-By: Tomas Swift-Metcalfe
Last modified: October 5, 2015
The first person race report:
It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. This summer was hectic with work and study, so hectic it feels weird now Autumn is here and things have slowed down a bit. It’s a strange life, that of an “Algarvean”, everything boils down to those summer months and at least I as someone attempting to do business here, that means working 10 h a day, 7 days a week from April till the October.
Now I’m trying to get back into the groove; trying to get back into racing and trying to improve a little bit on before. I’m finding it harder and harder to achieve my original objectives in triathlon. Conciliating life and triathlon just isn’t easy. And I can’t be so easily fooled as when I was younger, into giving absolutely everything for the sport… I am not so easily enticed any longer: I have nothing to prove and beating other people really doesn’t interest me. I suppose ultimately it’s training people and looking after bikes that’s proven a far more reliable way to get fed! What I do love though, are those rare moments of freedom away from it all, either on the bike, or running or even swimming. You know, those moments when the body works like clockwork under the strain, ticking over at a solid rhythm, preferably somewhere beautiful. The other part I love, is the song and dance around races. Races are nearly always in peculiar places I would never go unless there was a race, places like Bahrain and Dubai, or swimming in the Tagus, or any of the countless kilometres I passed when I was cycling professionally. That’s why I wont give it up.
the birth of frankenstein’s monster
I had been collecting parts for a bicycle for quite a while now basically my objective being to build a triathlon bike for the least money possible and so it was I got a tt frame, which is branded “Viner” and sold by planet X. The frame has a few key points: It’s comfortable, has integrated cables and breaks as well as stacked extensions. I’ve been longing for a “competitive” bike since I did 2:10:30 in Bahrain on the old “Tri-Dog”; a 6-7 year old bike I “inherited” (in lieu of salary) from the cycling team that was both David Blanco’s old spare bike and my TT bike and the bike I gave up cycling on. The new bike, all assembled by me in the the two days before the race only tested briefly the day before was nearly perfect except for a couple of bolts for the extensions that came loose due to there being some paint under the screws. Savvy to the fact I was likely to have this sort of issue, I had brought Allen keys with me, so I stopped and tightened them losing about 3 min.
I gave up bike racing on Tri-Dog (it wasn’t called “Tri-Dog” back then), very sick and fed up at the Volta in 2013, now he’s retired.
And Frankenstein’s monster was born. The new bike frame… pretty nice, very very fiddly. What looks like a top end bike like a Stevens, Fondirest, etc, but many times cheaper.
In the past few months I haven’t trained anything but running. While my loses weren’t too dramatic in the swim (I was about 2 min slower than my previous best at 31 min), on the bike I really felt it. Obviously the fact I had never trained on the bike and had only trained sparingly on the road bike before than and not at all in the week prior to the race conditioned my performance somewhat, I was happy enough to get the 11th quickest bike ride on the day in a time of 2:24. That included a 3 min stop at the bottom of a hill to tighten the tri-bars that came loose -I put it down to there being paint under screws, but planet X just e-mailed me saying they’ve posted new screws… I’m guessing it’s happened to more people than just me!
What was interesting and a top triathlon training tip, was that although my running is now good (it’s the one thing I fought tooth and nail to maintain over the summer), if you get to the run tired, it’s hard to run fast… I know this sound silly, but it’s true. You need to be cycling well to get to the run in a condition to run fast. I started off running at 3:30 but quickly realized I was cramping up in certain muscles, so I eased of to 3:45 and then progressively drop time till it hovered at about 3:57. On the plus side I felt I could run at that pace for a whole marathon: it was comfortable.
So this raises another triathlon conundrum: you do need to train on the bike quite hard and quite a lot. So specific periods and sessions are needed. The other triathlon conundrum is that you have to swim often. So when you’re planning out your training, it’s a case of putting in several swims per week. As a swim coach I’ve worked with Ricardo Correia used to say, Even if you just go and splash around for a bit that will keep your CNS primed to the environment and the movement in swimming. So that’s another top tip.
The place itself, the organisation and the people.
The race itself was exceptionally well organized. Think no frills, but also no faffing about and minimum hassle. At least with me this is what I like in a race. The place was wonderful, basically a Portuguese version of the Côte d’Azur; a preserved sea side town with some classy looking hotels and tasteful restaurant, none of which seemed over priced either. On the downside however, the public present (can’t really call them spectators) were shocking. There were people walking right across runners running into runner, running on the bike course when a running/walking/cycling path is provided adjacent, cycling on the cycling course, walking across with dogs and children and so on. It was just irritating. I was wondering at the race, why it is that for certain sports, like cycling, people adulate and glory worship, while for something like triathlon people present contempt and I figured that in triathlon basically you have people trying their best, for themselves and no one else! Normal people, not super athletes (although there were super athletes present), the fact that one guy has a bit of a belly is enough for the person too scared to push themselves to be better to sneer, even jeer them: It’s the mediocrity cult that braces a lot of society. I get sneered at by the middle aged women in the park although I can do things they can only dream of… They are just too scared to stand apart from their buddies and push themselves to be better. If you give a shit what people think, you’ll never do anything. Don’t give a shit what anyone thinks, just enjoy the freedom, the health, the strength that ‘momentum’ sports can afford you… and those ‘super athlete’, they are human too.
We were treated to two exceptional performance by Bruno Pais and José Estrangeiro, which added some glitz to the race.
Anyway, I’ve been training pretty well and I am back to studying again (this seems to be have been a constant through my whole adult life). Fingers crossed I do a good race in Challenge Paguera in a couple of week. I’ll have some swimming done by then and a few miles on Frankenstein’s monster. You can read how the race went last year, when it was my first big triathlon: Challenge Paguera 2014. Obviously if I am (ever) to race pro I’ll need to put more time into it, so lets hope this extra little bit of training I’ve done at least gets me closer. Molinari, last years winner and European champion is racing there again this year and if he goes as well as last year, I sincerely doubt I can get within 5% of his time.
You can find the full results here “Cascais triathlon results“.