London Triathlon race report
With paracetamol in one hand, Gatorade in the other and under strict instructions to take it easy, Caspar enters the London Triathlon
“Four triathletes, four blogs, one common goal – tame this August’s London Triathlon.” That’s how 220 had promoted this year’s academy on their website. Indeed, the word “tame” must’ve also been prominent in Bill Black’s thoughts after I’d forlornly approached his commentary box on Sunday morning to explain that I’d been off training all week with a bug and felt about as race ready as a Lada at the Gumball Rally.
With 50% of the team already missing through injury, 220’s billing of us seemed increasingly optimistic. So, with paracetamol in one hand, Gatorade in the other and under strict instructions to take it easy, I wandered off to transition.
After a dose of the Gladiator soundtrack on my iPod, I racked my bike next to a brand new Quintana Roo that looked as if it could win the race on its own. And, whilst my machine developed an inferiority complex, I scanned the field to see who I was up against.
Now, Bill Black has always maintained that a race is won and lost in transition. True indeed, but I believe this art begins long before you’ve mastered elastic bands and wetsuit lube. I’m talking about the psychology of the transition zone. Racing in the sub 2:30 wave at London, I’d expected some serious pre-race posturing and true to type, every which way I turned, someone was either spinning a disc wheel to a rhythmical tick, lunging in their personalised GB Tri-Suit or pulling up a wetsuit to reveal an M-Dot branded calf muscle.
Whilst I tried to kid myself that these guys had all been busy on eBay and had headed down to Decathlon Surrey Quays to take advantage of the 50p a letter printing offer, deep down I knew they’d be fast and I consciously relegated myself to the back of the pack for the swim start.
Therein lies the merit of what’s known in some circles as “peacocking”. I had been intimidated by kit. Of course, beyond presumption or noting down the array of visible-on-tri-suit surnames to later type into the results database, there would be no way of confirming whether “GB tri-suit + Zip Disc” equalled just a “perceived disadvantage” or a “definite defeat”. Either way, this opens up a wider discussion on kit based psychology and one which I won’t entertain in this piece, as judging by previous blog posts, my only reader seems to be a man using the comment box to sell wedding dresses from Taiwan.
But what I will say is that I now won’t attach such reverence to my pre-race competitor scan as I’ve since discovered that anyone can buy a GB tri-suit online. Now maybe someone reading this (not the bloke selling Taiwanese wedding dresses) can offer further clarification but surely there’s some sort of unspoken merit-based competitor etiquette for this type of triathlon purchase? Although clever marketing has resulted in a public army of self-proclaimed international footballers, most sports tend to stick to the “wear it if you’ve earned it” mantra. Indeed, I can’t recall ever seeing anyone strutting around Asda in an XXL Brownlee Tri tank.
So, contemplating a Blenheim Sprint Triathlon tattoo and initialled compression socks, I headed for the swim assembly. After the obligatory pep talk from the cheery Welsh bloke who’s an ever present at IMG events, we took the plunge and I was soon being kicked in the face, pinned against the buoys and being overtaken by girls from the following wave. After the standard water based beating, I attacked the bike and managed to complete it without falling off. This is despite displaying the cornering skills of a Robin Reliant and successfully locating every on route pothole.
As I hit T2, I was relieved to see that the Quintana Roo was still out, either that or it had won and gone home, so I slung my bike on the rack and disappeared out onto the run. By this time, the effects of the paracetamol had run out and it was a case of gritting through the four-lap course. My patience soon ran out, too, as I tried to navigate my way through a tight route and swerve around runners from previous waves. I’m ashamed to say that a polite “excuse me” soon became a bellowed “on your right” and finally just a muttered “sorry” as I squeezed through non-existent gaps. 9.8 of the longest kilometres ever measured later, I crossed the line in nowhere near a PB.
I stayed to watch the elites, ate an overpriced meatball sandwich and pretended to know what I was talking about whilst perusing the numerous trade stands. Later, collecting my bike from a deserted transition zone for the second time that day, I reflected on my performance. 32nd in the Sub 2:30 wave wasn’t too bad and I could probably knock a good five minutes off that with my name on my tri-suit.