Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

ITU World Age Group Sprint Triathlon

Auckland, NZ,  21st October 2012

Paul Blackmore writes…

One of my triathlon teammates suggested at the start of the year that I should have a go at qualifying to represent GB.  Being that its in Auckland ie a long way away, even if you don’t qualify hardly anyone will be able to go so you’ll get a rolldown place anyway.  Suitably motivated I raced the qualifying event in May and managed 2nd, sealing my place in Auckland.

Fast forward (they do excellent wheels by the way) 5 months and I’m in Auckland with 240 other GB qualifiers and 3,000 triathletes from around the World.  In my race, the Sprint, in my age group, I’m up against 82 other guys.  There’s 14 Brit teammates, NZ having the biggest team of 25.  My race involves a 750 metre swim in the harbour, 20km undulating bike ride, and a 5km flat run.

After watching the elites (Jonny Brownlee) on Sunday in the pouring rain, we’re fortunate that the rain and howling wind has died down and its fairly pleasant at 5.45am as I make my way down to transition.  Its starting to get light and seeing 3,000 bikes all racked up is an impressive sight, and I start to get an idea of the scale of the event.  And also nerves!

Each age group is held in a pen before the swim and gradually moves forward as each group starts, roughly 3 minute intervals.  My nerves are bouncing all over the place and don’t get any better as we make are way down, onto the pontoon and into the water.  We’re all shoulder to shoulder and its going to be a battle.  Gun goes, swim starts. I pause.  Just a moment, to avoid the crush, and potential drowning!  Off I go and then have to start weaving my way through, finding gaps.  The water is 14.9c so a bit cold on the face, but once I get going I have a good swim.  I exit the water (in 35th place) and its a long run into transition, in a wetsuit.  In a local race a transition is just over a minute, I take nearly 4 such is the length of the transition area.  Plus I’m not the greatest at taking off a wetsuit.

Finally onto the bike, still my strongest bit.  Soon the course goes up a long drag and I get overtaken by three guys from the age group behind mine! Motivation dips.  But I hold them at a close distance and start passing other people, some even in my age group!  It takes me 3-4km before I feel like I’m in TT mode.  After a couple of short sharp hills I’m starting to feel good and we swing onto the flat coast road.  I’m still passing people, and still have those three guys in sight.  At the turn I know its a headwind back to the transition area.  To my surprise I go well into the wind and re-pass my three escapees, and have the satisfaction of completing the bike uncaught (5th fastest bike, now 12th overall).

Another lengthy transition and onto the run.  I have a slight panic as I can’t find where I left my shoes.  Returning to transition I get a shout from my brother who is also here and taking the photos.  A thumbs up to the camera as I start the run.  This is the hardest part of triathlon.  The transition from bike to run is very painful on muscles and stomach. Everything gets churned up and its a battle of mind over matter.  My run is good though, for me.  I get passed straight away by the three guys in the other age group (they finish 1-2-3 in their race).  I almost can’t believe it as I catch and pass a Kiwi from my age group on the run.  I feel good, and start to dream of glory, well I wonder how many are in front of me.

Half way round and a GB teammate runs past me.  Not a word.  Thanks mate. I can’t match his pace but try to up mine to keep in touch.  And quick tour round yet another a jetty and a shout from my brother and the end is in sight.  Thank god, I’m on my last legs, but its all about leaving nothing in the tank.  I cross the line and know I’ve had a good race and couldn’t have gone any faster.  I’m pleased! (19th in run)

Later on, in the coffee shop with my girlfriend (who also raced), my brother and his wife, I find out I came 13th overall in my age group.
Second best Brit.  Should have sent that GB guy who passed me into the harbour!  Most of the top ten are Aussies or Kiwis.  Standard was high, as you’d expect.  But now I know what I have to do, and how much I need to improve.

Roll on next years Worlds…..Hyde Park, London.  At least it will be cheaper!