My first international sporting appearance was last weekend when I took to the starting pontoon of the open sprint race at the ITU World Triathlon Hamburg.
Travelling to a triathlon is a logistical challenge at the best of times, but when an international flight is involved, it becomes tougher. I flew with British Airways, who carry bikes for free instead of a normal checked bag. The hard part was the packing and unpacking. I hired a bike box from “Bike and Run” in East Finchley, who I won’t recommend as they supplied a box that was missing all except one of the straps designed to immobilise the bike within the box and gave me the wrong skewers to hold the wheels in the box. Packing it required removing the wheels, pedals, rear mechanism, seatpost and handlebars. So far, so good.
Reassembly was another matter.
Error number 1: My torque wrench didn’t fit into the gap needed to tighten the seatpost. So I didn’t use it. I now have a slightly crushed seatpost. (I probably made a bad call in still riding it, but I survived.)
Error number 2: The chainstay mounted rear brake took a bashing and needed re-aligning. I managed this but then when re-tightening the cable, somehow failed miserably and pulled the crimp off, fray the cable and still not tighten it. With time running tight, my friends took it to three different bike shops to get it fixed up while I hot-footed it to race registration and the briefing.
- Now matter how early you think you should arrive for a race, you need to be earlier. If your bike is in pieces; allow a day to put it together in case you’re off to the bike shop with it.
- Torque wrench is your friend when it comes to carbon parts. I’ve heard it said that people don’t buy a torque wrench until they’ve ruined a part. I now own a torque wrench.
Now onto the race.
After the stress of the previous day, I arrived to transition in good time and had plenty of time to set myself up. Like the elite, transition had a box for each competitor to put all you stuff in, which made for a really tidy transition. I also managed to grab an end of the rack, which gave me a bit more manoeuvring space.
The water temperature was simply listed as >24°C, which made for a very comfortable non-wetsuit swim. (So my wetsuit had an international holiday without even getting used!)
Swim – 500m, 11:45
I was a bit too tentative in picking my starting position for the swim, so started too close to the rear and had to swim through a lot of people in the run up to the first buoy and got hit a few times.
The photo of me towards the end of the swim shows me over-rotating when breathing and coming too far out the water, which is something I’ll need to work on technique-wise. Otherwise, quite a good swim and happy with the position I came out the water in. I even managed to hear my supporters and turn to them as I came out the water which was nice.
T1 – 05:22
With no wetsuit this was a neat and easy transition. It was a fair distance from the swim exit and fairly long, but with ~10,000 competitors over the weekend, everything is massive. I guess it’s comparable to the ITU race in London last year.
Bike – 22km, 44:58
The bike felt hard and was where I lost time, with the 985th swim but 1638th bike.
The course was undulating but the hills weren’t a real test – Hamburg is a fairly flat city I think. I definitely need to practise grabbing my water bottle and replacing it without losing time; it was a hot day so I drank a lot but lost a few seconds each time and risked getting my fingers chopped off by the front wheel spokes. Maybe I’ll invest in a “Between the arms” system with a straw so drinking becomes easy and loses no time. Typical triathlete throwing money at a problem… The tunnel right at the start and end was interesting as I had my sunglasses on, so it became pretty dark all of a sudden. I didn’t want to faff with taking them on and off though, so just had to use a bit more concentration.
T2 – 03:35
Managed to run past my position again. I need to stop doing this! Otherwise I managed to get out onto the run without any drama.
Run – 5km, 25:56
I enjoyed the run a lot. Went out too fast, as seems normal for me when I run off the bike. Saw my supporters and delivered an epic high-five too!
Highlight of the run was going past some cheerleaders with an announcer who, on seeing my Serpentine trisuit, announced that I was “coming all the way from London, from Hyde Park, host of the London 2012 Olympic Triathlon,” so I got to feel like a famous athlete for a while!
I got into a sprint finish with another athlete on the blue carpet, and I’m pretty sure I took him on the line too!
Total time – 01:31:35
Again, this is a race that I’m pleased with, despite the stress of getting to the start line which took the efforts of 4 people! Bike definitely shows itself as the discipline that needs the most work, but I knew this anyway. Just need now to put in enough training ahead of my next race, London Triathlon on 2nd August.