After more than a few false starts over the last year, the time had come to toe the line at a big race. I had already raced some smaller events this summer, the East Leake and Staunton Harold Sprint triathlons, but this was a major test, a big stepping stone towards my A-Race for the year, Ironman 70.3 La Quinta Indian Wells.
Welcome to the London Excel, normally home to exhibitions and conferences, but for 1 weekend a year, its vast halls play host to the biggest triathlon festival in the UK, it’s the London Triathlon!
What is the London Triathlon?
A 2-day triathlon extravaganza, with Supersprint, Sprint and team relay races on the Saturday, and an Olympic and Olympic+on the Sunday. We had signed up for the Olympic on Sunday, and on reviewing our digital race pack sent through the week before, we realised we’d be racing right down into Central London, along the bank of the Thames to a turning point right beneath Big Ben, talk about iconic!
We arrived well in advance and stayed onsite at the Aloft Hotel, to minimise transport stress and how far we’d have to walk when we’d finished. On Saturday we visited the small expo, hosting race partners and sponsors like Huub,Tenzing, Powerbar, Wahoo, Supersapiens and CanoWater. We also collected our race packs, stickered up our bikes and helmets, and racked all of the bike and run equipment. This meant minimum faff on Sunday morning, just taking our swim gear down to transition to prepare for Race Start.
I knew it was a big race, with 5000+ athletes taking part each day, but the scale of the transition hall is a bit intimidating! How on earth was I going to find my bike in this lot?! Top Tip, take the time to walk the transition area the day before, know where the various ins and outs are, and memorise your bike position in a few different ways. I was racked on Row O, and I memorised this by saying to myself ‘O my goodness this is a big transition!’. I also spotted a few land marks to keep lined up with, in my case I was lined up with a flag at the end of the row, which let me spot my rack easily.
The organisation was super smooth and COvid-safe, with all athletes and spectators expected to wear masks when not competing, and lots of sanitizer and ‘hands free’ easy ways of getting info like the email race pack, and large route maps scattered throughout the hall.
Race day arrives
So on to the RACE!!
The Olympic race consists of a 1500m swim in the Royal Docks, a 40km cycle around the Excel Centre, down past the Tower of London, along the Embankment, turning at Westminster bridge and making your way back up past Canary Wharf and into T2, finished with a 10km run along the dockfron to London City Airport and back for 3 loops. I had controlled all the things I could control, but the one thing you can never control is the British weather!
The swim in the Docklands
A wet, windy start to Sunday morning was not ideal, but we were all in it together! I checked my bike, pulled on my new Head MyBoost 3.2 wetsuit and headed to the swim meeting point. Me and my fellow blue hat wave made our way down the stairs and out into the tempest, this was going to be interesting! Into the water and off for a big rectangle swim, which despite the conditions I managed to maintain a strong rhythm, feeling pretty comfortable throughout. The open water training in the wind at Club La Santa was paying off, and those windy bike rides were going to come in useful too!
The bike through London
Out the water feeling good, (and ahead of hubby, result!) and up into transition and onto the bike. With my bike being my weakest discipline, I’ve been working hard to get more comfortable in different conditions, and that was sure to come in useful! The rain was coming down HARD, and the roads were busy with other athletes, so I made sure to take it steady when I had to, but pushing a bit when I could.
Whizzing through the traffic free, and dry, Limehouse Tunnel was definitely a highlight. I bought a new-to-me Liv Avail this summer, which has really boosted my bike confidence as it’s super stable but doesn’t feel like it’s holding me back, or super heavy on the climbs. My For Every Adventure trisuit performed great, even in the torrential rain. It has a really slim tripad, so I didn’t feel like I was sitting in a wet nappy on the bike! Past the sights in Central London and back up to the Excel for T2 and the 10KM run.
The run at London Excel
My run is my second fave part after the swim, and as i’d been a bit conservative on the bike because of the weather conditions, I hit the run feeling pretty fresh, albeit still absolutely soaked to the skin! Off, the bike, helmet off, shoes on, and off we go! A 2 mile out and back for 3 laps, on a sunny day would have been lovely by the water, but it was a bit of a trudge as the rain came down and the wind picked up even more. Laps 1 and 2 flew by, heading out on to lap 3, a quick high 5 with hubby, and by this point I was starting to feel the fatigue. One last big push out to the turn point and I was heading back towards the finish line.
I chose to run in my trusty ON Cloudflow, as I use them alot for myroad runs in training. My 70.3 is on gravel and trails, so I may look at an alternative for the big race. One thing I was hugely grateful for, which I hadn’t quite expected given the conditions, were all the lovely supporters on the way back into the Excel on the run. Lots of friendly faces, cheering and encouraging, it definitely brought a smile to my face and spurred me on up that last cruel slope, so thank you to those lovely people standing out in the pouring rain for hours.
So up the ramp from the ground floor car park up to the first floor transition hall, this time I got to turn right into the Finishers Chute instead of left for another lap, and man, did that feel good! Running along the red carpet towards that finisher’s arch was such a great feeling, I’d done it! First Olympic Triathlon in the bag, and in less than ideal conditions. After grabbing my AWESOME medaland meet up with some speedy friends that had also competed, I grabbed my kit out of transition and took up a cheering spot for hubby, who had started later than me. A well organised and very safe collection process, meant we were back in the hotel in no time, and ready for a well deserved burger and some down time!
Summary of my London Triathlon
The London Triathlon was an amazing experience, especially for someone like me who is new to the distance, and a little bit nervous. Super well organised admin, arrival info, and racking instructions, a really well marshalled swim, closed roads through the centre of London and a spectator friendly run make it a fantastic first timers Olympic, or a super speedy race for the more experienced triathlete. So a MASSIVE thumbs up for the London Tri, next stop, and another of the Limelight Sports races, BLENHEIM PALACE TRIATHLON.
A massive thanks to Limelight for a arranging our places, Zoggs and Head for kitting me out for my fastest swim yet, Echelon Fitness for boosting my bike confidence, Oofoos for helping with a speedy recovery, and the team at Club La Santa for my awesome bike fit and making the strongest winds feel like a slight breeze!