I'm a couple of days late with this, but in my defence it has been a very busy week. On Tuesday 16th August the Seychelles Triathlon Federation organised a sprint distance triathlon, which is a 750m swim - 20km bike - 5km run. Although it was a low key event, there were around 20 athletes who had travelled from Reunion and a few more from Mauritius, making for an international race.
This was only the second triathlon to ever be held in the Seychelles (the first being in November last year). With that in mind, logistical aid was provided from the Reunion and Mauritius Triathlon Federations. The race had a really friendly 'island' feel to it. All the athletes were looking forward to racing, many of whom were visiting the Seychelles for the very first time.
This was to be my first ever sprint distance triathlon, and I was excited. I was under no illusions that this distance isn't my strength, and of course, I went into the race on the back of a hard block of training, un-tapered. My plan for the race was to swim and run hard, and get through the bike without incident.
Moving on to the race, laps were the order of the day. Unfortunately we were unable to have any road closures at all, which led to the decision to comprise the distances of short loops. The swim was 2 loops of 375m in the sea, non-wetsuit of course! Even with only 40 people in the race, treading water at the start line felt a little crowded. As soon as the gun went off, there was a little jostling for position, but then I settled and found a pair of feet to follow for the first loop. I felt comfortable for the first loop, much more so than I normally would. Upon starting the second loop, I made a break and looked ahead to see the lead pack had about a 50m gap. It took the next 350m to join the back of the group, but I did it! I exited the water in around 3rd/4th place. This was the first time I can say that I felt like a swimmer in a race. This was a small victory and proof that the swim training is paying off.
Coming out of the water we ran up the beach to transition. Although the race was draft legal, I only had my tri bike, but I had to make do. The bike route was on a road I'm familiar with from run training. The 2.5km out-and-back course was on a really tough stretch of road, with plenty of sharp climbs and twisting gradual descents. This along with 180 degree turns at each end of the lap made the course quite technical. I started out quite hard, trying to bridge my way towards the first few guys. Then the guy who I drafted during the first leg of the swim whizzed past me. I tried to jump onto his wheel, but it was going to require a massive effort - one that I didn't have. He passed early on and started working with one of the other leaders, building a gap on the rest of us. During the first lap Simon from Paradise Tri Training came up to me and we started working together to try and claw back at the time the leaders were gaining. Unfortunately I think Simon was a bit jet lagged from his flight the day before, and ended up dropping off. This led to me racing the rest of the bike course alone. I could see at each turnaround point that the lead was extending, and by the end of the bike it was up to just over a minute.
I came into transition in 4th place, but made the mistake of not running around a cone, costing me another 5 seconds or so. Valuable time if I was to move up the field. As soon as I started running, I knew this wasn't going to be fast, it was just one of those days. The run was also 4 loops, giving plenty of opportunities to see where the rest of the field are. At the first turnaround point I'd made up some time on 3rd place, but the leading 2 were looking strong. I eased my way into the run and started to feel better and better as it progressed. At the final turnaround point with around 600m to go, I'd caught 2nd place, but was still about 30 seconds down on first. With 500m left, I tried to up the pace, but I could hear the footsteps of the guy on my heels. We were gaining time on the leader, but not fast enough. With 50m to go, I was out-sprinted for 2nd place and ended up 3rd, 15 seconds shy of the winner. I'd negative split the run - running the second half faster than the first - which was one of my main goals.
Given my training for Ironman, it's unsurprising that as the race progressed I felt better. All in all I was extremely pleased with the performance, and felt it was affirmation of recent improvement, specifically on the swim. I was amazed by how tactical a short race like this is. To be honest, that's probably my favourite aspect of this distance. I love any and all triathlons, but long distances are really my preference. I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in the organisation of the race, and to everyone who gave up their time to help. We're already looking ahead to the next race to be held in December, which will hopefully be bigger and better!