I‘d signed up for the Vitality World Triathlon in London around 6 months ago, along with 18 other clubmates from Havering Tri. It was set to be my first Olympic distance triathlon and I’d been training with this race as a target for months. I’d been to the venue the day before our race and it was beautiful sunshine with plenty of supporters out around the park. It’s the last time that the race will be hosted in London, as next year the World Triathlon Series moves to Leeds.
We’d all been allocated to the 7:20am wave, which meant getting up at 3:30am to travel into central London. We arrived in convoy along with a group of family and friends who had come along to support. The weather had changed dramatically from the previous day- it was cold, wet and miserable. We racked up our bikes and changed into our wetsuits wishing we were at home warm in bed!
Waves were being set off frequently throughout the day and soon it was our turn to head over to the swim start.
1500m Swim- 31:37
We walked out onto the blue pontoon and lowered ourselves into the lake. The water was chilly, but I soon acclimatised. There were 16 Havering Tri members in the wave, and it felt fantastic to have such a great turnout from the club.
The swim went well, I got straight into a rhythm and powered along thinking about my technique. The faster swimmers shot off and I found my own space fairly quickly. I sighted often to make sure I was on course for the turning points at the buoys.
I saw lots of swimming caps on the bottom of the lake and wondered why so many people had lost their hats. Mine stayed securely on my head for once!
The swim was a rectangular loop of the lake taking us down towards the Serpentine Bridge, then back around onto the pontoon.
As I exited the water, I glanced at my Garmin and was pleased to see that I’d completed the swim a few seconds faster than the Eton Swim on Monday. There was quite a distance to run/walk back to transition, as I headed back I heard my swimming coach Kay shout “great swim Lucy”.
Transition 1- 5:47
Transition went smoothly, I found my bike straight away, I changed into my cycling kit and headed straight out onto the bike course…
36.5km Cycle- 1:17:42
The cycle course was 5 laps of the park with turning points at Cumberland Gate and Hyde Park Corner.
It was carnage… the wet surfaces combined with some tight corners made for a lot of accidents. I saw several cyclists have horrible crashes as they took corners too fast and flew off their bikes into the metal railings. The sound of metal and flesh scraping across the concrete floor made me feel sick and panicky. I deliberately cycled slower than necessary, and eased off as I approached each corner. I tried to relax, but every time I saw another accident I tensed up again. Someone crashed directly in front of me, so I had to swerve to avoid him and his bike. Marshals were out in force urging cyclists to slow down at each bend.
I’d forgotten which button to press on my Garmin to move it onto the next mode, so it hadn’t started to record any data from my cycle. I decided to just switch it off so that I wasn’t fumbling with my watch on the bike.
I saw lots of Havering Tri members on the out-and-back loops, we cheered each other on and I hoped they were all safe with no accidents. In fact, three of my clubmates fell off their bikes on the course. One had to withdraw from the race as his gears were damaged, one suffered facial injuries and one has road rash along his side. Ouch.
Our supporters watched from the corner opposite the Serpentine Gallery which is where the majority of accidents happened. I loved hearing their shouts of encouragement every time I cycled past, but I tried to keep my eyes on the road ahead.
I completed my 5 laps and I was relieved that I could head back to transition and get safely on my feet for the run. Despite cycling slowly I was surprised to find that I averaged 17.5mph, and was happy with my time for the bike section.
I arrived back into transition alongside Graham and Hayley, and straight away realised something might have gone horribly wrong. Graham is the fastest cyclist from our club and also a strong swimmer, so it seemed very odd that we had finished our cycle at the same time. I realised that I had either missed one lap on the bike, or Graham had completed one extra. Of course, I had switched off my Garmin so I had no idea of the distance I had just cycled.
I racked my bike, changed my helmet for a visor, and my cycling shoes for trainers and headed off for the run. 10km Run- 57:36
The run took us on four laps around the Serpentine passing over the blue carpet which would serve as the transition area for the elite athletes later that afternoon.
I restarted my Garmin to show the time of day and noticed it was 9:15am. I realised I could easily complete the triathlon in under 3 hours. Something had to be wrong, there was no way I could be that quick. I had been expecting around 3:10, so I had surely missed a lap on the bike.
Throughout the run I managed to convince myself that I had been disqualified and there would be no medal waiting for me at the finish line. I took several walking breaks as my attitude was “I’ve already blown it, so there is no point in pushing for a fast 10k time”. I was so disappointed in myself for messing up my first Olympic distance.
In our royal blue, red and yellow trisuits, us Havering Tri members really stood out and it made it easy for our friends and families to spot us on the course. Our supporters were still in position and I looked forward to passing them on each lap getting high-fives and cheers. Our running coach Dave had also appeared beside the lake, so it was great to have so much support out on the course.
Running through the blue carpeted area was fun, as we received huge cheers from the spectators in the grandstand. I enjoyed looking up at myself on the big screen!
I finished my four laps and turned onto the finishing straight. I saw Jonathan from Havering Tri finishing just seconds ahead of me, the commentator mentioning his big hair and 70s headband!
As I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears (crying is a common theme for me at races)! Glen came rushing over to congratulate me, but I told him I’d been disqualified. He assured me that I’d definitely completed the correct number of bike laps as they’d seen me pass by 5 times, and it was actually Graham who had done one extra.
It turned out I’d done nothing wrong! My bike laps and run laps were all correct and I’d smashed my predicted time! I was overjoyed to realise I’d achieved sub-3 hours and my tears soon turned into a big smile. I’d finished in 2:56:35 and got my medal. If only I’d run the entire 10k, I could have got an even better time!
We cheered on the last finishers from the club and stayed to watch the few people who were racing in later waves. We had intended to stay to watch the elite races later in the afternoon, but it was raining heavily and we were all exhausted from the early start.
As much as I loved racing alongside so many clubmates from Havering Tri, it was a bit of a mind-fuck. Instead of trusting my own judgement, I based my race on where I expected my team mates to be on the course. It totally threw me, as I couldn’t understand why some people were behind me when I assumed they’d be miles ahead. It turns out some people had a bad swim and were slower getting out of the water.
I’ve learned that I need to run my own race, and not worry about what others are doing. My next Olympic distance is at the end of June in Cardiff. I’ll be racing alone so it will be a different experience from Hyde Park.
I feel like my race report sounds very negative, but overall I absolutely loved my first Olympic distance triathlon. It was fantastic to race on the same course as the Brownlee brothers, and Hyde Park is a great location despite the problems on the bike course. The swim was my favourite part. I’m proud of all my friends from Havering Tri, as everyone’s training paid off with some amazing PBs and great results.