AJ Bell London Triathlon – my first ever triathlon relay
August 7, 2016
I was so excited about taking part in the 20th Anniversary AJ Bell London Triathlon that I woke up early, which was completely unnecessary. We had a relaxed start to the day as our event wasn’t taking place until 13:20, so we got up at 7am, ate some breakfast and then headed to Southampton Airport Parkway station, where we met Jez with his bike. It was an easy train ride to London Waterloo, where Jez popped his bike into the bike bag that we became so familiar with in Japan, and then we headed off towards the Excel Centre.
On arrival, I signed in and collected our race pack and then we went to transition, so that Jez could drop his bike off.
It was then time to find an early lunch (coffee for the boys and subway sandwiches for all of us).
We had a quick look around the Expo where I was amazed by some of the great offers – there were some particularly good deals on road bikes (such as Giant Defy/Liv Avail) that would be appropriate for novices as well as huge reductions on tri kit, running kit and cycling kit.
After wandering around the Expo, we went out to watch some of the earlier swim waves.
It wasn’t long before Stu had to change before his swim wave. After saying goodbye, I went out to watch the swimming with Jez. It was incredibly hot and the water looked very tempting!
It was interesting to see the wide range of abilities when it came to the swimmers. There were some amazingly quick people, some competent swimmers and a few who had perhaps over-estimated their ability or were really challenging themselves. I know what it’s like to be one of the worst swimmers, but I really felt for those people at the back as not only had they been lapped by the best people in their wave, but I knew that they would also be lapped by a mass of swimmers from the next wave, which must be quite intimidating.
I liked the swim buoys, which were huge AJ Bell piggy banks. They also had the advantage of being enormous, so the sighting was probably quite easy. Also there was a rope with a line of yellow buoys marking out the main course, so it would have been possible for swimmers to follow it.
The architecture in the Docklands area is interesting. The Millennium Mills building on the other side of the water is undergoing extensive renovations and will eventually become a centre for small business start-ups.
It was soon time for Stu’s wave to start… however, of course all of the swimmers were wearing the same (predominantly black wetsuits with white hats), so I knew it would be hard to spot Stu. I did however spot Lindsay from RunCamp walking past us. She was also taking part in a relay team with Ant and a friend.
By a couple of hundred metres in, the pack had spread out quite far. I wondered whether Stu was drafting in second place, but then realised that that swimmer had too many red markings on the sleeves of their wetsuit – Stu wears a 19 rogue, which has red tiger stripes.
I then thought I spotted Stu’s familiar splashy style and his stripy arms in the chase pack of about 5 swimmers. He’s very modest about his swimming, but I know that he’s good and in a mixed ability event like this I knew he would be quite near to the front.
At this point, Jez headed off to transition, whilst I walked down to the swim exit.
I heard the cheers from people at the water’s edge as the first white-hatted swimmer made their way up the ramp. It was brilliant to see that it was a female athlete closely followed by the man with the red sleeves that I spotted earlier.
There were then a few athletes with pink hats from earlier waves, before another female swimmer appeared and then I think it was Stu.
Ant appeared shortly after Stu and can be seen just behind him wearing the black and yellow trisuit.
I then went back to the transition area to meet Stu as I had his bag with his clothes in it.
After Stu changed, we had a bit of a trek to try to find the bike spectator area. Unfortunately, we headed to the wrong exit from the Excel Centre, so we then had to walk the full length of it to get to the right one. We managed to get onto a bridge in time to see Jez whizzing past.
Again, it was great to see a wide range of people taking part from people going very quickly on beautiful tri bikes to one lady who was pedalling along quite happily on her Brompton with her handbag across her body! I didn’t get to see the turning point, but the course didn’t look as crowded as I had thought it might be. It was also good to notice that no-one seemed to be drafting, which I have noticed in a few other large triathlons.
The bike route went right across the city – on our way back I took this picture showing the Millennium Dome/O2 Arena… you can just see the cyclists going past it on the flyover.
After we’d seen Jez go by on the bike course, Stu and I headed back inside for me to go to transition. We had another quick chat with Lindsay and before I knew it, Jez had arrived. I grabbed the chip off him and then headed out on the run.
The first 500m was through the Excel Centre and down a sheltered side section. There was then a ramp down before the main part of the course. I felt like I was running fairly well, although another female runner staggered over and stumbled into me, which surprised me a bit.
The temperature had reached 27C, so I was glad that I had chosen to wear last year’s Team SOAS vest (this year’s is black which I thought would be too hot). I wouldn’t normally drink during a 10k, but I need to keep my temperature down. I had been close to fainting on the train, and am currently anaemic, so I was playing it safe. I took a sip of water each time I passed the aid station, and thew the rest over my head.
It was good to see Stu and Jez towards the end of my first lap.
The hardest part of each lap was heading back into the Excel Centre as the ramp felt quite steep and quite a few runners were walking up it. I think the event was well-organised, but the run route would have benefitted from a few signs reminding runners to keep left as it wasn’t always easy to pass people with walkers/slow runners right across the path.
At the top of the ramp there was a short section in the shade before heading into the building for a brief loop – the finish looked tantalisingly close. I also knew the course was going to be long as my watch was reading nearly 3k at this point. At this point I saw Lindsay heading out on her first lap looking very strong.
The 2nd loop went well and I was surprised to get through 5k in about 31 minutes.
Frustratingly, at 5.5k the baby decided to dig her feet into my ribs. The same thing happened in Tenby. It’s kind of like a stitch, but much more painful. I gave my ribs a rub and hoped that the pain wouldn’t last for 3k. I ran up the ramp, and walked for a few steps, which helped to ease it off a bit and by 7k, I was feeling better again.
I kept going and appreciated all of the supporters. I had a brief chat with a lady who was wearing a SOAS tri top. I also kept an eye out for Lindsay as I expected her to pass me during the run, but she was feeling the effects of the heat.
Just after the final turn, someone shouted out to me. It was really lovely to see Jo Restall who used to swim in the same lane as me at Southampton Tri Club. Jo was doing her first Olympic triathlon – well done, Jo!
As I headed into the Excel Centre, I spotted Stu who was waiting in the team meeting point with Jez. They came out and joined me on the red carpet and we were able to finish together.
Annoyingly, my Garmin is refusing to download my data, but I know that I went through 10k in 1:05 and ended up doing just over 11k in 1:11! I had estimated that the run would take me 1:15-1:20, so I was pleased with that result.
After crossing the finish line, I drank a bottle of Lucozade and some water, whilst Jez rewarded himself with a pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei. We were also given our medals and a buff.
After collecting our possessions from transition, we were given a natural protein bar from a brand called Tribe. I haven’t tried it yet as I didn’t feel like eating at that point.
I hadn’t realised just how much water I had thrown on myself during my run, but after being indoors in the cool for a bit, I was starting to get cold, so I wanted to go and get changed. We passed the Bonk Triathlon stand and I decided to treat myself to a new t-shirt in a larger size as I love my other two Bonk tops, but I don’t want to stretch them now I’m getting bigger.
After a quick change, it was time for us to head home.
Overall, I LOVED this event. It was really well-organised and I hope to be back one day to do it as an individual… although I might be tempted by the Olympic Plus event (80k bike ride).
Our final results can be seen below (although obviously we’re not all male and we do have names!)
As you can see from the position graph, we started off well, but didn’t really finish strong!
Stuart clearly had a cracking swim, with a speed that was far above average, and Jez also cycled far better than the average cyclist. I let the side down a bit, but as a female who’s 7.5 months pregnant, it’s perhaps not fair to compare my pace with the average male’s pace!