Monday, 24 August 2015

Oh, relay?

Organised chaos: that's what the event organisers like to call the Triathlon Relays, held at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham this weekend. They're not wrong.

The relays have been running since 1991 and have become a popular event in the triathlon calendar; originally held as an end of season championship event between clubs, they were revamped this year to also include teams of participants who aren't necessarily members of triathlon clubs.

On first glance, making sense of the format can be as exhausting as the race itself. A relay team of four people each complete the 500m swim, before the first person starts the 15km cycle and so on, until the last member of the team crosses the finish line at the end of their 5km run. Without a traditional transition, the need for a so-called 'fourth discipline' of triathlon seems to be met with gazebo construction, and many clubs set up camp to make a weekend of it, staying for the Sunday 'elite-style' tag relays too.

I raced on Saturday as part of a women's team with my club, Oxford Tri. Things became even more complicated for our men's team when their 4th member dropped out on the morning, leaving them to pick up an extra leg each, and solve some complicated logistics over their order and timing chips. We all made it around, with big smiles, and without missing a single changeover. That last bit isn't as easy as it sounds.

Here is a bit of the organisation, the chaos, and the fun from the day. If you fancy getting a team together to have a go next year, there is more information here. I really recommend it.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Something to shout about: The London Triathlon

Events are always so much more fun with friends so, earlier in the year, Laura and I asked for people to join us for a triathlon this summer. We had lots of great applications but six lovely people stood out and made up Team Tricurious this Saturday at the London Triathlon. I’d been planning to support from the sidelines until a well-timed retweet won me a very last minute entry to the Olympic distance race and I jumped at the chance to join in with the team and a few friends.

We zipped Becca into her wetsuit in the morning, waved her off to her Super Sprint and went to watch her swim start. As I’d peered at a computer screen the night before, trying to work out driving directions to London ExCeL, I’d wondered why the event is held there – it seemed to be pretty inconvenient whether you lived in London or not - but when you see the swimmers exit the water and run into an exhibition hall that houses the world’s biggest transition area, it all sort of starts to make sense. An aeroplane flew in over the swim wave to land at London City Airport and I wondered if it would be an easier way to travel to the venue next time.

It wasn’t long before we were waving Kat and Laura off to their swim, and I was joining our friend Cathy to assemble for the mixed Olympic wave. An enthusiastic official marshalled us in and handed out last minute tips. His tone was perfect for an event that caters for all abilities – supportive and positive, encouraging everyone to look out for each other so that every athlete had a great day – although, when he asked us to turn around and hug the person next to us, I was never more glad to be there with a mate. We were in the largest wave of the day, with 394 competitors setting off, so they made the call to split it into two halves and slim down the masses in the swim.

London Triathlon is a huge event – around 13,000 participants take part in different distances over the course of the weekend. It’s a perfect race for first time triathletes or anyone wanting to enjoy the atmosphere at such a big event, and there are elite races and faster waves on the Sunday for the racing snakes. It’s obvious the course is going to get congested, particularly on the bike, but at least the closed roads offer a unique opportunity to cycle in London without the buses. The roads themselves have the potential to be pretty fast in places, with some straight sections and only two really tight turns on each of the 4 laps, but you had to stay alert to other competitors and respect each other on the course.

At one point, a man overtook shouting aggressively, and unnecessarily, at anyone and everyone to stay out of his way. I noticed he was wearing a long-sleeved cycling skinsuit and aero booties over his cycling shoes, so I made an assumption that he hadn’t been swimming first. Either that or he’d had to spend a long time in transition (maybe that’s why he was so cross). I hope his relay teammates were lovely and gave him a hug at the end; he seemed to need one. Like him, I rode my timetrial bike but I found enough space to have a good race; there were plenty of people on road bikes and hybrids too, and the majority of people were there to enjoy their race. There are better races to set PBs on the bike than the London Triathlon.

The run course involved four very straightforward out and back loops; at any other event this could have become tedious but there was lots of encouragement from other runners, as well as the crowds in and around ExCeL. I got to see Kat, Laura and Cathy at least once on each lap for a cheer or a high five. We were like our own mobile support crew, finally meeting at the finish line inside the ExCeL each with a big medal and a bigger smile.

Back: Helen, Cathy, Laura, me, Josie, Chrissy, Sarah
Front: Laura, Becca, Kat
With the rest of the team out in the Sprint races later in the day, we headed out on to the course and assembled with cake and beer. Will was in one of the last waves to start and we cheered him on each lap of the run, then waited to support every last finisher on the course at the end of a wonderful day. The man I encountered on the bike seemed to be just one in 13,000: an anomaly in what was an overwhelmingly positive and inclusive event. We saved our voices for shouting encouragement, and for laughing and trading stories with our amazing team of triathletes. Well done, Team Tricurious - you are all brilliant!

If you'd like to read more about Team Tricurious and how they each got on at the London Triathlon, have a look at the Tricurious blog.

Back: Will, Laura, Josie, Helen, Chrissy, Anita, Sarah
Front: Laura, me
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