After just missing out on qualifying as an age-grouper at the World Championship finals, 220 columnist Matt Lawton took part in the Open race and found the Hyde Park finals a brilliant weekend for British sport – despite the hassles caused for locals.
With no sympathy for Simon Jenkins or indeed any other Londoner inconvenienced by the disruption caused by the World Triathlon Grand Final weekend, I hauled my backside around Hyde Park. I rode my bike on those traffic-free roads between swimming in the Serpentine and running around it four times.
I might add that I also sat in traffic jams in a vain attempt to drive to my flat in Victoria on the weekend thousands of cyclists stormed the capital, and only wished I’d returned home from holiday in time to ‘ride London’ with them. Not once, I can honestly say, did I curse them after dumping my car in deepest Lambeth and walking the last two miles of a journey that began that day in northern France.
It was, Mr Jenkins of the Evening Standard failed to realise, a brilliant weekend for British sport and another example of this country’s ability to stage world class sporting events. Something that’s a bit more important than a few grumpy Londoners who, let’s face it, signed up for traffic chaos and delays the moment they chose to live there. It just goes with the territory.
A write off averted
For me, on my personal triathlon journey, Hyde Park represented a fairly satisfying conclusion to a year I did fear was a write off the moment I was diagnosed with a bulging disc in my back.
It was a fairly typical performance by my own ridiculous standards. The swim I struggled through in 30 and a bit minutes. An effort, in the Open race, that ranked me 368th out of 600-odd starters. While the run leg, completed in 36:21mins, was fourth quickest on the day.
My overall time was 2:18hrs, and that being my best to date I have to be happy. But after three years doing this sport I do feel a bit foolish that my swimming technique remains as bad as it is. Not that I’m alone. The results tell you there are lots of us splashing away hopelessly in the water.
Levelling the playing field
My cycling isn’t that wonderful either, even if I’m fairly confident the purchase of a TT bike will enable me to make the necessary progress. For what it’s worth I still think the ITU should standardise the sport up to Olympic distance so we’re all riding road bikes.
That way the only difference between us amateurs and the Brownlee brothers would be the fact that they can draft. It would level the playing field for the rest of us and make it easier and cheaper for the masses to be competitive.
One top-ranking age-grouper challenged me on this when I expressed that particular view on Twitter while watching the men’s elite race. He said the situation did not demand the purchase of two bikes because he doesn’t even own a road bike.
He then dismissed my argument about weekend group rides because, in his opinion, that kind of training was not much use in a 40km time trial. I’m not sure I agree with that and I also think he’s missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of triathlon training. That ride with my mates on a Saturday or Sunday morning is the highlight of the week.
While the rules remain as they are, my main objective is to sort out my swimming stroke, and it is to Alan Rapley that I will return now the season is over. In one training session he worked wonders. I just haven’t been able to reproduce that speed since, but with Alan’s help I’m confident I can stop losing so much time to the faster guys. Not to mention my Les Stables ZeroD teammate, Mel Berry.
I’m giving myself until 2015 to really crack it because I’ll be at the right end of a new age-group category; 45-49. By then, I would hope I’m a bit more competitive.
But that’s one of the beauties of this sport; you can keep setting new objectives. Keep working on ways you can improve, even when you’re as old and grouchy as the aforementioned Mr Jenkins. A former editor of The Times, he turned 70 back in June. Get on that Boris bike and start training Simon.