Mazda London Triathlon

Londontri_logoSunday 2nd August 2009

It’s 5.15am and I’m driving through the quiet streets of East London; bike, wetsuit and a bag of gear are in the boot. The sight of people standing, laughing, stumbling, and inebriated outside bars and clubs whilst us hardy sports nuts make our way in the breaking daylight to the start of another event never fails to move me. Move me to excitement at the challenge ahead, or to pangs of jealousy over what I’m missing out on! – I’m not quite sure. It definitely makes you realise how commited we all are; commited to our sport, our performances, our health and vitality.

Having registered on the Saturday and checked out the route, transitions and venue set up – absolutely vital for a triathlon – I simply had to rack my bike, set up my transition items and don my wetsuit. Physically I was ready; mentally I was nervous (about what technically might go wrong, rather than my personal ability). The added press and camera attention surrounding Jenson Button at the swim assembly actually took my mind off things though. And what struck me was the strong sense of camaraderie amongst athletes.

The Swim: hundreds of seal-like bodies, arms flailing, legs kicking, sight blinded by a low 7.30am sun; the start was tough. It took a good five minutes to get into a rhythm and find my stroke. I hit some good form from then on and confidence grew. It felt odd being unsure of my pace and I didn’t try to glimpse my watch; instead I focused on tempo and as smooth a stroke as the open water allowed. The funnel to the finish found me blocked by a 5-man wall slowing my surge to the ramp. I exited the water in 30.46, middle of the field but good enough for 212th in my age group. Surprisingly I wasn’t too dizzy, and T1 went smoothly in 4.12.

The Bike: the bike loop was special (see the route map); closed roads along the wide streets, down to the Tower of London and along the Thames to Whitehall. I felt brilliant and really hit it hard, notwithstanding the headwind when going West. I used my Madone without tri-bars (I think they look ugly – and I also kind of want a seperate TT bike!) but this didn’t stop me eating up quite a few people. My best moment was in the black of the Limehouse Link, cracking on at 28mph and seeing another rider silhouetted against the orange sun at the tunnel exit – amazing, and I felt inspired. Time: 1.09.32 and 139th of 494. T2 was quick and easy: 2.21.

The Run: unknown territory now. I felt stiff and robot-like, but I was committed to extracting the most from my first 10k in over a year. By the lap 1 half-way turn I felt good and hit the 5k point in 19.59! I’d contemplated a 50min run, so this was well ahead of expectations. Blisters were my only concern – both heals and arches gradually became sore (any tips to help this folks?). But I hung on for a 20.31 lap 2 and a very limited sprint finish: 40.29 – actually a new 10k pb! and 124th in my age group.

My final time was 2.27.19, 144th place. Absolutely delighted, and Dan Bullock informed me – over a post-race chat – that it qualifies me for the fast wave next time out. Full results are here.

Looking at my splits, the swim is clearly the weak discipline – yet this is also the one I know I can improve in most. I also think the bike could be brought down with more high intensity work and an aero position (or a new TT bike!). I have a side goal of breaking the 40-min 10k barrier; based on this I’m confident I can work on tempo speed to achieve this next year. I can’t wait for my next Olympic distance tri.

My mate Nik also competed, and came in a very good 2h47 – his swim was excellent, and he’s new to cycling and running so clearly he’s going to make a good triathlete. For anyone looking for a fast, flat and well-organised Triathlon then the Mazda London event is top class. 2010 entries have opened and another friend as already signed up!

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London Triathlon

The route and race details are now online for the London Triathlon. I’ll be starting in Wave 3 at 7.30am, along with this year’s number one F1 driver Jenson Button! Jenson managed a 2h22 time in Windsor last year with a 28m swim, 1h10 bike and 44m run; I don’t expect to see much of him on the race route!

I’ve been searching for a pace calculator for triathlon. For running I like the Cool Running engine for ease of use and flexibility. Although not visually appealing, this calculator offers both pace calculations (in metric and imperial) as well as a total finishing time calculator. 

If I can swim to current form, nail a good bike leg then hang on for a 50 minute 10k I could be on for a 2h46. Tri finish time calculation

This is the course that awaits me on August 2nd (click to enlarge)

London Triathlon Route 09