Race Report – 2015 Long Bennington Summer Solstice 10k

Fresh from the Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon I was certainly not in the days following my first ever triathlon. Monday saw a session at the gym on the stepper and the elliptical trainer with an easy paced recovery run in the evening which felt not too bad. Tuesday however saw me by mid-afternoon in a state of near exhaustion (Perhaps slight exaggeration – very tired is closer). I was contemplating doing nothing at all, but with sunny warm conditions and – for the first Tuesday since 2015 time trials began at Witham Wheelers, – there was barely a breath of wind.

Sensing opportunities to ride windless time trials are going to be at a premium I had a strong coffee and lackadaisically headed to first the cricket club to sign on and then onto the TT start. The lure of a PB appeared to do the trick, for although I rode mediocre at best, I came home in 25:41 – a new PB and first sub 26 clocking. Wednesday saw me feel a touch fresher, but still tired on a gentle, mostly off road 11 mile run around the very pleasant Belton House Estate. Thursday was a day off, which would hopefully see me revitalised for the Friday evening race.

Evening races when there is an F1 race on is always a touch of a risk in terms of being able to participate; thankfully Friday was a quiet day in Spielberg which enabled me to arrive in Long Bennington just shy of an hour before the start of the race. Being a member of Grantham Running Club, the hosts of the race, there was no shortage of familiar faces at the race HQ, all doing a fantastic effort to make this one of the slickest and well catered for evening races I’ve ever attended.

Gravity FM were putting on an outdoor disco and warm up show which, I must admit, didn’t think would work, but actually was really uplifting. I left it though to perform my usual warm up – a 1.5 mile out and back affair, with the return being a series of race pace strides. Everything felt good – aside from a touch of hay fever making breathing a little wheezy, and I went about final preparations.

Helping Scott set up his camera.

Jogging to the start line I felt a twinge in my left glute. I tried to ignore it but was a bit concerned – random aches like this have led to sacrum stress fractures in the recent past. I ran a couple of practice starts and the ache appeared to disappear. After helping Scott on the start line with his camera settings I lined up at the front of the race. This time last year I was at the same start line barely caring less how the race panned out – today I had my race face on and I was keen to do well.

Lining up at the start of the race.

The race gun fired at dead on 7:30 and for a few glorious seconds I actually led the race! For a brief moment thoughts of actually winning the event flooded through my brain. Then Shane Robinson of Lincoln Wellington remembered he is a 31:34 10k runner and swiftly disappeared into the distance, setting a new PB and course record of 31:30 in the process.


The start of the race. Image © Graeme Reynolds
The start of the race. Image © Graeme Reynolds

After the initial frantic dash ‘downhill’ where Garmin was throwing up sub 4:40 pace alerts, we collectively settled down into something more realistic. I found myself third, the orange shirted Daniel Page of Clowne Road Runners ten meters or so up the road and Grantham AC’s Adam Madge sitting on my shoulder in fourth, with a gap growing to the fifth placed runner. On the long flat run on Valley Lane out to Grange Lane there was a slight, but definite, headwind, and I didn’t fancy being a wind break for Adam. I did a deliberate pull out and tuck in behind Adam. I stayed in his slipstream for around 30 seconds but twice I clipped his heels, forcing me to apologise profusely and pull out to retake third place.

At this moment second placed Daniel thought he should play the tactical game and eased up to allow us to catch him and sit behind me and Adam. I was now second, and with the first mile covered in a potentially PB shattering 5:18 I decided to scrap the tactics and just run as hard and fast as I could. The second mile was a fair bit slower in 5:34 but it was then as we turned left and towards Staunton I pushed on again in a bid to try and drop Daniel (Adam by now had dropped off our little group and was fading fast). With the wind now more behind us Daniel took the odd turn to take the lead but I repassed him on several occasions. This battle meant we sped up in the third mile (5:24) and as we passed the official 5k marker I glanced at my Garmin, which read 16:47 – inside my 5k PB!

At this point I was still feeling comfortable and felt I had every chance of finishing second with a sub 34 clocking a real possibility. Then the little ache I’d felt minutes before the start in the left glute reappeared and quite quickly became quite a severe ache. It didn’t really slow me but it was disconcerting and, frankly, a little worrying. The discomfort reached it’s peak as we hit Staunton and turned left again to head back towards Long Bennington. The race’s main drag uphill began and it was there that Daniel was able to eke out a small gap on me. I wanted to push on and go with him but the ache in the glute was just too much to do so.

In third place chasing Daniel Page.

What was reassuring was that once it reached quite painful the level of discomfort stabilised and I was able to run at a fairly decent pace. The fourth mile was 5:31, and the fifth, where I had mentally settled for third place and was thinking more about fending off the rapidly approaching fourth placed runner, was the slowest of the race (5:41). As we began the final mile I could see Daniel ahead making more and more turns of the head, an indicator in most races that he was tiring. I picked up the pace, not only to try and catch him, but because there was the small matter of a PB that was still within my grasp.

We came back into Long Bennington (5:28) and as we hit the finish straight I put on as good a sprint I could with the left glute tightening rapidly. Unfortunately for myself Daniel was wise to my efforts and sprinted at least as effectively as myself (probably more) With a final spurt I crossed the line third.

Sprint to the finish – Third and new PB Image © Graeme Reynolds

The official time would take some time to materialise, but eventually it was given as 34:10 – a new 12 second PB! I was thrilled! I also hurt quite a bit and was relieved to see my regular massage therapist David McKee on hand to help release the back, glute, and Piraformis.

He did a good job of averting a full lock up, but there was no thoughts of a warm down. Instead it was catching up with plenty of other runners and waiting for the presentation where I would receive just my second ever prize (My first came at the Taunton Marathon in 2011, where I also finished third). £25 the richer and with a new PB – a very successful evening’s work!

Third place prize, presented by Ruth Dunstan.


Race Report – Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon

June 14th saw my long awaited debut at a triathlon. Preparations had gone reasonably well. The cycling was improving week on week, the days proceeding the triathlon saw another Witham Wheelers Ten Mile course PB at the club championships, then an entertaining first-time chain gang ride on the Thursday evening which averaged over 22mph for the 40 mile ride. The running has inexplicably been better than it has ever been and the swimming…. Well the less said about the lack of swimming training the better. An indication of how little training I did was that my googles broke mid-swim six weeks ago and it took me three weeks to get around to replacing them.

I was probably more nervous for this triathlon then I’ve been for many a year at a running race. What was immediately apparent the day before when preparing kit was that there is so much more to remember to pack for a triathlon than a running race. I  thought I had it all covered when my wife suggested I pack my swimming goggles at close to midnight – probably the second most important bit of kit required.

An early six o’clock wake up call and a military operation to get everyone up and out of the house before seven am went smoothly. The drive to Woodhall Spa was painless and we were there just under two hours before my allotted start time. We were very lucky to get the last car park space in the main car park close to the event. Had we been a minute or two later we would have had a lengthy walk which, with no buggy for the two year old, would have been interesting.

I collected my race number and caught the last few minutes of the race briefing. Nothing too complicated, just a few rules that had to be adhered to or face the risk of time penalties or worse. Back to the car and it was time to reassemble the bike, which thankfully was mostly painless. I changed into my Aldi special tri suit and went to rack my bike. An immediate school boy error was that most other entrants had bought some kind of box to store all the kit required for the run and swim. I had bought nothing and had to improvise with a plastic bag. Nothing too disastrous but it would make things a little trickier than necessary.

Once bike was checked over and racked up I went for a 10 minute run warm up. That at least felt familiar and I was pleased to see that the running legs felt good. After saying farewell to the family, who were firmly entrenched in the kids’ playground, I headed to the pool where we would begin the triathlon with a 400 meter swim. I was there 20 minutes before my start time and I took the time to check over the procedure and protocol and generally become more nervous.

At 9:36 I was called with five other swimmers to our lanes. I was in lane 4. The gentleman next to me I think was a fellow novice, a fellow novice also in an Aldi special tri suit, who was not convinced it was going to last the swim. I reassured him that I had tried the suit once in the pool and it hadn’t disintegrated, so I hope that put his mind at rest.

At 9:38 we were off and I headed off for a long 400 meters. The pool is 33m long and heated, which most proper swimmers dislike, but I rather enjoyed. My front crawl is inefficient and ripe for ripping apart from a coach and improving, but for now I just swam the best I could without killing myself through drowning. I counted down the lengths – 12 of them – which seemed to take an eternity, but I had my family standing poolside cheering me on which helped immeasurably.

Finally I’d completed the 400 meters and I clambered somewhat ungracefully from the pool, pulling off the swim cap and hurling my goggles at my wife, which she amazingly caught. I’d put 10 minutes down for my predicted time, and, according to the results, 10:00 is what I clocked, so at least I know I’m not very good at swimming very accurately. The triathlon was run as a time-trial so I was surrounded by fairly similarly untalented swimmers – the results show I set the 412th fastest time out of 663 who completed the swim. If I ever do another triathlon then it is clearly the swim where I can make some significant gains.

Another area where I can improve dramatically is transition. My first experience of swim to bike was nothing short of a farce. I struggled to find my socks in the plastic bag, then couldn’t tighten properly my cycle shoes. I struggled with the cycle mits then the gel number belt. I dithered over whether to wear a long sleeved cycle jersey, the temperature sitting at around 12C. After 20 seconds of further indecision I opted not to wear it and with the aero helmet on I wobbled off in my shoes to the transition line – where I stopped again to try to fasten the shoes before climbing the bike and heading off, having set just the 549th fastest time through T1.

Once I’d settled into the saddle at least now I felt I was tackling something I was relatively familiar with, having tackled a couple of months of time trials. The legs felt surprisingly stiff after the swim, but I soon began to pick off cyclists ahead of me. The 25km course is fairly technical with plenty of turns and some rough surfaces along the way. I tried as best I could to remain in the tuck on the tri bars and pushed at around 90% of what I have been doing in the time trials. The ride got easier in the second half as it turned out we had been mostly climbing gently for the opening 20 minutes or so. In fact I was just getting my legs used to pedalling when I realised that we were coming back towards transition.

There were two tips I took with me to this triathlon. The first was to put talc in my socks to allow them easy passage onto my feet after the swim. This worked a charm. The other was to drop down on to the small chain ring and pedal at more than 100rpm for a km or so before the end of the bike ride to help the beginning of the run, where I should try and maintain a high cadence of more than 190bpm for the first half mile.

Entering the bike to run transition.

As the transition came to me rather abruptly, I only had 20 seconds or so to spin the high cadence before I was screeching to a halt and unclipping the shoes from the pedals. No thoughts of trying to get the feet out of the shoes while on the bike. I kept things simple and waddled as best I could in my cycle shows to my bike rack. The second transition was still not that quick (dithered over removing gloves and sunglasses) but happily better than the first one – a mere 406th fastest and only 30 seconds or so slower than most of the quicker guys and girls as opposed to 90 seconds at T1. The bike ride though was a much more pleasing state of affairs – my split of 42:16 turned out to be the 56th fastest bike leg – only six quicker than me were not members of a triathlon club.

It was now the moment of truth – how would the legs feel after the bike and swim on the run leg? I know from a few previous attempts at a post bike ride run (Known as a brick run for reasons I know not), that it can feel alarmingly bad, as though the legs are almost disconnected from the brain in terms of working properly or feeling normal.

Thankfully the moment the run began they felt almost as though I hadn’t cycled or swam at all. I didn’t have to worry about the high cadence thing and cracked on with the run. The only difficulty I had with the run was that the Garmin – which I’d used on Auto Multisport for the first time, for reasons best known to the circuitry contained within, decided to swap my familiar pace guide of minutes per mile to minutes per kilometer. I didn’t have the foggiest what pace it was suggesting I was running and so could only rely initially on old fashioned tips such as it felt quite quick, it felt comfortable, and I was passing people regularly and not being passed.

It was though a huge relief that the watch beeped to give me a mile split – 5:31. I was a little shocked by this – this was the same sort of pace I ran at the BUPA 10K! Boosted by this positive split I pushed on again, not letting the somewhat dull course and the brief emergence of some warm June sunshine put me off. I ignored the drinks stop at nearly half way and clocked the second mile in 5:34. At this point we were running on a narrow pavement which was quite uneven and with not much room to pass runners. It wasn’t a huge issue but it slowed me a touch.

I recognised at a corner that we were heading back towards transition and I realised that the legend of triathlon distances being a little fast and loose in terms of accuracy would hold true, for it was no time at all that I was ushered off the pavement and into the finish chute, which, according to my now metric Garmin, was around 200 meters shy of 5km. I averaged 5:35 for the final mile and felt no ill effects after the finish – a million miles away from the similarly paced 5k I ran at Melton Parkrun just a month earlier.

First Triathlon – Done!


Once I’d had my transponder removed and I’d reunited myself with family, I went to get my finishing results, which were then verified the next day. The run split was timed at 16:37, which was the third fastest of the day and bettered only by the winner overall and the seventh placed finisher. That rapid run saw me finish in 1:12:44 which was good for 67th position, which was exactly a third better than my unstated desire to finish in the top 100. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done on the swim, bike and transitions, but there could be a future in triathlon – if I can get myself a load of money!

Still feeling fresh I decided not to try and disassemble the bike into the back of the car, and set about riding the 30 odd miles back home which was a pleasantly leisurely affair. I had chance to mull over my first triathlon and whether I actually enjoyed it. I concluded that it on the whole it was a good experience but I am not sure whether I enjoyed it that much. That, more than anything, was down to it being a sprint triathlon. All three disciplines are over so fast that it was all a bit of a blur and I didn’t have the opportunity to appreciate the surroundings or maybe embrace the experience with fellow competitors and spectators like you arguably can at longer events or at an event where you are taking part just to finish. The same holds true of my comparative dislike of shorter running events like 5k and 10k over the longer disciplines. So, to conclude, it wasn’t the discipline I didn’t enjoy, it was more the type of discipline that perhaps isn’t my cup of tea.

It’ll probably be another year before I tackle another triathlon, but I hope to do a duathlon in the Autumn, fitness permitting. Until then it is work on the cycling, the swimming and the running…