Sometime, way back in the midst of 2015, we heard that the WTS was coming to Leeds. Hurrah, we thought. Let’s get our entries in early – which we did and then thought no more about it. At the risk of sounding like I’m getting the excuses in early, it’s not really my sort of race. The city centre races tend to have quite technical bike courses with 180 degree turns and a lot of testosterone fuelled men with disc wheels who are hoping for a PB on flat courses. There are not often many hills on these courses and again, whilst I haven’t quite worked out the weight to power ratio that most climbers have (or stopped drinking wine), we do most of our training in the hills and ‘undulating’ courses tend to suit me best. The best thing about Leeds would be the atmosphere and having completed the WTS course in London three year s ago, I’d thought it would be an experience.
Leeds is, technically for us, a local race. So it may come as a surprise that we decided to book a hotel for the night beforehand. That turned out to be the best decision of the weekend! This wasn’t a cheap race to start with and so the initial outlay was starting to look a bit high for a race that wasn’t even our A race of the season. The race organisers were particularly slow in releasing any details to competitors and I think it’s fair to say that people were getting agitated not knowing any race details.
A few days before the race, we were emailed our start times and then just 2 days before, we received the competitor information. Just reading the information was enough to give you a headache and wading through it to find out where transition area is (oh, there are two of them?!) was not easy. If this had been my first triathlon, I think I’d have been daunted, to say the least. The organisers had a challenging weekend trying to accommodate a number of different races and on the Sunday, to get the age groupers out of the way before the Elite triathletes got started. You are torn between two thoughts – that whilst this is a huge event, the people organising it know what they are doing and everything will run smoothly – versus, this is a huge event, and if the people organising it don’t know what they are doing, it will be a nightmare!
We registered on the Saturday morning and we finally got ourselves sorted by 1600 – it takes a brave person to leave your bike overnight in transition and trusting that by the next morning a disaster won’t have occurred – will the bike be there, will someone have moved it, will it have a flat tyre etc. T2 was a more interesting venture – a sea of white bags faced us and any attempts to make your own bag recognisable were …removed! (although to be fair, it seems that everyone had the same thought of an orange Sainsburys carrier bag….so in the end it was a sea of white with splashes of orange).
Anyway, with all our kit sorted, , we put race nerves to one side and managed to have a decent night out in Leeds before turning out the light at erm….9pm.
One of the big decisions for people at Leeds was where to leave their car on the day of the event. Either leave it up at Roundhay or in the city centre. The former would require hassle at the end of the day, the latter, with additional hassle at the start. We were surprised to find that the shuttle buses on the morning of the event from Leeds city centre up to Roundhay were chargeable with a £4 round trip fare. Another expense which, with a race that was already expensive (for Olympic distance), felt that it could have been covered within the entry fee. So we got a taxi with a couple of fellow CTC folk.
Arriving at Roundhay, we were accosted by a BBC Radio Leeds presenter who ‘persuaded’ us to do an early morning interview. At the time, we thought this was live but I’m not convinced it ever made the light of day. It provided some entertainment for us at any rate with a few plugs for the club.
I was first out for the club with a 0712 start time. In fact, whilst it seemed early, the course was much quieter than for some of the later waves and turned out to be a bit of a positive. The swim was…great! Pretty much straight lines and only an odd little wiggle at the end that might have confused people during the briefing. The swans kept out of the way and without any jellyfish or pirhanas, it pretty much passed my test of ‘acceptable swim course’!
The fun and games began with an interesting T1. Later, Garmin analysis showed an initial 450m run (slight incline…) from the swim exit through to T1. Fortunately the bike was there, hadn’t been moved, no puncture – phew! Kit off/on – the next step was to pack up all your kit into your bag and run, with the bag, another 400m through to the bike mount line, throwing the bag to a helpful volunteer just before mounting. I thought I had a bit of a potty mouth but I heard quite a few choice phrases as cleats were ground and destroyed and the testosterone fuelled Alpha males ran along bare footed, one hand on their saddle, one hand with their bag and wincing with the gravel pain as they swivelled from one side of the path to the other.
After the race, there were a lot of ‘complaints’ about the hill start from the bike mount line. All I can say is that those folk can’t live in Calderdale. I’d say it was a slight incline – even I managed to jump on and clip in without mishap (although it challenged Javier Gomez later in the day…).
The bike route was….okay. Again, not my particular truc and the suburbs of Leeds are not particularly pretty. However, it was undulating with a few false flats that caught people out and a few narrow turns which required a bit of care and patience. Pot holes as standard for typical UK main roads. The biggest challenge here for me was keeping out of trouble – the waves seem to have been mixed and with lots of different abilities of cyclist on the course at any given time, it proved to be quite difficult not to draft (which several people took advantage of) and there were lots of opportunities for bike rage (had a pretty scary altercation with another lady cyclist who seemed to be quite without any respect for other racers). I was passed by Neil Pilling as I made my return to Roundhay and I still maintain if he hadn’t slowed up to chat, he could have made it higher on the podium. Made the mistake of cheering on a man who wasn’t my husband but hey ho it’s quite difficult to tell in race kit. I made good speed and overtook quite a few men in pointy hats – a sign of improved fitness on my part or men with all the gear etc, I’m not sure. At 8am on a Sunday morning, I wasn’t blessed with crowd support but Chairman Graham made up for that once I made it onto the run course. Apart from when he retired to Cafe Nero and cheered through the window.
Again, a longer than average run from the dismount line up to T2 but at least it was flat. Then began the 5 lap run around the city centre. Lots of support here and with each lap, there was an increase in cheering and motivation. Really great experience running through the grandstand area and whilst I had a bit of a challenge counting my laps, I had the ever reliable Garmin to remind me to go around again (would have been quite a PB!).
In fact, I had a good race. So I hope this account doesn’t come across as pessimistic. The lead up to the race was a little stressful due to the lack of information and the set-up on Saturday did require a few hours to get your head around the transitions. However, the actual event in itself, was good and on the day, all the organisation was faultless – with one exception, which I’ll come back to!
A highlight for me was crossing the blue carpet 5 times during the run and coming off down the finishing chute – just like the Brownlees would later in the day. I nearly felt like a proper triathlete.
One of my observations from the race was that there weren’t many freebies. Now, it’s not as if I need any more race t shirts or as if I haven’t got enough race belts. However, there was nothing, nada, zilch. At the finishing line there were orange segments and bananas and Erdinger (a surprisingly good post race drink, albeit alcohol free but I guess that’s the point). Not a lot else. The ‘Expo’ also felt a bit light on samples although we did take advantage of a few rounds of yoghurt.
Another highlight of being in an early wave was that my bags turned up at the end on time. I was able to get some warm clothes on and to pick up my wetsuit etc. It later transpired that for those in later waves, they would have to return to Roundhay as their bags had not made it to the city centre. A bit of a pain if you’d planned your day meticulously to try to have everything in the right place for the end.
Ultimately, I love the race reports. They help us to decide what races to do in future years and to give us an idea of what to expect. The WTS Leeds triathlon is unlikely to be repeated in this format as it is likely in 2017 it will revert to London. However, I would say that if this was your first Olympic Distance, don’t be put off by all the pre-race organisation. I’ve not done any race with this amount of faff and you can try plenty of other races without any of the complexity. Generally speaking, local races which may not have the ‘wow’ factor of the big ones, do have just as good organisation and they are friendlier and much more accessible if you are just starting out. It is rare in the Olympic distance to have two transitions and that does make it all a lot simpler. This sort of race would suit people who love the city circuits – established triathlons in our region include Salford and Liverpool which are similar (although one transition!) and the road closure does make a big difference to safety. For me, I’ve decided that I’m actually better suited to the likes of Ripon, Chester, Ellesmere and Newby Hall – they’re not technical bike courses and you can just get your head down and go for it (albeit in my case without tri-bars!)
We had some great club results and I was chuffed with 20th in my age group. I was never what you’d call sporty and to be honest, after each race that I do, I surprise myself with the fact that I’m doing it at all! But….it is strangely addictive and it’s a great personal challenge. I love the Sport England ‘This girl can’ campaign and I think I ought to be a poster girl for a new campaign – ‘if this girl can…’. But I’ll have to get back onto the chap at BBC Radio Leeds to plug that one a bit more!
On a final note. The elite races in the afternoon were absolutely amazing. Watching Alistair and Johnny come in first and second was fantastic and I was proud that the Yorkshire contingent gave just as much support to Gomez, Raphael and Royle. In the women’s race, the sheer guts of Flora Duffy was inspirational even if she was later surpassed by the inhuman running speed of Gwen Jorgensen. Watching the Elites was a real highlight of the weekend and we were fortunate to do it en-masse as a club and although Roger and Gary did keep disappearing for the odd pint, their running commentaries and race analysis was entertaining, witty and often just plain wrong. A top weekend.Leeds-ITU-Tri