Race Blog – James England
Posted on: October 1, 2018
Stourhead Immortal Half 2017
For the last three seasons this race has become my season opener and a great gauge of how the winter has gone. It is organised by our good friends at Immortal sport. Elly has marshalled here the last three years and helps at a lot of their events as do Mum and Dad at pretty much all of them. The team at Immortal are great, right from the race directors down to all the marshals, nothing is too much for any of them! Big thank you to all of you for this, makes such a difference at a race.The race has arguably the most picturesque setting on the UK triathlon scene. It is set in the National Trust Stourhead House and Gardens grounds. Google it, trust me, not many triathlons are lucky enough to secure locations like this. The sprint on the Saturday night was even started by a Bride celebrating her wedding day there!
Anyway, my race weekend…here goes! This weekend was Els, I and Fudge’s (the dog) first experience of Van life. We decided to stay up there in the van as we were marshalling at the sprint on Saturday night and didn’t fancy travelling back late just to be getting up at 4am to head back! This brought back my inner child, back to camping in the garden just because I could! Great fun and is something we will definitely be doing for future events. Only downside being it rained all night on the Saturday so I spent a lot of the night listening to the rain regretting believing the weather forecast and not packing a rain jacket!! However come 5:30am the rain had cleared and all was set for race day.
For me I have worked hard on the swim this winter, I have trained hard with my good training partner Vinny, aiming to get in a minimum of three, preferably four, swims a week, so was really hoping to see some progress here.
We arrived at the stunning lake for race brief and all filtered down the pontoon. I managed to secure myself a good place on the mass start line. The swim is a two lap affair and both went with nothing really to report! Just concentrated on my technique all the way round and getting as much purchase with each stroke as possible. I got out the water just under two minutes quicker than last year, very pleased I started the 800m up hill run to T1!
Out of T2 I jumped on the bike now already 2 and a half minutes ahead of last year, very pleased. Having spoke with the Coach Leanne at Tri Topia on the Friday about the race and my goals, she had set me some power targets that scared me a little, but I was excited to give it a crack! Especially with the new addition wheels and aero helmet over the winter, who doesn’t love new kit!
Pleased to say though the power target was perfect, it kept me pushing hard for both laps of the bike. The bike course at Immortal is a challenging one with 500m of climbing on each lap but my legs felt great and I was really pleased to take eight minutes of last years bike split on arguably a harder day, on the main 15km drag where you can really get aero and focus on holding the watts it was a headwind this year which was not to friendly!!
Overall though the bike went really well, between my first lap and second was only a 40 second difference so I was really pleased with my pacing, don’t get me wrong I was looking forward to getting off the bike and starting the run as I always do but was excited as big PB was looking to be on the cards, showing the winter work had done the job…
If you had not already guessed or seen my Strava feed, unfortunately my brilliant day did not continue here. I had decided to use today to trial just racing on gels. I have read so much on it over the winter and decided it was worth a crack at race pace. Safe to say its not for me! It felt fine on the bike and gave me all the energy I needed however as soon as I started running I knew I was in trouble. To start with I convinced myself it would go after the first few kilometres, the first few never feel great right?! Unfortunately not, unable to get any form of nutrition in now I made the decision to just grind it out and hope it passed. Afraid not, the half marathon was to be run with no nutrition, one cup of water was all I managed! Obviously no where near enough fuel to run a strong half marathon and subsequently just continued to fade as the ran went on. I managed to get through the first of the three laps on goal pace but it drifted from there on. With my slowing pace and portaloo time, my run for me was a disappointment. I ran 2 min slower than last year when I know my running form is considerably better. But lessons learnt, and the positive is my legs feel really fresh so I can get straight back into run training rather the usual hobbling around for several days after!
The Race Overall
Even with a poor run I secured a PB here again with 5hr07. A strong time that I am very proud off, I had gone into the race targeting sub 5hr, so I will be honest and admit at the finish line, and for a few hours after, I was very disappointed. Initially I struggled to see the positives. However having spoke with Elly about it, the amazing guys at Tri Topia, and some great friends, I can now see the day overall was a success. A PB is a PB at the end of the day. I am really pleased with my swim and bike which are re-assurance that the winter has worked. Sure, I was unable to put the run down as I wanted to, but I have already proved to myself with earlier running races that I am definitely stronger here too.
I know now going forward that I have to really focus on dialling in a race day nutrition strategy. For me this will be a big focus in every weekend long brick now. I know if I can get this right the fitness is there and will only grow to really attack Outlaw for a big PB! I thoroughly enjoyed my first race as part of Tri Topia race team, and not being able to make myself really suffer on the run meant I could jog round encouraging everybody out there on the course and thanking all the marshals giving up their time. Massive thanks again to everyone who supports me, especially Elly who continues to give up her weekends supporting me and keeping me positive, and obviously the team at Tri Topia for the support and putting me in the best possible position to compete in this amazing sport.