Having entered the OSB Events spring series I got in contact to see if I could be moved into the emergency services’ wave of the Nottingham event; a race for members of (unsurprisingly) the UK emergency services or Members of the Armed Services. After a little faffing and a complete re-registration on the day, thanks folks, I was in; what’s more I got to earn series points for the Spring series as well based on my time.
Part of the Outlaw half weekend there was a bit of festival feel to the site, although the sprint event felt a touch like the aperitif, with a lot the Outlaw athletes on site registering and getting a feel for the place. Once registered I had a bit of wait for the end of the Ladies wave to complete their race a clear their kit out of transition. Any ladies out there who fancy an open water event without having to get in with the chaps would do well to consider this event. This meant a bit of a rush setting up transition which is a slightly split affair to aide with setting up the running leg.
A thorough brief from 100% Swimming’s Paul Fowler saw the cream (?) of the Emergency services drop into the mild if slightly greeny-brown water of Holme Pierre-point’s rowing lake. I slid over to left end of the deep water start as it felt a touch shorter, but there’s not much in it on this course. Sighting the first mark is aided by the row of bright pink rowing buoys from half way down the leg onwards, they also helped to swim next to to keep straight, I’d caution getting too close though to avoid catching your arm on their mooring ropes though. Starting with a 15-20m of hard effort saw me tucked up with one or two other competitors and managed to get into a good drafting position on one of them picking a spot on their feet as it didn’t feel too crowded. This was my first race in my new HUUB Archimedes II, and I could defiantly feel the extra buoyancy around the thighs and was able to settle into a steady 2 beat kick making decent progress to the first left turn. A cheeky roll turn saw me move up the inside of the chap I’d been drafting and we went round the next left turn after another 20 or so seconds together and headed back to the head of the lake and the swim exit. Sighting the exit point wasn’t that easy especially as I was now sat on the chap’s hip. Turns out I wasn’t the only person drafting and a third guy slid up on the other side, the last 150m was swam as an arrowhead with us all hitting the exit ramp as one. The ramp was easy enough to get up onto, I choose to delay going for my suit zip and nipped ahead of my two compatriots and was surprised to see we were the 3rd group out with only 2 other guys ahead of us. The breakaway zip on the HUUB worked as advertised and I had my suit around my waist in plenty of time despite the short run to my bike.
The rest of the getting out of my suit went smoothly and I was quickly grabbing my bike and heading to the mount line, on the left was the second guy out of the swim, who must have had a slow T1 and watching him was the referee who was backing in front of me as the guy was grabbing his bike; wet feet, slippery tarmac didn’t bode well for my braking chances; so a few ‘excuse me, excuse me, excuse me’s’ earned me a ticking off from the referee (an apology from me and chat once I finished smoothed things over). Still on my feet I hit the mount line at the same time as one of the guys I’d been swimming with, but a faster mount saw me get a cheer from the decent sized crowd for being the second on the bike course; well for all of 30 seconds until he shot passed me. The first go down the lake was a fast affair with a stiff following wind (Lois mentioned the wind, right?) and caution was defiantly the order of the day into the 90 degree left had turn follow shortly after by an even tighter turn to take you back up the lake, only now I’m heading back into the building breeze and feeling grateful I put the 58mm front on, not the 88! A hard slog back up the lake was pretty quiet this lap as the last main wave were mostly still in the water having started 5 mins behind us. A sweeping double apex at the head of the lake around the bike transition point completes the 5K lap, a word to wise here, there are a couple of manhole covers on this bend and if there is any dampness about I’d be a bit cautious around here until you’re happy with their position (marked in luminous spray, like all OSB events). Laps 2-4 were much of the same a fast truck down to bottom and a hard slog back although the course was busier as the those from the wave that started 5 mins behind were at various points around the course depending on speed. The eventual winner only taking until half way around my second lap to catch me! I lost a couple of places to my wave on the bike and went into T2 in 6th (5th Individual, turns out the chap way out in front on the swim was part of a relay team).
A fast dismount saw me quickly racking my bike and dragging my trainers on, I’d remembered to talc them this time so they went on quickly, and I was off, oh wait hang on, three steps back take off helmet, have another go! Exiting T2 sees a tight 180 turn to take you back they way you came and around the top of the lake. 200m in and a short but steep climb partially off road heads you off toward the white water course, I pass Lois and she gives me a shout. I can see a guy in front of me who I think is in my wave and I try to push through the jelly legs to hunt him down. By this time a few more of the speedy guys from the wave behind are passing me, but they all look young and have ‘age grouper’ national suits on so I don’t feel too bad. I catch the guy from my wave as we drop back onto the path around the lake that we’re now sharing with the bikes coming up the lake, there’s plenty of space so it all works smoothly enough. Settling into the the run with the wind at my back and 3K left to go, I mistakenly glance across the lake; now this is one of the down sides to Nottingham, you can see the whole course and 3K looks a long way when you can see it all and you know the run back up the lake is into a strong wind, I would recommend just looking about 30 feet in front of you! Feeling OK I make the turn at the bottom of the the lake and catch a glimpse of someone from my wave closing me down, he comes past about 200m after the turn at that annoying pace that’s just too quick to jump on to, but only just, and he starts to drift off up the course. I decide not to have a look back with 1.5k to go as if anyone is behind it might give them hope, instead I just keep my head down and try to keep the guy who passed me as close as possible. A turn 1k out takes you onto little rolling off road section which suits my running style and I actually close up a few seconds, before we’re back on the road around the lake and the gap settles at about 20 seconds. With no sign of anyone behind and no chance of catching the guy in front Lois’s shout of sprint is roundly ignored (sorry dear) and I cross the line in 1:06:40. Good enough for 5th individual in my wave and 3rd V40+. With hindsight if I’d gone with the main wave for my age group I’d have scored a 3rd in the V40-44 AG and I’d have some sideboard adornment for my troubles, c’est la vie! A big thanks to Lois for giving up the first day of her birthday weekend, I hope Gin and dinner made up for it, and to the guys and girls at OSB for putting on yet another great event.