Thursday, 7 August 2014

Step up to elite racing at The London Triathlon

This was my first taste of elite level triathlon racing and my first impression is that it is a huge step up from the open triathlon races I've always done in the past. When I've raced road or cross country race in the past, I know the other athletes to look out for, how long before you need to be at the start line and where to push on in the race; essentially a good familiarity with the situation. However the elite triathlon is a new world, I didn't recognise anyone, I didn't really know the race protocol, I didn't even know before I got there whether the wheels I was using were legal for the race! The wheels turned out to be fine, I got my bike racked and walked through transition so I knew what to expect when switching between the disciplines.
The most significant difference between open and elite racing is that you are able to draft on the bike, and this means that its a significant advantage to come out if the swim in a reasonable position in order to get into a cycle group where you can work with others. I thought I'd had a reasonable swim, I certainly gave it everything, but landed up coming out of the water dead last which was my first real indication of the increase in standard compared to what I was used to. Fortunately there were a couple of other guys just ahead of me and I started the bike in a group of 3, hardly comparable to the packs of 10 that had formed ahead.

The group soon became 2 and I worked together with another competitor (Anthony Meager) to share the pace. Whilst our 56 minute bike split wasn't a disaster and only a couple of minutes off the pace, I was left thinking it would have been a far easier ride had I been in one of the packs up the road. I saw starting the run almost at the back of the field as an opportunity to significantly move up in the standings. As I began my first lap, the eventual winner (Mark Buckingham), was starting his second lap of the 3 lap run course. I decided that I'd try my best to stay ahead of him (possibly to the frustration of the motorbike rider trying to film just the leader), and this helped me to maintain a fair pace. I worked my way through the field to finish 19/40 in 1:52:05.
As a debut elite triathlon, it certainly wasn't a disaster and has made me think about how I should structure my training over the winter in order to work on my swimming. Currently I'm only swimming 1-2 times a week on my own and clearly that is not enough!
Next up is the UK age group triathlon in Liverpool on Sunday followed by a few easier weeks before the XC season kicks off. I may even throw in a Middle Distance triathlon before the end if the year.

Swim: 22:22
T1: 2:09
Bike: 56:24
T2: 1:31
Run: 29:42