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Karl Alexander: Henley Olympic
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Monday 19th August 2013


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Regular Tri247 reporter Karl Alexander is usually seen racing over the Middle and Long distances, to suit his self-described 'diesel engine'. On Sunday, he tried something different and after four years in the sport raced his first Standard Distance event at the F3 Events Henley Olympic Triathlon.


I've been racing middle distance and full iron distance for the last four years and with the exception of two duathlons earlier this year the Olympic Distance has never really appealed. As more of a diesel engine, I'm better over longer races but after the mishaps of my last race I wanted to an answer to some of my own questions...

Karl AlexanderThe F3 Events Henley Sprint and Olympic Triathlon offered me a good test as I build toward my season goal of Challenge Henley. Held at the exclusive Shiplake College, the race involved a 1.5 km swim out-and-back in the River Thames, with a three lap bike course of 42km and a two loop 8km run along the bank of the Thames. It offered some great racing and picturesque countryside over this spectator friendly course.

With the Sprint event getting under way at 7:15am there was a 15 minute wait until the claxon that marked the start of the Olympic distance race. As this was my first race over this distance I was expecting a fast swim and was not disappointed when I exited the water after 17:23; this was followed by a steep 250 meter climb up to T1 which has a gravel section and I would fully recommend having some footwear ready to negotiate this run.

Heading out on to the bike, I felt relaxed and strong. In the back of my mind I was nervous about a repeat puncture and was perhaps a little more cautious than I would normally be. I soon started to catch riders ahead and before long was bearing down on race leader Toby Garbett. The bike course is rolling but the road surface is good with a few rougher sections between Shiplake and Henley. After 1:01:23 and an average speed of 25mph I dismounted into T2 in the lead and with the fastest bike split of the day. Of the chasing group only Toby had kept me in sight and his faster transition meant I was chasing him down again!

Karl Alexander

The run took us back down the same steep hill we ran up at the end of the swim, turning left at the bottom we picked up the Thames path. I still felt good and was steadily bringing Toby back and at the un-marshalled turnaround we made a mistake and continued through a gate, if not for a man walking his dog who shouted at us we may have kept going for some time. A quick turn and back through the gate I retook the lead, it was here that I saw the gap on our chasers was still pretty good but I knew I would have to keep my pace high to keep the pressure on.

Running past the bottom of ‘steep hill' and the swim exit there was another turn around and it was here that I noticed that Sam Village was getting closer. Back at the swim exit it was time to run back up to transition and the end of lap one. On the second descent Sam made his move and took over the race lead, he opened a gap that remained constant all the way to the finish.

I pushed hard to the finish and took the second place with Toby coming through in third. In the women's event it was Rachel Hallam who took the race win ahead of Ingrid Robinson and Catherine Benger.

For my first attempt at the Olympic format I'm pleased with my result, I knew my bike would be competitive but my training in the other disciplines is geared more toward the longer distances. Now I've dipped my toe I'll definitely do a few more. As always a big thanks to Martyn and his team at F3 Events.

It's not too late to enter the events on offer at the Royal Berkshire Festival of Sport, check www.f3events.co.uk for more details.

In the meantime I've got a few more weeks of hard training before I take the start at Challenge Henley.

Karl Alexander


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