Sunday 8th August saw four NDT members racing at London Triathlon in the Olympic distance to Westminster route – Donna Marriott, Brian Mulholland, Sue Standford and myself. Joyce Mulholland was there as chief cheerleader after having to withdraw due to injury. This event is a regular for a number of NDT members as it’s a purely fun event. In fact, it claims to be the biggest triathlon festival in the UK, as it runs over two days with a huge number of waves in distances from Super Sprint and Sprint to Olympic/Standard distance. The NDT team all took on the Olympic race which comprised 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run.
The day started grey and overcast, with lots of standing water from the night before, which didn’t bode well for the race. I had (stupidly) ticked the ITU box when I’d booked this race over a year ago and only when I saw the wave start times did I realise what a mistake I’d made! As Donna and Brian set off at 8.30am, I found myself lining up with all the fast triathletes who were looking to get GB qualification. My start time was 9.30am and I had visions of being the only person out on the course by the end, as there were only three waves left to go behind me. Sue was in the 9.35am ITU wave start.
With Covid restrictions in place, athletes were pulse released into the water – two at a time had to slide or jump off the floating pontoon and immediately start swimming, as only 5 seconds later the next pair were being released. Water temperature was 18.6 degrees, which for those of us who’ve swum at North Devon Wake Park, found this a comfortable temperature. There’s much to be said for our outdoor training, as many athletes in London complained it was cold.
As I entered the water the rain began, adding to the heavy wind that had been blowing all morning. The water was choppy and most definitely a challenge. Knowing I was in the wrong wave, I kept to the side as the triathletes all fled past me. I struggled to get my breathing under control as I was definitely having a ‘wobble’, then saw the next wave pass me. Thankfully a canoe spotted that I was struggling and came to my aid. After a couple of minutes, and watching the last wave go by, I’d lost hope of being able to get round the swim, without being that lonely blue hat in the water when everyone else had got out. I’ve never quit a race and didn’t want to this time, but this was London Triathlon…. If you struggle in one bit, you can still do the rest of it. So I got taken back to the pontoon with another GB triathlete who’d also had a wobble. We peeled off our wetsuits and agreed that despite the now pouring rain, we were going to crack on and complete the bike and run.
A couple of the GB lads who were racked up alongside me were clearly shocked to see I’d ‘beaten them’ into transition.
The bike course is usually very enjoyable; it’s flat with the exception of an underpass and one little flyover. The views are of all the iconic sights as you ride down to Westminster. This time, however, it was head down, hold tight as we cycled through wet roads, avoiding drain covers, and dug deep as the heavens opened on us. Torrential rain made it hard to see at times and I was glad to be wearing my racing glasses just to keep the rain out of my eyes. Despite the weather, the marshalls were always ready to warn us of sharp turns and cheer us on. The only relief was when we rode through the long underpass – a lovely fast descent on the only bit of dry road. All you could hear was the whooshing of the deep rim wheels, and the occasional ‘whoop’ from riders.
Reaching Westminster we do a U turn and head back towards ExCel where we pass the transition area and head out towards Billingsgate for the final part of the bike route.
Riding up into ExCel for the final transition, the indoor surface was like an ice rink. Trying to run with my bike, wearing cleats was like watching a duck trying to run on a frozen lake. So it was cautious walk to the rack. Thankfully I had a second pair of dry socks ready for the run.
By the time I was out onto the run route the rain had passed and it was just the wind to contend with. Three laps from ExCel along the dockside and back to the ExCel building, where you run through a small area inside, then pop out for the next lap.
After seeing that I’d smashed my projected bike time, my legs felt good going out onto the run. I always have a run/walk strategy and today was no different. As I headed out on my first lap I spotted Donna who was on her final lap. Brian had apparently already finished. I spotted Sue on the run course too. There’s nothing better than seeing your teammates to keep you going.
Beating my estimated run time, I came across the finish line with Donna, Brian and Joyce waiting and cheering.
All in all, London was most definitely a challenge this year, but we all made it and will be going back again next year.
All four crossed the finish line in respectable times. Donna Marriott 03:42:24, Brian Mulholland 03:16:52, Sue Standford 03:03:00, and me 03:28:00 (although not completing the full swim).