The Ashington triathlon was the first triathlon I ever did back in 2011. It now has a new base at the new leisure centre for the 400m pool swim, and a lovely new trail run which I encountered for the first time this year.
I’ve done far less triathlon training than I did for that first event and I feel slower and less fit than when I tackled the course on a heavy old mountain bike. But it has the reputation of being a friendly, local and well organised event and, coming at the start of the season, no one is feeling at their sharpest.
Despite my misgivings, I was surprisingly relaxed and nonchalant about the whole thing. I got my kit ready the day before and checked my bike over. I also spent a bit of time going through race in my mind and trying some positive visualisation of how it would feel to take part.
I slept well and woke just before the alarm. I managed half a bowl of porridge and packed the car for the short drive. I had plenty of time to register and collect my race t-shirt before setting up my bike, helmet and shoes in the transition area.
I had quite a long wait before my heat, so I opted to take some time out and went back to the car to listen to some music and avoid too much hustle and bustle. My mind was running over the last minute preparations before the race, so I headed back to the leisure centre and got ready to race.
With my tri suit on and goggles and hat in hand, I headed to the pool side. After the briefing, I stood to one side to take some deep breaths and stretch to keep my nerves under control.
There was plenty of time to get in the water and do some bubble blowing to get my breath under control. I was first off in my lane, so my first length was into clear water – a lovely way to ease in gently. I heard the whistles go for the others behind me and soon the water was churning.
When I felt a tip on my toes at the end of my 2nd length, I let the other two swimmers go past. It meant I could focus on my own swim without worrying about holding anyone up. I tried to draft off the feet of the man in front of me, but it was obvious they were faster paced swimmers. It wasn’t a fast swim for me, but I always felt in control and even kicked on a bit of pace for the last two lengths. My aim was to have a calm swim and I did.
Swim done, and I was quickly out of the pool, and running around the side of the building into transition. I’ve suffered from cold feet on this bike ride before, so took a few extra seconds to put socks on. My time show I wasn’t much slower than normal.
Off out on the bike and it felt a bit chilly at first, but that encouraged me to get my legs turning over quickly. The route passes the Ashington Archer statue three times over two laps and and out and back section. I kept my gears in a relatively easy effort, only having to make a big change at the foot of Bothal Bank.
In past I have powered up this short sharp hill. Today I was out of the saddle for parts of the lower section, with my breath gasping even though my legs were turning at a very slow speed by the top.
The next section was into the wind and this soon took me round to start my second lap. My back felt a bit niggly as I turned towards the Archer, and by the time I’d climbed the steep bank again, I was trying to stretch it out.
Heading back on the final out and back section, the wind was in my face and the added resistance made this hard work. I could feel myself slowing and kept telling myself to turn my legs over faster so I could get to the end and get off the bike sooner.
I stopped before the dismount line and headed back into transition to rack my bike and do a swift change into my running shoes.
The run course is new to me and follows a good trail path alongside farmers’ fields and through some trees. It takes a long straight road out, then a loop back around towards the start, followed by a shorter loop to the finish.
I felt like my feet were shuffling until I reached the trail paths, where I was able to pick up my feet and to inject a bit more pace. Throughout the whole of the race, the marshals were great, full of encouragement and positivity.
My run pace dropped off a bit as I tackled a barely there rise, but I was able to pick up again soon after. On coming round for the shorter lap I figured I had about a mile to go. Soon the finish line was in sight and with a bit of a kick and arms aloft, I made it.
A bevy of smiling marshals took my timing chip, gave me a bottle of water and presented me with a medal. I wasn’t expecting that – we don’t often get medals from triathlon races and this one was a lovely wooden one in the shape of the county of Northumberland, marked with the stripes of the county flag and featuring cut out figures swimming cycling and running.
This is still a great, friendly triathlon, and in my view has been improved by the move to the new leisure centre. The hill on the bike course makes it challenging, but it’s a great way to start the triathlon season.
Everything was very well organised by Northumberland tri club with help from VO2 Max Racing events. It was particularly well and enthusiastically marshalled by volunteers who were mainly from the club. Marshals and volunteers are so important at these events, not just for safety, but for their encouragement and support, and every one of them did a great job.
I hope to put this race back on the calendar, and return fitter and faster next year.