Last weekend’s WTS race in Hyde Park is what I refer to as a big ticket race, mainly because it’s huge in terms of competitors and sponsor presence, it’s expensive but you get to race at unique venues and on closed roads. They are once in a lifetime races for the bragging rights. But then there are the other races. The ones you go back to every year because they are local, are well organised, friendly, personal, support the sport at the grassroots and are quite frankly very good value for money. The Mid Sussex Triathlon is one of those races.
The Mid Sussex Triathlon
The Mid Sussex Triathlon is organised by the Mid Sussex Tri Club and held in Burgess Hill at the Triangle Leisure centre. It forms part of the Sussex Weald Triathlon Series and is a pool based Sprint distance event comprising of a 400m swim, a 25 km bike and a 5 km run. It is a very relaxed race with extremely helpful marshals, volunteers and referees and makes for a great first time experience.
The Mid Sussex Tri is an ‘old school’ race, meaning there is no chip timing. What makes it special is that it is a time trial race, which is down to the way the swim works. It’s just you against the clock.
It’s a 400m pool swim. At registration you put down a time for your 400m swim according to which you are seeded. However, fear not, if since registering your swim has improved you can reseed yourself. You pop down poolside at your approximate start time and then start chatting to your fellow racers to see where in the queue you should be. At this point your race number is irrelevant. It gives the whole swim a good vibe and there’s a real buzz around the pool. How nice is that?
Swimmers are set off in 20 second intervals and there is no way you can miscount your laps as you snake your way up and down the 8 lanes. A friendly volunteers will tap you on the head if you are holding up following swimmers so you can let them pass and get on with your race stress free.
If you’ve ever been around Burgess Hill, you know it is leafy and scenic. The bike course gives you exactly that, a slightly more than 20km ride through country lanes over a lovely rolling terrain. No, it’s not an easy ride, but neither is it hard. The inclines are all gradual and you get rewarded for your efforts with swishy descents that even for a downhill chicken like me are easy to ride. Along the course, which is well marked, you get cheered on by the marshals, who also keep an eye out for good deeds, smiley people and supportive racers.
There are 2 bits at the beginning and the end where you ride on a double carriage way, but the drivers are respectful (if you are respectful to them) and it is generally not an issue. On the contrary, it gives you an opportunity to put your head down and really dig out all the speed you can muster.
The run is not the most scenic, but it is straightforward because it is a simple out and back course. However, when you get off your bike you are engulfed by a wave of cheers and cowbells. Along the run route, the support from marshalls and returning runners never stops, and even the locals set up cheer stations in their driveway – apparently much to the dismay of a Ferrari owning neighbour who thought it was too early for this kind of stuff. I think his car made more noise than the cheerers, but anyways.
Did I mention, the last bit of the run course is a slight downhill and you are carried across the line by cheers, more cowbells, and in this instance, the catchy tunes of a youth jazz orchestra. I felt like breaking out in a dance across the finish line to ‘Jungle Boogie’, but I managed to control myself. Just.
Once you’ve crossed the line, you are long not done. Your medal and your goodie bag awaits (and if you’ve got two kids and there’s drama over who gets the medal, you can get an extra one, so even the little ones are happy). At the prize giving, more prizes await. Lots of freebies (goggles, phone protectors, biscuits, anti-chafe…), and awards in categories such as smiliest person, most considerate person, most supportive athlete, outstanding achievements… and have I mentioned more free stuff? Pretty much everyone goes home with a prize.
And when you’re home, you soon get an email with your results and a link to download your race photos for free. Considering that Mid Sussex Tri Club are a club putting on an event, you get a race by athletes, for athletes. A lot of thought and effort is put into making people feel safe, comfortable and welcome regardless of ability. It’s a fab event that if you live in the South East of England should be on your annual race calendar.
So how did my own race go? This was race 2 of 4 weeks back-to-back racing. After my swim PB in Hyde Park, I was fairly confident of a solid swim and I knew my bike was up there. My run was the most disappointing bit last week and so I have started to supplement with Proto-col collagen to strengthen my tendons and ligaments and I’ve also started the 30 Day Challenge with Kinetic Revolution. For this race, I was just hoping of an improvement to my running off the bike.
I had predicted a 6.30 min swim and came out the pool in 6.46min. Considering there are no tumble turns and you dive under lane ropes, I figure that’s ok.
I went the long way out of transition, losing probably 15 sec, my fault. Mounting was a bit of a mission, more time lost. I didn’t panic though, once I was moving, I settled in pretty quickly and aimed for keeping above 200W. This worked beautifully up and downhill. I felt very comfortable and confident on the bike. Off and into transition. Fastest lady on a bike by more than a minute and 16th fastest time overall.
Coming off the bike, my legs felt much improved compared to last week. I went at a good pace, focussing on form. I felt good throughout, my range of motion on the left is coming back. I’m back in the 21 min range for 5k, just. But I’m back.
Overall, I finished 3rd lady and I won my age group. Definitely an improvement. The Mid Sussex Tri will be a good memory and I encourage you to sign up for it. Next stop Brownlee Tri.