The ITU Dextro Energy Hyde Park Triathlon crept up on me. No sooner had I started training than I found myself in the grand stand at Hyde Park watching Helen Jenkins romp home to victory, a few hours before the relay teams would set off.
This was my first experience of triathlon. I’m a regular runner and I can’t remember how many races I’ve competed in. But running races are simple. You just show up and run. The biggest barrier you’ll potentially face is deciding whether to use two safety pins or four to attach your race number.
Triathlon isn’t so simple. There are oh so many rules. When you finish the bike stage you must dismount before you can be waved through to the transition area. You can’t remove or even unclip your helmet until your bike is racked. You can’t get naked in transition. In fact you can’t even have the zip of your cycling top pulled down too far. One poor bloke was screamed at by a marshal, “No nudity in transition!”. Which, of course, meant that everyone turned round to his exposed arse cheeks. Even the race numbers are hard to work out (the numbers are attached using pieces of elastic and a clip to a stretchy belt that goes around your waist, which I broke).
So if I wasn’t nervous enough already about breaking a 20-minute 5K in the run, the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing was tipping me over the edge.
Being in the last leg of a relay triathlon meant that I did get a good opportunity to watch the handing of the ‘baton’ (timing chip) a few times. Some would plod in to the transition area and casually take off their timing chip from their ankle and just pass it to their teammate. While the more competitive would slide in, ankle first, while the third member would tear off the anklet, snapping it on to the next racer’s ankle like a handcuff! It was entertaining to watch, but I found that I was stood up for ages waiting to start. Not resting my legs before the run.
Before I knew it, Dom was back from the Bike stage and I was off! I’d struggled to keep up the 6:26 min/mile pace in training, so my plan on the day was to race the first two miles at 6:40 and really push the last mile, topped off with a proper sprint for the last 400 metres to bring me home in sub-20 minutes.
The course was clear (two laps of a circuit around the Serpentine), with very few runners blocking the way. But I was finding it very hard. My pace was good, but I was struggling with it and had nothing in me to smile or wave to any spectators. And some sections over the grass were run on platforms, which bounced and made for hard work. In reality, this hindrance was probably minimal, but I was certainly waning.
With no idea of my actual time (my watch was set to VP mode) I rounded the corner and managed a gut-busting sprint down the finish. There’s a really terrible photo of me at the finish (no, you’re not seeing it), and you can see in my face that I knew I’d missed my target. In actual fact, I was a mere 8 seconds from hitting it, which is very disappointing. Even if I’d been able to see my time, I don’t think I could have given anything more on the day.
But one thing’s for certain. I’ve definitely caught the Triathlon bug and I’ll be signing up to do an Olympic distance tri in the next year. A big congratulations to Alice and Dom, who both shone on the day and it was a pleasure to represent team TW along side the GE relay teams.