Cotswold 113 Familiarisation Day

Cotswold 113

One of the reasons I chose the Cotswold 113 as my first middle-distance triathlon, is that the event organisers hold a familiarisation day about three weeks before the race. It’s a great chance to recce the route and ask any questions before the big day. This is quite unique in that there aren’t many other triathlon events which hold a guided course familiarisation. 

It was a 5am start yesterday to head over to the Ashton Keynes Waterpark, ready for the swim start at 8:30am. I’m looking forward to a lie-in after months of early starts for training! 

The venue itself is a watersports lake within the Cotswolds Country Park- there are changing facilities, showers, toilets, free parking and a cafe on site. The carpark was actually very muddy, so that’s something to make my spectators aware of for race day! 

We gathered on the banks of the lake for a briefing before making our way into the water. The water temperature was measured at 15.5 degrees, so it was definitely warmer than Grafham earlier this month! It’s predicted to be 18-20 degrees on race day- practically tropical! 

Cotswold 113

The swim course was not marked out with buoys, so it was a case of following the kayaker. We cut the course short in order to avoid other swimmers who were using the lake, so the total distance was around 1550m (it will be 1900m on the day). Some areas were very shallow so we actually stood up to walk until it was deep enough to swim- apparently on race day we will be guided around these points.

I took it slowly and swam at an easy pace, just enjoying being in the water and getting into a rhythm with my stroke. Next time I’m in this lake, it will be frantic with adrenaline so I wanted to enjoy the calm before the storm! I swam near to Hayley, a friend from my triathlon club, whereas my husband Glen and brother Sean went off ahead. 

The hair at the back of my neck was caught in the velcro of my wetsuit and pulling every time I turned my head to breathe, so I stopped a couple of times to sort it out. I felt like I was going to end up with a bald patch! I’ll tuck it into my swimming cap more carefully on race day. 

We stopped at the point which will be the exit on the day and some people practiced climbing out onto the ramp. I wasn’t worried about practicing this, so I treaded water until we moved off again. 

After the swim we got changed and regrouped, ready for a guided lap of the bike course. We headed out in three large groups, keeping the speed fairly slow at 14-16mph. 

The route was almost completely flat with the exception of two short hills, which were not particularly challenging. This could be a very fast bike course as you are able to get into a rhythm on the flat roads. The roads will be not be closed on race day, but they are generally fairly quiet and police will be directing traffic on the main junctions. Much of the course was on country lanes and through picturesque villages with the typical Cotswold limestone cottages.

I chatted to a few people who had raced this triathlon before and they all agreed it is a great event- one that they come back to year after year. I also spoke to one of the event organisers who shared his advice on how to approach the two main hills. 

We stopped quite often to make sure no one was left behind and for toilet stops. This photo looks lovely, but just seconds before there were 15 men weeing up that gate behind me! 

Cotswold 113

We cycled one lap of approximately 28 miles, but of course on the day we will complete it twice making up the 56 mile distance. 

The run course takes you around the perimeter of the lakes within the waterpark and out onto the surrounding roads.

I was surprised at how much of the run is trail-based, the surface was slippery mud with lots of puddles to hop over. I don’t actually own a pair of trail shoes, but they would be a good idea to provide some extra grip. I’m actually now planning to practice a bit more trail running over the next few weeks before race day as most of my training has been on roads up until this point.  Running on trails is actually better for me than road running, as the soft ground lessens the impact, so hopefully my old injuries won’t flare up on race day.

Cotswold 113

As with the bike course, the run was almost completely flat, but the paths are narrow in places so we had to run single-file. Most of the course was enclosed by trees, which will provide welcome shade if it is sunny on race day. 

We ran one lap of approx 4.3 miles with stops to see where the water stations will be. On race day, we will run this course three times, making up the total distance of 13.1 miles. I think that the laps should help me to pace myself during the race- I plan to keep a 10 min/mile, so hopefully each lap should take no more than 45 minutes. 

Cotswold 113

Arriving back at the race HQ, we were talked through how the site will be laid out on the day in terms of the transition area and all-important finish line! 

The day also allowed us to find out where our hotel is and make a plan for race morning. As we are staying just 2 miles from the race HQ, we decided it will be best to cycle to the start instead of trying to park the car on site. Apparently the carpark gets busy very early-I think I heard them say to arrive at 3am to secure a good parking spot! 

Overall, it was a fantastic day which helped to settle my nerves about the race and really get the excitement pumping! The race organisers are so friendly and accommodating- really committed to making this a great event for everyone. I’ve trained so hard for this race since January, I’m now just so ready for June 12th! 

Have you ever done a course familiarisation before race day? Have you ever been to the Cotswolds?


Summer Running Wishlist

Summer is finally here! Time to pack away my fleecy running leggings and thermal tops, and update my activewear wardrobe for the warmer months… 

A. Adidas Women’s Run Short Sleeve Layer Tee
I’m still slightly obsessed with coral and think it looks perfect paired with aqua in this layered tee.

B. Sweaty Betty Pacesetter Run Vest
I prefer loose flowing tops for training- this vest looks like something I’d get a lot of use out of on sweaty summer runs.

C. Sweaty Betty Warm Up Over Tee

Another loose and comfortable tee- it’s definitely cool to sweat!

D. Victoria’s Secret Knockout Capri

I can never get enough printed leggings, despite already owning about 20 pairs! The print on these capris is gorgeous and I find Victoria’s Secret capris to be a great fit. 

E. 2XU Cross Sport 4″ 2 in 1 Short

I’m quite fussy about running shorts- I can’t stand anything that will ride up as I’m running. This 2-in-1 style with a slightly longer leg length looks as though it could be flattering and comfortable for summer runs.

F. Balega Enduro No Show Sock

Balega socks get a great write-up for comfort and quality, plus I love the colour combo of this pair. 

G. Elle Sport Criss Cross Panelled Performance Capri

These would look great paired with the Sweaty Betty vest. I love the criss-cross detail over the knees. 

H. Sweaty Betty Fearless Run Capri

These are just gorgeous- not much more to add!

I. Victoria’s Secret Knockout Front-Close Sports Bra

I swear by Victoria’s Secret sports bras, particularly this style with the front-zip to avoid wrestling it over my head! 

J. Under Armour Grip Wide Headband

I tend to always wear a headband to keep hair off my face- this wide Under Armour version should is supposed to stay put no matter how much you sweat. 

K. Elle Sport Panelled Performance Training Jacket

Despite wishful thinking, it’s still worth having a water proof jacket on standby in the British summer time! 

L. Adidas Energy Boost 2 Neutral Running Shoes

Adidas Boost are my preferred running shoes (when I actually remember them on race day that is)! These are actually from the men’s department, but at a bargain price and in my favourite colour, so I’ll be adding these to my collection of Boosts.

M. Balega Enduro No Show Sock
Another pair of comfy Balega socks to match my Adidas Boosts. 

This post is in is collaboration with MandM Direct, but all opinions by own.

What’s on your summer training wishlist?

Race Re-Cap: Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon

Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon

After writing a blog post on Saturday about preparing for race day, I went and did something incredibly stupid. I forgot my running shoes for my triathlon.

Setting up in transition on the morning of the race, I opened my bag and realised I was missing a vital piece of kit. I felt absolutely mortified and started panicking. I hoped that the shoes would magically appear if I kept searching in my bag. I had my cycling shoes and two pairs of flip-flops, but nothing I could run in! I couldn’t believe that this had happened after I’d been so organised the day before. 

Time was running out… the race was due to start in less than 15 minutes. My options were:
1) To not start the race
2) To start the race, complete the swim and bike but then withdraw
3) To borrow a pair of shoes

I went and sheepishly broke the news to my husband Glen, my brother Sean and clubmates James, Mark and Marton who were busy setting up their own transitions. Everyone was actually very supportive and didn’t make me feel even worse about my mistake. Mark offered me his spare shoes which were an 8/9 (I’m a 7), so it wasn’t ideal but it was the best option available. Another friend from the club Lisa who was spectating, kindly offered me her Converse, but I figured that would not be the best choice to run in!

The boys were in earlier waves so I saw them off and tried to calm myself down. I planned to complete the swim and the bike, then make the decision whether to run in Mark’s shoes. 

1500m Swim- 29:12
The water was just as cold as I’d expected. As I waded in, my hands and feet went numb. I dunked my head under to try and acclimatise. We had a few minutes wait before my womens-only wave was set off. 

I tried to put any negative thoughts out of my mind as I swam. I didn’t want to let this mistake ruin the entire race for me. I just focused on making it to the next buoy and keeping a strong stroke. The swim took us in a diamond-shape around three buoys. With the strong sun, it was a little difficult to sight at times. 

Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon
Being overweight has it’s benefits- the cold water doesn’t seem to effect me nearly as much as some people! It certainly was chilly, but I didn’t find it unbearable once I started moving. I’d actually say it was quite refreshing!

We had actually been pre-warned that the lake was infested with microscopic shrimp. They are totally harmless to humans, but I did think about them going in my mouth as I swam so I tried not to swallow any water!

I got to the exit ramp and quickly glanced at the time, I was pleased to see it had taken just over 29 minutes. I always look terrible in photos from the swim exit! 

Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon
Transition 1- 2:58
I found my place fairly easily… off with the wetsuit and on with helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes and race belt. 

38km Cycle- 1:22:44
The bike route took us out of Grafham Water Centre onto the surrounding roads which were mostly flat and fast with a few challenging hills. Roads were open to traffic, but they were not too busy. There was a junction at mile 6 where we were required to stop completely and put a foot down before continuing on- it would be instant disqualification if we were caught not stopping.  

The nice thing about the out-and-back was that I got to see the boys flying past on the other side of the road. I passed Mark, Sean, Glen, James and we shouted encouragement to each other. 

As I was going up one of the steeper hills, my chain suddenly came off! I managed to stop and quickly fix it, but I had to walk to the top before I could remount my bike. I hoped that I could make up the lost time on the descent. 

I ate a few Nakd Nibbles on the bike, but I was aware I was not drinking enough. It’s definitely something I need to work on. 
Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon 
Other than this the bike portion went fairly smoothly, I was back into transition in a time I was happy with and so I decided to continue on and attempt the run.

Transition 2- 2:09
Tme for things to get interesting- I slipped on Mark’s shoes and laced them up as tight as possible. They were quite wide on my feet, so I hoped they wouldn’t slip and cause too many blisters. I laughed to Lisa as she watched me from the other side of the fence. I felt ridiculous! 

10km Run- 1:10:14
The run began with an out-and-back along the dam wall beside the lake. My first two miles went surprisingly well. The trainers felt strangely comfortable, although noticeably too big for my feet! I had been interested to try this brand of running shoes for a while, I just didn’t think it would be under these circumstances.

I saw my friend Chris from the Triathlon England Media Team, who was unfortunately withdrawing from the race due to an Achilles injury. He looked really disappointed as he slowly walked back into transition. 

The sun was blazing by this point in the day and there was no shade on this section of the course. The temperature had gone from one extreme to the other… from the freezing cold lake to the hotter-than-hell run route. My mouth was like cotton-wool, I hadn’t drank nearly enough on the bike. I grabbed two cups of water at the first drink station. 

The next portion of the run took us onto trails and through a wooded area. The shade was a welcome relief, but I was starting to struggle. So many people around me were walking and complaining about the heat. I longed to jump back in that cold lake! One man shouted “I thought triathlon was supposed to be fun… when does the fun start?”, I replied “at the finish line!”

I kept expecting the turn-around point to appear, but the course just seemed to stretch on forever. I walked pretty much the entire miles 3 and 5. I just felt completely drained of energy, dehydrated and exhausted. I kept willing myself to run again, but I could only last a few minutes. 

I finally reached the turn-around point, where there was another water station, I drank two cups and poured another two down my trisuit. I’d given up on any hopes of a sub-3 hour time and just wanted to finish. At mile 5.5 I started to slowly run again. The finish line eventually came into sight and I got high-fives off the boys and Lisa. 

My finishing time was 3:07:18 and 15th out of 19 in my age group. It’s my slowest Olympic distance by far. However, I wasn’t too disappointed. I had the determination to finish despite the initial problems, it would have been easy to just give up. Forgetting my shoes is a mistake I will never, ever make again! 

There was no finisher’s medal which was actually the biggest disappointment! A friend from my club, Marton actually won his age group (M 20-24) in a blisteringly fast 1:56:08, and another friend, Lucy Charles won her age group (F 20-24), so we stayed to watch the awards presentation.

Grafham Water Standard Distance Triathlon

Grafham Water was actually a lovely place to race, I’d like to do another event here in future only in slightly cooler weather and with my own shoes!

Have you ever forgotten anything on race day?


Pre-race preparation tips

Pre-race preparation tips

I’ve got my first triathlon of the season tomorrow- the Grafham Water Standard Distance. Race season has come around quickly and it’s time to put all of those months of training into practice!

I wrote a race-day checklist last August, but I also wanted to share some other preparation tips to help you have the most successful race day…

Two Weeks Before

  • It’s worth taking your bike in for a service before a big race to check it is in full working order and to replace any worn parts. 
One Week Before
  • Plan your race-day nutrition and buy any necessary gels, bars or tabs. 
  • Check whether you will be receiving your race-pack in the post or if it is to be collected on race day.
  • Remind yourself of the BTF Competition Rules– they’re pretty long-winded but you don’t want to risk disqualification over a simple mistake.
  • Stay hydrated- keep sipping water regularly throughout the days in the week leading up to the race. 
  • It’s worth booking a sports massage to loosen off before the race. 

Day Before

  • Take the day off from training and rest up. 
  • Check your bike over- make sure the brakes and gears are working and pump up the tires if necessary. Check end caps are in place. Remove anything unnecessary- I’ve taken off my GoPro mount and lights as I won’t need these on race day.
  • Pack your saddlebag- make sure you’ve got spare tubes, tyre levers, a pump or CO2. 
  • Trim your nails- long/sharp nails can easily tear your wetsuit.
  • Lay out your kit and run through a checklist to ensure you have everything you need for the swim, bike and run, plus clothing for after the race. 
  • Mentally rehearse your transitions- think about the order your will need the kit.
  • If using elastic lock laces, fit them to your running shoes and make sure them are comfortable. 
  • If using a Garmin, put it on to charge. 
  • Plan your journey to the race venue and make sure to allow enough time to travel. There’s nothing worse than arriving late and flustered! My race tomorrow has actually moved to a different location, due to a waterlogged course- so planning the route to the new venue is an extra consideration. 
  • Check the weather forecast and predicted water temperature. 
  • Give your race number to any friends or family who might be tracking you on the day.
  • If driving to the race, check the parking situation and take some change if you need to pay on the day. 
  • Set an alarm! Mine’s set for 5am tomorrow!
  • Try to get an early night although it can be difficult to sleep before a big race. 
Pre-race preparation tips

Race Morning

  • Have a decent carbohydrate based breakfast- my choice is usually porridge with a banana. 
  • Apply suncream if it’s forecast to be a warm day.
  • Apply chamois cream! 
  • Apply baby oil or Body Glide to any areas that might chafe.
  • Fill up waterbottles and drop in some hydration tabs if using. Put your nutrition on the bike. 
  • Attach your bib to your race belt, I usually take a hole-punch to make holes in the corners. It is a bit strange bringing an item of stationery to a triathlon I know!
  • Apply any stickers to your bike and helmet. Apply race number tattoos if necessary.
  • Rack your bike in a low gear. 
  • Attach your timing chip to your left ankle.
  • Lay out your transition area, keeping it as neat and organised as possible, with kit in a logical order. 
  • Loosen the straps and laces on your shoes so they are easy to put on. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the flow of the transition area- find the bike out/bike in and run out. 
  • If you have any spectators, arrange where they will be on the course and where to meet them after you have finished.
  • Attend the race briefing.
Enjoy your race!
Pre-race preparation tips

Do you have any more pre-race preparation tips?