London, Capital of England and home to two of the biggest Public sporting events in the UK, the enormous London Marathon and, while smaller but by comparison to other events still massive London Triathlon.
I had ended up entering the London Triathlon in Autumn of 2016 when I came across a link to complete in this Triathlon with the Gordon Ramsay Foundation while raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital, who are very close to my heart having helped both my cousin for the entire duration of his younger years and my eldest daughter, so for me to be able to give something back to them and have to opportunity to race alongside the one and only Gordon Ramsay, how could I say no?
Between September and July I continued to better myself and come July I felt more than ready enough to complete the London Tri and complete it well, perhaps even beating the Chef himself but one thing worried me (which worries me about every race but not to the same degree), and that was the logistics of getting there, working through transition and bag drops. Now, I'm an incredibly security paranoid person at the best of times and I strongly dislike driving in general (not me but sadly there are too many idiots on the roads) especially in London, and £20 parking (plus petrol) put that idea right off. The only other option I really had was to go by train, which at £14 represented much better value anyway it was just working out the train times etc. with a 12:10 wave start I wasn't getting up at an unholy hour but still wanted to get there early enough with some leeway on the trains as the DLR is limited to 2 bikes per carriage.
Fortunately, this wasn't an issue, both my trains were relatively empty and I made a great friend while waiting for the DLR at Stratford of a lovely Scots girl who was also taking on a 70.3 in Portugal and filling in a place for a colleague who got injured (bonus training too I suppose), I like to make friends at Triathlons as do many other people so don't be afraid if another triathlete starts talking to you at a race! we don't bite, honest!
Arriving at the Excel, there was a long walk down a long corridor to the main showroom which was the central hub for the whole event, on the left was part of the run course which went inside in a snake fashion, in front was the finish line and the (somewhat muted) exhibition area and on the right was the info desk, chip collection (all other parts, security wristband, numbers etc had been mailed out before) and in the far right was transition.
I was most pleased to find that transition was very well secured and bag friendly (which was a first for me!), I set up transition and had a little wander round, all my big worries gone having gotten there easily to find a secure and well-spaced out transition area, topped by the red carpet the Team Ramsay gang were given. I went out to watch the earlier waves start their swim and enjoy some glorious sunshine (watch this space) before the start loomed closer. 30 minutes till go time, inside, half wetsuit up (it was very warm) and wait for the call to (swim) hat up.
Talking to everyone around me in the Team Ramsay wave it was great to see a good mix of abilities, first timers to experienced triathletes like me, Gordon Ramsay came out, gave us a fantastic little speech, fired us up some before the main briefing came on firing us up some more, clear and concise I can't think of anything they may have missed.
We walked down the stairs to the swim start to find that within half an hour of going in, getting my wetsuit on and being briefed, the glorious sunshine in the clear blue sky had turned into a rather miserable deluge. Great, I'm not a big fan of cycling in the rain but alas, it is sometimes a necessary evil.
Into the water, wait for the start. Sadly, I started my swim right in the middle of the pack and after about 100m of swimming I managed to clear myself from the slower paced swimmers and came into my own recording a fantastic swim time for me in the quite pleasant Thames waters. sighting was great, the water was clear enough to see around you (not far, but enough) and the course was well marshalled and marked out (piggy buoys!).
Out of the water and into T1 which is split into two parts, lower and upper. Lower T1 requires you to remove your wetsuit before heading up stairs (this should be quite clear as to why), your handed a bag to put your wetsuit into which you can then put into your area in transition. one upstairs as usual, you make your way to your bike, helmet on, number on and bike out, the bike starts off slow, heading down the lorry ramps into the Excel and combined with the wet weather you did want to exercise caution here, onto the bike course which was flattish, a few rises on the bridges with some enjoyable descents the other side, the only things to point out is that some of the roads were a little bit holey and combined with the rain sensible riding should be observed, this could easily be followed by avoiding the large puddles (as you never know how deep they are!) though obviously weren't as there was a large number of upturned bikes being addressed on the side of the road, and of course the turnaround points which were a little tight if you didn't slow down before coming into them (I understand a few people didn’t). Otherwise the bike course was brilliant, if unexciting scenery wise, just watch out for the ribble strips which do shake you up a bit!
After 2 laps (sprint, 4 laps Olympic or 8 laps Olympic plus!) you head back into Transition for T2, requiring you to go up the ramp again before dismounting and moving back into the Excel Centre and the Transition zone. it would be nice to see some form of carpet go down for future years as sadly the combination of the flooring (which was the shiny plastic kind), wet weather and road shoes makes for a slippery journey round to rack your bike. Sadly I did slip over here but some bar tape tear aside I was ok, but it shouldn't really have happened.
Bike racked, onto the run which consisted of two laps (4 for the Olympic distances) of ~2.4k (according to my smart watch which did not use GPS to calculate the distance but stride length and cadence) the support on the run was brilliant, two water stops on each lap offering water and Juice and a SIS Gel stop meaning there was plenty of fluids and calories on offer for everyone. the hardest part of the run is definitely heading back up the ramp into the excel centre towards the end of each lap but a small burst of energy and effort gets you through this quickly. at the end of your last lap you branch off towards the finish, which is about 200-300m long giving you a great sprint finish (my finishing photos have me floating in the air), running down I passed Gordon Ramsay who was waiting for his daughter as they had ended up doing the event as a relay and it was at that point I knew I had achieved my goal of beating him (well, them)!
Post-race, some photos, results are already ready for you, some more SIS gels and goodies and a free pint of Erdinger made for a welcome finish!
Back into transition, chat with the other competitors and then packed up and headed home, satisfied with a great race and experience having raised money for a fantastic and most deserving charity.
I can definitely see myself doing it again next year and would recommend it at least once, just for the experience of that big event finish and feel!
Posted on 25.07.17
Gosfield is to date the furthest I've travelled for a triathlon. Was it worth the journey? I'd say yes.
Registration was simple, find your number, tell the people on registration and you get your chip, numbers and stickers, you then get offered an energy bar, shirt and towel which are always great freebies!
The water temp on the day was 23C's, you know what that means! Wetsuit illegal. For most people this may induce panic, however Gosfield is probably one of the better lakes for such circumstances as it's only 5 foot at its deepest (hence why the temperature was so warm at 6 in the morning!),
The swim was a self-seeded rolling start, faster swimmers at the front, slower swimmers a the back and for the most part this worked well. Gosfield lake itself isn't overly unpleasant, despite its nickname of "duck poo lake" and the very murky water (for 5 feet deep water it's perhaps not unsurprising with 200 odd swimmers disturbing the waters), the only trouble with the lake itself is it's also used as a water sports lake and there's mini buoys which are difficult to sight, don't swim into them as it will throw you off when you look for the person who kicked you only to realise it was a small red buoy.
Out the swim into transition for the bike, with numbered racking there wasn't much to worry about.
Exiting transition onto the bike was an experience, I'm no stranger to a foot down when leaving a complex to start the bike segment, however the guy exiting transition with me apparently was, the marshals where shouting at him to stop and got louder every time, of course, in my post swim haze I was unaware they were talking to him not me and rolling down a hill and breaking sharply isn't a great mix, I did come off my bike, no damage done but needless time added on a risk better avoided, might be an idea to manage that a bit better by moving the mount line to the bottom and keeping the dismount line at the top of the rise. That aside, the Bike course was quite honestly a bit of a bitch, constantly undulating and some tough climbs, I had a terrible bike split, others not so much, whether that was experience or they're just better cyclists than I (both very plausible options) but I didn't enjoy the bike course too much, not to say it's a bad route, but I could've been a lot better prepared. Clearly user error.
The run was beautiful and quiet, along some private farm land with, the sprint option came in at 5km whereas the standard was 9km, this is because of where the loop cuts back in meaning the loop is actually 4km with 500m in and out to the loop. The run can be described as almost trail like with some roads and dirt roads and well as a bit of Theresa May and running through wheat fields.
Overall, another nice enjoyable triathlon, with a tougher than usual bike course, and a nice medal at the end and some lovely freebies, I can't really fault Born2Tri for this race!
Posted on 17.07.17
There's not a lot to fault about this race, it's an aquathlon, not enough of them in Essex, it's open water, believe it's the only one in Essex, it's the regional championships and I won! Small disclaimer in case you didn't see it coming; as the only member of my age group!
As an aquathlon, you've got only three parts to the race, Swim, Transition, Run. All three parts are straight forward and do what they need to do and do it well. While I said there's not a lot to fault, it's more just some suggestions for improvements:-
1) Swim - I would like to see the swim move to a 2 lap, I feel 450m is too short for an open water swim, a two lap swim would be quite feasible with the current numbers of entries, obviously if the attendance increases, 450m is probably the limit.
2) Transition, the transition zone was massive, with plenty of space, what could I possibly fault? Well unfortunately, the grass was home to some very unpleasant and prickly plants, I actually tried to wear my swim hats on my feet (n.b. did not work) to reduce exposure to these painfully prickly plants, sadly, one did manage to embed itself in my foot which fortunately only dug in when my foot was placed on hard ground, a carpet through transition would not go amiss though I appreciate the costs and logistics that may be associated with such things
3) Run, the only improvement I could give for the run is some sort of directional instructions, not so much where to go, it's an out and back loop times two, but instructions for competitors to keep either left or right, I had some unpleasant chap run straight into me despite everyone else being on the right he chose to run on the left, however for the second lap this seemed to have been reversed!
Beyond those three minor points above, the race was well marshalled, wet suit optional (Three of us went without including me, the other two were GB Age groupers and one managed to catch some fish!) great fun and allowed me to take home my first (and possibly only) career win and more so, the title or regional champion! I look forward to racing it again next year to (attempt) to defend my title that's for sure!
Posted on 17.07.17
There are not a lot of Duathlons in Essex, the Notley Spring Duathlon is one of them and is without a doubt a very good event.
Taking place in the Great Notley County Park (GNCP), the Run, Bike Run consists of a single 3.6km (not 4km) lap run including a brutal climb towards the end followed by an easy entry into transition for 2x 10km laps around the GNCP before returning to the GNCP for another single 3.6km lap with the same brutal climb towards the end!
The runs are straight forward following a rather natural path and at any points it could not be quite so clear there were marshals to make sure you didn't go wrong! the bike course is also straight forward consisting of some rather lovely quiet roads and some parts on the dual carriage way, there is a red traffic light to note on the course but this is marshalled, jumpers will be immediately (and rightly) DQ'd and people caught by the red light will be noted and have their time credited back, fortunately, it is only a pedestrian set of lights so is only in ad hoc use for when pedestrians want to cross.
It's a great race with ample parking available (though note it's a charged carpark but is modern and takes card payments), a quick registration process including a shirt and gym towel at an incredibly low cost. With the lack of Duathlons around in Essex, it's definitely one to do at least once!
Posted on 05.07.17
Distances are wrong, it's a 400m swim and 5km run, the date and values currently listed are for the GoTri Aquathlon's held at the same venue by the same club.
This is an incredibly popular race with limited entries, Entries were sold out within a few weeks of opening on the first of January and from then onwards entries are limited to drop outs being replaced by a waiting list.
The swim is in a 25m pool consisting of 16 lengths swum in a snake swim, upon exiting the pool on the 16th length (400m) you enter transition, get your shoes on and begin the run (with water on offer as you exit transition) on a relatively challenging path/offroad course which you can honestly be told there is only one hill, just don't ask how many times you go up it (hint, answer is three)! the finish brings you back into the stadium onto the track for the final 400ms where you will finish never wishing to see a hill again!
Overall, it's a great little race which is incredibly popular, so if you fancy doing it, look out for sign up opening on the 1st January and get in PDQ!
Posted on 05.07.17
There isn't much to fault here, it's a good bog standard triathlon.
Offering two options of sprint and standard and also Triathlon and Aquabike of which the Triathlon sprint option was 1,000m/25km/5km, it's held on an area just over the Dartford crossing which isn't host to a lot of traffic. Parking was ample and I arrived early with no issues in registration, those arrive a bit closer to their start were however queuing for a bit, however that can't be faulted of the event.
The waves are sent off roughly in order with Standard participants going first, then Aquabike, then the sprint you start off first by having to climb down into the lake which must be noted as having a gentle pungent whiff, certainly not disgusting but neither was it pleasant.
As above, the swim was long, about 1,000m, upon exiting the water there's a short run to transition to get on your bike. The bike consists of 6km loops which you have to cycle a short way to get to, of which in the sprint you complete 4 laps. There's two things to note on the bike course, one, the turning points are quite tight U-turns, these aren't exactly great when you consider the second point which is the race is non-drafting, however, with laps being over 6km, by the time we got onto the bike as the 4th wave, it was almost impossible not to draft! The course felt quite crowded and it other than intentionally drafting off the same person, I'm not sure how you could be punished for drafting. Fortunately, I don't think anyone was punished for it, like I say, unless it was intentionally off the same person, it wouldn't be fair.
The Run was nothing special, a bit more exciting than a dual carriage way but still along some roads with a bit of greenery. The run for the sprint was 2x 2.5km laps which had its only turn around point, the Standard had its own turn around point and consisted of 3 larger laps. water was provided at the start of each lap in cups, which is always a frustration however understandable the reasoning, it's sadly always a logical infuriation.
The finish was a welcome affair, not because the race was bad but because it was so hot! Print outs of your times were available giving instantaneous results which is always a nice touch!
Overall, back to the beginning, it's a very good bog standard Triathlon, just look out for the slightly smelly lake, the tight turns and unavoidable drafting on the bike and account for heat and you'll enjoy this race as much as any others!
Posted on 05.07.17
It's hard to criticise the Great Newham run, it's 10k, it's in Newham and it's great! This was my second year running the event and coincidently the first time I ran it was the first 10k I'd ever run!
For me, running it again this year was about testing my progress in a year, sadly I can't quite claim it's a like for like as the course was different this year, not so much in where you ran but what order you ran it! None-the-less, to take my time from 75 minutes to 49 minutes in a year was a phenomenal feeling, made all that much better by that finishing 100m sprint!
Two water stations on course, a T-shirt, good quality medal and much improved logistics over the previous year’s event made it a great day.
To point out the faults more than the bads, the course is not flat, but neither is it hilly, it feels like you're constantly going up or down but the gradient is never severe, so don't expect an easy ride! Support was great though at parts sparse, some bands on route added very nicely to the atmosphere though and finally and only arguably the cost, at £32 for a 10k, it feels a bit steep, granted the shirt and medal probably add to that when you compare it with other 10k's where I’ve had a good quality shirt or medal, the cost was only £12. That said, the size of the event does warrant larger logistical costs so it can't be faulted too greatly, and is only a point for you to consider.
Posted on 05.07.17
The First Southend Triathlon was for a most part, a fantastic success, there is however, one massive part for improvement which was almost universally agreed.
Registration and pre-race
Registration was easy, with the first swim starting at 12 with a 9am registration you might think that arriving that early was a silly idea, well for me it wasn't, those turning up closer from 10 onwards had a nice long queue, perhaps a bigger registration tent would be warranted but it did seem to be very late registration heavy so it could be argued neutral, I personally had no issues here though!
So with 2 hours to kill before the pre-race briefing I trundled on down to the local pub to enjoy a few cold drinks (non-alcoholic of course) having checked into transition and dropped of one of my bags in the bag drop (which was really well organised). returning to the "athletes village" just before 10:45 to enjoy the now much more lively atmosphere and await the race briefing. It was also incredibly appreciated that there was water being offered at such an early stage in the day as it was an absolute scorcher, top marks are due here!
The race briefing was given over a PA system which ensured it was heard well by everyone, nothing stood out as being missed and it was thorough and to the point. Following the briefing we made our way down to the start line on the beach ahead of the 500m (not 750m) swim.
There isn't much to fault with the swim, at least not that could be easily rectified. It was my first open water swim Triathlon (and ever actually - I'm a confident swimmer and have considerable experience swimming while clothed so a wetsuit was a very welcome relief), but those familiar to Southend will know the beach isn't exactly sandy or smooth, once the footwear was removed and placed into the provided bags to take back to transition the sharp stones and cockles were prominent. the offer of a warm up session wasn't taken by many on such harsh terrain.
The swim itself was also lovely, the buoys were well spaced and tracking was quite easy despite the incredibly dark and murky water unassisted b my own leaking goggles (thanks washing machine effect) but the water temperature wasn't too cold and there was several people (read maniacs) who didn't don wetsuits!
Leaving the sea and entering into transition was perhaps the only other points of contention as firstly again you had some sharp stones to deal with and secondly you had to return your swim hat, I know a lot of people were disappointed at that but as a method of counting athletes in, it does make a bit of sense.
Transition was good, numbered bays with plenty of space, fortunately the competitor next to me didn't turn up so I had lots of space for my wetsuit but not sure where other people put there’s as transition was no boxes/bags.
Here is the contentious part. I am a confident cyclist, You kind of need to be when riding TT bikes at speed round a course. Sadly, this course was not very fit for purpose which is a real shame, it really let this tri down.
Firstly, Marshals didn't point out the right direction, it wasn't easy to tell if they were stopping traffic to let you pass unhindered or to let you turn, the lack of signage also didn't help alongside the large volume of right turns didn't help this aspect. I, amongst others took wrong turns or missed them entirely.
Secondly there was two sets of traffic lights (un-marshalled which I know some people jumped, traffic lights should always be marshalled to prevent people jumping them which is a danger to themselves, other competitors and other road users. the time stopped should be noted and credited back post-race as these sometimes are an unfortunate consequence of open road tris but they should be mitigated.
Thirdly, a lack of hazard marking. I crashed, there was bit of road that from a distance looked like an island you get with pedestrian crossings, it was actually a narrowing in the road as part of a speed check. With cars coming the other way having right of way, salty sweat in my eyes by the time I realised it wasn't an island it was too late for me. this stopped my cycle leg. This was definitely a point that should have been marked out, marshalled, signed and highlighted but there was nothing, I was very fortunate to have a friend cycling not far behind me as a non-participant who was able to turn round and flag down a motor official. That said, the first aid response was great.
I've seen some people defend the cycle leg as being open to traffic so yes caution should be used, that maybe true but there's hazards you can control - such as marshalling traffic lights and dangerous road points, and hazards you can't control such as traffic. the problem being there wasn't enough controllable hazards being controlled.
I crashed out on the bike at 9km (including wrong turn distance) at about 18 minutes, I crashed at 34kmh and fortunately, a bit of road rash, grazing and wheel damage aside, myself and my bike were ok (pending official bike shop check). This could easily have been avoided and I'm more upset that I couldn't finish the bike course properly and had to be driven back to transition after the first aid patched me up
I cannot advocate the bike course so to be hearing that next year’s race would be a closed road affair has brought me a lot of reassurance.
I ran out of Transition having racked my now course decrepit bike for an out and back sea wall run. Water was provided at the start of the run and just at approximately 2.2km (and therefore 2.8km) which was most welcome on the day. The only problem the run suffered from was again being on open paths, there were a lot of dilly dalliers around walking without due care or attention to the 300+ people that would have been running past them. Marshals were there to advise people to keep left and pay attention however they were too spread out and as soon as they passed the marshals they went back to being in their own world.
This was however the minority and the support from the majority of them was however brilliant and it's just a shame a few of them ruined it for the many.
Overall I was disappointed, and that's purely because of the bike leg. The swim and run were brilliant with the few niggles aside, the bike really let this one down. If if the course remains the same without better attention to the controllable hazards I wouldn't recommend it purely from a safety point of view, so I will be watching next year’s event with trepidation for a safer and better bike course. Should these changes be made for the bike course - I will definitely be back.
Posted on 30.05.17
A lovely out and back course across some challenging terrain ranging from road to trail to gravel, a tough hill at the start makes a reappearance at the end which would be a familiar sight for Canterbury parkrunners and some narrow paths but the crowds had sufficiently thinned out by the time they were reached so there was no problems with bunching.
On course there was a single aid station at the 5k turn around mark which was sufficient however on a hot day (like this years) it would be nice to see another somewhere in between. Some signage to direct people to run on the left or right wouldn't go amiss as there was crossing over just before the turn around point! That said, there was plenty of support from Marshals to direct you at any points where a wrong turn could be taken!
Parking was sufficient though there could be more as I believe some people had a distance to walk to get there once the first two carparks filled up so an early arrival and car sharing is advised.
Value wise, Sporting Events UK offer great value with a lovely, good quality bespoke medal for £16 EA affiliated (£18 non) - it's hard to turn the opportunity to do their races down!
Definitely a great race and one I would certainly do again!
Posted on 22.05.17