Third place !!! Well can you believe it ? I have to say I was delighted with that result at superleague jersey 2018. If you scroll back through the blog to this time last year you’ll see that I first visited Jersey for Superleague 2017, I was impressed with both the island and the new triathlon format. The problem for me was I really got the urge to compete while watching the pros so in May of this year when Superleague announced they would be having an amateur age group race on the same weekend as the pro competition I jumped at the chance of getting involved. This would be my first time racing abroad which was exciting and provided a challenge logistically as I had to transport my bike with me wtc but more on that later.
Having already completed 9 triathlons since the June bank holiday weekend I have had a pretty full an d fruitful season and that included a 6 week layoff due to injury. I had initially intended to do 14 races but that figure was reliant on my staying fit which was always going to be a gamble. So having had a good season I wasn’t heading off to Jersey with anything else in my mind other than enjoying the experience as much as possible.
Now as I mentioned I booked my race entry in May. It was at this time that I arranged the flights and accommodation which I managed to get for a song. My hotel this time was literally 10 minutes walk from where the triathlon was taking place unlike a 20 minute bus Journey last year. The only other thing I needed to arrange was the hiring of a bike box with which to carry my bike and tell the airline that I was carrying a bike with me.
Back at the beginning of July I contacted a bike shop in Stillorgan who were advertising bike boxes for rent and so I booked one and provided a 200 euro deposit. Now to the uninitiated, a bike box is essentially a hard shelled box with wheels on the base. The hard shell is important because it’ll be thrown with abandon into the hold of the plane by baggage handlers. Now my bike is very much at the lower end of the scale pricewise but its still not something I want to see damaged, but when you consider some bikes cost 5 to 10 grand, then a sturdy bike box is an absolute must.
Alas as I was making final preparations in the week before travelling I received an email from the aforementioned bike shop informing me that they didn’t have a bike box available. They did offer me a bike bag but I declined the offer citing its total lack of suitability based on its lack of protection. A bike bag is literally a bag without a hard shell. It would be asking for trouble. So I got my money back and rented a box from Wheelworx who thankfully had plenty available for 50 euros without the need for a deposit. Problem solved.
I managed to get a lift to the airport and checking the bike in was straightforward. I knew once I arrived I could get a bus to St Helier, the main town on jersey. Once there I walked with bike box and the aid of google maps for about 20 mins till I found the hotel. On arrival I decided I wouldn’t be doing this on the return journey. While the box containing the bike had handles and wheels, it is still a cumbersome contraption to manoeuvre around city streets. The hotel was modest enough with décor that can only be described as 1980s West German chic with a faux marble effect vinyl finish on the bathroom walls!!!
Once I had found something to eat having wandered the streets of St helier for a while I returned to the hotel to tackle putting my bike back together having dismantled it pre departure. Surprisingly enough I managed to reconstruct it quickly enough. Yay me !!
Next morning I went for a 20km cycle along relatively flat road along the coast to Gorey which is where I stayed last year. I was initially a tad apprehensive about riding on foreign roads and praying I wouldn’t get a flat tyre as I had forgotten to bring spare tubes with me, although I’m sure I could have found a bike shop in the event of an emergency. Then I headed over to the Marina where the Super league triathlon was taking place. The whole concept of Superleague entails a short format of triathlon. Triathletes swim 400m , then bike 5km and run 2.5km , theres then a 10 minute break when they do it all again followed by another 10 minute break and then they do a third and final mini triathlon. To keep it interesting they rearrange the orders of the sports so the athletes would run, then bike and then swim on the second of the three triathlons etc This first day of competition is called the triple mix and we saw the women compete against each other, then the men competed against each other. Now we are talking 60 of the top triathletes in the world here. The female field included last years winner Katie Zaferes, current world champion Vicki Holland, Jodie Stimpson, Cassandra Beaugrande, Ashleigh Gentile and a host of newcomers to the superleague format. The male field included Kristian Blummenfeldt who won here last year, Johnny Brownlee, former Champion Richard Murray, 3 time world champion Mario Mola and the man who beat him most recently in the world final in Australia Frenchman Vincent Luis. So to say the field was choc full of talent was an understatement.
I drank in as much of the atmosphere as I could in the knowledge that because I was leaving the following day at lunchtime I wouldn’t get to see the second day’s racing. I was also competing myself the following morning so I was scrutinising the pros for any tips, be it their running style or their gear selection on the bike. Having 2 seasons in the sport under my own belt at this rate I appreciated even more the scale of the pros performances this time round. They were completing the 300 m swim in just over 3 minutes, which is seriously impressive especially given the fact they weren’t even using wetsuits. The top men like Vincent Luis, Blummenfeldt and Brownlee were biking at about 1.45 per km pace and running about 3.05 min a km pace and doing it consistently over the course of the three mini triathlons which is staggering. The only time these triathletes showed any fatigue was the following day at the end of the Enduro race which comprises swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run with no breaks !!! Yes that’s 9 disciplines in a row !! Hell for leather for 50 plus minutes. Vincent Luis reigned supreme at the end of the first day for the men and the imperious Cassandra Beaugrande topped the women’s ranking with the brilliant Katie Zaferes snapping at her heels in second.
That would be all the spectating for me because I had to register for my own race the following morning. Registration gives you an idea of some of the other people who will be taking part in your race plus it makes the whole experience real. You are given your timing chip, race number and stickers for your helmet and bike including the all important branded swim cap. My god the house is coming down with swim caps at this stage !!! I was settling down to sleep later that evening when it suddenly dawned on me that while my race was scheduled to begin at 9.33am I may not get access to my bike in transition for a couple of hours. This realisation concerned me as I had to be at the airport for a 1.30 flight. Needless to say I had a fitful sleep.
The night before an early race is generally a restless one although I had done so many races this season I had gradually grown accustomed to the whole pre-racing vibe and had succeeded in diminishing pre race nerves with every successive race. This was slightly different, in that I had one eye on my flight !!!
As it happened I wasn’t too tired the following morning despite having woken at 5 am. I had some breakfast and headed to the transition zone which was buzzing at 8am with about 90 minutes to go. While wearing a wetsuit for the race was optional I elected to wear one as I had done no training without one and the last thing you ever want to do is change any of the fundamentals during a race, it would be pure madness. There would be two age group races beginning within three minutes of each other. The endure which comprised two mini triathlons one after the other would start first followed by our group. I had considered doing the endure but thought better of it given the long season I had had and the time constraints dictated by my flight time. In fact I spoke with the MC of the event who was equally overawed by the fact that I was Irish and that I was flying out the minute I crossed the finish line. I alleviated my fears about getting access to my bike once my race was done when I asked one of the marshalls if it was ok that I scarper once I finished even if others hadn’t and he said it was fine. Phew !!
So to the race itself. The race would provide me with the opportunity to try my beach start again. You may remember I didn’t have the best of beach starts in Pulse port beach a couple of weeks ago. This time I elected to stand out wide of everyone else and give the buoys a wide berth. This strategy worked very well as I had clean water till about half way. The swim was only 400 m so I had gone out faster than usual as I knew I wouldn’t need to sustain the pace for too long. Once out of the water we had to scale fairly steep steps to get back to the transition zone. I managed to whip my wetsuit off in record time which is always a bonus. I had chosen on this occasion to cycle in my runners rather than use cycling shoes and clipless pedals. I have chopped and changed in that regard this season and I’m still trying to figure out which is best for me.
The cycle segment would take us along the beach front road westbound for 2.5km and back twice, so the total distance would amount to 10km. The westbound stretch was quite exposed to the wind and I could see my speed suffering as a result. While I tried to adopt the most aerodynamic position possible in the absence of areo bars which weren’t allowed, my speed was a pedestrian 31 kmph, however on the return leg I was averaging 38 kmph. I gave it everything on the bike that I could , so much for the ‘leisurely lets just enjoy the race’ philosophy.
My legs felt customarily heavy for the first kilometre off the bike but I tried to push the pace as much as I could. I was passing people all the while on the run but still wasn’t sure of my placing at that stage. I rounded the final bend which took me on to the finishing straight and across the finish line where the previous day the pros had competed so that was pretty cool. Race done. There’s always a sense of euphoria after a race and even though this race was almost half the distance of my normal sprint distance race it felt no different. I kissed the medal and off I ran to retrieve my bike. ‘’Oh you’re the Irish guy who has to get a flight’’ shouted the marshall when I was getting my bike. I felt like a minor celebrity. The good news is I made my flight and both myself and the bike made it back home in one piece. Oh and yes I managed to get third in my race, not a bad way to round off a long season at all !!!
Check out the video I through together of the first day’s racing, alas I wasn’t able to capture my own race for obvious reasons.