Another weekend, another race! This time I was down in Whitstable for The Oysterman sprint triathlon- I saw this race on Victoria’s Instagram last summer and instantly added it to my list for 2017. Whitstable is a lovely little harbour town in Kent, famous for it’s oysters hence the name of the triathlon.
Glen and I made a weekend of it and rented a room in a caravan on a holiday park in nearby Seasalter. Our first experience of using Airbnb for accommodation and we were pleasantly surprised. Staying locally saved us an hour in bed on race morning, but it was still an early start at 5.30am.
Registration and transition were set up on the grass banks of Tankerton Slopes. There was a feeling of this being a small, friendly and inclusive race as we arrived to set up. We joined the queue and I realised I had left my wetsuit in the car, so made a quick dash back to collect it. The Race Director came around to personally apologise as they were running slightly late- it was no problem as it allowed us longer to get set up. We went about the usual pre-race routine… applying number stickers to bikes and helmets, laying out kit on a towel, applying suncream.
At the pre-race briefing, we were given a pep-talk by former Olympic triple jumper Michelle Griffith-Robinson, who assured as that despite being a professional athlete she couldn’t complete a 500m swim!
Swim- 500m- 14:18
At 7am, it was already set to be the hottest day of the year and I was longing to get into the sea. The water felt cool and refreshing as I waded out to take my position for the race start. Unlike Southend, the pebbles were smooth underfoot and the sea was clear and clean.
The swim course took us on an out-and-back following the shoreline. I actually didn’t see the first buoy as the sun was so strong. The turning point at the second buoy appeared very quickly. On the way out, we had the benefit of the current behind us, however on the return it was much tougher swimming against the flow of the water. At some points, I felt as though I was swimming on the spot without making any forward progress. I concentrated on making my stroke strong and kicking hard to get moving through these tough spots. It’s good training for my Solent swim in September as I’ll encounter strong currents then.
Transition 1- 4:03
Coming out of the sea, there was a steep slope up to the transition area. It was quite a challenge trying to run uphill after a swim! After getting ready for the bike course, I accidentally knocked over someone’s helmet and sunglasses. I stopped to put them back into place, as I’d like my kit treated with the same respect.
Bike- 20km- 42:36
The bike route goes along the promenade then out to the surrounding countryside, with small loop which is repeated to bring the distance up to 20km. It’s flat throughout apart from a small bridge over the A299. However, the road surfaces were quite rough with big potholes in the more residential areas.
I worked hard on the bike, concentrating on catching and overtaking the next person ahead of me. At some points, I couldn’t see anyone else on the course and panicked that I’d taken a wrong turn. When the next marshal or signpost came in to sight, I was relieved to know I was on track!
On the return to the beach front, I did actually take the wrong exit on a mini-roundabout, however I corrected myself after only a few metres. I got a PB for the bike distance, which was great to see my hard work is paying off.
Transition 2- 1:06
Second transition went fairly smoothly, however I did leave my sunglasses behind!
Run- 5km- 31:12
The temperature was had reached 23°c by the time I headed out onto the run, so I knew it would be a struggle. The course follows the grass banks before looping around a nature reserve and returning back along the beach path. It’s very flat throughout, but the section in the nature reserve is on uneven trails. I’m not particularly good at trail running, so I tried to focus on my footing to avoid tripping over.
The heat was really draining- I looked out at the glittering sea and wished I was back in the water! I tried to shelter in a slither of shade by the beach huts, but there wasn’t really any escaping the sun. My only criticism of The Oysterman is the water stations on the run course- they were at approximately 1.2km and 4.8km. It would have been better to place one at the half-way point where most runners were in need of a drink.
The final stretch is a tough uphill to the finish line on the cliff-top. I must admit I walked up the slope before breaking into a run again when the finish line was in sight. Junior parkrun was due to start at 9.30am, so I was determined to finish my run before the speedy kids came out on the course!
I finished in 1:33:17 and immediately sat down in the shade to recover! Can you spot the mistake on the finishers medal? They will be sending the correct versions out to us!
Unfortunately there was no photographers on course, so I have a lack of images to accompany this post, except for a few post-race photos of myself and Glen.
I loved The Oysterman, it’s been my favourite triathlon of the season so far. Whitstable is a beautiful location and everything was perfectly organised (despite the medal mishap). I can only see this race growing in popularity in the coming years.
Have you ever been to Whitstable? Do you struggle in the heat or do you prefer warm weather racing? Do you like oysters?