Race Re-Cap: Monster Standard Triathlon

Monster Standard

My 6th and final race of the season was the Monster Standard triathlon. This was another race which had been on my to-do list mostly because of the awesome medal design.

The race is set in the historic city of Ely and is part of a series of events organised by Monster Racing. We’ve tried to choose triathlons which are fairly local to avoid booking accommodation, but it hasn’t quite worked out and we’ve stayed overnight at the majority of our events. Airbnb has become our go-to website for finding an affordable pre-race accommodation. This time, we stayed in a lovely cottage in nearby Stretham, so there was only a 15 minute drive on race morning.

As well as the standard distance, there was also a middle (half-iron) distance which was set off earlier. After racking our bikes and getting set up, we watched the earlier waves start their swims.

Swim- 1500m?- 35:51
The swim course was an out-and-back in the Great Ouse River. We started outside a pub on the riverbank and swam downstream for 1000m before turning back for the final 500m. The current was very light and barely noticeable.

As I waited to start, I pulled on my swimming cap and ripped a big hole in one side of it. There wasn’t time to grab a new one from the registration desk, so I had to stuff as much hair as I could under the remaining cap and I hope it stayed on my head during the swim. These flimsy swimming caps really aren’t designed for thick hair!

I’m usually raring to get into the water on race day, but I felt quite reluctant about jumping into the Great Ouse. There was oil on the water’s surface and weeds floating past- it didn’t look like the cleanest body of water I’ve ever swam in. Someone next to me was coughing and retching into the water- I tried to move as far away from him as I could!

The klaxon sounded and we were off. It was quite a crowded start, with everyone bunched into the centre to avoid the boats at the edges. I had to shorten my stroke to avoid the legs of the swimmers in front of me. I received a few kicks and punches, but nothing too bad.

Monster Standard

Once the pack had thinned out, it became an enjoyable swim. I amused myself by looking into the windows of the riverboats as I turned to breathe. I saw a dog looking back at me quizzically obviously wondering what we were doing in the river!

The sunlight was strong and I really struggled to see anything ahead, I almost missed the point where we had to keep right and go under a bridge. I must invest in some better polarised goggles.

Getting out of the water was tough, I struggled to stand up and needed the help of several marshalls as I hobbled across the sharp rocks. My hat had stayed on, but still with half my hair hanging out.

Again, I found the swim course to be long- my Garmin recorded it as 1750m.

Monster Standard

Transition 1- 3:03

Bike- 44km- 1:37:18
There are two words to describe and bike course at Ely: flat and windy.

We headed out of the city into the fenlands on a single lap of 44km. The route was very straightforward with nothing technical and only one right-hand turn. Ely Cathedral dominates the skyline of the low-lying countryside, I could see it in the distance throughout most of the ride.

Monster Standard

The roads were very bumpy and uneven in places. My hands went numb from the constant vibrations, luckily my water bottles were secure in their cages. It was quite a slog in some places riding into a strong headwind with rough surfaces, I just kept pushing on aiming to catch and overtake whoever I saw in the distance.

I’m told that the bike route has been changed since last year to cut out a loop in the city centre, which definitely sounds like an improvement. It’s always good when race organisers take into account feedback and try to make the event the best it can be.

Despite being longer than a ‘standard standard’ distance, the bike course seemed to fly past. Soon I was back at the dismount line and ready for the final stretch.

Transition 2- 1:42

Run- 11km- 1:06:20
The run course was four laps which took us along the riverside, through city and the grounds of Ely Cathedral.

Laps but can mind-numbing, but I actually really liked the idea of breaking the distance down into smaller segments. I only needed to focus on running 2.75km (1.7 miles) each time which feels a lot more manageable than 11km. We received a wristband at the top of Cherry Hill Park to keep track of how many times we had completed the lap. Those people completing the middle distance needed to run 8 laps and their arms were loaded up with wrist bands!

Running around the Cathedral was really quite special, it’s absolutely vast and beautifully maintained.

Monster Standard

We passed through transition on each lap where the drinks station was also situated. The crowd support was brilliant and the music was pumping (although I’m sure the same song was playing everytime I came through). Glen had finished by the time I headed out on my 3rd lap, so I got to see him as well as Laura who was there supporting her boyfriend Phillip.

Despite trying to keep an even pace, I did get slower and slower on each lap. I found the Cherry Hill quite tough and resorted to power walking to the top. I still have a lot of work to do on my running.

Monster Standard

I was glad to pick up my fourth and final wristband and head back towards the finish line. I managed a sprint finish and picked up my one-eyed monster medal, which doubles up as a bottle opener. Definitely one of my favourite medals!

Monster Standard

I really enjoyed the Monster Standard Triathlon, it was a beautiful location and very well organised. The perfect way to round off a summer of racing. I’m keen to check out some of the other races in the Monster Racing series.

Thanks to Laura and Ian Green for the photos.

What’s your favourite medal? Do you like running laps or prefer a single loop?

8 of the best women’s trisuits

Back when I started out in triathlon, there wasn’t a great deal of choice around for trisuits. Everything for women was black, sleeveless with a few pink panels.

I’ve since designed and developed a range of kit for my triathlon club, which is what I now wear to race in. I love wearing my club trisuit, the colours are bold and bright- you can spot our members coming from a mile away!

However, if you are not a member of a club, you’ll probably be looking for a cool and comfortable suit to for race day. The market for trisuits seems to have really expanded in recent years, along with the growth of triathlon as a sport. There’s a lot of choice in terms of cut, colour, print and pattern. It may feel a little late in the year to be investing in a new trisuit, but the sales are now on so you could pick up a bargain ready for next season. I’ve rounded up 8 of my favourite women’s trisuits…

 

1. Orca Compress Short-Sleeve Race Suit
Flashes of camo/marble print on the side panels of this suit really liven up the design.

2. Zoot Ali’l Short-Sleeve Race Suit
Inspired by the place that Zoot was founded, the suit is covered in a Hawaiian tropical palm print. I love the colours!

3. dhb Blok Short-Sleeve Tri Suit
dhb have some fantastic prints, especially this fluro yellow and grey spotted suit.

4. Zoot Ultra Tri Aero Skin Suit
Another lovely Zoot suit in a geometric chevron design. I’ve seen several women racing in this suit this season and it looks amazing on.

5. Zone3 Activate+ Short-Sleeve Tri Suit
A little more subtle, this Zone3 trisuit features a graphic print on the side panels and back pockets.

6. Threo Hyde Park Tri Suit
Threo kit is designed with incredible attention to detail, I love the race-belt and pocket which comes attached to this trisuit.

7. Coeur Arrow Tri Suit
Another funky geometric print, this time from American brand Coeur which is exclusively stocked at Kyra Sports.

8. ellemenTRI I’m Possible Tri Suit
This chevron print suit has a motivational slogan on the back. Another colour combination which I love!

Trisuits

I was sent the Orca Compress Short-Sleeve Race Suit to try out at a recent triathlon. They say never to try anything new on race day, but I took a chance with this suit and absolutely loved wearing it.

Pros:

  • The waist opens fully at the front to allow for quicker toilet stops. I’ve seen this feature on men’s trisuits, but not on a female version as yet. Obviously you’d still need to take off the whole suit in the portaloo, but this feature should make it slightly easier.
  • Having been sunburnt in most of my races this summer, a trisuit with sleeves is a game changer. Keeping my shoulders and upper arms covered without needing to re-apply suncream in transition.
  • The stretchskin fabric on the legs, sides and shoulder panels is constructed to improve aerodynamics and offer muscle support. Now I’m not sure if I am more aerodynamic, but I did find the fabric incredibly comfortable and supportive.
  • The female specific chamois was also very comfortable. Whilst fairly thin, it did provide adequate padding and prevented any saddle soreness.
  • The trisuit dried quickly after getting out of the water, which is again down to Orca’s stretchskin fabric.
  • The two back pockets have a flap of fabric over the opening to seal them closed, keeping my race nutrition secure throughout the bike and run.
  • The wide rubberised bands on the legs keep them firmly in place without digging into my thighs.
  • The printed side panels and leg bands really liven up what would otherwise be a plain black trisuit. I love a bit of print and pattern!

Cons:

  • I’m not keen on the white mesh back panel, purely because it leaves my tattoo slightly exposed to the sun.
  • The end of the zip has not been finished smoothly and caused chafing to my chest. I had the same issue with my club trisuit which had to be sent back to the supplier for replacement.
  • The black fabric really shows up any white marks from suncream or chamois cream. It can look at bit grubby before you’ve even started the race!

Overall, a fantastic choice for both short and longer distance races. Millet Sports have quite a range of triathlon kit on their site, much of which is reduced including this trisuit which is down to £81 from £125.

Contains affiliate links- I earn a small commission on purchases made via these links which help towards the running costs of my blog.
Trisuit was sent for review by Millet Sports, but all opinions are my own.
Thank you for Laura for the photo.

What do you wear to race in? Do you prefer bold colours and patterns or something more subtle?

Triathlon training with a partner

Triathlon Training with a Partner

One of my favourite things about triathlon is being able to share the love of this sport with my husband Glen. I’m quite fortunate that he embraces a lifestyle of swim, bike and run as much as I do, and we are able to train and race together. Sharing our challenges and accomplishments has brought us closer as a couple. We’re both members of the same triathlon and running clubs, plus we plan our race season together so that we are working towards the same goal.

Endurance sports can put a strain on relationships if one partner spends more time at the pool or out the streets than at home. It’s a balancing act of fitting in family time alongside training. I often hear about ‘triathlon widows’ complaining that their husbands are never home!

Whilst we do still train alone, I generally prefer to swim, cycle and run with Glen- here’s why…

  • Training with a partner can make a huge difference to motivation and accountability. It would be tempting to skip training when I’m tired, but knowing that Glen will be there keeps me focused. Getting up for a 6am swim is far easier when I’m not doing it alone.
  • Glen’s much faster and stronger than me in all three disciplines, so it creates an extra challenge to try and keep up with him. When we cycle together, he tends to lead and I just aim to keep him in eyesight! It’s good speedwork for me, but an easier ride for him.
  • Riding and running with a partner also has the added benefit of increased safety. If something were to happen, at least I wouldn’t be alone to deal with it. Two sets of eyes and ears mean that you are more aware of your surroundings and any potential danger. Glen is great at repairing punctures meaning that I can leave this job to him!
  • Having my husband waiting and cheering at the finish line always gives me the boost to go for a sprint finish. It’s always an amazing feeling to finish a race and it’s made even better if you’re supported by your partner.

Triathlon Training with a partner

  • We celebrate each others success. On several occasions, Glen has won his age group or placed in the top three so I’m always incredibly proud of his results. Whilst I’m no where near as talented as my husband, I have my own small victories which he always he always acknowledges.
  • Training can be a chance to spend quality time together outdoors. We will often plan a weekend break or day trip, which involves swimming, cycling and running. We get to experience new places together which we both enjoy.
  • Triathlon is an expensive sport and to people outside the community it can be shocking how much we actually spend. It’s a long-standing joke that triathletes tell a little white lie to their partners about how much their bikes really cost. Fortunately I don’t have to hide my triathlon spending from Glen and I know exactly how much his bike cost!
  • The fact that we both do triathlon makes us more understanding and supportive of each other when things aren’t going as well. We both appreciate how frustrating it can be to have an injury or a poor performance in a race.
  • Plus Glen looks hot in Lycra- riding behind him is never a bad thing!

Hopefully we are proof that the couple who trains together, stays together.

Triathlon training with a partner

If your spouse is not into sport or you’ve recently moved to a new area, it can be difficult to find someone to train with. Sport Partner is a platform where people can create profiles in order to find a sport partner in their desired field. They’ve got over 100,000 members and cover 18 different sports including running, tennis, golf, dance and cycling. It’s also said to be the best UK sports dating site since 2007, so you might find a date as well as a running buddy!

Post written in collaboration with Sport Partner

Is your partner into the same sport as you? Do you prefer training alone or with a partner?

Race Re-Cap: Owler Triathlon

Owler Triathlon

I tend to base my race choices on the quality of the medal. A while ago, I saw an amazing medal shaped like a pirate owl and immediately added it to my wish list.

The Owler Triathlon had several distances and formats on offer this year. I opted for the standard distance triathlon, but they were also hosting the National Championships for the half-iron distance.

Unfortunately there were some changes to the logistics ahead of race day. Conningbrook Lake where the swim was to be held had Blue Green Algae making it unusable. Instead, the race organisers arranged an alternative swim venue at Lydd Lake. This meant that there would be a split transition and our kit would be transported to to the finish line at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford. The bike course would also be different to account for the new venue and it would be longer at 45km (instead of 40km). We decided to register on Saturday, so that we could see the two venues and understand how things would work on race day.

The standard distance race began at 10am, so it made a change to have a lie-in! As soon as we arrived at the venue, we noticed people from the earlier waves standing up and walking in the water. It was quite a funny sight to see people upright and we realised the water must be very shallow in certain places.

Owler Triathlon

Laying out my kit in transition, it was strange to not have my trainers or visor in front of me. Instead, they would be waiting for me 28 miles away at the Julie Rose Stadium.

Swim- 1500m?- 42:20
We were told in the briefing that there was a sandbank running through the lake, but it was swimmable and we would be disqualified if seen standing up and walking. We filed into the lake over the pebbles and thick mud. It was a sudden start- the klaxon was sounded as soon as I got into the water and I just managed to start my Garmin in time.

I made my way towards the first buoy and soon came across the sandbank. The water was very shallow, but I was able to keep swimming by altering my stroke. It did feel like I was dragging my fingernails through mud!

The buoys were spaced quite far apart which made it feel like a long slog between each turn. The sun was in my eyes on the back straight meaning that I struggled to see the second buoy. I glanced at my watch at the halfway point and already knew that this course was not an accurate 1500m.

We passed over the sandbank four times during the swim, each time I tried to swim over it as quickly as I could without becoming beached! Finally I finished my second lap and turned to the exit. I sank up to my knees in the thick mud as I stood up and needed a marshall’s help to pull me out!

I looked at my swim time as I ran into the transition area and was disappointed to see 42 minutes. I usually swim 1500m in 28-29 minutes, so I knew this course was much too long.

Transition 1- 4:31
I took off my wetsuit, goggles and hat and put them in the blue sacks we had been provided with. After getting ready for the bike, I realised I’d left my towel out. Tearing open the bag, I also scraped the skin off my thumb which started pouring blood everywhere! The second time I’ve cut my hand in a race!

Bike- 45km- 1:47:49
Out onto the roads of Lydd and past the airport, my ride got off to a great start. I tend to get into a game of cat-and-mouse with another rider, which is always fun when we pass each other every few miles. This time, I kept overtaking then being overtaken by the same woman, up until we reached the roundabout at Brenzett. I got held in the traffic and she whizzed off through the junction.

I was riding alone for some time after this. Occasionally I wondered if I was on the right route, when I didn’t see anyone ahead or hear anyone behind. The country lanes through Ivychurch and Newchurch were quiet and completely flat- I was keeping a good speed and enjoying the ride.

Owler Triathlon

Owler Triathlon

At about 25km, I turned right and the hills began! Shifting from my big ring to my smaller ring, my chain became jammed and I ground to a halt. I got off and tried to figure out how to fix it. Panic started rising up as I realised  I couldn’t release the chain from the front derailleur- I thought my race was over. I’d passed a marshall at the turning, so I walked back and asked if he could help. I was wary of asking for assistance as it can mean disqualification, but fortunately he was able to help and fixed it fairly quickly. Thanking him, I got back on my way.

The hills were tough and much steeper than I’d expected! I lost momentum after stopping and found it a struggle to get going again. The ride seemed to go on forever.

I didn’t realise at the time, but others had been effected by another problem on the bike course. The direction signs had been removed and several of the faster riders (including Glen) had gone off course by several kilometres. Fortunately, the signs were back in place by the time I passed through so I wasn’t effected.

The final part of the bike course was on the same roads as the run course. It was already busy with runners from the earlier waves, so it was quite tricky navigating around them on my bike. Some runners didn’t seem to be aware of the bikes around them, so I took a very slowly and called out as I overtook.

Transition 2- 2:32
As if by magic, my running shoes and visor were waiting for me in position 324 in the stadium. I must admit I wish I’d opted for the aquabike, so that I could finish my race there and forget about the run!

Run- 10.5km- 1:10:46
The run route took us out of the stadium into Conningbrook Country Park and around the lake where the swim should have been held. The course was on gravel tracks and grass, then out onto tarmac country lanes where the bikers were still coming in.

At 1km, I saw Glen headed back into the stadium, he shouted “it’s not pleasant out there” so already I was dreading the next 9 kilometres of running! He went on to win his age group and place 5th overall, despite the signage issue on the bike route.

My legs were still stiff after the Spitfire Scramble the previous weekend, so I ran/walked much of the course. There were several feed stations which had jaffa cakes, flat coke and cold sponges! The sponges were so refreshing- I carried two with me and used them to clean the blood and grease off my hands. The marshalls and other competitors were very friendly, always encouraging me to run whenever I started walking.

I just wanted to be done with this race, I felt exhausted and knew that it would be a slow finishing time. The only way to get to the finish line any quicker is to run, so I willed myself to run the last kilometre.

Owler Triathlon

Finally back into the stadium, I crossed the finish line in 3:48:00 and got that owl medal! It was a tough race which hadn’t gone smoothly for me. My time was about 50 minutes slower than usual but I was just glad to have finished.

Glen got the shuttle-bus back to collect our car from Lydd Lake whilst I waited with our bikes and bags. I’ve read some mixed reviews of the Owler, but ultimately I think the team at Trispirit Events did a great job of overcoming challenges to provide a different swim venue. It wasn’t ideal but it meant that we still got to race a triathlon, rather than a duathlon. The stolen bike signs were completely beyond their control and fortunately the riders were directed back onto course as quickly as possible.

Owler Triathlon

Photo credit: Pit Stop Crew

Have you ever been effected by stolen signs on a race course? What’s your favourite medal?