Vachery Xterra Triathlon

1. Flyby

Graham went off road as Nikki looked skywards.

I entered this race in February as I was looking to do something different after doing a few mountain bike events at the end of last year / beginning of this year, but to my disbelief, in March the organisers went into liquidation & I wondered if the event was going to be hosted, or would I get my entry fee back if not.  However, in June I heard that the event was back with another organiser & that my entry had been transferred (much to my relief).  I have never done an Xterra triathlon before so this was going to be a learning curve.


We travelled up to Cranleigh on Saturday to do a reckie of the bike & run course. I’m glad that I did this because the bike course was very technical with lots of turns, jumping logs, crossing streams by traversing precarious bridges, ducking low hanging trees, very dusty & rock-hard ground (& this was only the bike course!!!).  One lap took me over an hour & a quarter but I was stopping & going back to do certain sections again just to be sure in my mind that I had the right angles of entry.  Then myself & Coach 2 walked over to the most difficult part of the run course which had two stream crossings.  Unlike the previous year, the streams had much more water / silt in them.  On checking the one going out, which had rope hanging down from a tree for yanking yourself out of the water / silt if you go stuck, or an alternative route of crossing a log that straddled the stream.  The one coming back was wider & deeper than the first but also had a log across.  Both streams were approximately 4/5 feet across by about the same in depth.


Race day dawned & was dry & sunny but as my race didn’t start until midday, I had two light breakfasts – one at 8am & the other at 10am.  My wave, which was the last wave, started at 12:09pm as they started in 3min intervals.  This was one lap of the lovely Vachery Estate lake so it didn’t take long before I had caught up with the back of the previous wave.  All that I could think about was that I had to get past as many of this lot as possible because of the narrowness of the tracks on the bike leg.


I came out of the swim into T1, which took a little bit longer than usual as I was put socks & the MTB shoes on in transition.  I then headed off onto the two lap bike course.  Working off of my reccy lap on Saturday, I reckoned on about an hour per lap.  The first lap was as congested as I’d thought it would be but I just had to be patient & sit in the long train & just commit to overtaking whenever I could.  To my surprise, I got back to the turn-around point in 50mins.  Had I committed too hard on the first lap or could I manage another lap at that speed?  Lap 2 was easier in that there was less traffic to navigate through but not so much in the legs, which were starting to complain at the punishment I was putting them through (shut up legs – get on with it [said as a tribute to Jens Voigt] but to my surprise I got round the second lap 2mins quicker so things were going well.


Into T2 for a good transition.  As I was leaving T2 the Red Arrows decided to do a fly by tribute just for me, & in Team Synergie colours they wrote in the sky “Go Starmie” which I thought was very nice of them (I can dream can’t I).


Anyway, now comes the more difficult bit for me – the 2 lap, 11K run (we knew someone who ran in the sprint race earlier that day who did 22mins for 5.5K!!! Our conclusion came to a decision that the run course was short). We had also been pre-warned on the field sections to be careful of rabbit & fox holes.  The first stream crossing was OK as I’d taken the easier option of crossing the log however, typical Starmie, I had to go & find one of the rabbit holes & managed to twist my ankle slightly.  Yet again on a 90 deg left hand turn, it went from light gravel to cobbles & yet again I went over on my ankle – it really hurt this time so I had to stop & recompose myself with a bit of run / walking up the only climb.  I managed to get round lap 1 but then lap 2 I was running very cautiously & slowly as I was mainly thinking about my second A race in two weeks time.  I managed to get to the finish line in one piece.


What a day.  I absolutely loved the event, especially the swim but mostly the bike – it was such great fun, but at the time of writing this, the whole of my body disagrees with me.


My splits are:


Swim – 23:58


T1 – 1:14


Bike – 1:38:20


T2 – 0:59


Run – 47:28


Total time – 2:51:59


Overall position – 81 out of 239 (10th in my age group out of 43)


(Note from Coach 2 – Oh my word – this was really a great event however, like the “Daddy or Chips” advert from a few years ago.

I had a similar conundrum – Husband or Planes.  I knew that the Red Arrows were headlining the Wings & Wheels event at Dunsfold, just down the road from the Vachery Estate, along with the Memorial Flight of the Lancaster plus Spitfire & Hurricane which were joined by another Lancaster (not sure where this one came from as there is only usually 1), a Vulcan, plus loads of others.

Lap 1 on the bike was OK with regard to pictures of Gra as the displays hadn’t really started but by the time the second was about to start, you could hear the engines of the Lancs tantalisingly through the trees (come on Gra, where the hell are you – I want to go & watch the display).  The “Chips” won in the end & just as I headed off to the car park to get a better view of the display, Gra went past – damn – I missed him.  Oh well, he’ll come back soon.  Now where are those planes?

Check out the photo gallery for more images of the Vulcan & Lancasters, oh & Graham.

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