I take my usual caffeinated Gel about 20 mins pre-start and do a few shoulder warm up exercises, I have a permanent shoulder rotator cuff niggle and I like to kid myself that this alone will be just fine, if you’re reading this Emma I’m actually always doing my exercises and lots of rolling! Then it’s time to find another competitor wearing a HUUB wetsuit with break away zip and start chatting to them before asking for hand zipping up; best to go for a fellow HUUB wearer as they know not to zip it to the very top. They can also help with the HUUB shuffle of working your suit up your arms legs and body to get it fitting perfectly; frankly I think HUUB should have a rep at the start of all triathlons offering a free ‘zip in service’.
Now suited up we get our brief as we’re called forward by age group, this is possibly my only real criticism, they don’t really talk much about the swim course and no mention of the red boys that are not on the swim course map. I assume we are to leave them to our right, but there are defiantly some people who don’t know this and get diverted by the kayakers later. We drop in and the water is pretty warm really and semi-clear and we have about 2 mins to the start so I swim out 20 or so metres quite hard and then back gentle to check everything is feeling OK. A 30 second warning then a 5-4-3-2-1 and we’re off. I crack on for the first 25m or so to settle into some clear water and find myself nicely drafting a similar speed swimmer and it stays like this until we round that red buoy i mentioned earlier where he drifts IMHO too far left and I aim to swim a straighter course. Wether this works or not I’ll never know but I’m starting to catch the slower swimmers from the waves in front and it starts to feel bit like ‘Outrun’ for those of a certain age as I weave my way through them. I find myself quite close to the righthand bank (too close?) in trying to swim a straight course with the tips of my finger brushing the tops of the weeds. I’m starting to feel the distance but the last red turning buoy is coming up and a short push after that and I hit the ramp, I glance at my time as I hit the timing mat and see a mild disappointing 24:46. Later analysis shows I was 9th in my age group out which suggests the swim might have been a touch long as everyones’ times are a little slow.
So begins the long run up to T1, I trot past a chap getting some serious support from his family behind the barriers, his wife shouts ‘I love you at him’ and I can’t resist the urge to tell him ‘I love him too’ much to the amusement of his wife. I finally get to my bike and strip the suit off my legs, sling on my helmet grab my bike and reverse the long run out to the bike mount. This year it’s still at the bottom of a hill but not as steep as last year. Some mild irritation at folks faffing at the mount line with them spread across the whole road but I managed to hop on without too much time lost, like last year I leave my feet on the top as I start to climb but a brief levelling off allows me to get my feet into my shoes and I haul myself up to the crest where we join the roads and course proper and I get the velcro properly sorted. The wind is defiantly a bit on the gusty side and I’m glad once again that I’ve left my beautiful Walker Brothers 88mm front in the wheel bag (sniff). The course is not busy as last year and I’m slowing hauling past folks from the wave ahead and have yet to have anyone go past me, which is always nice. The course takes a circuitous route down toward Headingly before going back to Roundhay and you complete it twice. It’s nowhere near a technical as last year but there are still some trickyish corners, a few dead turns and some stiff climbs; so in short my type of course. Not that I’d agree with that on the climb back up to Roundhay! As I’m heading up the hill on the first lap the eventual winner laps me having started 20 or so mins before me so I work out I’m doing OK, and it’s a long time before the second place chap goes past, this lead is reflected in the results with a fine win for Edward Castro off the back of a super solid swim…..never let anyone tell you it’s all about the bike at Olympic distance. The second lap is fairly uneventful I loose a couple of places to guys in my age group but generally a pretty solid ride and before long I’m heading down the hill back toward transition. There has been plenty of support out on the route despite the early hour and racing on closed roads is always a great experience.
Again a long run from the dismount line to the transition park greets us but it’s all on carpet this year, with the transition on cut grass, which is a huge improvement on last year’s gravel demolition site. I’m in and out pretty quickly and straight into the steep climb up out of the park……I remember thinking ‘surely this is the last real up, it’s all downhill into town’……ha ha. The course flattens off and I take a gel as we swing south and head toward the city centre. Then inexplicably given it’s all downhill to the finish we swing right and start another steep climb! Now at this point I may have called the parenthood of the course designer into question, but having done a fair bit of trail and UK mountain running I try to convince myself that this sort of thing is in my favour and it’s gonna hurt all the other folk more…honest. Finally the climb abates and we start the descent, picking up the straight steady downhill of the main road through Harehills, this part of the route is bang into building wind and any advantage of the downhill feels like it’s being lost to the breeze, I’m going OK and I’m slowly hauling in a gaggle of runners ahead when a guy in a Met Police trisuit creeps past, He’s a pretty tall broad chap and I take the opportunity to tuck in behind him out of the wind and find I’m able to hold his speed, and I sit there, and sit there, and sit there I must be tucked in for the best part of 4K and tbf I can sense he’s not best pleased. As we start the turns into town he trys to drop me by cutting the corners hard and pushing up the little climbs but my legs are back with me now and we turn onto the Headrow together. As we pass the water station at the crest of the Headrow hill I squeeze on a bit and the guy I’ve been drafting can’t go with me so I dig in for a tough last mile and pass a cheering Lois for the first time. The course then sees you turn right uphill toward the finish line before dead-turning back the way you’ve come to start the loop of the city centre. This is the most enjoyable part of the run despite the…ahem…undulating nature and the fact that your giving it all for the last 6-7 mins. The supporters aren’t quite as numerous as last year but that’s to be expected as I’ve started earlier and there is only one loop of the centre on the new course as opposed to 4. Thats said there’s still plenty of cheering and I feel spurred up the little climb on my way back down the Headrow (second time past Lois), ignoring the water, who can drink in the last 2K of a 10K btw? I can barely breathe. One last dead turn and back up the Headrow climb on heavy legs, I push over the top pass Lois and try to find that final bit of energy for the last 500m; zipping (creeping!) past a few fellow runners gives me some energy and I hear a ‘you little monkey(?)’ gasped as I pass someone on the turn up to Millennium square and the finish. At this point my lungs are trying to leave through my nose and my legs are screaming but I can see the entrance to the finishing funnel and no-one is coming past! One last right hand turn and I’m on the blue carpet heading for the gantry, the finish photo will no doubt show me stopping my Garmin rather than revelling in the moment. I take a a brief moment myself (I call it the must not puke moment) before staggering over to have my chip removed, and claim a surprise T shirt and a pint of Erdinger Alchol-frie . The slightly bizarre feeling of cracking into a beer at 1030 in the morning after a Tri is starting to abate but still feels little odd.
I catch up with Lois and we head back to Roundhay and collect the car and bike before grabbing some lunch and settling in to watch the Elites after a well earned real beer. I check my results and I’m pretty pleased to see my overall placing of 78th overall 13th in Age category and 10th in Age group champs in a time of 2:19:55. Oh and I bumped into the Brownlees and got them to autograph my shirt on Monday morning….as you do.