So the fears of bad weather were unfounded, though the short ride up to the park left me with frozen fingers, and a sense that the bike could be a really cold one.
I arrived with plenty of time to find my spot, set my gear up and double check that I knew where the transition ins and out were, and the quickest way to get through transition. With that done there was still time to chat to a couple of friends and other members of the tri club, before putting the wetsuit half on and wondering down to the watch the first couple of swim waves set off.
Time for me to enter the water. Knocking back a gel as I entered the holding pen to be counted safely into the water I realised how cold my wet were, having been standing in the dewy grass barefoot for the last 30 minutes, but as I entered the water it was almost tropically warm compared the the outside air temp, and a quick pee got everything nicely warmed up. I wasn’t in the water long before the air horn went and my yellow hatted wave were off. I’d gotten faily near the front of my wave and as we powered forward to the first buoy and turning point I managed to get a reasonable start, and then find some feet to set on whilst the thrashing around me really got going. Only one person tried to swim on me, but a little extra enthusiastic kicking and arm waving (I believe the pros call it ‘swimming faster’) and they were behind me. The course is a bit of an ‘L’ shape;
Sighting is important here as you don’t want to be heading towards the wrong buoy and lengthening your swim. My sighting is generally quite good and I was able to hit the buoys dead on. Heading north after the first turn I was able to catch a glance behind and see a see of yellow swim caps behind me, and not too many in front, this was looking like it might turn out to be a reasonable swim. The one difficulty with this swim is that as it’s quite late in the year and early in the morning the sun is still low in the sky when the swim starts which can make seeing difficult. Fortunately after one bad swim a couple of years back where I couldn’t see anything and had to wait for someone to overtake me for me to follow them I have always swum in smoked goggles. This made things a little easier but I was glad when I got towards turn 2 and was shaded by the trees surrounding the lake. It was a simple swim to the final turn along the fr edge of the lake, again finding feet to latch onto and get a little draft, my arms still feeling fresh, through my legs were feeling slightly tired. Again a nice direct line and a tight turn round the buoy and I was heading back to the swim exit, by this point I was having to swim round some of the swimmers from the previous swim wave. Round the stragglers of wave 2 and I was at the jetty and exiting the water, a quick check of the watch showed a swim time of 25:34, but the official swim time wouldn’t stop until I made the long slog up the hill to T1. A wave to my family who were there to see the swim and I was off to T1.
The run from swim exit to T1 is the only part of the whole event I’m not keen on. the first part is on a stony, muddy path, then its on rough, rough concrete, and then over twig and stone covered grass, and is quite a long run up hill. I know they can’t do anything about the distance, but some blue matting to stop your feet getting torn to shreds would be nice!
T1 went well, glass on, number belt on (unlike last tear where I was out of T1 before I realised I’d forgotten it!), helmet on grab bike and off. One area where I do need to improve is my bike mounting, as it feels a little stop start, especially compared to some of the cracking flying mounts that were going on around me, maybe something to practice in the off season. Along the south edge of the lake and I was out onto the roads, feet in shoes (elastic bands having done the trick) without too much bother and gunning it.
The bike course, out past Weatherby, back and then through Wike is largely the route I train on, so I know it well, all the lumps, bumps, turns, patches of bone juddering poor surface and more importantly where the headwinds normally are.
It was bloody cold to start with. Through the sun was doing it’s best to warm everything up the first half hour on the bike was a struggle to keep my fingers from falling off due to the cold, only exacerbated by how quickly I was going (or thought I was) There is a drag uphill within the first couple of miles and this did help to get things warmed up a little. I pushed as hard as I could on the bike with not many people passing me, and those which did all looked like serious athletes on expensive bikes, with me blitzing past those from earlier waves. It wasn’t too long before I had reached the turn around point at the Bridge Inn and was heading back, time fora gel. The return leg was good, and not a sign of the headwind I have often done battle with, I didn’t get held up at the Weatherby roundabout, and only slowed a little by traffic stuck behind other cyclist. Not to worry, take it easy and hammer it when I get better road conditions. The route back take a turn at Collingham and up into Wike, which the much lumpier, and has several short, sharp hills which really do punish the legs. The old bike course for Leeds Triathlon used to do three laps round these roads and I was once again glad that the slightly longer, yet much fatter new course was being used. I really wish I’d done more work round these hills as my legs were feeling it, still pushing on, very taking many, being overtaken by a few. I have never been too worried at being overtaken on the bike, through with more work I will, as my run is the strongest element and I know I can hunt down these who have passed me with relative ease. Coming to the end of the hilly bits of Wike and starting to head back towards the park and T2 I had a bike issue. The gearing cable for my crank had come loose and I was stuck in the small chain ring. I had noticed that the gear leaver needed to be moved more and more to get into the big ring but it finally went. Fortunately there wasn’t far to go, and even better I wasn’t stuck in the big ring with those hills still to climb. Still it did mean that on the remaining flat/downhill sections I couldn’t push as fast as I wanted to. Then into the dead zone. Having to cross through two sets of busy traffic lights and with a massive downhill section (which has been relaid recently, a good job as it was down right scary before) this was a change to rest the legs a little and get another gel down. Nice and easy through before powering back into the park and towards T2.
I’ve always been wary of the approach the T2 in Roundhay park as there are often people the with dogs who seem oblivious to the goings on and wonder around not really paying attention. I know they are public paths and we have no more right to use them than anyone else, but sometimes you have to wonder about peoples self preservation skills and ability to know their surroundings. The other reason is due to the surface of the path where the dismount line is. On my first time at Leeds I was coming into T2 with someone just ahead. I was out of my shoes ready for a flying dismount when the person in front unclipped and jumped off their bike. their cleats slid, as did they going one way with theri bike flying right in front of me, meaning I had to drop my bike and leap over theirs. This bent the drop bars on my bike, and where I landed barefooted on the concrete path, tore the soles of my feet to shreds. Ouch.
This time no such issue, I was in about out of transition in a flash, having dropped my bike and grabbed my water and gel, donned my shoes and turned my race number to the front in a quick, well practised manner. Still couldn’t feel my feet through, so I had to assume that my shoes were on well enough.
The three lap run course is a little tough, with Hill 60 being climbed three times.
Going round Soldiers Field does give you a good clear view of the other people on the run and plenty of opportunity to set your targets on someone and then chase them down, before a fast decent past Mansion House before either finishing or doing your other laps. My run went well, and although I didn’t feel fast (never do on the run!) I was passing more and more people, and seemingly speeding up. I saw a friend who cheered me on three times and took, what for me counts as a decent race photo, thank you G!
2 laps done and the third lap was feeling hard, but again I set my sights on running down the people in front until it was time to kick for the like over the last 500m or so, made easier by being able to see the finish from the top of the park and it being nearly all down hill. The final run in is down hill and I hammered it home, overtaking one last person before I crossed the line and collapsed into a sweaty heap. Announced over the line as 2:30:21. Bugger.
I had set my goal time of sub 2:30 (standard) with a more specific time of 2:28:20. Oh well, I tried my best and didn’t have the greatest bike. We’ll see what the official time is when they take out the dead zone.
Time to gather my gear and head home having cheered home three friends who I knew would be racing. All who did well, especial Neil in 2:44 for his first Olympic Distance race. Good Job all round chaps.
Normally they have an events service where you can print out your race results more or less as you finish, which was not there this year. However late that afternoon I got an email confirming my times as:
So I made it under my target goal. My run time was fast, my bike OK and my swim kind of what I’d been hoping for in the water. Still think I can go quicker though.
Xtramile have done this race for 5 years now and it is always very well run, as are the other races I have done with them (well OK it’s on the Leeds Xpress) and I know I will be returning next year. It would seem silly to do such a well run, fun race which is so close to home. And I need to beat this years time as well!