National Water Sports Centre, Nottingham
Relay x 4: 500m swim – 15k bike – 5k run
The Club relay championships are legendary now in the UK, having started in 1991 and growing in size and reputation ever since. In 1991 there was just 120 competitors, whilst last year saw over 2000 lucky athletes join in the weekend of racing.
Advertised as one of the most exhilarating and fun events on the UK calendar, the Club Relays involves teams of four using a tagging format where everyone swims, everyone bikes and everyone runs in a race that looks like a mixture between competition and ‘organised chaos’.
The format of the race starts with a 500m swim as a single lap, with the first member handing the tag to the second team member who repeats the same swim lap – all 4 members do this with the final member handing the tag to athlete number one, who then jumps on the bike which is 3 x 5km laps circumnavigating the boat lake. Finally, the fourth member of the team gets of the bike and tags the first member to commence the final leg; a 5km run in the opposite direction of the cycle lap.
To compete for a placing in the championships your team must comprise 4 athletes of a particular age category, this can be all female, all male or 2 female and 2 male mixed teams. There is also the open category – for fun, which is where any 4 members of a club can race together. This is the format my triathlon club has entered in previous years and this year was no exception. Shires Triers, a triathlon club based in Tring, entered 2 mixed open category teams – Team Mandy and Team Simon.
Shires Triers is a BTA affiliated Triathlon Club based around the North West Hertfordshire area and attracts members from Bedfordshire , Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The aim of our club is to offer support, both sporting and social, for budding and practising triathletes, the relays weekend has always been used a great way to introduce new or less experienced members into racing in a friendly atmosphere without the stress and hassle of speedy transitions.
This year, the open category we part of, started on Saturday afternoon so all 8 of us was very pleased with our alarm calls at a healthy time of after 7am – as a club with lots of Ironman triathletes, we are well used to 3 and 4am wake up calls for races so this was a pleasant change for a ‘race day’.
The ‘Shires’ all arrived on site by around midday and we were lucky to secure possibly the best site of the day for our team gazebo – just above the transition area so we could cheer on our team mates at the tag handovers on the bike and first run leg.
The day started off with a little stress as we were all a little too relaxed and before we knew it, it was time for the briefing and our first racers, weren’t even in the their wetsuits! None the less, we got to the briefing and our team leaders, Mandy and Simon were first in the water. I was taking the third race position for our team and before I knew it the second member Tony was handing me the tag and I was in the lake setting off for the start of my swim leg. As I’ve been having physio the last 2 weeks for a shoulder injury sustained during my Ironman training I had to take the swim quote easy as I’m meant to be resting so I was quite happy to get around the 500m in 10:41 (one armed so to speak!).
The cycle leg I had been looking forward to, as I’ve really improved my cycling this year and have been working harder on my cycling this year than running and swimming. This course didn’t disappoint – 3 laps of the lake and its flat all the way. Unfortunately as its laps that makes for lots of corners so you cant just do full on time-trial pace all the way around, particularly as I’m not a very confident rider on the aero bars yet. My time for the bike was a fairly respectable (for me being 3 weeks post-ironman) 26:44.
Once our fourth and strongest cyclist Rob had completed his lap, he handed the tag back to Simon who headed out on lap one of the run. Now I haven’t run fast for several months as I’ve been concentrating on endurance training with just a few short sharp interval sets thrown in now and again so I was really looking forward to a straight out 5km ‘run my little legs off lap’. I loved it – I set off fast and feeling strong, and kept a great pace going all the way around slightly increasing so that I finished my strongest. It paid off – I beat my previous 5km personal best by over a minute doing the run in 21:30. Crossing into the transition box, I handed the tag to runner 4 who completed our last lap and finished under the gantry to cheers of the team and the large crowds.
Overall, both our teams performed very well and we all had a fantastic day. I have to mention all the members of Team Mandy – Mandy, Mark, Patrick and Jim, who pulled out a fantastic performance and beat team Simon (Simon, Tony, Me and Rob) by just a few minutes.
The club relays have grown in size and reputation over the last 20+ years and I think its fair to say they will continue to do so. This was my first experience of racing in a team and I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be back for more.
Team Mandy 35th of 170 teams sat afternoon
Team Simon 57th of 170teams sat afternoon