Two years since my last Triathlon, I finally donned my wetsuit once more and took part in the Brownlee Triathlon, which is organised in conjunction with the Brownlee Brothers, Olympic Gold & bronze Medallists in 2012, Alistair & Jonny. I had gone for this event as the final challenge I would do as a thirty something, as the following weekend would be the 40-40-40 marathon.
The event took place on the grounds of Harewood House, just north of Leeds, in the territory of where the Brownlee's train. With a 9:30 start, I was up not long after 6am to drive over that morning as you register on arrival then have a bike to rack, stick labels on everything to show it's yours as well as two tattoos to go on your arm and leg and even the supporters can be "tagged" (though I had none on this occasion!). Once that's all done, it's a case of remember to go to the toilet before getting into your wetsuit and heading to your briefing before your wave begins. (Running only is much less hassle!)
With all this complete, I was in the first wave of the day at 9:30am. As I'd racked and packed so to speak, I had chatted to my neighbour, who duly took a picture for me. He seemed much more on the ball and up for it and, I discovered, I was starting in what was the "mates" wave - yet I seemed to be the only one mateless! (yes, lots of ah's!!). Our pre start briefing wasn't delivered with as much confidence as I'd have liked. Lots of emphasis on Health & Safety (I lost count how many times he referred us back to that being the reason for everything) but then he seemed unconcerned when question on two important aspects of the event - did we cycle left and overtake on the right (He'd contradicted our pre race pack and didn't seem concerned which way round it was!) and the drafting rules. (In theory no drafting allowed but no one would have a 4 minute penalty if they did!) or those unfamiliar with triathlon rules, Fust remember they are concerned for your health & safety! (I am grateful for this but the point was laboured somewhat!)
All dressed in wetsuit ready to go and my arm, branded with my race number
We headed to the pontoon for the start - with Alistair & Jonny on hand to send us on our way (an advantage of being on the first wave). As we walked down the pontoon, they wished us well. First thing - lower yourself into the "deep water" start - to discover it's not as deep as expected and your waiting in what felt like sludge under my feet. Thankfully the hooter sounded fairly quickly and off we went. Well, off went most the others and I followed behind. However, it seemed most of us took a while to adjust to the water temperature before putting our faces under. To add to the coolness, was the fact it was relatively shallow and you could feel the tentacles catching your hands as you swam.
As I passed the half way stage of the swim I actually caught up two other swimmers and passed them, to mean at least 5 people would be behind me after the swimming leg. As someone who is still lame at swimming, not being last out the water cheers me immensely. I also got a good cheer as I emerged from the lake (which was odd as it seemed almost too shallow to swim to the exit ramp but not clear if you could stand up and walk or if it would be more sludge!). I ran up to my bike (Transition one) and as I was battling out of my wet suit and into my cycle top, (Thank you to the other participant who helped on both as I had a bit of a strop!), I heard the MC announce the first swimmer from the second wave exiting (given they'd started 20 minutes behind us and I'd taken 25 minutes to swim, I realised how slow I am).
Top: Lucas swimming away in the distance after the Brownlee’s have started the race.
Middle: exiting from the swim
Bottom: View from transition (taken after race!)
Out of my wetsuit and transition, I mounted my bike and straight up a hill to start the four laps of the 27km cycle. For once I had changed the gears ready for a hill start. The loop went past the House and through the estate on some potholed roads, covered cattle grids (which had not the smoothest of ramps as you hit them!) and round some tight turns, with a climb as you reached the end of the loop. I was questioned if I was stuck in gear by one rider - reflecting the fact I am not known for changing gear a lot. This did back fire though as I failed to drop down enough on one corner and came to stand still on my second lap briefly. I was using a borrowed bike (thanks to Paul) as my bike was stolen a few weeks before the event, and I was still getting used to it. I also hadn't thought to raise the handle bars so was finding a bit of back ache as I was stopped too far over.
That all said, I was passing a number of other cyclists and also getting passed, including a few with GBR on their trisuits, suggesting they competed internationally in some capacity. (reflected in how they would sail past us on the hill whilst we were struggling to get over the summit!). I maintained a good pace for the four laps though, got the gears sorted to cope better with the hills and completed the cycle in just under the hour. My second transition was a lot faster as all I had to do was rack my bike and remove my helmet (and nearly went the wrong way as I misunderstood the marshall's pointing!)
Heading out onto the 5.5km run
My legs felt like lead as I headed into the run, but I was soon overtaking other runners, and maintaining a good pace considering how my legs felt! I had one runner pass me but I kept on his heels for a while and about 3.7km into the run of 5.5km a guy flew past me. I noted his name as Teagle GBR on his top and thought I may have heard his name before (I had certainly seen it when he hurtled past me on the bike earlier, so he had clearly been from a later wave start as he passed me on my last lap). As I headed into the finish straight I lost a little ground on the other runner, passed another and had two more belt past me. I had finished in 1:57:19, slower than I had set myself to do, but I had underestimated the course (London 2013 was flat) and not allowed that the distances were a bit further. Nevertheless, I was pleased with my result.
As I headed back to collect my bike, wetsuit et al, I met the guy whom I was chatting to at the start, who was chatting to Alistair Brownlee. I retrieved my phone and went for a picture and to say hello! (and introduced myself as the nut who'd been tweeting about gold post boxes a year ago). Adam (The name of the guy I'd been chatting to) duly did the honours (It seemed his job was to take pictures for me) and I discovered he'd finished in 1:42:34. It seemed fitting to then get a picture with him as well, as he was a friendly chap and had enquired how I'd done and listened with interest to the 40-40-40 plan and how this was my swansong as a thirty something.
With Adam after we’d both finished the event
The day didn't quite end there though. Jonny Brownlee then appeared so I also went up and spoke to him and got a picture just before he had to great his team finishing the relay race. The Brownlee boys were being great, chatting to everyone very freely, Alastair wondering about in his plaster cast from his foot operation. As I headed back to my car, "Teagle GBR" passed me so I went and asked how he did. I discovered he had finished in 1:14:22 and was a Youth (under 21) and did indeed compete internationally, but self funded. (He started 40 minutes after me, which just made me feel even slower!) (You have to get top ten at world level to get UK sport funding I discovered). I wished him well and would be looking out for him at Tokyo in 2020. When I checked the results, it turned out he'd actually won the entire day! I was impressed how reserved he was considering that result!
Overall, an enjoyable day and a great course for spectators (if you have them with you). I may even go back for another go next year! The irony of the day was my result stated I was in the 40-44 age category - Triathlon's take your age as of 31 December that year so my swansong as a thirty something felt cheated!
Above: With Jonny Brownlee
Left - London 2012 Gold Medallist - Alistair Brownlee
Left - Just after the start of lap two on the bikes; Right - entering the final lap - both show Lucas does actually change gear!
Overlooking the whole course transistion zone, lake on right, run in forground and cycle exit in distance