Croyde Ocean Triathlon – Tim Thorpe

A journeyman triathlete’s tale … inspired by the recent race reports others have been posting, I thought I’d put together some thoughts of my race last weekend down in Devon.

Croyde ocean triathlon has a special place in my heart, I’ve spent many weekends down in that corner of the country surfing but only in recent years discovered that it hosts one of the most spectacular triathlons in the country.

Two nights camping with the kids, and minimal sleep made for the perfect race prep! Fortunately, the campsite is located just around the corner from the start so it was an easy spin on the bike to the registration area. The organisers are very thoughtful provide the participants with useful stuff such as a nice race belt in the bag with the chip and numbers – how cool is that! They also reward athletes that competed three times with a golden swim cap which I eagerly pulled out the bag, then checked around the the fellow competitors see who else had the special cap!

Racked and ready, a quick selfie with Philippa and it was time to head down to the beach after the ladies had gone down to the first wave. It’s hard to put into words just how stunning the setting is for this triathlon, Putsborough beach stretches out all the way along golden sands to Woolacombe. We would be swimming at the Putsborough end and there was plenty of time to to have a chat with fellow competitors as we walked along the beach. In previous years there has been more swell which makes for a more challenging swim but this year, it was pretty much pan-flat.

Before long, the claxon went, and it was a race to the water my first mass start for literally years! I was towards the front but found a nice bit of space which meant I had a pretty uneventful swim in perfect sea conditions. About halfway through the swim, I spotted huge jellyfish just beneath me so that gave me plenty to think about. Completed the swim and washed up on the beach, wetsuit off, and onto the the stupidly tough ramp up to the transition area. For those that have done Blenheim, it’s a bit like that one but twice as hard! Out of breath, slumped down in transition and then straight out on the bike. I could see that there were not many bikes vacated so I knew that I’d had a decent swim. Immediately regretted my TT bike when you are straight into climbs and I lost a few places through the endless drag up towards the main road. But once on the main road I was down on the aero bars and enjoying life. I carried the speed all the way to the turnaround then again battled up a long hill. From there on it was largely downhill and I was able to recover a few places that I had sacrificed on the long climb. At the end of the bike leg, the sun was beating down and the temperature mid to high 20s. I’d got through my 2 bottles and was happy with nutrition and felt energised for the run. A quick transition and straight out onto the run, past the campsite and onto a massive climb which inevitably grinds you down to a walking pace. Once at the top though, my goodness, the views over Croyde and then Saunton sands were to die for! It’s predominately an off road course though mostly firm under foot (well, it was this year at least). You are constantly rewarded with stunning views, this takes your mind off the relentless heat and undulations. I continued to grab as much water at each aid station as I could, to drink and throw over myself to cool down. Then you drop down onto Croyde beach itself and skip along the harder packed sand close to the shoreline, thinking to myself that it wasn’t so bad; then ouch – the hard slog up the loose hot sand uphill to the beach exit. Truly energy sapping. Still 6k to go and Baggy Point to negotiate. Another steep climb, more epic views and plenty of support from walkers wondering why so many people were mad enough to be running hills in sweltering hot conditions. Final k, downhill, a very satisfying run and a couple of places gained. Under the finishing banner and time to stick my head under a tap to cool off. Fabulous! 5th place in AG – not too shabby for journeyman!

Croyde Ocean Triathlon is self-labelled as “stunning and savage” – I guess it is … It’s most definitely one of my favourite courses, super friendly (think 113 friendly) and just so rewarding. Oh, and the medal is magnetic and doubles up as a bottle opener – so now i have 3 on the fridge (and a gold cap!) 😃

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