A hometown race, hurrah! When it was announced that Leeds would replace London's Hyde Park as the venue for the 5th race on the World Triathlon Series Tour, I, like many sports fans started getting exciting. A chance to watch the world's best triathletes, battle it out on our home turf. When they announced a mass age group race would proceed the Elite race and everyone and anyone I knew seemed to have signed up to compete I thought I may as well have a bash. I was dead keen to smash around the closed roads of Leeds that I commute on daily. It's not often you get to do a triathlon that starts 10 minutes from your front door.
In the weeks leading up to the race, excitement started to build and questions were beginning to arise around the bike route and how the split transition would work. I checked the bike route maps provided and realised a lot of the cycle from Roundhay into the city centre I ride on a daily basis so I thought it would be useful for others If i filmed the route while I cycled it one day. I persuaded fellow Leeds Bradford Triathlon Club member Tom Pratt to join me in cycling to the Wednesday morning club swim session, the long way round, taking in the bike route from Roundhay to the city centre. The days after I published the video, 15 minutes were added onto my food shopping trips due to people recognizing me.
"Are you Suzie? I have seen your video", every time I walked around the supermarket.
That's the power of the internet! I really should have put a disclaimer on the video that it was made filmed at 5.45am and the commentary was completely au natural, non scripted, basically whatever came out of my mouth at the time!
I am glad it provided amusement and some useful pointers for those racing who didn't know the roads. You can view the video on www.bigsuz.com
I was wave 24, starting at 8.24am. The first wave started at 7am, and from then on, a wave of competitors started every 4 minutes. A huge logistical challenge! Which was dealt with by the organiser with great success, the swim start was a very well run machine. I had no idea why I was in wave 24. All the age groups were mixed up, males and females were mixed together and it was a real mix of standards.
Due to the mass nature of the race, 5000 competitors, multiple bike and run loops, I knew this wasn't going to feel like a normal race, you would have no idea how you were doing in terms of positioning. My attitude going into the race was "Go have fun" This was a unique opportunity to race on home soil, alongside lots of club mates and racing on closed roads meant "Go smash the bike". I was really looking forward to the bike, cycling on roads I know so well, on a TT bike compared to my normal commuter bike, with a heavy back pack. I was also looking forward to the atmosphere, living in Leeds, I knew I would know a fair few people, so I was looking forward to a great atmosphere.
So my race tactics were "Have fun, smash the bike and enjoy the atmosphere"
Tick to all 3. However I did not anticipate my ears to still be ringing hours after my race. The number of "Go BigSuz" "Go Suzie" "Go Pocket Rocket" that i received from spectators and fellow competitors was incredible. The atmosphere was the best I have ever raced in, hands down.
A lot of the pre race worries were about how busy the course would be with 5000 competitors. Due to the closed roads, it was actually fine. Yes there were some bottle necks at the turn around points and I shouted just three words, over and over again for the entire bike ride "On your right". But it worked, there was enough space to pass on the right. There was one incident, where a fellow competitor decided at the last minute not to turn around outside the town hall for another lap but go towards transition, cycling across the road straight into me, somehow I stayed upright, unfortunately she fell off, hopefully she was OK, I slowed looked over my shoulder, could see marshals running to her aid so figured I was OK to carry on.
So I stuck to my pre race tactics of "Have fun, smash the bike and enjoy the atmosphere" I was having a great time, onto the run the race atmosphere and local support came into its own. The course was busy, walking around the dead turns was the only option and running was more like weaving in and out of people, but i quite enjoyed that. It was awesome running around a route, filled with spectators.
The transitions: A lot of comments had been made about the split transition set up. T1 being in Roundhay, jump on the bike, cycle finishing in the city centre. So Saturday afternoon was spent delivering Run trainers to T2 and then cycling up to Roundhay to place bike in T1 and to have a quick swim in the lake to check out the course.
Personally the split transition was fine, yes a bit more faff on the Saturday, but that was ok. The main areas for development in future years were in my eyes the following:
The blue swim bag drop off, right on the bike mount line, not a great idea. 10meters before the dismount line would have been ideal.
Normally, you run from the swim to the transition, take your wetsuit off, grab your helmet and bike and go, running to the mount line where you jump on your bike. Due to the split transition, the organisers would take our wetsuits to the finish area. In order to do this, wetsuits, goggles etc were put in a blue bag and carried, along with bike out of transition. The problem was having the bag drop right by the bike mount line, which was right at the bottom of a hill.
I decided to do what i normal do, clip shoes onto pedals, run barefoot with bike and jump onto bike, placing feet into shoes on the move. Many people had decided against this, due to the lack of momentum as having to drop the bags first and cycle up a hill straight away. Many preferring to run from transition wearing their bike shoes or carrying them. I went with the tactic "throw blue swim bag into drop bag area, jump onto bike, feet on top of shoes and ride up the hill with feet on top of shoes and slide them in at the top of the hill" Worked well, I reckon Flora Duffy was watching and thought it was a good idea too!
Due to the split transition, the blue bag with swim gear, mentioned above and a green bag with clothes you wore before the event and wanted afterwards would be taken from Roundhay to the city centre. 5000 competitors, 2 bags each, 10,000 bags. What a logistical challenge. Manchester marathon has experienced the same challenges earlier this year. I anticipated delays, so I only put a few old clothes I was wearing into the green bag, if I got it at the end, great, if not, oh well was my attitude. And yes delays there were, I decided to get my bike from transition, cycle home in my tri suit, and get warm and changed there before returning to spectate at the Elite races.
I understand I was lucky, being a local, cycling 30minutes home, was fine for me. Not for others from further afield and those who had put car keys, wallets, phones into their green bag. It is a shame that the baggage delays have come to dominate the news and over shadow what in general was a fantastic day.
Have you seen the results? You won! A friend told me. Now that was nice news. 2hours 10minutes of having fun, smashing the bike and soaking up the atmosphere resulted in a win on home soil. 1st female in the open age group race aka warm up for the World Series ITU event.
Hope everyone who raced enjoyed their visit to Leeds. Lets hope a few changes to the organisation will make 2017 even better.
You can see the Pre race, bike course video and other race reports on www.bigsuz.com