Last tri of the season – HOWSC 100

My first triathlon, last year, was HOWSC 100, so I was excited about entering the same event this year in the hope that I would get a PB (and some proof that I have made progress). I know that I’m more confident and my swimming has improved, but I wanted to know that my progress was about speed as much as endurance.

On Saturday evening, Stuart and I registered at HOWSC and then had a drive around the bike course. It seemed a little undulating, but none of the hills were particularly steep, so I felt reassured that it wouldn’t be a problem.

On Sunday, we got up early, racked our bikes and then went to watch the start of the Olympic distance event. Suzanne, Katherine, Jenny and Sonia were just some of our friends who were taking part in the standard distance. It was the first time that most of them had tackled the distance. Teri, Liz and James had opted to do the sprint distance with Stu and I.

HOWSC brief
Ben getting everyone’s attention for the start of the Olympic brief ©Try Tri

After the briefing, we watched the swimmers enter the water and make their way over to the start point. There was a count down from 20 to 1 and then they were off. At that point we headed back to transition to put on our wetsuits and make any final adjustments, before heading back for the start of our race.

After arriving at the holding pen, we were given chips and had a quick briefing before heading for the water.

HOWSC swim 1
I’m quite easy to spot here – I had on my shark hat (and put a red hat over it before getting in the water) © Try Tri
HOWSC swim 2
In case you’re wondering why my hands are up, I was holding my goggles up so that I could see through them (prescription lenses) © Try Tri

The bottom of the lake was very squishy and unpleasant, so I tried to swim as soon as possible when I got in, rather than wading. The temperature wasn’t too bad, so I felt reasonably confident that I would have a good swim. Unfortunately, I positioned myself badly. I forgot how many of the people had never done a triathlon before and I would imagine that many of them had never swum in a lake before either, so I think I started too far back. There were 105 swimmers and so it felt like quite a large pack in a confined area.

I tried to get into a rhythm as early as possible, but found that I was hemmed in by other swimmers. As a novice, I hated aggressive swimmers who seemed to be trying to swim over me… now I feel guilty that I might have become that person. At one point when I breathed, I realised that the person next to me didn’t even have goggles on, so clearly their intention was to do the entire swim using ‘old-lady-breaststroke’.

It was a two-lap course, so by the time I was half-way around the first lap, it had thinned out a bit and I even managed to draft someone for a little while, before deciding that I needed to move faster. I realised that I was much further back than I had hoped to be, but it was a good feeling to know that I wasn’t last.

The second lap felt much smoother, but I couldn’t really make up for lost time.

Last year: Swim: 22:19.6 (44/46)

This year: Swim: 18:36.8 (81/105)

So, an improvement of 3:43 since last year, but I think that if I were to position myself better then I could have been at least another minute faster.

Last year’s transition was a bit of a disaster with a fall and a battle with my wetsuit. This year, I moved fairly quickly to transition, but didn’t fall over. I removed my wetsuit quite easily, but had a few problems with my contact lenses. This has not happened before and annoyed me, but I don’t think it wasted too many seconds. Liz arrived in transition as I was there. I probably shouldn’t have spoken to her, but it was quite nice to see her.

Last year: T1: 3:54.75 (44/46)

This year: T1: 3:17.60 (91/105)

It’s still not good enough, but that’s an improvement of 37 seconds.

Stuart came out of the water in 5th place, but it all went wrong on the bike

I ran to the mount line as quickly as I could, but felt very frustrated that there were two men there who were faffing around and not just getting on their bikes and going. Finally they moved off and I was able to start pedalling. I quickly over took a few people and then had a nice clear stretch of road.

I hd no idea what position I was in, but I knew I wanted to maintain a good average pace.

The course was definitely a technical course with quite a few sharp turns and plenty of undulation. I managed to pass men on almost every uphill, but they would pass me again on the downhills – I think it was a combination of their greater body weight and lack of fear.

It was meant to be a non-drafting race, but there were quite a few pelotons out on the road, which was a bit frustrating.

In the latter half of the road, I saw a familiar trisuit with union jacks on the sides… it was Teri. I managed to catch up with her and passed her going up a hill, but I knew she wouldn’t give up that easily. Sure enough, Teri was already back with me on the next downhill. I carried on and managed to pass her, but I didn’t look back to see where she was as I was focusing on my own time, rather than trying to beat anyone.

A little while later, about 16km into the ride, I saw someone at the side of the road. Another glance at the striking orange and black trisuit told me it was Stu. He appeared to be dealing with a puncture. I called out to him and he said he was fine. I felt really sad, as I knew he was hoping for a good result. I started to worry about Stu and as a consequence was not focusing on my ride. Teri caught up with me and shouted that I had slowed down. I explained what had happened and we chatted for a couple of minutes. fortunately, this did not distract me too much as, on a sharp bend, we encountered a couple of motorcyclists who were so far over the road that they nearly hit us.

I pedalled on and felt pleased when I took the final turn onto the main road. I had no idea how far behind Teri was, but I wanted to get up some speed, as I knew i would slow a bit when I started taking my shoes off. I also wanted to try to drink some water as I hadn’t drunk anything so far in the race, and it was starting to get warm.

I was pleased with my flying dismount and realised that I was coming into transition right behind Katherine.

Last year: Bike: 1:01:33.4 (34/46)
This year:
Bike: 50:06.65 (73/105)

That’s an improvement of 11:27. Again, I still think I can do better.

I ran to transition, had a little fight trying to lift my bike onto the rack (my bike is super light, but the rack was really high), put on my trainers, grabbed my visor and started running.

Last year: T2: 1:36:20 (41/46)

This year: T2: 40.85 (20/105)

That’s a (comparatively) massive improvement of 56 seconds. If Graeme has taught me anything, it’s how to dismount 🙂

On the run, I could see various runners as we started in a field. I couldn’t see Teri, but had no idea whether she had run ahead of me. I was also concerned as I hadn’t picked up an inhaler and my breathing wasn’t great. I settled down at a steady pace of 5:45/km – not as fast as I wanted to go, but I knew that if I could maintain it then I would definitely finish the run in under 30 minutes.

I didn’t see the photographer, so I have no idea whether this was on my first or second lap!

Partway around the course, I saw Chris and Ben. Chris was armed with a camera and ben appeared to be ready for a high-five…

HOWSC high 5 1
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 2
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 3
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 4
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 5
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 6
© Try Tri
HOWSC high 5 7
© Try Tri

The course was a loop of the field, a tricky steep little hill and then a lap of the lake – and then repeat. I quite enjoyed the course and felt good when I was able to overtake a few people. I had no idea whether they were doing the sprint, novice or Olympic distance, but passing someone is always motivational.

One of the marshals called out that she liked my kit – people are always commenting on it and I feel so proud to be able to wear it.

Finally, I could see the finish funnel. I could hear someone coming up behind me, but I didn’t look back… I was totally focussed on running my own race… then I heard a voice – it was Teri again. We crossed the line together (well 0.05 seconds apart!)

HOWSC finish
© Try Tri

Last year: Run: 32:21:05 (34/46)

This year: Run: 27:36.15 (72/105)

That’s an improvement of 4:45.

I’m quite pleased with my run result. I know that I can run faster, but my running has been terrible this year nd I was just hoping for a sub 30 minute finish, so this was quite a good result.

After the race, Teri and I met up with James for a quick photo:

HOWSC Teri James
© Try Tri

Last year: Overall: 2:01:45.05 (37/46)
I was 10/15 female and 4th in the F30-39 category

This year: Overall: 1:40.18 (78/105)
I was 20/35 female and 2nd (out of 5) in the F36-40 category

Overall, it was a very successful day. I loved the event and improved in every discipline with a total improvement of over 21 minutes in comparison with last year. What a great finish to my season, and proof that I am progressing towards my ultimate goal 🙂


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