World Triathlon Series London - James Eacott

World Triathlon Series London Hyde Park Open Race

Since the Olympics in 2012, Hyde Park has become an iconic triathlon venue and I’d been looking forward to racing here for months. Given it may be the last time the World Series is hosted here, I was keen to soak in the atmosphere the event has become famous for.

Kerry and I travelled up on Saturday with her 2 eldest kids – Andrew and Maya – and we had a fun exploring Piccadilly like tourists!

On race morning, I cycled across the park while necking a couple of Beet It shots and felt nicely chilled. This was a B race as the focus is on Deva in 2 weeks. I registered with the friendliest marshalls I’ve ever experienced and racked my bike.

I hooked up with K, the kids and my folks for a coffee and calf massage (using oil from the burger van as lube). It must have been a great rub because I lost track of time and before I knew it I was pulling on my gorgeous Huub Archimedes. I’ve fallen quickly love with my Huub, if she were a real woman I’d worry we were getting too serious too soon.

Anyway, we’ve gelled well and the relationship is blossoming. She lets me move so freely and holds me perfectly balanced in the water. The perfect combination. I used to have a mid-range Ocra and the difference is immeasurable in both comfort and speed.

I said farewell to my epic contingent of supporter’s and joined the rest of my green-hatted wave in the holding pen.

I didn’t leave myself enough time for a thorough warm up, just a couple of minutes to swing my arms around before we were led to the pontoon. Unlike the Elites who are allowed a diving start, us Open Race athletes weren’t to be trusted to perform such skills. We were told to jump in and hold onto the pontoon for 60 seconds before the start.

The klaxon sounded and I found clear water quickly. It was a small wave of 50 with mixed age, gender and ability so we spread out nicely. Having had no warm up, the first 200m were horrid. I felt my HR shoot the roof and my breathing become erratic, but I managed to get things under control by kicking less and focussing on technique. After 500m I felt comfortable and was able to focus on pushing harder rather than surviving! Oly distance swims are just a little short for me – I take too long to settle and really hit my pace just as I have to haul myself out. I exited in 21 minutes which, if the course an accurate 1500m, is a sound swim.

A long 600m run led me to a smooth transition where I managed to execute a decent mount onto my Boardman. Each of the 5 x 8km loops included 2 hairpins and 4 sharp corners so it wasn’t my perfect course (I prefer to get my head down and not have to think about such obstacles like corners) but I really enjoyed it and felt strong out the saddle as I exited each corner.

I cannot believe the difference between the Boardman and my old Cannondale. It is so nippy, spritely and responsive – so like a road bike – but with the aerodynamics of a concord. I love it.

Being an Open Race, the range of abilities was vast. Overtaking is always fun, and I took as much enjoyment passing Age Groupers on their P5’s as much as I did 83-year old Doris on her sit-up-and-beg 1950’s Raleigh. The bike was pretty uneventful, for which I was thankful, because it was heaving down and windy. There were some 40 crashes in just a couple of hours – I’m surprised there weren’t more. The conditions were grim and the days of rain beforehand made the route treacherous. My childhood BMX days served me well as I held onto skids through a couple of bends. I found a cracking groove, felt strong, and gained a lot from the support along the route.

I dismounted and ran into T2 having not been overtaken by anyone, despite Doris’ best efforts to draft me.

The run was the focus for me today. I wasn’t here to bury myself (this was a B race) but I have worked hard under the guidance of Blair to get my running nailed so I was keen to see the produce of my labour!

I set out at 05:20mm and within 800m slowed as I knew I hadn’t worked that hard on my run yet! I settled around 05:45 and found a comfortably uncomfortable place. The route around the Serpentine was deceptive: around the back of the lake there were no supporters and the path grinded uphill just enough to take the bounce out of my stride.

Just like the bike, I found a good cadence and stuck with it. I was passed once, but overtook them back before the finish (a fellow AG’er I’d met in Edmonton). Down the blue carpet and under the finish, I was in the least amount of pain I’ve ever been in on a finish line. I was pleased with my 10k (which was something around 36:20) and I’d really enjoyed the atmosphere.

It was awesome having Andrew and Maya there, but it changes the dynamics. I’m not a parent, so this will be obvious to those who are, but I’m learning fast that priorities change drastically when kids are involved. When Kerry and I travel to race, it’s so chilled and we can be selfish and focus on ourselves. It’s a luxury. But when there’s little people too, it’s not that simple. Despite having a couple of extra bods to think about to ensure they’re watered, fed, warm and dry, I wouldn’t have it any other way. They were fantastic helping me get ready and were a great source of motivation. As were my parents…they never miss a race and I love that they get something positive from watching me compete.

As we sat watching the Elites later in the day, Kerry found the results and a broad smile crept across my face as I found out I’d come 5th overall out of about 1,500. I realise it’s nothing like the field that’ll be at the Nat Champs in 2 weeks, but I’m delighted nonetheless.

I cannot wait to pitch myself against some of the best in the country at Deva to see where I’m at… Having Blair in my corner this year has already reaped huge benefits, the season has got off to a cracking start.