Race Report: Maria Liston

Event: The Grafman / ATW Middle Distance Triathlon
Date: 2nd June 2024

This was my first 70.3 event and I chose it because it involved a lake swim, and a relatively flat bike and run course with an elevation of only 600m and 130m respectively. Plus it had an achievable cut-off of 8.5 hours, the venue is only half an hour’s drive from my mum’s house in Cambridgeshire and it was good value at £130 entry fee!

With only around 300 participants, registration in the on-site café was quick and simple, although I nearly had a heart attack when I was told that the water was a fresh 14.5°. Time for a strong, hot cup of coffee!

Being a small event, set up was simple and it was easy to find my place on the rack and spot the various in/out points.

The swim is a mass swim entry with an “Aussie Exit” after the first lap. Because of the water temperature they allowed us to wear booties and neoprene hats (but not gloves) and announced that anyone not wanting to go back in after the first lap could just give their number to the marshal and drop to the “Grafman Lite”. I seriously considered it, especially when I made the first turn and hit choppy waters and then on the next turn started being lapped! But I knew that it would leave me with unfinished business….so back in I went to the cheers and screams of Alison Lyons who turned up to cheer me on totally by surprise!

I finally made it out (I’ve never been happier to finish a swim) to the cheers of the crowd, I think Alison made sure everyone knew my name 🤣. My hands were so cold I struggled to get out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear but thankfully two of the volunteers came to the rescue and after around 7 minutes I was finally away.

The cycle section is on roads open to traffic but the roads in that part of the world are very quiet. It is made up of 4 out and back sections centred around the aid station which helped me mentally tick them off and makes it easy for any friends/family that want to support you.
Whilst it’s fairly flat, there are a few ramps to get you out of the saddle and a few open sections where the wind is not your friend. I took everything I needed with me so I didn’t stop at the aid station so I can’t comment on the offerings.

T2 was much better; after a quick shoe change and drink, I was off and running (wobbling) in 2 minutes. The run is made up of 4 laps on mixed terrain that snakes past transition twice per lap, meaning lots of opportunities for spectators to spur you on and hear shout-outs from the MC on the tannoy (everyone definitely knew my name by this point and Alison had even acquired a cowbell!).

Jason also brought the children to see me run and they even jogged alongside me for a few metres giving me a well needed boost. It was a great atmosphere.

My goal (other than just finishing) was to complete in under 8 hours which I did. Having never done another 70.30 I can’t compare, but if you’re looking for an event for next year I would wholeheartedly recommend The Grafman, or maybe join me at the full distance Odyssey (run by the same people in nearby St Neots)?!