The day of the London Sprint Tri dawned wet and stayed wet. I may have been slightly less enthusiastic to accept the Wiggle prize entry to the event had I known what the weather would be like!
We set off from West London a bit later than planned, at 1pm. This still seemed like tons of time. Google reckoned it would take just under an hour to reach the Excel centre at Victoria Docks in East London. From the start we were stuck in traffic. After an hour we hadn't got far but I thought, even if it takes another hour we'll be there in time. By 3.15 we were a mile away and stuck in thick traffic. We sat stationary at one set of traffic lights and watched the lights change several times before I realised I was not going to make it to the start. Unfortunately you cannot take a bike on the tube or the DLR so competitors were recommended to bring their own transport. With this being the biggest Triathlon in the country, it was likely to be part of the cause of the traffic. I wish I had cycled from west london - it would have been faster but a lot wetter and colder.
Just sitting in the car and looking at the traffic lights change with no traffic movement triggered our decision. With just 45 minutes to get to the race, queue up for my timing chip, queue up to rack my bike, set out my stuff, put on my wetsuit and get into the water, we decided to ditch the car.
I got to the Excel centre. Ran through the crowds with my stuff. Got my chip. Hussled along the bike racking, which was frustrating slow since many people were racking for the race on the following day. It was the biggest transition area I had ever seen! The racks were all full so I had to find someone who was hogging too much space and budge them up a bit. I had planned to buy some locking laces for my running shoes but in the end had to do a trick Ben had told me about a week before. I laced the shoes up quite loosely, shoved some talc in there and hoped for the best. I set out my bike helmet and shoes and then slathered my legs in Frys cooking oil before donning my wetsuit and timing chip on my ankle.
With scant 8 minutes to the start I asked the marshals where I had to go to the start. They were not very helpful (especially since quite a lot of people had been stuck in traffic) and told me I had to go the long way around. I ended up running through the Expo in my wetsuit trying to get through the crowds. I completely missed the race briefing but managed to reach the other 285 people in white hats making their way into the water.
After such a hectic time to getting to the race it was with considerable relief that I jumped into Victoria Docks. Visibility wasn't terrible, you could see about a foot, - in fact I saw many feet during the swim! I gradually got used to the temperature and made my way to the deep water start over the other side of the dock. I hadn't been there long when the race starter started shouting encouragement to the swimmers to quickly get to the start line. They weren't all there when the horn sounded for the start and we were off.
At the club relays the week before I was uncomfortable in the swim, couldn't settle and was borderline panicing. In this swim it was a mass start with 285 people and quite a narrow course. Oddly, although it was a bit of maul I managed to finally feel some benefit from swimming close to other swimmers - the swimmer version of drafting. I really noticed this for a while when I found some clear water and it felt like harder work. Unheard of for me, I headed back into the crush! My first race victory was my mental state during the swim. I had settled from the very start and despite the worst maul I'd been in. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration since I think the London Tri has a huge proportion of novices so they are perhaps kinder in the water than the more gnarly regular triathletes.
Finishing the swim felt like taking a long time because from in the water I couldn't see anyone getting out. I expected to see people in front running along and couldn't. I soon saw the exit point though and headed towards it, a sloping and slipperly plastic thing hanging into the water with marshals stationed to help pull you out. As we jogged along out of the water and began getting out of my wetsuit I quickly realised that this race was odd - you had to get the wetsuit off during the run in and bag it. My Frys spray on cooking oil worked an absolute dream and I quickly got out of the suit, was handed a bag by the marshal and set off again - up a flight of stairs to the transition area.
I was very lucky to quickly locate my bike, though the flag I had put on the saddle helped. A race referee wasn't happy about that and told me it was illegal. This conversation slowed my transition a bit. I told him to write me down for a penalty if he wanted and that I didn't realise this broke some rule - I guess I had better not do that again! I quickly had my glasses and helmet on and wriggled on my bike shoes before running off with my bike. I mounted pretty quickly and set off. After a while I realise my race number was still stuffed down the back of my shorts so pulled that out, stuck my head down and pedalled.
Cycling is the only event I had been training at race pace this year with weekly time trials with Team Cambridge. On the bike then I was quite comfortable and soon set out overtaking people. Many people were on mountain bikes or various hybrids so there was not really very much satisfaction in overtaking them since the technology on my bike gives me such a huge advantage over them it is quite imbalance. Mind you, my bike is worth about 1k whereas some of the bikes out there are significantly better than mine - worth about 5k some of them! Anyway, technology aside I got the bit between my teeth and picked people off. The course was wet and had quite a lot of roundabouts, tight sections and inexperienced cyclists on it. The latter was a problem at times when it came to overtaking. One cyclist was busy hanging out on the right side of the track waving at his friends as I tried to get past him, though like most he responded well to my, "On your right" as I edged past. Another cyclist was asking anyone if they had a pump. I'm not sure he really expected someone to stop to give him a pump and thereby wreck their race because he had come out unprepared. I even thought about stopping but not for too long.
I don't know how many cyclists I passed but only one or perhaps 2 went past me. I was quite confused in the race though. Some people on the bikes in front of me were spectacularly slow so I figured they must have put in olympic efforts in the water to be ahead of me and to have managed to slow down so much. It wasn't until the end of the race that I realised I was overtaking people from the race heat that started 30 minutes earlier. It was really impossible to tell who I was racing against. The only hint really was that anyone moving at my pace was probably someone I should be racing against. Because I missed the race briefing I had to ask another cyclist if the race was of 2 laps and he confirmed that yes, indeed it was, so I set off for another.
I'd finally done the 20k and cycled back into the transition hall, hopped off my bike and headed for my rack to get my running shoes. I racked, switched shoes and set off. It struck me that there were very few bikes racked by this point. I was frankly staggered. That had to mean I was doing rather well in my heat since the vast majority had not finished the bike yet. Aware that some triathletes excel at the running part I didn't hang about. I ran off making time to tag little hands poking through the rails trying to get a 'high 5' from the 'athletes'! I saw Yolanda too and managed another high 5 before continuing down a slippery slope to the waterfront.
It was pretty tough to run after the ride but I felt ok, just a bit of disappointment that I couldn't get more speed out of my legs. I like running through a busy field since I can pick someone in front and reel them in. When I have reeled someone, even before I overtake them I try to focus on the person ahead of them. Otherwise I can fixate on someone just ahead who might only be going quite slowly - I'm sure that slows me down. It was funny to catch up with people who were walking. I was thinking they must swim like absolute fish and ride like the wind to be in front of me and be walking! It wasn't until later that I figured out they were from a previous heat, though I had my suspicions that something was amiss.
(photos available from SportsCam
Eventually I found someone in front who was hard to reel in. It took me a while but I was eventually past him but not very convincingly. I felt he was close behind and might come back at any moment so it spurred me on. With 1k to go I picked it up a bit and tried to overtake a few more folks. Coming up the ramp to the finish I was quite frustrated with 3 runners side-by-side blocking the way and failing to move aside when I said 'on your right'. Expending more effort to say it again I pushed through and rapidly accelerated past them to the finish. The guy ahead of me was moving pretty slow but was 20m from me. I hit the 'sprint' button but was too far out to get to him.
Over the line I laid down to get my heart-rate down (my running coach taught me that one). The guy I struggled to pass came over and shook my hand to thank me for pacing him. I could see his point. It's nice to run with people who are just a little faster than you want to go.
My time was 1:20:54. I later found this was 17th in my heat (out of 285) and 107th overall (out of 1,405). This is perhaps my highest ranking in an event like this, putting me in the top 8% - huge thanks to Wiggle for the race entry competition prize! What fun!
Comparing my results with the other competitors
it seems that my bike time was respectable, swim a little slow, transitions a tiny bit slow. The run though, disappointingly, was where I lost a lot of time. I know I can run faster than a 23 minute 5k but doing that at the end of an event is pretty tough.
So, an excellent event for me, marred slightly by the deadful traffic on the day. We walked for half an hour after the event to find the car and then had another 90 minutes of driving/traffic to contend with.
Swim (750m) 00:15:27
T1 (transition swim-bike) 00:03:18
Bike 00:37:30- lap 1 00:18:17
- lap 2 00:19:13
T2 (transition bike-run) 00:01:40
Run 00:23:00- lap 1 00:12:15
- lap 2 00:10:46
Labels: personal bests, training and racing