This July, OUTriC member Oliver Crossley experienced massive success in the 2018 Tartu ETU Triathlon European Championships in Estonia, winning gold in the 25-29 age group category. The race was an olympic distance triathlon, including a 1500m swim, a 40km bike, followed by a 10km run. Oliver was overjoyed after the race, stating 'I cannot believe it, all the training has paid off. What a fantastic race, led from the start of the bike and came home in a PB of 1:51:40!' Oliver has experienced much success in triathlon during his time with the club and OUTriC are very proud of all he has achieved and wish him all the best in his future in sport.
At the recent 2018 Glasgow ETU Triathlon European Championships, OUTriC member David Pearson experienced massive success, winning a silver medal in the 20-24 age group sprint distance race. This was a very meaningful achievement for David who unfortunately experienced a nasty crash and ended up in hospital after competing in the previous year in the same event in Düsseldorf. David expressed delight at his achievement, stating 'From lying in a hospital bed after Düsseldorf 2017 to a silver medal in my age group at Glasgow European Sprint Championships 2018 - it was a great day at the office - enough motivation to keep me going till next year'. After experiencing a very successful year in triathlon, winning the varsity race and attaining a full blue, David has now graduated with a first in biological sciences. As he leaves the club, we wish him all the best for his future in triathlon.
Benjamin Franklin’s assertions on life’s certainties (see BUCS Sprint race report) clearly failed to account for the existence of coach companies. On Sunday 14th May, our 5am meeting time for Varsity Triathlon came and went, and the vehicle on which our fifty-strong team had planned to travel remained elusive. Half an hour of logistical discussion, five cars and one taxi later, we were finally on the road to meet our minty green counterparts at Emberton Park, Milton Keynes. Perhaps not the optimal race preparation, but the athletes of OUTriC were not to be deterred. In the lead up to the race, training and tapering had varied among the Oxford competitors. At the professional end of the spectrum Sophia Saller’s pre-race routine included a boozy swimming club dinner and two hours of sleep, and 2016 Varsity winner Laura Fenwick was looking forward to finally being on the start line of a club race this season, despite the best efforts of the Exeter-Hertford playing fields to sabotage her through injury. Meanwhile, Secretary Tom Stewart made no secret of his race plan to use the swim and bike as an extended warm up in order to try and beat Tom Lewin’s run time.
As the race got underway, Lewin’s hatred for company in the swim quickly became evident once again. Over the course of the 750m lake swim he pulled (and kicked) out a fifteen second lead over his main rival “Giant Tab”, who was followed in turn by the usual suspects – Sophia, Lucy, Laura and Pietro - all blissfully unaware of the fight ensuing behind. No one was more in the midst of the violence than Joe Bowness, whose excellent first split came at the cost of a fat lip courtesy of an as yet unidentified athlete. Iona Richards put in a characteristically strong performance in her favourite of the three disciplines to exit the water fourth in the women’s race and continue the recent tradition of OUTriC women dominating the front of the Varsity swim. Club coach George Edwards spent the entire swim in shock that training actually makes you faster, whilst newly crowned marathon Half-Blue Fergus Cumming experienced the opposite effect. At the end of phase one Oxford were comfortably in command at the top of both the men’s and women’s races with the well-established Twitter hashtag #wherearethetabs seeming more relevant than ever. T1 brought its usual share of entertainment and varying degrees of urgency. Sam Skillcorn suffered spectator heckling for his bike mounting technique, meanwhile George took so long that he might as well have stopped for a cup of his favourite Yorkshire Tea. After less than glowing reviews in previous reports, it only seems fair to congratulate James Walker on his transition efforts on this occasion. A cumulative 61 seconds for T1 and T2 made him, Laura and Lucy the joint-fastest transitioners in the whole race. The main story of the bike revolved around BUCS star David Pearson, who suffered an unfortunate crash early on. Battered, bruised and with a flat tyre, David’s heroic (and perhaps medically ill-advised) determination to finish the race carried him through to a highly commendable seconds team place. Things became quite predictable at the front of the race as Tom was streaking (not literally, much to the dismay of Matt Cunningham) ahead of the pack with Giant Tab and James in his wake. Not far behind, Alex Bradley moved himself through the field by cycling over a minute quicker than anyone else, and in the process put himself nicely in contention for the third spot in the men’s Blues team. By this point the women’s race looked even more dark blue than the men’s, as Sophia “do you want one of my autograph cards?” Saller led the way with an incredibly impressive ride, ahead of #teamLF – Lucy and then Laura. In the middle of the pack, Women’s Captain-elect Lizzie Sandham was well on her way to taking over ten minutes off of her effort from last year as she managed to mount on the correct side of the line, and Charlotte Kirk’s Ironman Wales training meant she probably could have carried on all day. As the bike section came to a close, Oxford continued to be literally streets ahead in all categories. With the top three positions for each sex all but decided at this point, the real excitement on the run came further down the order. Joe Bowness, still sporting war wounds from the swim (albeit somewhat less serious than teammate David’s from the bike) excelled on his strongest discipline to come home fourth Oxford male, and Joe Kidson had the race of his OUTriC career to turn his ambitious Portuguese-sunshine-inspired seconds team dream into a glorious reality. BUCS rivals Alex Barbaro and Ali Nicklin yet again locked horns, with Alex taking the victory this time thanks to a superior run and Ali’s pedestrian transitions (likely cause – too busy looking at Garmin). Tom Stewart’s race plan took shape perfectly as he hit the run course at exactly the same time as namesake Lewin began his second lap of honour. This allowed Stewart to accelerate and take the lead cyclist with him, denying Lewin that all important draft and claiming victory on the run split. As Stewart headed off for lap two, Lewin came home to break the (imaginary) finishing tape as he successfully defended his 2016 Varsity title, but this time went one better in securing himself a Full Blue. On the women’s side Sophia, Lucy and Laura wrapped up a dominant 1-2-3, whilst Renee Haver, with her fine fourth place secured, embraced the OUTriC spirit to the full as she became more concerned about cheering on her teammates and looking good in the race photos than getting a faster time. All of her positive spirit, however, couldn’t stop her from being overtaken just before the line by fellow chemist Aubert Ribaucourt, who had driven all the way from France to attend Varsity (and his comparatively insignificant DPhil viva a couple of days later). Katie Truslove, one of OUTriC’s many ex-cross country stars, came through strongly in the latter stages of the race to take fifth female and deny any Cambridge presence in the women’s individual top five. Iona Richards and Suzanne Scott closed the women’s seconds, and a few places back Alice Gooda wasn’t the first training camp attendee to enjoy the fruits of her hard work over Easter with a strong performance in her first Varsity Triathlon. Special mention should also go to Seamus Kent and Christian Ruckteschler, who got so carried away with racing each other that they managed to complete only one lap of the two lap run course, apparently unaware that 11 minutes for 5.3km wasn’t a hugely realistic result. Despite insisting before the race that her first triathlon would also be her last, Erika Lam finished the race equally adamant that she would be racing again, and that next time she would run much faster – one of many triathlon first-timers to catch the racing bug after Varsity. Almost as quickly as Mike made it to the pub, another Varsity Triathlon was over and all of last year’s records were broken again. Going one up on 2016, OUTriC won all of the Varsity categories on offer, and in claiming both Blues match victories for the third year in succession Oxford now take the lead in the overall Blues standings for the first time since the inaugural event in 2003 (was 14-14, now 16-14).
To name a few more, 2017 saw the most OUTriathletes at Varsity ever (47), the biggest Oxford women’s team ever (26, doubling the previous best), the OUTriC Women’s Blues beating the Cambridge Men’s Blues (unheard of), six Oxford men’s teams beating the Cambridge’s seconds (up from five last year),and the list goes on…
The 2016-17 season certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing. We have overcome coach disasters, coaching disasters, kit disasters and more to finish the year with OUTriC in a stronger position than ever before – these achievements being testament to the hard work put in by Laura and everyone else involved. Bring on Varsity 2018.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1789, three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and an OUTriC contingent led by Laura Fenwick arriving at races before anyone else. It is perhaps no coincidence that the next club to arrive, Bath University, are led by Laura’s sister…
Having had plenty of time to set up and get ready to race, and caused a bit of pre-race panic by going missing in the changing rooms just before their start time, Laura Depner, Jemima Peppel-Srebrny and Stef Zekoll got the OUTriC day (and their own triathlon careers) off to a strong start. As the morning went on, the swimming got more aggressive and the transitions more furious. That is apart from one unfortunate (non-Oxford) athlete who made even James Walker look like a transition pro. She managed to arrive in T1, only to be hit by the crushing realisation that she hadn’t racked her bike before the race.
Back with the Oxford athletes, Varsity Duathlon runner up Lizzie Sandham, having recovered from what she described as ‘interesting’ driving on the way to the race, and blast from the past Katie Truslove fought it out early on, with Katie showing her running pedigree to finish as the third Oxford woman at the end of the day. Housemates Iona Richards and Renee Haver put niceties aside as they raced in the same wave. Iona took the early initiative in the swim, watched on by Sam Skillcorn as he searched for someone to try (and probably fail) to draft at Varsity. Despite having a bit of time to make up after the swim, Renee’s strength on the bike saw her ultimately finish as the fastest Oxford woman of the day in 10th place overall and nicely inside the top 10% required for a Full Blue chance come Varsity. Lucy Farquhar will also have a shot at her second Full Blue as her 12th place BUCS finish came despite her (apparently sober) attendance of her college ball the night before!
The unluckiest of all the men, those in the first wave and thus subjected to the 5am alarm, showed no signs of it affecting them. There were plenty of great debuts early on in the afternoon, just as the second wave of men were arriving after their lazy 10.45am departure from Iffley.
In what might be his last OUTriC outing before leaving on a free transfer to Imperial after he refused to sign a new contract, self-confessed bike-hater Kirill Mikhaylov did his best to avoid the cycle leg of the race by falling off as he exited T1, but to his dismay he came off unscathed and was able to continue the race. Crowd favourite Alex Barbaro gave a pained wave to his adoring fans as he pulled off an admirable sprint finish in the absence of anyone around him in his wave, though it proved not to be enough to beat his old swimming rival Ali Nicklin, whose futile attempts to chase Laura up the Portuguese mountains on training camp seem to have paid off. The 2.8 second gap between Alex and Ali lends itself well to an exciting rematch at Varsity!
At the speedier end of proceedings, OUTriC newbie Joe Bowness will be hoping he can upset the establishment come Varsity, coming in just behind the increasingly regular top 3 of James Walker, Tom Lewin and David Pearson. James has made the third spot his own over the last year, though not without his familiar series of mishaps. Having managed to complete the correct number of lengths in the pool and find his bike in T1, things were looking good and the OUTriC contingent watched on with baited breath. Seemingly unhindered by Angus’ never-used wooden disc wheel, James arrived safely into T2 and despite a theatrical fall for the cameras on the way, put in a strong run to round off his day.
The race everyone had been waiting for came between David and Tom. David, setting off earlier in the day, had an absolutely storming race and clocked the fourth fastest bike split to give himself an impressive overall 19th place finish and earning himself a shot at that elusive Full Blue. Needing 34th or better to have a shot at a Full Blue, club legend (upgraded from stalwart – see BUCS 2016 race report) and van driver extraordinaire Tom made everyone’s day with his 25th place. He finished a whole 16 minutes quicker than his BUCS Sprint debut in 2012, back when a first class stamp would only cost you 46p. Tom’s meteoric rise is testament to what you can do with an impossibly slow stroke rate in the pool, a determination to never again be overtaken by Sophia on the bike, and next to no running.
Overall another successful outing for OUTriC. Our men’s teams finished 10th, 33rd, 49th and 96th, while the women were 7th, 21st and 46th. Cambridge, a lowly 24th on the men’s side and 31st for the women, will certainly be hoping for a change in fortunes on May 14th, especially with an extra 30 Oxford athletes to contend with!
"It's addictive this triathlon stuff!" February 2017
I've often wondered who reads the magazines featured at the end of Have I Got News For You. Those things like 'Crochet World' and 'Carp Fishing Weekly'. To be honest, I assumed some of them were just made up. Thanks to recent activities, however, I am starting to understand.
I joined OUTriC in October 2016, for a fun new challenge. I enjoy running, swimming and cycling (separately, and in a very casual way), and since I'm in the final year of my PhD I will take any distraction I can get these days. I'd done the Novice Aquathlon at the beginning of Michaelmas and didn't drown (although I did give myself a mild concussion from shaking my head to get water out of my ear, whacking my forehead on the corner of a desk... anyway, that's another story), and I'd attended some training sessions last term and wasn't laughed out of the group, so I figured that this term it was time to try my first race. I merrily signed up for the Varsity Duathlon, held at Eton Dorney. This would be my first multi-sport race, and also my first competitive sporting event ever. I was pretty nervous.
The day began (at 5.45am!) with Jess, one of the other novices, having gone over her handlebars on her way to meet the coach. She arrived looking (to quote her) 'like a Botox victim'. Meanwhile, Laura, another novice, had slept through her alarm. This did not help my nerves. The novice women were clearly cursed. Another triathlete sat next to me on the coach started eating her pre-race rice at 6.30am. Rice? No-one told me rice was good. Crap, I didn't have any rice.
We arrived at Eton and the brilliant support group of OUTriC committee members swung in to action - we were taken to register, pointed in the direction of the Portaloos, Fergus and Lucy pumped up my tyres, Laura had racebelts, Sam and Holly were patching up Jess' face (literally with tape I think at one point...). Things were looking up.
Then people started warming up and discussing how it 'definitely wouldn't take an hour and a half'. It would definitely take me more than an hour and a half. Caroline - a third novice woman - and I began radically downgrading expectations. We decided the core aim of the day should be not to die, and ideally not to collapse. I could work with that. Before we knew it, the countdown was being counted down, I was regretting not making a second Portaloo trip, but we were off! Slowly. I had no idea what my 5k pace might be, so just tried to keep going. When it came to the transition, I tried to remember Laura's tips about flying mounts... I think I maybe got 5% of it right. I didn't end up on the ground under the bike, so I reckon that can be chalked up as a success. At first, the cycle was great - I was definitely going almost as fast as Laura Trott. Then we turned the corner into the wind, and six super-fast alien beings on bikes that looked like a modern art installation I once saw swished past. I consoled myself with the thought that at least I still had a plait like Laura Trott's. Through the next transition and back to the run, I was feeling pretty good. The first lap was ok - slightly achy legs, but I could definitely do this. Then, suddenly, as I went in to the second lap, I was not so sure. I think I'd poorly paced myself and had to slow down. But it was ok - I could see the finish now - perhaps I wouldn't die! With the rest of the club cheering as I pushed for the line, I made it.
I finished in 1 hour 35 minutes and one second. I've decided I'll wait to try for the Olympics until next year (I wouldn't want to show up Laura Trott, after all). But, Olympics or not, the sandwiches we had at the pub had never tasted so good. Everyone was so supportive, cheering on the novices, and celebrating individual and team victories. I never imagined that an individual sport like triathlon could have such a fantastic team spirit, but the OUTriC team has proved me wrong.
Over the last week, though, I've been thinking. My legs weren't actually that tired. I probably could have pushed a bitharder actually. Maybe even a lot harder? I can definitely do better than 1 hour 35. I've started dreaming about the phrase 'marginal gains'. I've been looking up the nutritional benefits of rice, and whether I should be eating whey protein. It's addictive this triathlon stuff. And, to cap it all off, I am now a subscriber of 'Triathlon 220' magazine. What have I become? I'm just a step away from 'Carp Fishing Weekly'...
My first race with the OUTriC was the Varsity Duathlon. Coming into the race, I was very firmly in the novice category - my first time on a road bike was 3 months before, and I had only started running seriously 5 months before that. My novice-ness made me incredibly apprehensive to sign up for the race, but in retrospect I am so glad I did. OUTriC provided amazing support before, during, and after the race, helping with training plans, and any other questions I might have. People of all abilities participated, creating a fun and supportive atmosphere on the day. The day was capped off with a great pub lunch with our Cambridge counterparts. I am now looking forward to the next race!
On Sunday 19th February a 40 strong team of OUTriC competitors and supporters headed to Dorney Lake for this year's edition of Varsity Duathlon. With the event held over a Spint Distance course of 5km/20km/5km, the world class rowing venue provided an excellent location for top quality multisport racing as well as a friendly, closed road environment for novices competing for the first time. As always the day saw a fantastic display of talent, grit, determination and smiling faces from all the OUTriathletes, and we were rewarded with some great results to show for it.
Last year's winner Tom Lewin defended his title in fine style, with David Pearson recording the fastest bike split to take 2nd place. Newcomer Joe Bowness stamped his mark on the top end of the men's team with an impressive 4th place, sealing a convincing victory for the men's Blues. The men's seconds also took a comfortable win with strong performances from Andres Noe, Angus Young and Joe Kidson. Competition to make it into the seconds was tough, with Ali Nicklin and Kirill Mikhaylov close behind. They led the Mob Match charge, although the result went Cambridge's way - an outcome we will definiely look to overturn in the summer following last year's domination on the men's side.
On the women's side Lizzie Sandham took huge margins off her time from 12 months ago to claim 2nd place overall, although Cambridge took the women's Blues team win as many of our top women were unable to compete. These absences did not dampen spirits however, as our women's novice contingent reached heights the club has not seen before in both their numbers and enthusiastic approach to racing.
Well done to all involved and thanks to the day's helpers, in particular our dynamic duo of comedy captains Fergus & Lucy for looking after everyone and their bikes.
Following a very successful Freshers' Fair with lots of new sign ups, we were looking forward to our Novice and New Members Aquathlon at the end of 1st week and it did not disappoint! Things were looking somewhat worrying first thing on Sunday morning as the heavens opened and we all awoke wondering if anyone would be brave enough to venture out of their warm and dry rooms, and more importantly if the inevitable flood on Meadow Lane would have reached swimming depth by the time we got there. We need not have been concerned however, as an incredible thirty enthusiastic new triathletes arrived at Iffley later in the morning ready to get their first taste of OUTriC action.
Unfortunately the construction work at the sports centre meant that we were unable to run the event as a continuous swim-run, but this did not seem to dampen the mood and instead made for an exciting change of format. First up was the swim - 200m completed by swimming two lengths in each of the four lanes. As the athletes one by one entered the water and snaked their way across the pool it was clear that all would be left to play for on the run. Particular mention goes to George for recording the unconfirmed but most probably fastest ever swim time in an OUTriC aquathlon.
Next up was the a-bit-more-than-3km run loop starting on the track, twisting and turning it's way around the flood water towards Donnington Bridge, and then back to finish with a lap of honour. The athletes were set off in order of their swim times with the fastest swimmers going first, which meant the finishing order across the line would be the final result - how exciting!
Congratulations to George and Eva for taking the overall victories, but also to absolutely everyone who took part. There was plenty of emerging new talent on show and it was the best turn out of novices we have ever had, at an event which really captures the spirit of OUTriC.
Huge thanks must go to Cyndi for organising the day, to Vita Coco for providing coconut water, to all of the wonderful bakers who produced a fabulous display of post race refreshments, and to the committee and other helpers for ensuring the whole event ran smoothly. Here's to another great year of dark blue triathlon adventures.
On Saturday 2nd July, three ex lightweight rowers (some more ex than others) headed up north to race in the UK Ultimate Half. Fittingly to reflect our sporting careers, we decided to start the day by showing our faces at Henley Royal Regatta (the premier event of the rowing calendar) before turning our minds to the triathlon. We ate lots of food, watched minimal rowing and chatted to everyone who would listen about our hard core plans for the rest of the weekend while Matt K drank questionable amounts of Pimm's. Two of the party were sporting freshly shaven legs in the quest for even the smallest amounts of free speed. However it quickly became apparent that Tino’s razor skills were lacking, and ‘my legs are so fucking itchy’ became a familiar background to the adventure.
After a quick detour through Oxford for a last minute bike fix for MK and a last minute tent purchase for Tino, we finally hit the road to Whitchurch, powered by some banging tunes. Unfortunately this was followed by another not so quick detour through "the centre of fucking Birmingham" (Matt Ridley) after some poor route planning by Tino. It was decided to hand responsibility of navigation to the GPS and we arrived at Dearnford Lake just in time for the pasta party.
We were greeted by an epic selection of pastas, breads and ice cream and started chatting with a friendly old dude who had signed up for the full iron without ever having done more than an Olympic. He was hoping to finish by midnight (start time was 7am), and also told us about how he spent more hours a week in the saddle that at a desk the absolute dream. With our bellies full we quickly set up tents between the rain showers and set off for a course recon drive. On the way up North, captain of the cycling club and resident cycling expert Matt Kerin had rated the roads a solid 9/10. This, combined with the marginal gains of new aero helmets, slammed stems and shaved legs, made us excited to see what speeds we’d be able to hit.
As we set out for the recon enthusiasm was quickly dampened by the 10mile uphill drive, followed by a massive descent, followed by a 10mile uphill drive. It was decided Tino’s “36km/h average” chat was overly ambitious and expectations were downgraded. After a trip to Tesco’s to pick up breakfast (but no John West tuna) and watch some chavs doing donuts, Ridley and Tino went to bed while MK got back to fixing his bike.
Fittingly for ex rowers, the next morning was filled with excessive amounts of faff. MK discovered he had forgotten to bring a trisuit, but was luckily able to purchase one at registration. Predictably he also discovered yet another wobbly component on the world’s most adjusted bike that required another hurried dash to the mechanic. Sticking race numbers to every available surface took up a surprising amount of time and before we knew it we were 5 minutes late to the race briefing. Listening to the usual spiel of ‘put your helmet on first…’ finally allowed us all a chance to get in the zone. We all had considerably different race plans. Tino was planning to `smash the bike and see what happens’, Ridley was hoping to make up for a lack of bike wattage with a ‘huge’ run, and MK was feeling fresh as ever having started his taper in March.
The lake featured enough algae to rival Southport’s finest Marine Lake, and so the swim course had to be altered at the last minute undoing all of our careful visualization (i.e. having dinner lakeside the night before). This also meant lots of tight corners and getting dunked by aggressive old men, so Tuesday evening’s open water sessions in the pool came in handy! Tino took a predictably early lead coming out just behind the main pack, with the two Matt’s managing to work together throughout the entire swim and exiting within seconds of each other about 2 minutes behind. However a slow T1 by MK allowed Ridley to slip into second place.
The bike course was two laps of A roads, mostly rolling hills with two big climbs. Overtaking fat old men with TT bikes, disc wheels and more money than we can ever dream of was a highlight in an otherwise tough 90km grind. Tino managed to live up to his 36km/h chat by sticking behind a fast pack after being shouted at for “getting on the front and slowing down”. MK likewise managed to hang on with a group but Ridley found himself alone after being ‘dicked by an old man on an ordinary road bike’. By the end of the ride everyone was feeling the pain, thanks in part to overenthusiastic stem slamming.
Using some imaginative thinking the organisers had managed to turn a 3 mile run course into a half marathon, including 8 laps of the same 1 mile stretch of road. However it did offer some benefits including a high density of aid stations and lots of company. Coming into T2 first out of Oxford and seventh overall, Tino was confident he had done enough to secure victory over the two Matts and set his sights on a top 10 finish. In second place MK was wishing he had done more than 1 run in the past 3 weeks and more than 1 brick session in his life. Off the bike last and finally into his strongest discipline, Ridley set his sights on a sub5hr finish and hunting down the road captain ahead of him.
The first lap of the run went well and we all came in halfway through the halfmarathon around the four hour mark still feeling confident that we could hit our 5 hour target. Unfortunately, the Man with the Hammer was waiting for us all at the start of the second lap and things were about to turn ugly. It turns out some of the old men on expensive bikes were also quite good at running and, unable to go any faster than 5:30/km, Tino was starting to worry about his top 10 finish. In the end, he just about held it together and finished 9th overall in 4h53. Now in second place amongst the Oxford contingent, MR started to watch his <5hr finish slip away. Despite an attempt at a sprint finish it would not be the case, so 3rd in AG and 23rd overall in 5h03 would have to do. Meanwhile MK was bonking hard and slowed to a walk for much of the second lap. However he battled through and still managed a respectable 5th in AG and top 50 overall, with a time of 5h27.
Immediately post race it was agreed that half ironmans are ‘way too hard’ and we should ‘never do one again’. After picking up our satisfyingly heavy finishers medals and disappointingly non tech Tshirts we shuffled our way back to the campsite and began the slow and painful process of packing the tents up. Ideal post race nutrition (McDonalds) was consumed and the long drive home (with only one minor Tino related detour) completed without major incident. As the post race pain began to fade it was agreed that actually, it had been a very worthwhile endeavour.
Finally back home in Oxford, we had one last thought for our friend who was probably still running up and down Tilford Road before getting some very welcome sleep. Now all that remains is heavy legs, hilarious tan (burn) lines and a head full of memories. Bring on the next one!
Leaving Oxford in a fury of painful hail, five of OUTriC’s more mature members (in age, not behaviour) set off to Cardiff on Saturday afternoon to compete in the city’s second Olympic distance triathlon held in the bay area. With a serious amount of training and racing over the past few months we were hoping that with a millpond swim, pan-flat closed bike course (did Chris mention it was closed road?!), and an even flatter two lap run, that we could put some serious dents into our standard distance PBs as there were no Tabs around to smash as per usual. Chris was also keen to see whether shaved legs actually made you quicker on the bike or whether it just made it easier to remove the race number tattoos.
After a fairly uneventful journey over, we arrived just in time to get some slightly dubious free parking from a guy in a sports car, before picking up our numbers. The highlight of the pre-race goodies was the free cycling cap. But the question still remains, peak up or peak down?
Tom, of sufficient triathlon fame beyond the usual Varsity matches now, was hounded for a pre-race interview, in which they asked what he hoped for in the race tomorrow and why he was returning to Wales after his very impressive 5th place last June. After fending off the masses, we then returned to our hotel before searching for food. Impressed with his triathlon and driving abilities, we followed Tom down the least scenic route possible to end up at the security guard’s hut to a major steelworks plant. He wouldn’t let us through, even though we were stashed to our teeth with Oxford kit. We then sought refuge in Pizza Express, before raiding the local Sainsburys for porridge and other delights. Walking back the more conventional route, we ended the night watching arguably the worst match of the Euros so far and headed off to sleep in good time for a 4:45 start. Aubert was disappointed not to meet the hen party staying down the corridor from us. He found alternative entertainment applying the race number tattoos with copious quantities of water #wetterthebetter.
We got up at 4:45 and began the usual routine. By this point George Edwards was halfway down the M4 with his very tired but incredibly tolerant girlfriend, having woken up at 2:30. I hope he makes her a nice meal tonight for her fantastic support! Racking was straightforward, making sure that everything was tightly secured to the bike. Aubert was keen to show the local population his Slice, and it certainly didn’t disappoint on the bike leg. We wondered over the start, lubed up (no baby oil this time) and then jumped into the water at 6:57. At 6:58 the water warmed up a lot, and at 6:59 we were told to get out as there was to be a 15-minute delay due to the fact the buoys hadn’t been put out. Cue lots of cries “I’ve wasted all my wee”! We got back in and were underway at 7:15. Tom smashed the slightly shorter than 1500m swim in 17 dead, and then proceeded to let a few people past him on the bike as long as they weren’t wearing light blue. James and George were next out, again producing very impressive times! Chris was happy not to end up in Ireland with some suspect sighting, and Fergus used this as his warm up. Aubert decided he wanted to have more time chatting to people pre-swim so had put himself up for a slightly later wave. He then complained about the lack of people to draft off. Tom had quite a lot of media attention on the bike, be sure to watch the highlights at 5 in the morning on Channel 4 next month. George then made good ground on James through the bike, and maintained this lead going into T2. Fergus, on a much better colour coordinated bike than Wales rugby legend Shane Williams, tore past Chris just after the start of the second lap and proceeded to make hay on the pan flat course. Aubert lost a front bottle attached to his aero bars as well as the bars dropping considerably on his Slice, although he still got to show the local population his Slice. Fergus then nearly came off his bike coming into T2 but didn’t, however this cost him the skin on three of his toes. But he stayed on the bike in front of hundreds of people. The biggest casualty was his beloved Garmin. Chris was then rather over enthusiastic with his helmet removing before racking the bike and got a very lengthy chat from an officious marshal who made him put his helmet back on, remove the bike, put the bike back on the rack, remove said helmet. Although he did use this time wasting to put on some socks to prevent severe blisters like those experienced by a few in BUCS Olympic four weeks ago. Commitment of day goes to Fergus who then ran with an ever increasingly bloodied foot, smashing out a very respectable 38 minute 10k in the process. Tom caught a few people up on the run and came home a place better than last year in 4th with a super speedy 1:55:02. James then made good use of more sensible run pacing to record a 2:04:36 which just snuck him into the top 15. George showed us that it is possible to post a strong Olympic distance run leg even if you’ve swam more than run in the past six months to come in 17th. Fergus, Chris and Aubert then completed the dark blue contingent with 2:09:51 (29th), 2:10:17 (31st) and 2:10:58 (32nd). So we got everyone home under 2:11 and a very strong showing in the sharp end of the field. It’s annoying though that Cambridge have continued their trend of not showing up for races, this really isn’t very sporting from our light blue counterparts.
The morning got even better as we managed to get a photo with Shane Williams and asking why only one of his tyres was red. Tom was then presented with some tat and got a bit of alcohol free beer poured over him at the presentations. Next year he’ll be on the podium. If not, it’s shaved legs time. After smooth talking the reception of our hotel to give us an extension of our rooms as it wasn’t our fault the buoys weren’t put out on time, so we had the luxury of a post-race shower before visiting the Welsh equivalent of Spoons. We all went for sensible large burgers apart from Aubert who went for double the size of ours, and then proceeded to complain when it wasn’t rare, before returning to Oxford in the rain. Weatherman Hutch predicted it was going to stay dry for the hours of racing and was spot on, which made for a much more pleasant experience than last year.
After quite a few shorter distance races earlier on in the season it was good to see how the training would transfer to double the distance, and clearly it has! The club has gone from strength to strength over the past year and is testament to the hard work which our members put into their training and racing, as well as the fantastic coaching we have had from Rachel, Laura and George. Following on from a dominant Varsity win it is good to see people thinking further afield than the annual duel with Cambridge and such attitude will only serve to improve the club for the race next May and beyond.
With a small group of just 10 triathletes, OUTriC went into BUCS Olympic Triathlon on 22nd May hoping to spring a surprise on some of the more established triathlon universities. Fuelled by a trip to one of Southport’s finest eateries* the night before, optimism (and blood cholesterol level) was raised – they couldn’t could they? Separate men’s and women’s waves started 5 minutes apart, with the men off first.
Even a lake that can be described as nothing short of horrific wasn’t enough to stop the OUTriC charge, with Tom Lewin smashing the 1500m swim in under 19 minutes, while Tomek and David both also had strong swims to come out towards the front of the field. Further back, Angus celebrated his 20th birthday by throwing up, though he must have been disappointed that this was down to the water quality rather than any alcohol consumption. As the women started, Renee was looking to build on her cracking performances at BUCS Sprint and Varsity and Charlotte was taking on her third triathlon in a week as the two OUTriC representatives in a field of around 70.
Into transition, a 400m run through the car park awaited the athletes before bikes could be mounted. As we had been excitedly told on multiple occasions by Chris in the preceding weeks, the bike course was a two-lap, closed road dash along the Esplanade, though the wind made for a particularly miserable time on the South-going section. Tom was left furious at being forced to draft or be left behind by his group, while Angus joyfully admitted afterwards that he’d been doing shifts on the front of his. In traditional style, Fergus started making his way through the field with another strong bike performance, and with 1km of the bike remaining both he and Tino passed outgoing President Sam Skillcorn, who was painfully discovering that 12 “rest days” in 2 weeks wasn’t the best race preparation. Renee again cycled well on a flat course that suited her Dutch roots, and Charlotte was showing no signs of fatigue from her huge week of racing.
Onto the run, and on the men’s side the primary aim was not to get lapped by Tom as he ran the 10km course in just over 34 minutes to tie up an excellent 10th placed finish. David was next in, despite his best efforts to do three laps of the two lap course, and perennial Seconds team stalwart Tomek came in third to complete the Blues team. Fergus’ chase was valiant and he ran through the field to finish as the fourth Oxford man. Behind him, it looked like a battle was brewing between Tino and Sam, but after one lap it was clear that the latter just didn’t have the legs and Tino put in a very strong second lap to secure the higher placing. Angus and Chris were separated by only one place in the BUCS rankings to round off a fantastic day for the men of OUTriC as they all achieved top-half finishes. Renee came in a commendable 13th position on the women’s side, and achieving the 6th fastest female bike time will surely please her. Charlotte was 38th with a particularly strong run, showing no evidence of her exertions the previous week.
Another great OUTriC day was rounded off by the news that the only teams to beat us on the men’s side all came from Leeds and Loughborough, securing n overall 4th placed finish which, combined with the women’s 3rd at BUCS Sprint, cements our increasing claim to be considered among the top triathlon universities in the UK.
A whole host of questions were present in everyone’s minds as we congregated at Iffley at 5am on Sunday 15th May. Would Renee, Laura and Lucy be able to consolidate their performance at BUCS Sprint and earn themselves individual Blues? Would the duel between Tom and David be settled once and for all? Would people enjoy Tomek’s new CD for the minibus? Only time would tell…
With an excellent showing at BUCS still fresh in the memory, OUTriC went into this year’s Varsity Sprint with great confidence. An unprecedented 39 OUTriathletes took part in the race, with all levels of experience. First-time triathlete Lizzie Sandham went into the race “hoping not to drown”, while elusive Men’s Captain and 2015 Half Blue Charlton Bannister was aiming for much the same after his interesting approach to swimming this year. Meanwhile, as injury cruelly denied him a final shot at Varsity, George Edwards took out his frustrations on the OUTriC Twitter with an eclectic mix of humour and downright hostility towards the Tabs.
The swim started in chaos with some people facing the wrong way when the whistle went, and as a result the real battles took place in the middle of the pack. A post-race realisation by Tom Stewart that 2015 President Michael Hirst was the one who had him in a headlock will surely prolong their feud into next year. Mike also gave Alice Gerlach a tow around the lake, and she repaid him with a cheerful shout of “thanks!” as she galloped past on the way into T1. At the business end of the race, Tom Lewin cruised into T1 a solid 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. Pietro, Laura and Oli all came in ahead of the first Tab, who was then closely followed by Tomek, James and Lucy. All was looking good for Oxford.
T1 was as eventful as ever, with least one person taking the more scenic route to find their bike, although surprisingly on this occasion that person was Hannah Plaschkes, not James Walker. On leaving transition the athletes were met with a surprisingly undulating bike course – a prospect relished by some and dreaded by others. David used his strength on the bike to temporarily overtake Tom before receiving a penalty for leaving his wetsuit in transition and undoing much of the good work. On the women’s side Laura maintained her lead over the rest of the field and Renee also had a characteristically strong bike leg, while Lucy showed her commitment to the OUTriC cause by refusing to stop cycling even whilst throwing up in the highlight of a largely uneventful cycle for the Oxford contingent.
Going into the run it was looking like Oxford were a shoe-in (pun intended) for the victory. Tom was streets ahead at the front of the race and, despite his best efforts to give the Tabs a chance by falling over after one lap of the run, won the race in just outside an hour. David came home second with James completing his own fantastic race to tie up an excellent men’s 1-2-3 for Oxford. CUTriC President Petros was a valiant fourth, but Oxford’s strength in depth shone through with 16 of the top 19 finishers. Less than 6 minutes separated 5th to 23rd on the Oxford side, comfortably tying up the seconds, mob and alumni matches to round off a phenomenal day.
The women had similar success as Laura took an excellent victory, with Cambridge’s Varsity Duathlon winner Kate Curran in second. Lucy’s third place finish was all the more impressive considering she had raced in the National Super Series only 18 hours earlier, and Renee was next in to ensure a dominating victory for the Oxford women in a time only 5 minutes behind Cambridge’s Men’s Blues. The women’s seconds was the closest match of the day, ending in an Oxford victory by just over 90 seconds. Cambridge’s consolation prize came in the form of the women’s mob, where they packed well to secure a 15 minute victory, however Oxford took the women’s alumni to wrap up an overall 7-1 Varsity win.
The most successful day in Varsity memory (I think) for Oxford comes at the end of an incredible season, and the amount of novices featuring strongly in the Varsity standing leaves us in fantastic shape for years to come. Congratulations to all involved.
Sunday 1st May 2016 saw OUTriC head over to St Mary’s School, Calne with a small but determined contingent of athletes, including many first time triathletes, and even Tomek’s unrelenting barrage of Maroon 5 on the minibus couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm. After last year’s downpours, fingers were crossed that the rain would hold off for this year’s race, and thankfully it did. A blustery wind made for some difficult conditions out on the bike, but nothing the OUTriathletes couldn’t handle. The day got off to a great start with novice Nick Turner blitzing the swim to lead the first wave of the day out of the pool. He was followed in subsequent waves by a few others competing in their first OUTriC triathlon, including Fergus Cumming, whose strong showing saw him leading the race overall until well into the afternoon.
The afternoon saw conditions become more difficult as some of the club’s more experienced athletes took to the course. On the women’s side, Renee Haver was looking to add to her first Full Blue last year with a strong performance, and an excellent bike leg put her right in contention. Veterans of the National Junior Elite triathlon scene Laura Fenwick and Lucy Farquhar followed suit with very solid performances to make for nervy final few waves as the girls waited to see where they would place. It was all worth it in the end as Renee (10th), Laura (12th) and Lucy (16th) secured team Bronze for OUTriC, beaten only by triathlon powerhouses Leeds and Loughborough and leaving the Tabs a lowly 13th. All three of the girls also achieved top 10% individual finishes to give them a shot at a Full Blue come Varsity Sprint.
The men’s race was equally competitive. Having spent a proportion of term honing his cycling abilities in the forests of Florida, OUTriC stalwart Tom Lewin was hoping to impress in an extremely strong field, while fresher David Pearson was looking to burst onto the BUCS triathlon scene with a bang. In the end, only 0.6 seconds separated the two, with Tom finishing 38th and David 39th – round two of this race at Varsity is not one to be missed. James Walker completed the men’s Blues team with a strong all round performance to show he’ll be well in contention for a Half Blue on 15th May; all of this despite the best efforts of the officials miscounting his lengths on the swim, and his own forgetfulness when searching for his bike in an expletive-filled dash around the maze of T1. The icing on the cake for OUTriC in the men’s competition was seeing both the Blues (13th overall) and seconds (34th) beat the best effort from the Light Blues (36th).
Overall, a fantastic day for OUTriC and one that bodes extremely well looking ahead to Varsity in 2 weeks’ time.
Twenty five OUTriC athletes travelled to Castle Combe race circuit for the first club race of the academic year. For many this was their first taste of multisport racing and the BUCS atmosphere certainly didn't disappoint. In the women's race fresher Lucy Farquhar showed her experience and talent with an 8th place finish and the Oxford women behind her packed well - an early indication of further improvement in the number and standard of women competing for the club. In the men's event another fresher made his mark - David Pearson finished 29th and with ex-President Andy Dyson in 21st and Lyndon Harris in 35th the men's first team claimed 7th place.