With 20,000 people toeing the line – or at least sculling the line – over the weekend, the London Triathlon is the biggest triathlon in the world. With that prestige, it attracts some great competitors, and the winners over the years have all been of Olympic calibre.
Needless to say, being in the elite wave was pretty nerve-racking!
It was a flying visit to London. We were in Edinburgh for commitments on the Friday night and Saturday morning, so got the express train from Edin to London on Saturday evening. With the underground construction works going on, the predicted 10 minute ride from Kings Cross to meet Vicky at Victoria (how we remember where to go!) ended up being 1hour 15, and 4 or 5 switches later. With a suitcase. And a bike.
(who wants to baby these muppets around London with all that stuff. Vicky, that’s who!)
Getting to bed around 11.30pm, we were thankful for the race start for me being at noon. As long as we were out the door by 8.30am, we would have left plenty time to get to the Excel Centre. Vicky was definitely the Mummy, coming as lead cheerleader, but also telling us where to go, and when to RUUUN, for the next train! Kyle HATES the business of London. He is a caveman at heart, and put him in a tight enclosure with 10 other people makes him go crazy. Like a baboon.
(Being time efficient while waiting on a train…pumping up the tyres!)
Anyway, we got there in plenty time for me to register, sort transition out (what a faff!), and relax with them with a coffee (that ended up giving me the shakes afterwards because I’d forgotten I’d been drinking High5 caffeinated tablets on the way there!). We went outside (predominantly for me to get fresh air from said caffeine overload) to check out the course and do a wee warm up.
It was super sunny and I was excited to start! I saw a couple faces I recognised so was still pretty intimidated but I did come 5th at the British, and won the Scottish a couple weeks ago over the sprint distance, and surely I have a good base from winning Outlaw, so I thought meeting in the middle with a standard distance race couldn’t go too horrendously…
We were announced to the spectators at about 11.45, was allowed to do a warm up, and I even got asked for a photo by someone in the crowd! It was pretty cool to be considered a “real” elite!
We got the race briefing, then went back in the water for the NON WETSUIT swim (ugh!).
(I REALLY need a new suit so my name goes in the right place…Walker if you laugh again, you die)
(How to get rid of pre-race nerves..)
Lucy Hall, who was 1st out of the water in the female race at the LONDON OLYMPICS was clearly a favourite going in to the swim. I happened to dive into the water after her, so thought it sensible to go and line up at the starting rope next to her.
The other girls also thought it best to go next to her.
(The water was pretty choppy but that was not the reason for my average swim!)
So for the 4 minutes until the gun went off, girls were dunking and trying to push in to get a decent spot. It was SUCH a long 4 minutes and I was MISERABLE (any experts out there – should I have stayed put, or should I have moved to clear water and just sprinted til my damaged little lungs were bursting??). A speaker announced 30 seconds to go.
Then with 10 seconds to go, a girl pushed my head right under the water and sculled on top of me!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I heard the horn from under the water, the rope was lifted and I was at the back of the field!! I tried so hard to sprint, and managed to overtake a few. As I moved up to the next pack, a girl I’d overtaken grabbed my ankle so hard THAT I AM STILL BRUISED THERE and pulled me back. Ugh I was at the back again. I surged again, angry this time (but never angry enough for fowl play) and went round one group. By this point we were at the first buoy. I knew that the Olympians would be out in front with clear water, but I didn’t want to be humiliated in this sort of event. I was on the outside of a group that was slowly wittling down to finally me and one other girl. I passed her after wasting energy being side by side in no mans land, and then I saw the chase group about 15m ahead of me. At the last buoy, I tried to reduce that deficit with the plan of smashing transition to cycle with that pack rather than the pack behind me.
I got out of the water, pelted up the stairs 2 at a time to where our bikes were racked in the arena, overtook 3 or 4 girls, realised I’d just been in the THAMES WASHING MACHINE, and peuked in a bin near the bikes. At least it was clean. I have NEVER peuked in a race before! I have felt sick, but never actually been sick. It was an awful feeling but it happens in this sport. Tactics, not to the extent of foul play but apparently that’s going to become more policed, makes the sport exciting I guess.
After a solid transition (only took me a year!), I caught up with the girls in front, and we worked pretty well together. Unfortunately, it was raining when we exited the arena and I had pretty dark shades on. I never realised the roads were so slippy and skidded around the 1st bend. Apologising to the girls around me, I don’t think they liked me after that.
(I look more fierce in black and white!)
The girls were MUCH better cyclists than the ones I was with in Liverpool. We didn’t work perfectly together – about 3 or 4 of us did the work at the front while the others were happy to sit in – but there were times when I was thankful for the rest! It was a windy course with loads of turns,totally different from previous years. Unfortunately, we didn’t ride to Big Ben and instead we did 4 laps of a twisty, pretty boring course to be honest but it was so that it was better for the spectators. Not really any hills but enough twists to make it technical (something I’m working on!).
I really tried to punish the girls with some surges and longer efforts, as I know I have a strong bike but I wasn’t going to risk a solo breakaway in an elite field, so thought if I make them work they’ll have sore legs for the run.
At T2, another smooth transition, trainers on with ease (who knew talc was so helpful!), and off I strided past the bin sheds (cue near peuking again) and onto the riverside. A couple girls went off like Bolt, but I overtook them all but 1 in the first km and aimed to keep increasing my lead. Sarah Lewis (a Paralympic Guide) had a sensational run, so I couldn’t keep up with her, so it ended up being a solo 10km with Sarah in front and a couple of groups behind.
The run was strange: over plastic almost giant lego pieces that went over the grass, then up and down some ramps, a twist around a couple aid stations, then a lovely flat straight part. At the end of the straight, there was a 180 turn that went straight into a headwind (no wonder I felt great in the 1st mile!), then up a pretty solid sharp hill back into the Excel, then a windy maybe 600m in the arena (was SO weird to run indoors!) and you do that 3 times! The sun had come out again so it was pretty warm, but the wind actually helped. As did seeing Vicky and Kyle 6 times throughout the run!
(Keeping themselves entertained for a couple hours!)
The last lap I died a bit and just wanted it to be over. But luckily given the out and back course I saw the 1st group was the only group ahead, so I was pretty sure I was in 5th place! I was never going to catch them, and no one seemed to be behind me, so I didn’t feel any pressure which meant I could just enjoy the moment and be proud of managing this placing after all the (literal) running around and fitting training around real life; work, commutes, travel, wedding planning, holidays, keeping Chewy alive, etc etc.
At the finish, I soaked it in and walked across the line (the finish photos aint pretty, folks), downed a beer (stupid Alcohol free again…) and met a super proud cheerleading team. They were honestly THE loudest group on the course!
(As sobering as it was, it tasted delicious straight after a tough race!)
We had an awesome lunch, walked around London together, then split up to catch our trains home again.
After getting home at 2am Monday morning, my 8am meeting 6 hours later was fun…
AND in other news, turns out it was 3 years ago I took up this mad sport!!!
To set the scene, Kyle was training in Chamonix and I was bored. So Phil and I decided to plan a wee race. After this message, I started looking at buying a bike. I then got in touch with Noodles (HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, SCOTT!). And, well, the rest is history!