Valley Leisure Triathlon 2013

It’s 3:40am and I’ve been awake for an hour. I have to get up in about 40 minutes to have breakfast and them head off to Chandlers Ford for this year’s Valley Leisure Triathlon.

This event starts at Andover Leisure Centre with a 600 metre swim followed by a 30km bike ride to Romsey Rapids. After that, there’s a 7.5km run to Knightwood Leisure Centre in Chandlers Ford. Those are the 3 leisure centres managed by Valley Leisure hence the name.

The reason for the early start is that I’m meeting Chris at Knightwood and then we’ll take one car up to Andover for registration and racking. Registration closes at 7am and we want to arrive well in advance of then.

As I lay here in bed, here are my ambitious targets:

Swim (600m): 15 minutes
T1: 2 minutes
Bike: 70 minutes
T2: 2 minutes
Run: 41 minutes

Giving a total time of 2:10 (2 hours 10 minutes). It’s ambitious but hopefully do-able. There’s scope for the cycle to be worse than my estimate but hopefully I can hold it all together and find some time in the early stages. My realistic target is 2:20.

I’ll let you know how I actually get on after the event…

I got up shortly after starting this post and had breakfast; porridge with sliced banana and sweetener. This was a slight departure from my normal breakfast but was nice and I’ll definitely have it again.

As all my bags and bike were already in the car, it was just a case of washing, getting dressed and heading out to the car which I did earlier than planned at 4:45am. Yes, you read that right. Why was I doing this??

I met Chris in Chandlers Ford where we transferred his bike and gear into my car before heading up to Andover.

The journey there was simple and we arrived at about 5:45am and recced the site before heading into registration. There was ample racking for the bikes so once we’d returned to the car to get the bikes we set up at the racks close to exit of T1. As the event was held over multiple venues, it took a little thought as to which gear had to be where and at that time of the morning, it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I’d separated my gear into a bag per venue anyway and this helped.

Once our bikes were racked and our transition areas ready, we went off to find the toilets (there seemed an inadequate number but at no time did queues seem excessive). I also dumped some valuables in the locker and before we knew it, it was time to head off for the race briefing in the cafe which was delivered by Ben.

As soon as the briefing was over, Chris and the rest of waves 1 and 2 were off to the pool to get their timing chips ready for the 7am and 7:20am wave starts. I found a seat and relaxed before deciding to go and watch the swim.

I timed it well as the first wave entered the pool as soon as I’d arrived. The pool didn’t look 25m long as I looked down on it but I was sure that it’d look quite different from one end.

After a little over 8 minutes, the first swimmer exited the pool. That was quick. The last swimmer took between 15 and 16 minutes. Quite a difference in abilities.

Chris was up next and he was out of the water in under 11 minutes which was his target. I chatted to a couple of other participants while I waited until 7:40am to head down to poolside.

I headed down to the pool to get my timing chip which I fitted to my left ankle, put on my cap and goggles and mentally prepared myself for…

… The swim

Our wave started early. I was in lane 4 with 2 others. I’d be 2nd to set off and as the marshal counted down from 5, I submerged myself and got ready to go.

The first few laps went well. I was able to count each lap and concentrated on my form. I was fairly happy with how I was doing. By about the 10th lap, I was lapped by the first swimmer in our wave and by about lap 18, the swimmer who’d set off 20 seconds behind me overtook me. I wasn’t too concerned as I’d lost count of how many laps I’d done several laps before. It really was too much to think about with counting laps, trying to maintain an efficient (as I get) swimming form, keep an eye on the others in the lane etc.

I’m fairly sure I swam 2 extra lengths as my Garmin recorded 425m and one of the lengths was twice as long as I’d expect. Not the end of the world but could have added an extra minute to my swim time. I got out of the pool, removed my goggles and left my cap as instructed. As I looked at my Garmin, it showed 16 minutes which could back up the fact I think I did 2 extra lengths.

Getting to T1 meant carefully negotiating a set of stairs and running between buildings barefoot. This added about another minute to my time I’d estimate.


My experience in T1 was good. I just had to put my cycling gloves on, my helmet, cycle shoes and race belt and in rack my bike. All went smoothly. I greatly appreciated the short distance I had to run in my cycle shoes across the hall floor and then pavement to the mount line.

I clipped in with ease and I was off for the…

Bike section

Shortly after the start of the bike section, we had to negotiate a roundabout. Fortunately as it was about 8:15am on a Sunday morning, it was quiet. I was lucky with traffic lights and headed off for the 30km route from Andover, through Stockbridge to Romsey.

The route was undulating with a couple of hills to climb and descents to enjoy. Having had two longer and more challenging rides out with Neil, the route didn’t seem too difficult. There was one section that was a steep incline but fortunately it was quite short. It was a killer though.

On some stretches of the route, there were some very narrow lanes and I was quite glad not to meet any oncoming traffic.

Before long (well, over an hour), I was on the outskirts of Romsey. Getting there had meant passing through some lovely villages and hamlets, not that I had a great deal of time to enjoy the scenery. There were some lovely views in the sunshine. A beautiful part of the country.

As I hit Romsey, I started working out how far off my ambitious target I was. Probably 2-3 minutes. I’d lost a couple of minutes on the swim and probably a minute or so on the cycle ride. I wasn’t disappointed. When I passed Romsey Station, my left quad muscle cramped up. I was in pain and the marshal at the lights there called out to ask if I was ok. I cycled through the pain and started to worry about cramping up in T2. I hit red and two sets of lights which lost me about 1 minute.

I made it to Romsey Rapids, dismounted at the unmount line and ran into…


T2 went very well. I just needed to rack by bike, remove my cycle helmet and change from bike to running shoes. This all went very smoothly and I was soon heading for the exit of transition ready for…

The run

Having left Romsey Rapids via a little path from the field behind the leisure centre, it was necessary to cross a couple of roads. There was little traffic and I didn’t have any issues. I could feel my quads and was a little worried that they may start to cramp. I wasn’t wrong.

About a mile into the run, the pain had become unbearable and I had to stop. I’d started ascending a hill and it ached to standstill, to walk or run. I started to think about pulling out but knew that I had to get to the finish anyway so tried to run. It was more of a straight-legged hobble and it wasn’t long before I stopped again. I tried to hold onto a lamppost and stretch to ease the pain but nothing seemed to work. I had to try and run through it.

Each time I ran, the pain eased a little before getting worse again. This dictated a run/walk strategy which was really disappointing as my optimistic target slipped away! In reality it had slipped away before T2. Now my realistic goal looked in jeopardy.

As I turned left from North Baddesely towards Chandlers Ford, the route got flatter. I was still struggling with cramps but eased my pace determined to get to the finish and run as much of it as I could.

All of a sudden Big Dave Hawkins from ERC was at my shoulder asking if I wanted some company. He was out on a 10 mile run and nearing the end of it. The company was much appreciated. After a few minutes, a short distance ahead, I could see a Romsey Road Runners top. It was Chris. He’d finished a while before (probably an hour) and had come to help me to the finish. Whether he knew I was struggling or not before, I’m not sure but seeing him made me sure that I’d finish.

My pace increased and we headed for ‘home’. Chris explained the rest of the route so I knew what to expect. It was really helpful although I didn’t appreciate hearing about the incline to the finish!!

Before long, we were turning into Knightwood Leisure Centre and I could see the finish. Chris dropped back and I increased my pace. It seemed everyone at the finish was shouting my name and giving me encouragement!

I crossed the line feeling very glad that I’d not given up. I saw Barbara and Ian Boshier and Yvonne and needed to lie down once I’d had my timing chip removed, been presented with my medal and had my photo taken. Chris brought over some very welcomed water and I drank that and rehydrated.

The encouragement from Big Dave, Chris, Barbara, Ian and Yvonne was much appreciated and it was great to have them there.

I finished in 2:20:37. 37 seconds outside my realistic target which given my issues on the run wasn’t too much of a disappointment. I’m really glad I finished and completed my 2nd triathlon.

Here are my official splits:

  • Swim + run to transition (T1): 17:10
  • T1: 00:01:10 (18th fastest in T1 out of over 100 competitors)
  • Cycle + T2: 01:13:53
  • Run: 48:23
  • Total: 02:20:37

My T1 was really good. Everything else was less so!! I finished in 79th position out of 101 finishers. Had my run not fallen apart, I’d probably have finished 15 places sooner.

The event itself was very well organised. It’s great to see the friendly team of Ben, Charli and Chris and they’re always happy to chat.

Logistically, the event is well organised given the 3 venues. However, having to travel from Chandlers Ford back to Andover and Romsey is a pain and adds an extra 60-90 minutes to the day. Add to that the early start and it’s almost 7 hours from start to finish. Eastleigh Open Water Tri with its one venue was much shorter and easier. Also, the spectator interaction was great at Lakeside.

3 weeks until my next Tri, HOWSC Tri. That is a sprint (750m lake swim, 20km cycle and 5km run).

Between now and then I need to make several improvements and work out how to reduce the likelihood of cramps which have affected my triathlons so far.

4 thoughts on “Valley Leisure Triathlon 2013

  1. You were very brave trying a new breakfast on race day! Is it something that you’ll try again?

    I really struggle to count lengths in the pool – the only way I can manage it is by alternating between doing front crawl and breast stroke for two lengths and then calculating it, which won’t really work in a race! Are spectators allowed to shout at you?!

    Was the course well sign-posted? Were there many marshals?

    You had your photo taken at the finish… where is it! We want the evidence 😉

    • The photos isn’t a good one and although it’s on the Try Tri FB page, I’m not publicising it!! I’ve had porridge with banana a few times since Sunday and enjoyed it!! In fact, I had a bowl to celebrate my ‘win’ in wave 2 this evening!!

      There were a few spectators counting laps and shouting them to swimmers in the pool. Not many but definitely easier than counting yourself!!

      The course was adequately signposted and there were an adequate number of marshals on both the cycle and run course. Certainly enough although having the streets lined with supporters would have been great!! 😉

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