Competing in this year’s grand final meant a short hop across the North Sea, after three years in North America. Arriving in Rotterdam two days before my race was quite a contrast to the autumn colours of Edmonton and Chicago, and the heat and humidity of Cozumel – it was grey and raining. This reminded me of a former (Dutch) colleague who described Rotterdam as being “full of people who like numbers – with as many zeros after them as possible”. Well doing those numbers would keep them out of the rain. Our events were scheduled for Sunday, and as Thursday changed to Friday and then Saturday, more than a few of us perhaps wished we’d come for the numbers not triathlon. This was particularly true after the bike recce held on the Saturday. As the course involved local bike paths and walkways, it was only possible to do (some) of the course en masse as part of an organised ride. I came back shivering from this in spite of wearing most of what I’d brought and promptly laid out my arm warmers, waterproof socks, calf guards, long-sleeved T-shirt, gloves and gilet for the following day. The Rhine \Maas did not look particularly inviting either – oh dear…
Then the weather changed. Although both the elite races had to deal with damp cobbles and chilly streets, suddenly the pavement dried on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning found a shy sun peeping over the tall building on the other side of the street from our hotel. For once the weather gradually improved (for triathletes) during the day – the sun kept shining, and the breeze stayed breezy – not gusty. The organisers had also thought about congestion on the bike course and added extra time between waves to give more space. So by the time it came to warm-up, get the wetsuit on and march down the pontoon, only the arm warmers and a short sleeved T-shirt had been deployed.
As with other large races the swim course had a long run out to the first turn – around 500m, so it was a fairly sedate scramble off the start, as there was going to be plenty of time to get in the right order. Sadly I’d chosen the feet of the faster guy in my AG and after about 200m he was well gone – I didn’t see him again. This left me with a bit of a problem – where was the first buoy? I’m used to following some bigger faster swimmer and normally don’t need to do navigation. However, this can be done and so by the second buoy I was still (just about) second. At this point lack of practice struck and I turned too sharply towards where I thought the next buoy lay. Luckily a friendly canoeist put me right and I tucked into the small group, which had been behind me for the next turn. Once I could see a clear run to the finish, it was time to swim a bit harder and see if a few seconds advantage could be regained. This worked, but more was gained on the transition – more 800m workouts in a wetsuit please James!
Then onto the bike – quite a contrast from the previous year, which had been 20km along the coast road by the ocean in Cozumel, round a traffic cone and back again. So imagine a London version:
- Swim in the Thames,
- T1 is outside Tate Modern
- Start of the bike is ride across the “wobbly bridge”
- Then ride on bike tracks across at least two of London’s other bridges
- Visit bits of Southwark backstreet workshops and neighbourhoods – watched by the locals who are mad about cycling
- Back across another bridge and head through Bethnal Green to T2 which is in Victoria Park
- Run 10k on nice tracks and paths in the park, and finish in front of a 5k on nice tracks and paths in the park, and finish in front of a good grandstand packed with spectators and some good recovery areas
Highly entertaining, and we had a great tour of Rotterdam, but quite challenging on a TT bike. I rode very cautiously and worked hard when traveling in a straight line, that seemed to suit as there were long stretches when that was possible. Trying to charge through some of the narrow areas or tight turns might not have been so easy.
However, this meant that off the bike I had six to catch (and did not know that – after two bike laps and two runs laps one tired MAML looks very like another……), so I simply set off to get the best run I could out of my legs. Some of the guys I passed looked vaguely familiar, but with only one number, it’s always hard to tell.
I finished feeling I’d produced a reasonable event and was very happy to learn I’d come second. Results seemed a bit haphazard, in spite of chips and lots of sensors on the course nothing was said as I crossed the line. A few keypads and displays of the sort found at almost any UK triathlon, however small, would make such a difference – at least to get a provisional result. However, we all agreed we’d settle for the weather – thank you Rotterdam!
Race Report by Chris Owens.