by Nick Rose
Monster Mojo Middle Distance Triathlon – 11th May
Ever since I’d heard of Monster Racing through the tri talk website a few years ago I’ve wanted to do one of their races, they seem to be triathletes organizing races for triathletes, always a good mix in my book and I prefer to support the smaller race companies if possible.
So when I heard about the inaugural ECF Monster Mojo in Peterborough I jumped at it for a number of reasons. Its local to where I work, two birds with one stone over a weekend, but more importantly, its an early season Middle distance in open water in May, you don’t find many of them in the UK. (ed – Don’t forget I got to race for free thanks to Triathlete Europe and Monster Racing :-))
The race pack turned up in plenty of time, very thorough and gave me more than enough detail for an information junkie like myself. The location was easily found and they had organized a discount with the local hotel which made accommodation the night before very convenient and easy on the pocket.
Turning up on race day I was greeted by the ominous grey strip of rowing lake stretching out for 1km which we were using for the out and back swim. Transition and start/finish areas were within 100m of each other, the race venue was tailor made, very compact and easy to find what you needed. And if you couldn’t find it, there were plenty of race officials around to help.
I hadn’t raced properly since 2012 at Kona and last year’s outing at Bala was the last time my wetsuit had seen daylight so a few cobwebs had to be blown off before the swim. I met up with fellow Buccaneer tri athlete Elaine and we discussed the pro’s and con’s of early season open water racing before deciding that it was probably warmer to put our wetsuits on as it was starting to rain.
After a quick race briefing we were ushered to the grey murky 4ft depths of the rowing lake, which as it turned out was warmer than the air temp at that time in the morning, or so it seemed.
Sighting in a straight line for 1km and then turning back around and doing the same home would, you think, be easy, I thought so but the 2 guys I was trying to draft clearly needed a black line marked on the bottom of the lake, so I gave up and went solo, I exited the water in 30.04 which for the first race of the season wasn’t bad. There were a few in T1 but I was more concerned with pulling on arm warmers and not forgetting anything, the weather wasn’t getting any warmer and I was acutely aware I was about to make the same mistake that every experienced triathlete makes in bad weather, trying to save seconds by not dressing appropriately and freezing for the first 30 miles of the bike ride !
After a 2 min transition I set off on the 82km bike leg already wishing I had worn a gilet.
The course works out as a 3 lapper with a kind of lollipop layout, out to the loop, 3 loops and then return back the same way we came. After 6 or 7 roundabouts on the way out which wasn’t ideal if you had traffic to contend with we were able to settle into the undulating countryside roads of surrounding villages.
I overtook a few early on but I was struggling mentally with the cold, frozen fingers trying to open gel packs don’t go together, good job I decanted all of my Mule Cherry Bombs into a bottle. Now all I had to do was not drop the bottle ! Having read the race pack and realised they only gave out water at the aid station I decided to use a gel bottle with 8 gels and another bottle with concentrated energy powder mix to the equivalent of 2 full bottles in one small aero bottle, then I could use the water to dilute. Worked well for me and I will look at this for the next few races at least.
After the first lap and still considering my future in triathlon due to the cold and rain (I know – nesh !!) one of the marshals told me I was 4th, it’s amazing how your mood can change in the blink of an eye. I settled in to a better rhythm, buoyed by the renewed enthusiasm and aiming to catch anyone in sight now.
With the lapped course it also meant that the other race running on the same course, the Monster Mojito was now spilling athletes on to their first and only loop as I hit the second, this was good for company and something to take my mind off the empty roads of loop 1.
I could see a Mojo racer in front of me but try as I might he stayed the same distance apart for the next 20 miles, just teasing me enough to hold pace and push through the hills but not enough to help me bridge the gap. It turned out it was Ben Baldelli, the eventual winner. We came into transition seconds apart and both had to sit down while putting socks and shoes on for fear of falling over due to comedy frozen hands not working fast enough and balance giving way to gravity.
I had put in the 2nd fastest bike split of the day which I was happy about but now was my Achilles heel against the better runners, and this turned out to be the case again as Ben Baldelli disappeared off into the distance on his way to a well-deserved win.
The run is in the grounds of Nene Park and takes you around the rowing lake and into the trails of the surrounding area. It’s a very easy course to follow, the mix of concrete path and off road trails make for a varied course underfoot but all easily manageable with normal road shoes. The 20km run is 4 laps with 1 aid station giving out water, energy drink and gels, a lovely lady giving out arm bands for each laps and a jolly marshal at the end of each lap teasing you with the option of finishing or going round for yet another lap.
These characters are the type of people you want out on a course where your body is trying to give up, that kind of support is essential when you are suffering to keep the smiles amongst the grimacing.
I was making steady progress running 7’s for the first 3 miles til the heart rate started to climb, the cold I had the week before was kicking in but I was going to finish before it made any real dents in my race. I slowed a little to around 7.15’s and tried to hold, the laps were great for pacing and distance, 5km laps are mentally very easy and I could concentrate on getting to the band lady and then the aid station without too much trouble.
I did have a little scare when Zoe Smith chased me down on lap 4 and we agreed to run together for her 3rd lap and my last, I wasn’t sure which lap she was on before we chatted and she had stalked me for 4 miles before that. She went on to take 3rd with the fastest female run of the day so I may have helped her focus for a good 2 laps.
The run got a little harder as the wind picked up later but I was never in danger of being caught by 5th and I was a mile behind 3rd so I just held pace and finished in 4.23 happy with a steady day and 4th place overall.
Elaines race finished slightly better than mine claiming 2nd woman and a deserved podium place. Congratulations to her and a well done on the Buccaneertri.com teams first outing of the year.
Nick with AG winners Elaine claiming her 2nd place
Organization from the start of the race booking was excellent, clear instructions on when, where, what was needed and how to make your race a better day. I didn’t see one unhappy face on the day, this may have been well hidden but it didn’t seem like that, what I found appealing was the understanding of the athletes and the accepting that we can be a fussy bunch and ask lots of questions. Time was always given and it never felt fake.
Arm band lady and her partner in crime and the big burly marshal on the end of the lap made my day during the run, it was good banter, always cheerful and a nice boost when all you wanted to do was stop.
Location was great, its not a new thing using a rowing lake to swim in but it works, simple. Transition at one end, race finish off to the side, showers and a hot food wagon nearby, what MORE could you ask for.
Monster have a good location here if they can sort for next year, they have put on a well organized and friendly race that ticks the boxes for anyone wanting to get a leg up for Ironman racing in June onwards.