I have been looking forward to the late summer triathlon at Redricks Lakes because it was the Hampstead Tri Club championship race and it meant I would get to revisit one of my early open water swim training spots. Redricks, in Hertfordshire, has several lakes, some lovely off road running and provides parking, a little café, showers and toilet facilities. It is pretty rustic, but for a vet (originally visiting as a vet student) this is no particular problem because we are exposed to these settings from day zero. Pleasingly, the Plague of last week had cleared by this weekend so I wasn’t drowning in mucus for this race, which I am sure was beneficial!
There was a good turnout from the club with twenty or more of us ready to race. This weekend, I had opted to sprint rather than standard, which was definitely a good move. After the usual unloading, registering, numbering, transition set-up, and race briefing palaver we were ready to go. This race was a non chip-timed race, and we had been instructed to yell our number at the timing people to aid recording. It was at this point I realised that I hadn’t put my race belt on under my wetsuit, much to my annoyance – as it transpired it probably didn’t make too much difference to the race.
Although the nice, straightforward swim course was a vast improvement on the chaos at Woburn, I still got churned up by a posse of panicking men at the start. One particular man, who luckily for him remains nameless, continued to swim rightwards into me each time I moved out to overtake him until I eventually lost my rag enough to muster the power to get around him. Once I had my own space and recovered from another horrible swim start, it was plain sailing. I ended up with a time of around 12 minutes and I would have been happier with something nearer 10, but considering the start I think I should count my blessings and move on. The lake water was lovely and enjoyed looking at all the weeds and gumpf on the bottom. I don’t like things rising up from the murk because I tend to imagine that there are awful things down there so this is a big step forward for me.
Out of the water we had a mini transition where we threw on an old pair of trainers to run uphill along a rough track to transition. I managed to strip my wetsuit to the waist with little bother and left my goggles and hat in the sleeve. Socks on, bike shoes on much easier this time, race belt, gloves (do I really need these? – I need to ask myself this. They are fiddly and probably frivolous), glasses and helmet. We were off.
The bike course was not my favourite of the year, but perhaps I have been spoiled by closed roads. Unfortunately, the race organisers believe around 40 signs were stolen between 8am and the start of the race at 10am, but whatever happened to them it made navigating the course mostly guesswork. As it happened, I managed to stick to the correct route, but a number of my team mates ended up going on jaunts into the Hertfordshire countryside that they would rather have saved for another day. The main difficulty for me was that it was difficult to keep pushing hard when I wasn’t entirely certain that I was going the right way. More than once I had resigned myself to the fact that I was lost in the middle of Hertfordshire and wouldn’t find my way home.
The course itself was on relatively busy roads for the most part. There were only one or two hills and it felt like I sailed up these. This is probably wishful thinking, but my pace on the hills has definitely improved. I was aiming, again, for 30kph average on the ride and on the whole I managed to maintain this – I even had one zen moment when my legs really felt like all the energy was going into the bike and we were flying. Unfortunately this didn’t last, but it is something I will aim to attain on future bike legs!
The one section I really objected to was toward the end where there is a short stint on dual carriageway. There is a wide run off on this stretch, but the traffic is extremely fast and the road surface is horrifically rough so the vibrations through the bike were terrible. To top this off, there was no sign on the roundabout at the end so I had to loop the loop before decided which road to take. This left me a little frustrated to say the least. Anyway, I made it grumpily back up the short hill to Redricks and into transition.
T2 passed without a hitch. Bike in, helmet off, shoes off-shoes on and out.
The run started downhill on a rough track and it was a bit unpleasant on the feet and the hips, but it soon levelled off onto grass and sandy track. I headed left onto the riverside with some cheering and water from kid-marshals (these guys were awesome) and attempted to empty the tanks on the run. I was first woman back on the sprint, feeling positive, and this was keeping me going on the run. I was doing about 5:30/km, which for me is a reasonable pace. However, 2km in my other half sailed past with another lady in hot pursuit. Despite my intense frustration, I could not increase my speed and I had to make do with 2nd place in the end at 1:37:25. Still need more running practice!
I would happily race at Redricks again and enjoyed the small-scale atmosphere. The bigger triathlons, whilst awe-inspiring, are packed and a little intimidating by comparison. This one felt homely and I liked it. Whatever happened to the bike signs was a real pity and more signs or sign guards next time would be a great improvement.