By Andrew Thorndyke
Back in August my brother suggested I join him to race the inaugural Felixstowe Standard. I was a bit hesitant as I had the London marathon the week before, so I delayed entering. When I finally got round to it, it was full so I applied for the waiting list. Having mostly forgotten about the race, a few days before London I got the call; I was in. Having finished London, naturally Felixstowe was ‘at risk’. I’d felt rubbish the past two week fighting off a cold and feeling generally meh but by Friday before the race I felt better than I had for a while, so I made plans for trip back to Suffolk.
The idea was to use the race to test out new things and take it reasonably easy (lying to myself to be honest). I arrived Saturday morning, whipped the bike out (that I hadn’t sat on since IM Vichy in August) and popped round to my brother’s to recce the route. He’d taken a turn overnight and due to illness was out of the race! So I recced the course with him driving round pointing out some of points to be aware of. The course was great, really varied with a technical section upfront after getting out of Felixstowe and then a wonderful 5 mile straight flat back towards town before hitting a final technical section taking you to the ‘posh end’ of Felixstowe back down towards T2.
The day of the race was pretty straightforward. Registered, racked and walked the mile or so down to the swim start. The swim was a mile along the coast; starting at Cobbolds Point and finishing at the pier. Having had miniscule wetsuit dilemmas occupy way to much head space of late (can’t get wetsuit off with a watch on!), I was trying not wearing a watch in the water and then putting the watch on in T2 for the run. As soon as we were in the water we were off. I went off at my usual pace and soon I was in open water on my own. However, having got to half way I was feeling pretty tired and it dawned on me that I’d only swam twice in the past two months. My body seemed ok with that arrangement but my aerobic system less so. I reverted to breathing every two strokes and managed to get to the end of the swim in a PB of 18.40. I felt every bit of that PB when exiting the water. I was so disoriented I didn’t even see the red carpet exit and just trampled on the stones on the beach (ouch, ouch, ffs etc).
Getting to T1 was a massive chore. Having made it, I do what I have to do and hit the road. Getting to the mount line I looked down; no number belt, sh1t. I pop my bike up against a nearby wall, go back in to transition and grab my number belt and pop it on. About to mount my bike, nose piece falls out of my visor! I make some effort to get it back in, it then fell on the floor, so at that point I left it and got on with my ride. Being pretty annoyed at this point and knowing my lead was ebbing away I hit it hard out of Felixstowe. Heart rate way above threshold I just kept pushing hard on the uphill out of the town. We’d been told that there are traffic lights coming out of Felixstowe and that if they turn red and we put a foot down we will get time back. I really wanted to believe this to be the case, and I don’t want to sound irresponsible but I think we all know this doesn’t actually ever happen, especially with real time tracking going on. So I got caught atthe traffic lights; foot down, my number noted on a clipboard (apparently) and then off I go again. Got to the roundabout to get out to the sticks. I was pretty sure that I had to turn right here. I signalled to turn right and a marshal with an arrow sign in his hands really emphasised with said arrow sign that I needed to go back to town, I stupidly believed the marshal with arrow sign and went round the roundabout again only to be greeted again by marshal with arrow adamant that I had to keep going round. Upon shouting ‘standard’ at him he rearranged the position of the arrow to point down the road he was standing at. I got my head down and went hard down the road. But then I was caught. Nearly three minutes lost through faffing. Great.
So three of us up front. Turned out we were all evenly matched, everyone behaving sensibly and keeping to the rules made for good riding. I dropped off a bit to catch my breath, take in some liquids and take it easy for a bit. Observing the riders, one was on a road bike and was really strong on the hills, the other on TT was riding solidly. From the recce I knew that we had a really nice five mile straight flat and it was here I made my move knowing that I should be able to drop the strong road bike at this point. Hitting it hard, I went and the TT bike went with me. The roadie was dropped. The two of us then worked together to the end of the bike leg where we were caught by another TT rider going in to transition. 1.02.
In to T2 I was not sure how the legs were going to perform and I was also conscious I’d spent a lot of time over threshold. Upon racking my bike I grabbed my watch, tried to get it on and it really didn’t work out too well – fat fingers and minor shakes meant putting a watch on was tougher than I imagined. I lost about twenty seconds to the leading runner out of T2. Once I got in to my stride I felt good. The run was up and down the promenade so nice and flat. Plenty of spectators cheering but mostly getting in the way along the route making for an elongated game of Frogger (if you’re under 40 you’ll have to click for this reference).
The gap on the run from me to the leader fluctuated between ten and fifteen seconds. I was running within myself but knew any attempt at bridging the gap could lead to complete meltdown so I just kept my pace and hoped he was going to slow. By 8.5kms the gig was up. Left quad was tightening and I was dangerously flirting with max heart rate. At the final turn at 9.2kms I gave the leader a thumbs up and nod knowing the game was up and that I just had to hold it together to the end. Running down the final straight was awesome, a similar experience to a week earlier; relief seeing in the distance the finishing arch, in this case provided by theWomens’ Tour that rocked up in Felixstowe the day before. Run time of 40.18 for 10.3km and very surprisingly the second fastest on the day! A fitting end to an eventful season.
On reflection some good learning points and a really fun event to finish the season. I’d recommend the race for sure. A really good sea swim for novices too as you’re so close to the shore. The bike is really varied in terms of technical and fast bits. As is virtually always the case, if you have a TT it’s a TT course. The run is nice and flat and running along the front in the hazy sun helped take the edge of the final leg! A final point to mention is there were not quite enough marshals on the day, so I would recommend to not only download the GPX file to your device but to actually follow the route on race day. As may have been apparent, I only managed to do the former!