So, it's no secret that I love pretty bikes. Literally a pretty frame colour and I am sold. So, imagine how I felt when Liv Cycling released a gorgeous looking TT bike (Liv Avow) this year.
There are 2 versions of the Avow this year, however the one I fell in love with was pink and blue. I thought about purchasing it for ages, kept looking at it online and went into retailers to look at it in person. I have several bikes, but I didn't have a TT bike, but was this really justification for buying one. I'm not fast, not in comparison to most cyclists, but I do do a fair amount of middle and long-distance triathlons. Justification? Maybe...
I didn't buy it on impulse when it was first released, I kept considering it for quite some time. When I still wanted it a few months later I decided if I would train for and ride Ironman Italy on it then that was justified. So, I purchased it from Giant in Chelmsford. There were some modifications I wanted to do before riding it though, I wanted to change the gearing to Shimano Di2 (electronic) and to change the tri bar set up to one I knew to be comfortable. I also wanted some new wheels. So, this meant that whilst I have owned the bike for a while my first outing on it was just 3 days before the Cotswold Classic Triathlon.
I took it out on the Thursday evening before the race and it was a bit disastrous, the base bar wasn't correctly tightened so within 2 miles my tri bars were pointing to the floor. Not a great start, stopped and sorted them out and did a few miles on the hoods, just getting used to the feel of the bike, it handles differently to my road bikes and the brakes felt quite different. After a few miles I was a little more confident and tried the tri bars, I soon worked out I needed to tweak the position a bit as my knees were meeting my elbows and the angle my arms were at was putting too much pressure up through my shoulders. My other half Adam was out with me and was very patient each time we needed to stop and make some adjustments. It was literally a case of ride 2 miles, stop, tweak, ride another 2, stop tweak again. But eventually I was reasonably comfortable, and we headed home.
The next day I took the bike out for a little 12-mile loop close to home, just to check I felt ok on it, then it was time to get everything ready for the triathlon as we were leaving Saturday morning to get to the Cotswolds and get registered etc. ready for me to race on Sunday.
I haven't done a triathlon since Dubai 70.3 in February. A shoulder injury just before Dubai meant I struggled in Dubai, then the recovery from that, coupled with other events meant that I have done very little swimming this year, and no real triathlon focused training. I entered this event as a test race before Ironman Italy as I really wasn't sure how I would cope.
Morning of the event, usual 4am alarm and a struggle to make myself eat (I eventually managed half a bagel) then we headed to the start, racking was quite easy with each competitor’s area clearly numbered, so I set up my transition and headed towards the swim start.
I am always crazily nervous before the swim start, I really don't know why, I'm not a bad swimmer, nothing terrible has ever happened to me in a mass swim start but I really don't like it. The water temperature was just over 22 degrees and I had planned to swim non-wetsuit, but the air temperature felt cold, so I had a last-minute change of plan and put my wetsuit on. I really did not want to start, and right up until the countdown I was considering changing my mind and just spending the day watching by the lake. I didn't want to race. Adam was super supportive, knew I was feeling awful, helped me get my wetsuit on, went to buy me a bottle of water and made sure I got in to the water.
The swim was fine, after about 200mtrs I was regretting the wetsuit decision, but too late to do anything about it. All of my wave started off super-fast, so I had plenty of space for about the first half a mile, and I caught the majority of the pack about half way through the swim. 45 minutes later the swim was over. Now time to test out the new bike!
Running out of transition somehow my race belt had loosened, so there was a moment of flapping just over the mount line while I had to stop to adjust it! Then off and on to the bike leg. The route was 2 x 28-mile laps, reasonably flat, a 'hill' of sorts about half way into the lap, followed by a few undulations, then back to being reasonably flat again. The first lap took me 1hr 32 mins, and the 2nd lap 1hr 36 mins (a little slower but the hills felt bigger a 2nd time round and I also had to stop at a couple of junctions) so 3hrs 8 minutes later I was back in transition. Not a ground-breaking bike leg, but a good solid 17.5mph and on a bike I was unfamiliar with I was quite pleased. I probably spent 50% of the time on the bars and 50% in the hoods, but I don't think that's a bad ratio considering I'd only ridden the bike twice.
Then there was just the run left to go. The run was predominantly trail, it runs around the back of the swim lake, then out on to a road for a short while before heading into a country park. It was pretty, I hadn't researched the event very well so the fact it was off road threw me a bit, but also gave me something to focus on and made me concentrate on picking my feet up. It was 3 loops of 4.4 miles and I was doing ok until halfway. 10km into the run I lost the motivation to move and had a few walks along the road section in the sun. It was 32 degrees, so a lot of people were feeling the heat quite a bit. My run became a fast walk/jog in sections, but I was ok with this, better to be able to finish than to push too hard in the heat and struggle.
6 hours and 29 minutes later I finished. 2nd triathlon of the year done, reasonably successfully in extreme heat with a new bike. No PB's but a good solid day. I also finished in position 666... Make of that what you will.
I really enjoyed the event, it was just the right size, small enough to feel quite personal, but big enough that there were always other competitors around. The marshals were super friendly and enthusiastic, great little crowd of dedicated supporters as you came through the bike and run laps. The location was also incredible, the most picturesque setting. I will almost certainly be back.
In the meantime, it’s now 5 weeks till Ironman Italy and I feel like I am in denial about this. My training has been haphazard and unfocused, so time to get a bit serious I guess. The new bike may have to spend some time on the turbo, so I can get some extra miles in...