A full two days have passed since completing this years Olympic distance course of the Mazda London Triathlon based at the massive Excel in London’s Docklands.
Having dropped the bike off at transition the day before the big event, I eventually arrived at the venue on the Sunday and quickly tracked down and met up with my race buddies Gav, Simon and Steve. Gladly it wasn’t just me who was feeling hyper nervous, we all felt the same way with churning stomachs and the shakes.
Having attended the pre-recorded race briefing we anxiously made our way to transition where we (wet) suited up, applied timing chips, readied our bike and running gear for (hopefully) speedy transitions and then slowly headed to the swim meeting point where it all begins. Here we are given a secondary briefing by the race organiser and encouraged to support each other to the chants of Oggy oggy oggy, then we make our way into the water.
Having tread water for 5 minutes in the Albert Dock we have a final chant of
Oggy oggy oggy followed by the long anticipated starting klaxon. Slowly, the 405 participants of this 14:10 wave begin the 1,500 metre swim out to a blue
buoy sitting somewhere beyond the horizon and then back to Excel for T1.
Well that’s how it all started. Then it continued…
My plan was to approach the swim in a relaxed way, hoping for a consistent pace and relying on the buoyancy of the wetsuit to keep me afloat whilst I propelled myself with a good stroke, the reality however was somewhat different. Despite feeling comfortable during the build up as well as the first 10 strokes, the melee began and like a shoal of fish chasing a single piece of bread we headed off towards the first turning point, hands brushing feet, feet kicking faces, splash, breathe, splash, breathe breathe. Slowing to breast stroke to avoid swimming over the guy in front whilst avoiding being swam over.
Finally some clear water. OK, now concentrate on breathing and establishing some sort of rhythm to carry me through. It must have been when approaching the 650 meter mark that I finally got into a sustainable rhythm and managed a consistent pace. The midway turning point proved to be just that. Once the home stretch was in sight and the waters cleared it became easier to focus on just the swimming and not the other bodies, breathing, the cold, and the constant noise of jet planes taking off overhead from nearby City Airport.
I found myself pacing with two other competitors who kept me on a straight line to the exit point apart from the couple of times I bounced off the swimming lane marker rope, bear in mind visibility in this water is no more than 20 inches. I can even remember thinking how much I was enjoying the swim at one point, something I never would’ve imagined.
Final push to the exit ramp keeping my head down and and pushing the front crawl until I could touch the floating pontoon at which point I was thankfully helped up by one of the many fantastic event marshalls and proceeded up the ramp and onto dry land. Adjusting to the solid ground under foot and recovering from the dizziness whilst hearing muffled cheers of support another marshall was thrusting a large clear bag at me into which I had to put my wetsuit, cap and goggles. It felt like an eternity taking that wetsuit off whilst still coming to terms with being out of the water. I eventually scraped the suit off at which point I spotted my support team (family and friends – thanks so much for your support and encouragement) who spurred me on to the next phase, T1, the first of two transitions, this being the bike transition.
Swim completed in a fairly disappointing 40 minutes and 19 seconds, it took me another 4 minutes 58 seconds to complete T1, which involved running up an extremely slippery set of stairs plus approx. another 200 meters to my racking point where I dumped my swim gear and donned my helmet, glasses and cleated bike shoes, then grabbed my bike and ran a further – what seemed like – 800 meters on a treacherously slippery surface to the bike mounting point where I could finally start the ride proper.