Don’t worry, I didn’t suddenly get good and qualify for the Age Group race in Hyde Park! I was fortunate enough to get a place in the Open Sprint race at the last minute. I had entered the ballot earlier this year but was unsuccessful, then in August I received an email advising there were a limited number of places available in the Standard and Sprint Open events on a first come first served basis. It seemed rude not to – compete at the ITU Grand Final event on home turf in Hyde Park in the same location where I watched Ali Brownlee triumph the previous year? – 5 minutes later and my wallet was £100 lighter. Oh well, once in a lifetime and all that!
I was scheduled to race on Saturday afternoon at around 15:20 – the latest I think I’ve ever raced. This was good as we didn’t leave for London until nearly 10 and drove straight to the Marble Arch car park underneath Hyde Park. For £30 it got all three of us to central London – and there was no faffing about with bikes and a three year old on the train – sorted! We met up with Ginger (Rich), my sister-in-law and niece in the Park and went off to get registered. Transition was a bit weird, on a hill with lots of bits roped off. It was live as the Standard Open waves had already started but I found my spot and set up my kit. I laid everything out on the pink towel I’ve used since I started tri racing then tried to work out the ‘in’s’ and ‘out’s’. For a big event – they weren’t immediately obvious! I was then warned by a fellow competitor I might want to rethink my towel – he’d heard during the Age Group Sprint the previous day officials had removed them as they’re classed as an infringement by marking your rack position. Not sure how true that was but as this was the Open event with lots of first timers I figured I’d be safe leaving it, and anyway, my new trainers can’t be missed even if my towel did go!
I made my final checks in transition and returned to the bench we’d previously occupied for lunch just down from the swim assembly point where I was supposed to met the others to hand my kit over for afterwards. About 10 mins before I was supposed to be at swim start they still hadn’t turned up, it turns out they were having photos taken with Chrissie Wellington (who? ;-)). Anyway at swim start we were called over and worked our way along the pontoon that the Elite races use. We weren’t allowed to dive in but still got our own spot – none of the usual argy bargy you get. The hooter went and we were off – I wanted to swim well as my pool sessions with GreenlightPT have gone really well recently and I was keen to see what I could do. I put my head down and worked hard for the first 100m or so – the wide start meant we were spread out across the lake and it was difficult to gauge where I was, but I could see I had clear water ahead so knew I was nearer the front than the back. At the first two buoys there was the usual scrum but as the eldest of three sisters I don’t have issues with making sure I’m where I want to be! I then set about the long stretch back past the pontoon and trying to draft off people, except I was struggling to find anyone. To be honest my sighting is not the best and I know I was heading towards the big blow up man which was not the best line by far! I could see someone ahead so figured there must be others about. I really started to motor down the final stretch before the turn to the pontoon heard the next wave start just after I passed. I knew they were 10 mins behind so realised I was swimming quite well as I only had about 150m left at that point. It was a shame that the swim was only 750m as I’d really found my groove, but the realisation that I could hardly feel my feet reminded me that the water was bl**dy cold!
I pulled myself out of the water (third out I found out later – hence why I was struggling to find anyone to follow!) and set off towards transition – around 800m away. I got my wetsuit undone, took my hat and goggles off and was about to rip the suit off when I dropped my goggles. I was travelling quite fast but for some reason I stopped and ran back to pick them up – not sure why as they were a £4 pair of Speedo’s but I like them! The run to transition lasted ages and even when we reached it, there was still another 200m to go on mud before we were directed to our racking. I ripped off the rest of my wetsuit getting mud everywhere and then got my shoes, helmet and belt on for the bike. Another 200m run in mud with the bike and shoes and we were on the route.
The bike route was three laps with 2 180 degree turns – thank goodness it had dried out by then! As bike routes go it wasn’t the most exciting or the flattest but there were some nice long straights to get down on the bars. My bike wasn’t in the best nick – it’s in need of a service – and the four or five cobbled speed humps as you cross the Serpentine were not helping! I decided to be a little cautious on the bike to ensure I completed it in one piece plus at £89 and with your family watching it doesn’t do to DNF! Nevertheless I still pushed past a few people including a few in their national age group kit J but was quite glad when the bike finished – I knew it wasn’t quick but was keen to get running.
Getting the bike back to the rack was like a cyclocross race. Thick sticky mud, bike shoes and road tyres do not make for a pretty sight. Some guys picked their bikes up but to be honest I just took it slowly and made sure I didn’t end up in a heap in the mud. A quick change into my new go faster green(light) trainers and I was off. Those that normally run train with me will know I’ve been struggling with a knee injury since London, it’s on the mend but as a result I’ve done little run training apart from a few short quick runs off the bike. I took it easy for the first lap, past the family to make sure everything felt ok then nice and steady along the long back straight behind the Serpentine. It was great running past the elite transition areas on the blue carpet. I felt pretty good and my knee wasn’t hurting so I pushed on for the second lap. I was passing people left right and centre on the run and by the end of the second lap I felt like I was flying – the last few hundred metres were on the blue carpet and the final turn to the finish was the very same finish that Jonny Brownlee and Javier Gomez battled on 24 hours later.
I finished with a bit of a sprint, gave back my chip, got my medal, was given a rather revolting energy drink and an equally disgusting bit of an energy bar and then that was it – you’re out into the Expo finished!
As a race, it’s pricey, but where else do you get a chance to race in the same location as the Olympics and be part (albeit a small rather insignificant part) of the ITU Champs. Transition was not great – grassy hill a long way from the start/swim exit. I spoke to a fellow competitor who had measured about 1.5km of running through transition – that’s a lot when you’re used to Emberton! I spent nearly 8 minutes in transition in total. Having said that the Serpentine is not too bad to swim in, the bike course was perfectly acceptable, if a little dull and the run was flat but with enough twists and turns to keep me interested. Overall I was pleased with my race, solid swim (quickest ever 750m), slow bike and a quick run (bit dubious about the distance as I ran 30 seconds faster than my Parkrun PB), but with my finish time I’d have finished in the top 60 in the Age Group event so that will do me as the last tri of the season – best start getting used to the longer stuff now – Outlaw Half is T minus 249 days away….
|Race Stats (750m/22km/5km)|