out popped our receipt:

Time Print Out
Team Soggy, Coggy & Joggy’s first team triathlon result

The times confirmed we’d all done the team proud.

Prior to the race we’d discussed our estimated individual times.

Kate was looking for a time of 15 minutes for the 800m swim and was almost bang on with a time of 15:06!

I had really wanted to run the 7.5k in a slightly ambitious time of 32:30 but was happy to record 33:08.

The star performance came from Rich who, prior to the race, wasn’t sure he could hold 20mph for the entire 6 laps so thought he’d cover the bike leg in 60 to 75 minutes. He absolutely smashed the 31.8k in a time of 58:52, proving he could hold on to 20mph! Although, he was struggling to bend, crouch and generally move smoothly after tweaking something on the last lap.

The receipt also showed our position: 12th Men’s team (sorry Kate, you were treated as a man as the mixed teams were all classed as male teams) & 13th team overall. Considering we’d estimated there were 40 to 50 teams we were chuffed to bits to be just outside the top 25%.

To go with our awesome result, Coggy had a little surprise for us: awesome self-designed team t-shirts!

With everyone happy with the result and their t-shirts it was time to head home.

Once home I looked to see if the results were up online. It was time to do some post race Dan-alysis!

I love a good stat but this was amazing – I had three disciplines and two transitions, all with their own times to look at. I was like a kid in a chocolate factory!

First point to note was that we had under-estimated the number of teams – we were 13th out of 62 teams, putting us in the top 21%!  I would’ve taken that before we started.

The next thing I noticed is that despite finishing in 13th place, none of us had achieved higher than 14th in our won discipline.  How can that be?

Well, one reason is that we were relatively consistent: Kate was 25th in the swim, I was 18th in the run and Rich secured a great 14th on the bike which, given that it was the biggest leg, had the most impact.  Other teams around us had much more mixed results.

The other key thing was our transitions.

Triathlon transitions are complex affairs; having to switch out of a damp wet suit, into a helmet and cleats, grabbing a bike and then discarding the bike, helmet and cleats for running shoes.  All done while pushing yourself to the limit.

At least with a triathlon relay the next person can be ready to go but we had all agreed beforehand that the transitions were just as important as our individual racing.  So we made sure we were ready to push as hard as possible between our legs.  And it paid off: we were 11th quickest through the first transition and 4th quickest in the second!

It may only be seconds but they all count.  Excluding transitions we would have been 14th, but our swift transitions jumped us to 13th and we were only 3 seconds away from 12th!

I’m so chuffed with our individual and team performances.  I can’t wait for our next event but I’m going to have to.

Now Team Soggy, Coggy & Joggy go their separate ways for two months before rejoining back at Dorney Lake for the HSBC-sponsored Olympic distance triathlon relay. Can we record another top 25% finish over the longer distance? Might we be able to sneak into the top 20%? It’s time to put some training in!

In summary, the Lidl Bananaman Triathlon was a well organised, well supported festival of all things triathlon.  As a newbie I didn’t at all feel out of place even thought there were some serious triathletes with some serious gear on show too.

A couple more portaloos with a few more rolls of toilet paper would have been ideal but no complaints over the free food and drink that was on offer for both competitors and supporters thanks to Lidl.

I’d recommend this event to anyone looking for a friendly and quick triathlon.  I wonder if I can convince the team to return in 2016?

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