Grafham Water Standard Triathlon - May 19

Last year I found myself at Grafham when the St Neots World Championship qualifier moved due to flooding. It was cold last year, but this year was even colder!

The day started scraping ice off the car windscreen before a short drive to Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire.  It was a still and reasonably bright start to the day with air temperature around 0c.  This crept up to around 4c for the race briefing at the water’s edge at 7.45am and soon the start waves were setting off.  This year the event was a qualifier for the 2020 World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, and around 600 brave souls swam a shortened course of 1km due to the combination of below 11c water temperature and the cool air temperature. For me it was a warm up to the Euros in a month’s time, so no pressure on overall time.

I’d learnt my lesson last year where I exited the water very cold and I could only just start to feel my feet by the end of the run.  This year I wore an additional neoprene waistcoat under my wet suit along with a neoprene hat.  These made a big difference and I exited the swim with good core temperature, but still cold feet. This swim was the worst I have experienced.  The swim out to the first buoy went well and my face become used to the cold water on it.  After turning at the first buoy the wind chop was blowing small waves into my face.  When racing I tend to still only breath to one side, the left, and this was the wrong side today.  I don’t think the tight swim hat neck-strap was helping and soon I felt uncomfortable and had to do a couple of breast-stokes to settle myself, this continued until the next turn buoy, but the swim finished well. Thank goodness that was over. My wife fond it uncomfortable to watch the swim with around 15 swimmers being pulled from the water and taken to the shore.

Transition one was always going to be slow as I did not want to be cold on the bike.  Running leggings on, cycling jacket on, socks and thin gloves on, and off I went.  I’d made the right choice as by the end of the ride I was a good temperature and this year I could feel my feet (cycling shoe toe covers were also used). I’m not sure how others were riding in just a tri-suit. 

The bike is a rolling 37km ride through some great countryside on quiet but open roads. It’s one lap with an out/back in one direction, passed the state/finish and out for another out/back on the other side. Given my training over the winter, or lack of it due to the knee, I was happy with the bike and power output was as expected. My aero water bottle on the frame did not work that well, so I’ll be looking at a different solution.

Dismount into transition two went well as did taking my jacket off.  Gloves had already come off just before dismount. I found my rack position by the red flag and then onto the run after a twist of the number belt to face my number to the front.

I was pleased to be able to feel my feet this year.  The run starts on grass, with a few rabbit holes(!) before joining the concrete path along one end of Grafham water.  The sun was out and it was great running conditions.  Around half way along the path you turn back and pass the transition and finish area. The course then takes you along gravel path, onto a firm trail through the woods before joining a country lane. One  final turn takes you back on a trail before a u-turn and the run back to the finish.  It’s a great undulating 10km run. I had a good run and strong finish.  The biggest positive from the event was that I did not feel my recovering knee.

Positives

+ Early season event

+ Great bike and run courses

+ Great marshals

+ Café near transition (hot drinks!)

 

Considerations

The reservoir is large and wind chop should be expected.

If you are not a confident swimmer the scale of the reservoir could be daunting.

Race day car parking can be slow, so allow an additional 15mins or so.

Early season open water, almost guaranteed to be cold.