Samuel Wyatt-Haines (@samuelwh_tri) is a professional athlete representing @avenir cycling | @hci_digital | @gianttwickenham | @absoluteblack.cc
On Sunday 20th of September I competed in the Cotswold 113 Triathlon, which provided the second opportunity of the 2020 season to race. It is a course I know well, and following my second place at their earlier event in August I was hoping that Sunday would provide a great opportunity to get to that next spot on the podium. However, it just wasn’t meant to be my day….
My preparation leading into the event was really strong. My main focus had been building more speed into my running which had been going well and I felt like I had some good legs. My mileage for running and cycling hadn’t been quite as high as it had been leading into the August event, but I had really focussed on intensity and speed which felt far more necessary.
Additionally, I had been in the pool four times a week leading into Sunday and so I felt like I had a better chance of having a stronger swim. All of this combined with a good taper week, I really felt ready to race.
On Sunday morning I left home with Mum and Dad at 03:45 and we made our way up to Ashton Keynes Water Park. The now normal protocol of wearing a mask when arriving at an event, temperature check on entry and keeping a distance from everyone was firmly in place. Although noticeably it wasn’t as strict as the earlier event had been. Given that there were now 500 or so competing against the 400 in August it certainly made quite a change to transition. Despite this, I was early enough that I had my own space and had everything ready without worrying about others. I now just had to wait until my start time which wasn’t until 08:15 which gave me nearly 90 minutes to get ready.
I had an opportunity for a warm up in the lake before the swim and I tried to get the body ready for racing. As always, nerves were very present but without the mass start it was certainly a more relaxed environment.
Oddly there wasn’t anyone queuing for my wave as it turned out people had been allowed into the water as soon as they were ready. This meant I was almost the very last person to enter the water which added to the incredibly relaxed and non racy race start!
However… as soon as I started swimming I knew something wasn’t quite right. I felt slow and lethargic in the water and couldn’t hold any pace at all. The buzz every 500m from my Garmin felt like it was taking an age to reach and the lack of feet to follow made it difficult for me. Despite the slow pace, I was putting in a huge amount of effort and this was reflected in a HR of 160.
My time was 29.00 which was an average pace of 1.37/100m, a long way off my planned 25 minute swim. Although I was unaware at the time, a HR of 160 for me at that pace is a long way off my usual pacing. I would generally expect to be around 140HR at 1.37/100m and this was the first indication that not all was well.
Onto to the bike and this was where the torture really began...
The first mile of the course I was stuck behind two cars trailing cyclists ahead of me. There was no way to get round them and I had to sit staring at my Wahoo showing a measly 25kph on a flat stretch of road. Certainly not the start I wanted.
However, getting stuck behind cars and other cyclists was a common theme for the rest of this ride. Once the road opened up a bit and I started pushing the pedals I had the same slow feeling. Despite how hard I was pushing I just couldn’t get anything into the pedals. A planned ride of 290w to ride the course in around 2.08/09 was a long way off when I could barely push 250w for the first half of the course.
Towards the end I was struggling to hold 200w which should be pretty easy for me. I made a real conscious effort to get aero and small and this certainly helped as I still averaged over 39kph and got round the course in 2.16.
Looking at HR data after the ride, my average was just over 160 - which again was way too high for the power I was putting out. For comparison, in the August event I had a 294W NP and a HR of under 160. To be nearly 50w down on this but with a higher HR my body clearly wasn’t right for racing.
Off the bike and onto the run and it was a grit my teeth moment and see how far I could go. It turned out to not be very far at all - just 7km.
I came to a hard stop and couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. After a few minutes of standing still I tried to get running again and I made it a further 3km before being unable to move again. I tried to walk and it was barely at a snail's pace. I managed to get an extra jersey from my parents to try and keep warm as I tried to walk but despite this I was cold and had absolutely no energy.
I had to call it a day just after the 14km mark and I handed in my timing chip.
A very frustrating race which is absolutely not how I wanted to end my season, but then it is probably difficult to call 2020 a season.
There are some questions I need to answer as to why my body wasn’t right at all on Sunday and whether I should have done things differently leading into the event. Either way, it marks the end of my “2020 season” and I can now enjoy a few weeks off before getting into things again for 2021.
My final thought is one that I was reminded of just after the race. ‘I’m not a failure because I didn’t succeed, I am a failure because I didn’t try’.
I have given it absolutely everything this year and it just wasn’t my day. Things get better, but giving it my all is something I can say I have done.