In fairness, it’s not much warmer than the race that was cancelled back in March, but there are no trees getting blown over in Bushey Park! But having spent the intervening time getting married and sunning myself on a foreign beach, I’m not much fitter.
I’ve been doing triathlons since 2013, but I’ve never done one in a swimming pool. This might sound a little odd, but one of the things that got me into the sport in the first place was the adventurous idea of donning a wetsuit and swimming around in a lake full of green water. I also like the idea of having a mass start, as it makes it more of a race and less of a time trial. So I’m a little anxious as to how this one is going to play out.
A sort of thin wind is swirling about the place when I wheel my bike into transition by Hampton Open Air Swimming Pool. The place has the buzz about it you always get with a triathlon – one of the things I love about the sport is the sense of camaraderie with the other competitors – and the Thames Turbo events have been no exception. The Marshals are also excellent, friendly and appear to know what is going on – no mean feat at 6am on a bank holiday morning when by rights we should all be in bed.
Having not done a pool tri before, I’m more used to the mass start, and so I get myself ready far too early and so I am a little chilly in a tri-suit and hoody for the race briefing at 630am. The briefing is informative and quick, so I can scoot off into the reception area, chat briefly to Rachel (who doesn’t seem as cold as me) and wait for my start time. Which comes some 45 minutes later, at about the time I’m wondering why I got out of bed (again).
Much had been made of the importance of swim times to help smooth our progress through the water. I put mine down for around about 7minutes 30, and in the end it takes me over a minute longer, not helped by having to overtake a couple of swimmers and then getting mugged by a drafting two-some from the hosting club. I’m not cynical enough to believe there was any planning in that particular episode…
I made the decision to chuck on an extra layer before the bike, because it was cold, and I reckoned I would freeze. In hindsight, as I struggled to get my wet arm into my bike top sleeve, this might not have been such a good idea. It certainly explains my disastrous 1 minute 38 seconds first transition. But I was nice and warm.
The bike leg was mercifully flat, if a little dull. I pedalled and tried to think about something else but my bike-fitness as a number of other athletes went passed me at varying speeds and with varying degrees of effort. I tried to convince myself that it was only my superb swim that meant I was ahead of them in the first place, but in the absence of a mass start this seemed even less likely.
The bike course ends rather abruptly just before a set of traffic lights. I knew this was going to happen, and I know why the course organisers have done it, but it is still a little jarring as we then enter a no-compete zone which takes us up to the beginning of the second transition (T2). I have a drink, and wonder what is left of my legs.
I’m a little bit less inept in T2, although I have to now take my cycling top off so I don’t overheat on the run. It’s a little easier to do and I drag my running shoes on and leg it out onto the run. One of the things I really love about this event is that the marshals all have start lists with numbers and names on, and so cries of “go on Simon” ring out as I try and look less knackered as I run past them. It’s a really lovely touch, and the enthusiasm for the event is quite infectious.
It lasts until I get into the relative quiet of Bushey Park, and replace the cheers with the rasping of my breath and the slap of running shoes on tarmac. I’d completely forgotten how much it hurts to run straight after a bikeleg, and so I spend most of the run vying with another athlete for supremacy, and wondering if I have enough left for anything approaching a final burst.
He lopes off with about a kilometre to go, and I regret not following him, as after a brief sprint, I stagger over the line feeling a lot less likely to throw up than I usually do. I’m pleased with the 22.34 time for my 5km though and I’ve got a full on dose of post-exercise endorphins as I walk back to the pool to collect my belongings.
The timing van is parked out the back, and is offering a print out of your times, which is another nice touch. I get my stuff and stagger off to the car for the short ride back to Carshalton.
I’ve enjoyed my return to the sport immensely, so much so that I go and book another sprint triathlon for June as soon as I get home (The Thorpe Triathlon) which is another sprint race distance, but this time with an open water start and should work as a nice warm up for the Thorpe Park Triathlon in July.
The race is really well organised, enthusiastically marshalled, and I think would make a great introduction to anyone who lives in London or Surrey.
I didn’t really like the swimming pool aspect of it, mainly because for the majority of athletes it means a wait for your starting time, but if I do the event again I’ll keep my clothes on and take a flask of coffee!!