Age-group triathlete David Cole made a welcome return to racing with his first ever 70.3-distance victory at a swim-bike-run event in the Cotswolds. It was Dan's first race since COVID decimated the 2020 calendar and he outlines his experience to help fellow athletes get a sense of what to expect when they next return to racing...
David, what was your first impression of returning to racing for the first time in 2020?
The racing format was certainly very different but a step in the right direction. Race numbers were sent in the post, timing chips and swim caps were placed by our racking space, we were told to wear masks in transition, and we were all temperature checked.
It was based on a TT start with ten seconds between each athlete all in alphabetical order. There was also no transition time accounted for so long as you were under ten minutes for T1 and five minutes for T2, and this was done to avoid any issues with social distancing.
As it was also a TT format, there was also a long wait and checking the tracker constant to see whether I’d won the race!
There was a few in the final few waves that were close, but I was back in the apartment with my coffee and brunch when the news broke on the tracker that my time of 4.06 was enough to take the victory.
Did you feel that the precautions put in place made you feel safe around the other athletes?
I cannot praise the organisation and hard work of Graeme and his 113 team highly enough. These precautions made the race as safe as it could have been and not at one point did I feel that there were athletes on top of each other. Everyone that I saw respected the guidelines and rules.
What was the biggest surprise about the race environment?
It was all very relaxed with no stress or pressure. Everyone seemed happy and grateful to have the opportunity to race once again and the atmosphere was great. There were also 100 marshals, so one marshal for every 4/5 athletes which was excellent.
When did you really believe this race was going to happen and your mindset changed to focus on actually being able to race?
It was very difficult to know and my training has not been 70.3 specific at all. I’ve run a lot and biked indoors a fair bit but haven’t done any notable brick sessions.
I’ve still managed good volume but of course lacked the swim distance and training. I wanted a good run and was focused on executing this.
It’s been such a long time, I didn’t really believe that we would be racing until the final email a few days before the race!
Did your training change once you found out the race was happening, or do you feel like you were already race ready?
I knew I had the mileage and distance bagged having run a few marathons in training. One on the treadmill with the essential help of Precision Hydration as that was a sweaty one!
The lockdown period and working from home actually helped me get a bit more cycling done as I didn’t lose time with having to travel, get changed etc. I could eat breakfast at my desk in my shorts and T-shirt.
I actually managed a late entry as I was eager to see where my fitness was and wanted a starting point of knowing how training had gone and this was meant to be my first race towards Kona in February, which has unfortunately now been postponed.
Was there anything specific that you focused on over the COVID "break", and if so did you feel that paid off on race day?
The run I was exceptionally pleased with. I ran a 1.19.30 off a 2.14 bike. This was a new run PB for me in a half-IRONMAN and it’s not a particularly fast course with it being partly trails and a lot of twists and turns.
What race(s) do you have planned next?
I have nothing planned now. I’ll play it by ear but it’s still very difficult to plan ahead for any races with the race sues with travelling far and flying and the worry of last minute cancellations. I may set myself a few challenges if I can’t race and will continue to train in the hope of getting another 70.3 in.