It was my second year taking part in the London Triathlon and I was keen to see whether I could get a PB on the course. Being a local race, the London Triathlon is always popular with clubmates and friends racing throughout the weekend. I’d signed up for the mixed Olympic distance on Sunday at 1.15pm so I had plenty of time to prepare and make my way over to the Excel Centre in East London. It was the 20th Anniversary of the race so it was set to be even bigger and better than previous years.
Pre-race preparations went smoothly- I set up my kit in transition, browsed the expo, then met up with friends around the finish line to watch the pro Women’s race. Soon it was time to join the rest of my wave in the swim assembly area, I waited with Glen, Dave and Helen was we listened to the briefing. The guy who delivers the race briefing is fantastic for getting participants in the zone and settling the nerves of first timers.
Down the steps, out into the bright sunlight and straight into the dock waiting for the klaxon to sound…
1500m Swim- 26:14
The swim loop was exactly the same as last year so I felt prepared knowing the course. Again I started to the far left and moved my way inwards as we headed towards the first buoy. Despite being billed as the largest triathlon in the world, the swim waves were not too crowded or chaotic- I had plenty of space around me in the water. Sighting was a little difficult as the sun was in my eyes, but I managed to stay on course.
My official time is 26:41, but I’m not entirely convinced that is accurate as it seems incredibly fast for me! My Garmin time is 30:59, so either way it is a big improvement on last year’s time of 34:38.
Transition 1- 4:26
I got my wetsuit off fairly quickly and placed it into a bag held open by a volunteer. The good thing about the transition being indoors at the Excel is that your wetsuit doesn’t get covered in grass and mud when it’s left on the ground as with a typical setup. The floor can be slippery inside the building, so I took it carefully as I headed towards my bike. I used my zebra print towel again to make it easy to spot my kit! Unfortunately I had a bit of a Garmin fail at this point- I hit the lap button too many times and skipped past the bike mode straight onto the next transition. I decided to turn it off, rather than trying to fiddle with my watch on the bike.
40km Cycle- 1:18:35
The bike course had changed slightly from last year- the technical section in Canary Wharf was removed and instead we cycled further along The Highway towards Tower Hill. Friends who had raced earlier in the day had commented on the strong headwind and unfortunately it hadn’t died down by the afternoon. I was blasted with dust and grit and at one point the metal barriers alongside the road were all blown over as I cycled past.
Without my Garmin, I had no idea of my speed so I just tried to keep it steady. Going through the Limehouse Link tunnel is always fun- picking up speed as you ride into complete darkness. I literally couldn’t see a thing, but it was a welcome relief from the wind and bright sunshine outside.
Helen came flying past me as I was close to finishing my first lap- I was pleased to see her looking so happy as she had been really nervous about the swim.
Last year, I hadn’t mastered being able to drink whilst cycling so I actually had to stop three times to sip from my water bottle. This didn’t hinder me at all this time as I’m now able to drink easily on the bike. My time was 7 minutes quicker than last year- a huge improvement!
Transition 2- 4:33
My second transition went smoothly, I racked my bike and helmet then changed my shoes. I decided to restart my Garmin on the run mode to keep track of the final portion of the race.
10km Run- 1:09:42
The run seems to the area which really lets me down in every triathlon I’ve done recently. I had been having a great race and was on for a PB, but things just fell apart after only a few miles of running. The heat really started to get to me and I felt drained of energy. I started to walk and then just couldn’t get the momentum to start running again, so I resigned myself to the fact that today wouldn’t be the day for a PB.
The run course at the London Triathlon isn’t particularly inspiring- it’s an out-and-back with the dock on one side and an area of wasteland to the other. Running through the Excel building on each lap is the highlight as I get to see supporters and the atmosphere around the finish line, but out on the course it can be pretty soul destroying. I tried to distract myself by looking across the water to the planes at City Airport. At each feed station, I took a cup of lukewarm water- there were no gels or energy drinks available this year.
By mile 5 I had fallen into step with another woman and we got talking. Claire lives quite near to me and this was her first triathlon. Like me, she was aiming for sub- 3 hours, but was also struggling in the heat. For the final mile, we pushed each other on alternating between running and walking. This is one of the reasons why I love triathlon- the support and camaraderie from fellow athletes when the going gets tough.
As I came into the Excel building for the final time, a clubmate Cristina caught up with me and we crossed the finish line together. Another Olympic distance completed and another medal for the collection. I was a little disappointed with my run time- a whole 15 minutes slower than last year! Still a really enjoyable race and lessons to be learned for next time.
I was given complimentary entry to the London Triathlon in exchange for a blog post. All opinions are my own.
Have you raced the London Triathlon?