Road to Kona - National Cross Triathlon Championships
Posted by Ben Addison on Jun 12, 2012
Here's the first in a series of blogs from Claire and Duncan Shea-Simonds. They've been training hard on their Wattbikes in preparation for the season as they focus on their 'Road to Kona'.
Last weekend – Sunday the 10th June saw Claire and I both make the trip to the Lake District to compete in the National Cross Triathlon Championships.
Staged on the shores of Lake Coniston and using the surrounding Grizedale Forest and mountain trails the event was sure to be a tough one!
The “Cross Tri” format is gaining in popularity and already has a hardcore following ranging from seasoned “Xterra” racers and Mountain Bikers, to hardy Triathletes looking for a different challenge.
Claire and I have some experience at this format having raced the European Cross Triathlon Championships a few years ago. So, if nothing else, we knew we were in for a testing day.
The Lakes greeted us with typically grey skies on Saturday evening which fortunately cleared to glorious sunshine come race morning. So we were not only going to race in some of the country's most spectacular surroundings, we would also get to experience them at their very best – it was going to be a great day of racing!
The event opened with an advertised 1500m swim in Coniston – although beautifully calm (if a little chilly) times would indicate that the swim was nearer 1900m. Even Tim Don (Olympian, 2006 World Triathlon Champion and 4 times National Triathlon Champion) racing Cross Tri for the first time, found the swim tough only narrowly breaking 23 minutes rather than his customary 18.
For us, the usual husband and wife battle ensued (Claire being a fine open water swimmer). Claire had a great swim and exited the lake in 28 minutes inside the top three females and having put a good minute into me!
I gave chase on the long run to the bike transition. A speedy change saw me close the gap to Claire and we rode out side by side - romance Shea-Simonds style!
Unfortunately, Claire's race would end soon after with a mechanical problem, leaving me to fly the flag.
On the road, the bike section is normally my strength and I knew this was where I had to work hard if I was to have any chance of a good placing. However, these mountain bikers are a very skilled bunch and as the bike section would take in one lap of the 20k red graded “North Face Trail” I knew sheer horsepower might not be enough!
I picked off a few places on the fast opening 5k road section, then settled into the top 20 as we hit the technical trails.
As I suspected, my lack of skill showed on the rocky single track as I struggled to stay with the fast Mountain Bikers. Thankfully the single track was interspersed with long, hilly sections on smooth fire roads where I really felt at home. Putting the hammer down when I could, kept me in contention and allowed me to pick off a few more riders.
Thankfully, my training on the Watt Bike had prepared me well for the 1hr 15 minute “interval session” that the bike section became! A mixture of high power fire road sections and rocky technical single track, took my heart and lungs to places they rarely go in a road triathlon!
Soon back onto the final 5k road section I put in one last push, to bring me back to the transition in 16th position.
A quick change into fell shoes and I was off onto the final section – a 9k fell run taking in the slopes of the “Old Man of Coniston”.
Very often in multi-sport events, fitness and strength on the bike makes is presence really felt on the run and this was the case today. My legs felt great as I flew out of transition. I was determined to make up as many places as possible in the time I had left.
It's at these times that you really reap the benefit of those grim 1hr “torture sessions” on the Watt Bike! Other racers were fading around me – but I was still running strong up “The Old Man” and picking off places as I went.
The final, manic 3k descent back to the lake shore was a test for tired legs, but they stayed strong to the end bringing me home in 13th place overall, and National Cross Triathlon 40-44 Age Group Champion.
I was particularly pleased with my performance over the weekend as my technical skill on the Mountain bike was clearly a handicap alongside such experienced and skilled competition.
However, my general bike strength, due in no small part to some great training on the Watt Bike, kept me in the game and allowed me to blast the run in one of the fastest times of the day, even beating the 2006 World Triathlon Champ's run split by a whole 2 seconds - Tim Don, himself, won the event by a comfortable 4 minutes from his nearest competitor!
Nice to show those Mountain Bikers what us triathletes can do!
Train hard - Race Strong!