Top Barn Double Sprint by Andy Thornton
I had to think long and hard about the last time I finished an open water triathlon – it was back on 26th July 2009 competing at Blithfield. A mountain biking accident in 2010 ruled out the whole season so when I was back to proper training at the end of 2010 I decided in 2011 I would have a crack at a middle distance race.
I did lots of training over the winter, and I got a proper training programme written (which I was determined to stick to) that ran all the way from mid-Feb to my target race of the Bala Middle Distance on 12th June.
If you have read Rob Osborne’s Bala report you will know that I was DNF. I was quite enjoying the bike and going really well, albeit the freezing cold hands, until I hit a pot hole around 32 miles and my tire punctured. Even with help from a motorcycle marshal I was unable to change the tyre and my race was over.
Quite simply I was gutted – all that training, preparation for the race (thanks Thomas for all your help) and expense and all I had was a flat tub to show for my efforts.
Not wanting all the training to go to waste I spent the next couple of days looking for alternative middle distance races that I could do. Most were full or clashed with other commitments so I entered the Top Barn Double Sprint on 26th June, a race I did back in 2009 – more on that in a minute.
On the Thursday of that week before the summer series I popped my training wheels on my TT bike and gave the bike a quick once over but for the life of me I couldn’t get the front derailleur to shift into the large chain ring and I like to think I know what I am doing when it comes to bikes. To cut a very long story short the bike went back to Planet X and I got my bike back on the Friday before the race after having the frame swapped!
It was a bit close for comfort and was thinking after Bala what else could go wrong. With my fingers crossed at 5:15am on Sunday morning I set off for Holt Health which is north of Worcester.
The race takes place in and around the Top Barn Activity Centre and is put on by Worcester Triathlon Club. The swim is two 750m laps of a man-made lake, which is only about a metre deep. The water is a bit dirty and you can touch the weeds on the bottom as you swim round. The bike is an also two laps and is an undulating 55k which takes place on pretty quiet roads with a good road surface (well most roads are quite at 8am on a Sunday morning). The run though is the sting in the tail. Again this is two laps totalling 10.5km of which 90% is off-road along tracks and the edges of fields. To make it even trickier there is quite a steep hill in the middle of the lap. For those not ambitious enough to undertake the double sprint there is a sprint race which is just 1 lap for each of the discipline.
I was in the first wave of the day which started at 7:45 hence my early start. At Bala I had got my pacing wrong on the swim and as he likes to constantly remind me, I got out of the water just after Simon Rolfs so I was determined to hit the swim a bit harder in this race. After an uneventful swim I stopped my watch at 26 minutes as I waded the last 15 metres out of the water, as it was too shallow to swim, and then ran to transition. On the way someone shouted I was in about 16th place. I had a quick transition and as it transpired must have overtaken about 8 people and headed out on the bike.
I hit the bike pretty hard and overtook several riders in the first 5 miles most of which was uphill (I like hills). For the remainder of the first lap I traded places with some chap on a Giant Trinity but as we started the uphill for the second lap he dropped back. The second lap was pretty lonely and I didn’t see anyone until the latter stages when I caught up with the tail end of the second double sprint wave.
By now it was starting to get really hot and after another good transition I was out on the run. Having only done training for a half marathon I tempered my initial exuberance on the run to stick at sensible pace remembering how tough the run was last time I did it. I didn’t see anyone until the end of the first lap when one chap went past me. On the second lap I merged in with runners from the sprint race and I managed to make it the end of the race with only a few sprint distance athletes going past me.
At the end of the race according to my stop watch I was a few minutes outside of my target time of 2hrs 45mins.
Now when chip timing works it is great - you finish, tap in your number and you find out your position. When it doesn’t work it takes longer than manual results. I thought I had done quite well having only been overtaken by 1 person but did not know how many people had got out of the swim before me and stayed ahead the whole way round. So 23 months after my last OW race (with an additional 2.5 hour wait for the results!) and after a disastrous couple of weeks prior to the race, I was pretty chuffed to pick up 3rd place.
For all those guys and girls that prefer duathlon or who are particularly strong on the bike then this is a good race to do. This is a really well run race in a great location and I would recommend to anyone.
One thing left to do - complete a middle distance race. I intend to enter the Full Boar Middle Distance over at Market Bosworth on the 18th September. I know Simon Rolfs will be joining me so if anyone else is up for the challenge it is relatively local and not too pricey.
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