My plans for Dusseldorf had been in place for months; fly to Dusseldorf for work on the Tuesday then stay for the weekend and race. Unfortunately work got in the way and I had to attend a Sales Meeting in Munich from the Monday – Wednesday. Cue much worrying about getting my bike around Europe and not getting damaged or lost. It was a great relief to see it appear in the airport in Dusseldorf on Wednesday night.
I had a chance on Thursday evening to take part in the Dusseldorf Business Run with work. 12000 people running a 6K. I had a nice easy run and my legs felt OK and it was good to run off sitting in a Sales meeting in 35 degree heat from the start of the week.
On Friday night everything started to begin for the weekend build up. Registration first which was nice and easy and then the official opening ceremony with the athletes parade. At this point you realise how big Team GB is with roughly 300 athletes.
On Saturday morning we had the team briefing at the team hotel. I left it thinking if you can get around this course without getting a penalty it will be a miracle! It wasn’t the most inspiring briefing.
The elite race was on Saturday afternoon so we watched the start of the female race then headed back to the hotel. Kirst was with me so she went out shopping while I relaxed in the hotel room.
I had a war film with Christian Bale to watch which I thought would be a good distraction. Unfortunately it was a really slow film and I spent time just thinking about the race. Batman isn’t supposed to make boring films! I would have been as well to go shopping.
We could get a swim recce at 3.30 so I headed down for this and chose the non-wetsuit option as there were rumours the water was too warm and it would be compulsory for the race, disaster for me. With this out the way I was just wanting to get on with it.
On Sunday morning my race was the 2nd last heat at 9.10am. You had to be out of transition though by 7.45 due to the earlier heats. I woke up to find it had rained all night and the Facebook page already said it was wetsuit choice swim. Good start to the day.
I walked down to the transition area and set up the rest of my kit then went to the athletes lounge. The word lounge suggests to a Brit there will be a nice comfy sofa to relax in but this is far from the case. Lots of wooden benches and portaloos. This was the same lounge for the elites the day before so being an elite triathlete may not be as glamorous at times as it sounds.
We got marshalled from our holding pens to the start line. In the briefing we had been told we would be walked onto the pontoon in the order we were lined up in. I had stayed near the back as that should mean I would be lined up on the left where I wanted to be. Once I got on the pontoon everyone had just gone where they wanted so I ended up in the middle now expecting a lot of contact in the swim.
I was lined up next to one of the Team GB people who had said his swim target was 11 minutes when we were chatting in the holding pen so I decided I would try and draft him for as long as possible knowing he was a lot quicker than me.
The swim start was actually very clean and I held the person I was targeting for the first 200m before getting dropped.
The swim course was a large rectangle and as I came around the 2nd buoy I lined up on my sighting marker from the day before. Now though one of the bridge pillars seemed to be in the way. I felt I should go to the left of the pillar but everyone else was going right so I followed the crowd. When I looked at my swim track after the race from my Garmin I thought I maybe should have gone left.
As I went under the bridge I suddenly felt my hand hit something hard. The bridge pillar support base was only just under the water. I jumped back to my right off it back into deeper water.
As you exit the water there were 66 steps to climb up before a 300m run to T1. It felt hard already. I had an OK transition and started the 400m run with my bike to the mount line as I was right near the entrance.
Once I started on the bike I immediately felt my legs weren’t great. I was struggling to hold the speed I wanted. In a local race my pace would have still been good enough to overtake a large amount of people but at this level I was making no headway. I got overtaken by a group of 4 people with a motor bike sitting right behind them. I dropped back the 10m draft requirement assuming they would all get yellow carded but it didn’t happen.
The good thing was the roads were now dry as there had been some crashes in the earlier races with the wet roads.
I kept pushing on the bike hoping my legs would free up but not a lot was happening.
Through the 400m transition to get out on the run course again. The run course was fairly flat but I couldn’t get the leg turnover I wanted so it was time to just grit it out. Once through the initial straight it was a 2 lap course though it was difficult to tell who was in your age group and who wasn’t. I pushed on as best I could working not to be the last Team GB member. It gave me a challenge to focus on and fortunately I managed.
I hadn’t had the race I had wanted but overall it was a great experience to take part in.
After getting some lunch and chilling out we went back to the expo in the afternoon for the medals and closing ceremony. It was very impressive to see the Russian man who had won the 80-85yr old category, he jumped up and down off the podium more sprightly than I would have done!