GE London Triathlon – A First-Timer’s View.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be able to race in the Dextro Energy Triathlon in London’s Hyde Park. GE are the major sponsors of the British Triathlon Federation and the national squads. That meant that during the schedule of ‘age-group’ and elite events that are taking place during this world championship weekend, two ‘waves’ of 50 teams of GE employees and customers could race the same course that was being used for the main events.
The GE events were team relay races meaning that each competitor did an individual discipline rather than all three. That in turn meant that we were able to build teams of people doing ‘their’ thing rather than compromising.
Only one of our nine competitors had ever done a triathlon before and the secrets of transitions, non-drafting road races and open water swims were all mysteries to the rest of us.
Our three teams were:

  • Team H.I.T. – Helene Dogget swimming, Me cycling and Tom Whitmore running. 
  • Team N.S.S. – Nick Massey swimming, Steve Rees cycling and Sarah Patrick running. 
  • Team A.S.S. (maybe we should rethink our team names!) – Alistair McKendrick, Sara Bills and Steve Mitchell.

With the ‘encouraging’ words of Tim Povall, our business leader ringing in our ears, our teams and their supporters set off down to London with nerves, excitement and in some cases all out terror of what was to come leading to a subdued atmosphere on the coach.

GE Team Relay Triathlon
The team heads for the start on Hyde Park.

After the accreditation process, working out the layout of the courses and transitions and many nervous visits to the toilets, race time was upon us.

The swimmers were up first. We’d watched previous races start and had seen the Serpentine lake being frothed by groups of 50 swimmers starting off together. The course started from a pontoon in front of the grandstands, but disappeared into the distance. The water looked a dull grey and I was very pleased to be our cyclist! I was and remain full of admiration for everyone who completed the swim…
GE Team Relay Triathlon
Our three swimmers show what they’re made of.

GE Team Triathlon
Nervous Helene?

GE Team Triathlon
I’d sooner be in the cafe.

By now the other 100 riders and I were nervously pacing our small area of transition next to our bikes, looking out for the first swimmers running the 400m or more from the water to meet us. Alistair appeared as one of the first.  I’ve worked with Al for a few years now and am happy to say I’ve never seen such a look of pain and effort on his face before.

What seemed like seconds later, my team mate Helene appeared and this was it. Race time. 
Everything else emptied from my consciousness. The nerves had gone. The niggling thoughts of if I’d eaten the right things… Had I got the right bike set up? Should I have gone to the toilet one more time?

To begin, the riders had to run down hill through the transition area and out onto the road before being allowed to mount their bikes. After weeks of build up it was great to be finally underway. I was so excited that I ran probably faster than was sensible and almost came a real cropper when my bike hit a lump in the grass, sending the pedal into my shin. It didn’t matter – I just had to get on with it…

It was dry and overcast and the whole route seemed lined with people shouting encouragement. The cycling course was perfect. Long straights with some tight turns and a couple of gentle inclines. This allowed me to do what I do – that is getting into as aerodynamic a position as I can and riding to a point where the pain is just about bearable and maintaining it. Time trialling has been described to me as a ‘crime against ergonomics’. Just don’t tell EHS!

GE Team Relay Triathlon
Sara on South Carriage Drive.

Sara was already out on the course after Alistair’s incredible swim and I knew that Steve was right behind me as I’d seen Nick come in from his swim just behind Helene. This gave extra motivation of riding to catch Sara as soon as I could but also not letting Steve catch me. Due to the hairpin turns at either end of the course, there were two opportunities on each lap to see if the gaps were changing.

GE Team Relay Triathlon
Steve begins his race.

The course was busy with all standards of rider. Some people were obviously seasoned racers while others wobbled around the sharper bends and had to be watched carefully.
GE Team Relay Triathlon
I may have gone quicker if I’d pedalled with both legs?

I managed to make up a load of places and got back to the transition wishing that the race could have been longer. No-one had passed me during the 14.1miles and afterwards I found out that I’d covered it in 35 minutes (24.2mph – OK given the twists and turns), one of the quickest of the day. 
Something that I’m not used to as a cyclist is leaping off the bike after half an hour of maximum effort and then running. My knees complained but eventually began to function as I ran back up the hill to hand over to Tom. The mass of runners, eagerly looking for their riders was confusing and picking Tom out difficult, but I found him after what seemed like a few wasted seconds, racked the bike and handed over the transponder. He was off…
I’d only found out that morning quite how good Tom was. As a cyclist I’m a fair club rider but a ‘nobody’ on the county or national scenes. Tom is the real deal. This was his distance. I’d felt a real pressure to make sure he had the best chance to do his thing and after the ride was satisfied that I had.

Sara and Steve soon came in from their rides and all of our runners were underway. Things were going well. The remaining team members now rushed to the last bend of the running course to meet the runners and try to keep up with them for the last 100m or so, allowing us to finish as a team.
GE Team Relay Triathlon
Tom powers home.

In what seemed like no time, Tom sprinted into view and Helene and I set off. We crossed the line together, all having given everything we had.
There is a buzz to competition that people who don’t race don’t understand. It hurts; the training takes hours of your week; you get injured; it costs money. But at the end of an event when you’ve crossed the line, knowing that you’ve given your best, none of that matters. The satisfaction is extraordinary.
In fact, it makes you feel like this:

GE Team Relay Triathlon
Silly grins.

We cheered home our other two teams as they too finished together and then it was off to the VIP hospitality area. While we were there, a tannoy announcement was made saying that there was to be a presentation for the GE events and could the Groby team go to reception.
For the first time in my life I was going to stand on a podium. OK, it wasn’t the top step but we’d finished only 30 seconds behind the winners. Our trophies were presented by Helen Jenkins, the British triathlete that had earlier won the women’s elite race and booked her place at the London Olympics.

The video of that podium presentation.

It was a great day. The opportunity to race what next year will be the Olympic course was a real honour. The organisation was world class. An example of this is the results service that shows the performance of each competitor in a virtual replay. Click here to see our teams in action.

Thanks to our supporters that came along. Congratulations to everyone who took part but especially the Groby teams. Everyone should be really proud of their performances and I’m sure we’ll all be desperate to race again next year.

I’m off now with a coffee and a tin of biscuits to watch TV coverage of the men’s elite competitors racing on the same course I got to know so well yesterday…

One comment

  1. Congratulations on your podium position, it sounds like it was a cool day with lots of great atmosphere! You will have to join me on of my weekly 1 hour runs over the Bradgate Park hills.


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