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AJ Bell Triathlon, Leeds

9th June 2019

The Leeds triathlon was one that I have fancied doing for a few years. The main appeal for me was to take part in the same triathlon as the pros., although obviously not at the same time! The ITU World Series that the pros compete in goes around the world and this year they were in Leeds for the UK round. It is organised so that a triathlon for us mere mortals takes place earlier in the day giving anyone the chance to swim in the same lake, ride on the same roads and run around the same course as the pros. I decided this year that I would take that chance and give it a whirl.

The build up…

I had paid the extra so I could rock up on the Sunday rather than having to register on the Saturday, and so it was that I pulled myself out of bed at 4am in order to drive over to Leeds. Overall I was very impressed with the organisation and there were loads of volunteers everywhere. It had an Ironman type feel to the event…

I am normally fairly organised and leave myself plenty of time, but somehow I managed to faff about in transition enough that I found myself running down to the swim start having missed the briefing. This was the first time that has happened to me and it turns out that briefings are quite useful!

The event itself…

The swim start was fun with the pontoon already set up for the pros, although we didn’t get to dive in but had to hold onto it before starting. This was probably for the best as I have never done a proper diving start. I felt like the swim was going well, although unnerving when I was being overtaken by swimmers from the wave after me and I still had about a third of the swim left. As I exited the water and looked at my time I instantly regretted doing so – it had been my slowest swim for a good few years. I tried to put this out of my mind and instead focus on the bike.

It turns out I had a good run to put in before getting on the bike… Seriously it must have been 400-500m of running out of transition before I could get on the bike. My bike start was not the best… In fairness the briefing notes (which I had read!) did say the start was on a slope so you needed to be in an easy gear. It turns out I was over optimistic about my bike power – while I had put my bike in an easier gear than usual it was not easy enough and I took a couple of attempts to get going… The bike course is best described as lumpy and to be honest I was pleased to dismount at the end.

It was then onto the run which took us into Leeds before completing a couple of circuits in the city centre and then running down the same finishing chute as the pros would run down later. The run went ok and I had a good to and fro with another runner as we swapped position several times. The atmosphere was great as we looped around the city centre and definitely spurred me on. It was a great feeling running down the finishing chute in front of the grandstands.

My closing thoughts…

It had turned out that the event was also the national championships and looking at the results shows just how fast some of the age groupers were going. The fastest were only 5-10 minutes slower than the pros. That is crazy fast considering these people also have jobs, families, etc, or at least I assume they do! I positioned about the middle of my age group, which is not too bad although I definitely can go faster. Overall, while I found the race itself quite tough, it was an enjoyable event and was something a little different to race on the same course as the pros. I would definitely recommend it.

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