A busy summer month full with lots of triathlon (swim, bike, run) trainings, a 1/8 triathlon race that resulted in my first WIN, an Ironman Olympic Distance race close to my home town and only 3 weeks later the next Olympic Distance race in London: the London Westminster Olympic Distance triathlon!
Why London? One day at work, several months ago, I spoke with an English colleague about sports and it came up to triathlons and to my surprise he was training for triathlon races as well. He had just registered for the London Westminster triathlon and invited me to compete in this race as well. Since the date of the Ironman 5150 Hoorn wasn’t confirmed yet (and luckily there were a few weeks in between in the end) and the date of the London race was quite nicely in the middle between IM 70.3 Elsinore and IM 70.3 Vichy, I decided to register as well.
My colleague informed that I really had to register for the Westminster race on Sunday and not for the other OD race on Saturday. The Saturday race was far less interesting since the bike route was a much shorter loop and had many more of this short loop. The bike route of the Westminster race on Sunday went all the way to the city center along the River Thames, past the London Eye and the route turned around just before the Big Ben tower and Westminster Hall.
On Friday 26 July very early morning, I took the train to Amsterdam Central Station where I changed to the International Train EuroStar that would bring me to the center of London with a change-over in Brussels. With my clothes, helmet and everything else stuffed into my bike suitcase on wheels and a backpack, with my laptop and smaller items, on my back it went pretty easy actually. Early afternoon I arrived in London St. Pancras and from there I took the metro to the Excel Center. I had bought an Oyster card in the train and with this card you can use the public transport a lot cheaper compared to buying every ticket separately. At the Excel Center, where also the triathlon start & finish were, I had booked a room in the Novotel hotel. Comfortable and with a view at the Excel Center and the Royal Victoria Dock where the swimming would be done. The Excel Center is a huge conference complex with an enormous large hall for the event.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday I had some time to explore the center of London a little bit. I didn’t want to walk too much so I wouldn’t feel too tired but doing something is always nice. Actually, in the hotel gym on Friday night I had an hour indoor bike ride and on Saturday half an hour easy run so I did get my activities anyway.
The London Triathlon weekend is huge with so many athletes, different race lengths on both days but since there were already many triathlon races on Saturday, everything for the Sunday race was in place. My start time on Sunday was very early and the organisation made it possible that the early starters could complete the registration on Saturday late afternoon, including the bike checkin. This was a big relieve because otherwise this would have to be done at 05:30 – 06:00 hrs… And I would probably forget something at the time of the day! After the bike checkin and looking a bit around to remember the correct routes after swimming, for the bike exit, bike entrance and route to my rack and then the exit for the run. The complex is so big, you really have to remember where to go to in order not to lose any time searching for the exit during the race!
My start time on Sunday was 07:10! This was no holiday for me! But this also meant that there was only one group starting before me (and another 23 groups after me!) so I was hoping that the bike and run routes would be quite clear.
Sunday 28 July, very early morning after warming up my pasta meal and getting ready, it was just a short few minutes walk to the center. Not that many athletes yet but that would change quickly during the morning. Preparing my bike with the shoes for the flying mount, water bottle on the bike, and the start number belt of course. Just next to my bike placing my running shoes, cap and the flexible drink bottle. After my preparations and little warming up, I saw my colleague that had informed me about this race in the first place. A quick chat with him, wishing each other good luck and it was time for me to slowly head toward the athletes briefing tent.
Since spring 2019, I completely switched over to NutrID nutrition drink and I’m really fond of it. They have several types of nutrition, depending on the length of the workout and race. NutrID Benzine for normal workouts, for longer workouts and races they recommend NutrID Kerosine, and then there any powders for recovery, supplements, etc etc. The composition of the power depends on the athlete so it’s really a personalised nutrition. I don’t get paid by them, not even sponsored, but if you’re interested you have to check them out: nutrid.nl. In previous races, I’ve had many times issues with my stomach during the run section but with NutrID this isn’t happening anymore. So no more gels, bars and different energy drinks in my bottles. Only NutrID Kerosine and that’s it.
About 20 minutes before the swim start was the athletes briefing of my swim start group. I’m not sure, but maybe about 50 athletes per group were getting motivated and the last rules and regulations were explained. Since the London tri is so massive and accessible, I was expecting a lot of first-timers. After the briefing we had to wait for a few minutes before the first group was started, and then we could enter the water and go to the imaginary start line between the two buoys.
A couple of minutes later was the start signal and the race was started! The swim route was pretty simple, first along the Excel center down the Royal Victoria Docks, then a right turn and a little bit further the next right turn. The long straight all the way past the center and then another two right turns before we would come to the swim exit. For the swim a wetsuit was compulsory and directly after coming out the water, we had to take the wetsuit off and put it in a bag. They didn’t want all the soaking wet wetsuits in the hall of the Excel center since this would probably make the floor very slippery and accidents could happen. Anyway, the wetsuit bag could be placed where your bike was racked so no issues there. My swim time wasn’t the fastest (but also not the slowest luckily) and I was quite quickly out of my wetsuit. Many others were struggling in that area although they were all assisted by volunteers. My swim time was 29 minutes and 11 seconds which was pretty ok compared to others in my start group. Calculating it for the 1500 meters, I did an average of 1:57/100m. Not great but still good for place 465 of all the 1841 athletes of the London Westminster Olympic Distance.
With the wetsuit in the bag, I ran into the transition zone to my bike. Dumping my bag, putting on my helmet and start number, and running away with my bike. After crossing the bike start line, I had my fast flying mount again (getting good at it) and raced off the ramp of the center. Few turns and on the road. The roads were closed for traffic so no surprises there. I was hammering on the power and was overtaking a few until I hardly saw anybody before me. The last section before the turn around point close to Westminster, I did see a few more athletes on the bike but I didn’t know whether these were from my start group or the first start group. Well, that didn’t matter, just go as fast as you can! Coming back to the Excel center, passing it and continuing to Stansfeld Road for the next turning point and then back to the Excel center again. This was the bigger loop, now only the shorter loop was left! The smaller loop was on the same road as the bigger loop but just had an earlier turning point. Still hammering on the bike, I was overtaking many more athletes again. These must have started in later groups and were actually pretty slow on the bike.
One of these athletes was cycling on the left side of the road, as you’re supposed to do in UK triathlons, and at the moment I was overtaking he was suddenly coming to the right, to the center where all the pylons were placed to separate both directions. I was very surprised by his action since he was cutting me and I had nowhere to go. At the last moment I shouted to him but he was already so far that I had to go over one pylon. Quite shocked what had happened but luckily I was still on the bike and nothing was damaged! The guy steered back to the left and I left him some ‘friendly’ Dutch words to think of… I’m still not sure what he was doing, only reason I can think of that he might have grabbed a gel or bar and didn’t focus on the road and athletes around him.
Quite quickly after this event, I reached the Billingsgate turn point and hammered back past the Excel center to the Stansfeld Road turning point. After that it was just a short distance back towards the transition zone in the Excel center. A short but steep ramp up to the entrance, my flying dismount and then running to the bike rack. Coming back in the transition zone I hardly saw any bikes that had returned in the racks already! I must have been one of the first back!
This made me actually quite happy since I knew that my bike section would have been pretty good! The 40 km on the bike I completed in 1 hours and 6 seconds, making an average of 39.94 kmh (just shy of 40 kmh!) Based on the result of all the athletes of the Westminster OD, this meant place 32 of 1841 competitors! Top 2% overall!!!
Ok not cheering yet, there was still the 10k run to complete! After racking my bike and getting my cap, Nutrid flex bottle, and slipping into my running shoes, I was ready for the run! After leaving the Excel center the run was along the Royal Victoria Docks, under the Connaught bridge, a little further passing the Royal Dock rowing club, and then back to the Excel center. This loop had to be completed 4 times. During the first loop I noticed I was really one of the first on the run course but with each loop more and more athletes were joining the running. After a few loops, I saw my colleague also on the run course but he was struggling with his pace. Running isn’t his favourite sport.
Together with cycling, running is certainly one of my favourite sports! The running felt pretty good and my pace was also good! Coming back in the Excel center in the last loop, not taking the turn for the ‘next loop’ but running the last meters to the finish! Happy, tired of course but it felt really good! I completed my running of the 10 km in 41 minutes and 59 seconds, averaging 4:12/1k! This resulted in an overall place 113 of the total 1841 athletes.
All together my total time was 2 hours, 15 minutes and 54 seconds, resulting in place 62 / 1841 overall and in my age group place 11 / 179 athletes. I received some sponsored drinks and waited for a while for my colleague. With a good feeling and a nice medal around my neck, I was picking up my bike and my other belonging and headed to the transition exit. My race was over, but many athletes just arrived and were only starting in a few hours. The hectic in the Excel wouldn’t be over for quite some hours!
In the afternoon, after I had eating a recovery meal and rested a little bit on my hotel room (with a view over the swim and bike course – funny to see this from above btw), I took the train to the city center for some more sightseeing. I hadn’t had enough movement yet 😉 One more last night in London and the next day I took the international train from St Pancras back to Amsterdam. A direct train and the ride was efficient and fast! They should really improve the international train network in Europe since it’s a great replacement for all the short European flights.
After arriving home, I knew I had only 2 weeks before driving to France. Not for a holiday, but for my next triathlon race: the Ironman 70.3 Vichy!