Portsmouth Triathlon Race Report - Learn from this...

Portsmouth Triathlon Race Report - Learn from this...

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If you are too lazy to read the whole report, two things you should know:

  • Point 1 - in a sea swim, never trust Mike J about tidal flow - he used to own a yacht, but that means nothing
  • Point 2 - eat a gel = drink some water

For those of you willing to read on, it all started rather pleasantly on Saturday afternoon in the sunshine registering and then racking the bike in the secure storage. 

Race briefings were running all afternoon, and everyone promptly got very confused about how many bike laps you had to do around the dockyard and around the lake (1 and 5 - or it could be 4 - it depends what you count). Most of us at that point decided to use either GPS or the bike computer, and cycle to "bike-in" when it got to more than 40k.

We headed off to our camp site to set up the tent, and promptly realised that we had the largest spangliest tent on the site and were surrounded by the nylon equivalent of social housing. I was suddenly very thankful my bike was in secure racking.

After an hour of being the new must see attraction for the masses, we put all valuables back into the car, and headed off to meet up with friends for a curry. We were joined by my race buddy Stuart from the BRAT Birmingham Triathlon, and started debating which injuries would slow us down the following day. He took an early lead with some form of leprosy, but I finally clinched it with "sciatic pain from an inflamed perineum".  Elevenariffe will always beat Tenariffe.

Curry over, we returned to the campsite - but only after securing floor space if the thieving pikey's had stolen our tent. Luck was with us, and the tent was still standing.

Up at 5:20 for food and ablutions, and we headed into Portsmouth to secure a parking space just outside the closed road circuit. We walked onto site to find Mike and Emma J trying to convince the race organisers to let then register on the morning rather than the day before (as per race instructions). Obviously being a team player I vouched for them, and all was well.

 Kit got laid out, tyres checked, pacing from rack entrance to bike measured, wetsuit on, GPS turned on, and I was ready.

 I walked the 200m from transition to the swim, and when I saw Mike I tactfully mentioned that a grey swim hat (wave 2) was for the older gents. His response was touching if rather anglo saxon in its content.

Wave 1 got into the water to warm up, and a few of them walked out to the first buoy. Cue a 15min delay as the tide was out.

Mike was scouting out the swim exit and offering tidal drift advice as he had used his sailing knowledge to check tidal flow and strength. In truth it would not make any real difference as the course is the course, but suffice to say the advice in hindsight appeared to be completely wrong.

Wave 1 went off, wave two followed, and finally wave 3 (and me) were allowed to navigate barefoot down the shingle beach, across the large pebbles, and into the water. In the warm up time I worked out that I could run/walk faster than I could swim up until the sea reached 4ft deep, and so I had my plan.

Off went the klaxon, and like a startled gazelle I ran through the shallows, floundered like a girl through the mid thigh depth, and then waded like Arnie until the early swimmers started catching me.

My Navigation for once was good and the buoys all passed within a couple of feet of me. I drafted where I could, passed a few grey hats, and even some green (wave 1) and thought I was doing really well (hoping for a sub 28mins). Then rounding the final buoy heading towards the beach, I got chicked by the leader of wave 4 (the girls)! I was magnanimous in thinking that she was probably a world champion as I was having a good swim. Out of the water and hit the transition button on my 310XT - 37mins. THIRTY SEVEN - WTF?????

Off to transition with a hugely deflated ego.

Transition was ok and out onto the bike course. It felt good to be moving at speed, and even the cobbles in the dockyard were ok. I can confirm that none of the defence budget is spent on the upkeep of roads in naval bases as I was by this point wearing most of the drink I was trying to take in. 

The course through the dockyard went past HMS Victory, and was very tight and technical, but the 5 laps of the boating lake and esplanade that followed were fast and great fun. I averaged over 21mph overall so was happy with that.

Into T2 which for once was quite quick, and out onto the run course. Straight away I was feeling rubbish, which was quickly compounded by Mike doing his impression of a racing snake and passing me at the end of his first 5km lap. But for all that "feeling rubbish" a glance at the 310 showed me doing 7:21 per mile - happy days. Head up, keep going, catch the bugger in front of me. 

I took in a gel just before the drink station at 2.5km to give me more energy for the final third of the run - it worked for me at the BRAT Tri earlier in the year - I took on a cup water and kept going. The 2nd lap began to feel bad, I could feel heat building and dehydration starting. Another cup of water at the 7.5km mark, but it wasn't enough. At 8km my vision was going along with my legs, and I had to stop. Head between knees for two mins, got some blood back up into my head, stood up carefully, and kept moving towards the finish. 

A marshal asked if I was ok, and I explained I was dehydrating - a bottle of water appeared, and promptly disappeared down my throat - I could literally feel the energy flowing back into my body - off I went running again.

10mins later and I am sprinting down the finish chute thoroughly disappointed with myself, as by then I had figured out that it was self inflicted.

Why did it work at the BRAT but not here in Portsmouth? At the BRAT it was four loops rather than two - so I had access to twice as many water stations - simple really. Gels need water. Learn from this.


Did I enjoy the race, yes. 

Did I get a PB, not a chance. 

Did I learn things to make me faster in the future, yes. 

Will I do it next year, yes - but only to prove a point to myself.


There were mutterings that the swim was at least 300m too long, but are as yet unproven. My GPS showed 2.04km, and as stated, my sighting for once was good. Several people took over an hour to complete the swim, and my time of 37mins would have put me into sub 30min territory for 1500m if the mutterings were true - much more like normal. 

Again I have to say the marshals were great and I thanked as many as I could en route. It was really good to do a Tri with friends, and I even got a medal! 

Best of all, the tent was still there when we got back to the campsite.