Avenir & HCI Digital Athlete Samuel Wyatt-Haines raced his first event this Summer, securing a hard-fought 2nd place in an elite mens field.
Read on for the race report from SWH...
The 2nd of August marked the first 70.3 (half ironman) distance event to take place in England in the new COVID-19 World. It has been a long year of cancelled and postponed events but finally the outstanding organisers of 113 Events managed to take all the necessary steps to enable the running of the Cotswold Classic Middle Distance Triathlon.
Training & Preparation
My preparation for the event has been pretty different, as it has been for all athletes around the world. With a total uncertainty of when any races were going to take place I have made an effort to build on my aerobic and endurance base rather than top end race speed. This has partly been because I had no idea when I was trying to peak for, but also I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t going to burn out mid-summer. What this meant was that I went into the event with a probably the best endurance base that I have ever had, but a real lack of that top end speed which is still pretty vital in a 70.3.
The event was arranged as a non-competitive one, although if all the other athletes were like me, non-competitive sport isn’t something that I really understand. As part of this and to keep to the current guidelines of COVID-19 the event was run as a time trial. Start times were also based on the alphabet so there I was at the end of the start list. What this meant though was that I could travel up in the morning of the event, avoid staying in a hotel and keep things as safe as possible.
Turning up at 6am it was noticeable how quiet the grounds were. Transition and the surrounding area was athletes only and masks were compulsory. There was not the usual hum of lots of people, but instead people quietly getting on with their own pre race prep. A temperature check before entering transition and then the usual racking of the bikes. This is a process that I have now done a few times but I was feeling a little out of practice given the amount of time since my last race. If there are any perks of a COVID-19 racing environment, it is that everyone is very spread out in transition - there was plenty of room to spread your kit out and make sure everything was set up in the easiest way. I mention these things because it was all so totally different to any race I have done before, and I suspect it could be how racing takes place for the foreseeable future.
My swim was scheduled to start at 7:45am, and the 1900m swim around the lake was something I was looking forward to. Although I have not swam anywhere near as much as I would have liked this year (nearly 4 months without touching water) I was excited to get back into a competitive swim.
Everyone was set off in 10 second intervals which avoided the usual washing machine effect of a race start. The swim went relatively straightforward, although the real lack of feet to follow meant it was going to be hard for me and I came out of the water in 28 minutes. Not a terrible time given the lack of training, but more importantly it meant I was underway!
Onto the bike next and my race could properly start. This was where being one of the last riders off meant I had people I was continually chasing and passing. There were a few near misses throughout the ride with riders suddenly pulling out to overtake as I was passing on the outside, but generally everyone was really spread out. Unlike Ironman events there was no issue with drafting and it was a really well managed bike leg with plenty of bike marshals.
For anyone that follows my instagram you will be aware that cycling is my real passion and it is where I can make the most impact on a race. I went a little too hard in the first 40 minutes as I found it hard to find a rhythm. An average power of 304w was over my target of 290w for the ride - but I felt good and so I wasn’t too worried. I slowly began to find my way and settled nicely into ticking along at 290 and the kms came down quickly. I got a call from my support team after the first hour that I had the fastest first lap of the bike course - and this was a real boost.
I stuck to my nutrition plan of just over a litre of water, 500ml of electrolytes and 3 protein date bars (kindly made by my mother). I felt comfortable throughout and made a conscious effort not to go too hard as I wanted to try and have a decent run.
I ended the bike leg with a 2 hour 10 minute ride which was the fastest bike split of the day. Except for one of the relay teams who had a slightly faster bike split, but I think they can be kept separate.
Final numbers were 287w average, 41kph average speed and 314 gear changes (53x15 being my preferred)…. If anyone is interested!
Onto the run and I felt strong for the first of three laps. I started at a 4min/km pace as this was a long way off a standalone half-marathon pace and I thought it was something that I could sustain. Frustratingly I began to fade slightly, and settled into running 4:15min/km pace - which eventually resulted in a 1.29 half marathon time.
What was noticeable was the ease of running for the half marathon distance but a real absence of any ability to really kick on and run fast. Given the amount of Zone 2 training I have done this is hardly surprising and I would not have changed my prep in any way. It very much felt like the first race of the season which usually is in May, and by August I would have hoped to have had a few more harder runs and built my speed over the longer distance. Combined with a very heavy trail dominant course I don't think it was ever going to be a PB run course for me. Despite all this, it was still an ok time, and good enough to get me around in a total time of 4 hours 9 minutes.
My time meant that I had taken 2nd place overall, although I had absolutely no idea given that the winner was in the first wave and so had probably finished the race and driven home before I had finished! I think this absence of 'real racing' does take away a big part of triathlon and it can be hard just following your watch for the duration of the event. Having said that, it was brilliant to do an event and race in a semi serious way! A new PB and 2nd place isn’t a bad way to come out of the COVID-19 lockdown. Lots of room for improvement, but progress nonetheless!
As always, a huge thank you to all my family, friends and sponsors who support me every day and make racing a possibility. I really am grateful for all your help and I cannot wait to get racing again.
- Samuel Wyatt-Haines
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@samuelwh_tri | @hci_digital | @gianttwickenham @absoluteblack