Getting to the venue was an interesting journey in itself. The road closures were already in place so we had to do a long loop into the venue. The organisers had done a fantastic job and every aspect of preparing to race went smoothly, or as smoothly as possible in a venue that size utilising mostly volunteers.
We queued up in the swim assembly. Me and 300 other men in my age group. One guy that I got chatting to suggested that I keep an eye open for the billingsgate turn on the first cycle loop as he had missed it and added 15km onto his ride the previous year.
At the instructed time we walked outside onto a pontoon in the dock and we were instructed to jump in as quickly as possible. I balked it a couple of times before just jumping in. I sank quite deep, but the wetsuit buoyancy popped me back out on the surface quite quickly.
At the horn we started swimming. For the first 100 metres or so people kept bumping into me a one guy swam straight though me. As a result of the crowding I kept my head up and swam a slower crawl than I expected to. This stroke with my head up caused the wetsuit to rub the back of my neck and I realised that I would need to swim my practiced stroke if I was to get around without wearing through the skin on my neck. I settled for around 20 strokes of open water front crawl, with a pause of paddling on the surface to check directions and surroundings before another 20.
After what seemed like an age I reached the buoy for the turn. Thankfully the second side of the loop was much shorter, maybe only 20 metres. At this point I started to need a wee. The only snag was that I couldn't wee and swim. Each time I stopped to try, one of the lifeguards on the kayaks would check if I was OK. In the end I just put me head down and started swimming the stroke that I had planned.
Before I knew it it was all over and I was climbing out of the water. One of the assistants asked if I wanted help with the wetsuit zip. Thank you yes.
At this point I realised that Sophie was watching. The volunteers held open a bag for me to put my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap. There was a 200 metre jog to the bike racks
I took my time getting dried and changed. I was only a few from the back in my wave anyway so I thought I'd dry off and double check I'd got everything. The bike section was actually really pleasant. The route went from Excel up to Westminster on closed roads. The usual motley crew of time trial bikes, road bikes, the odd single speed and even a mountain bike. The route came back past Excel and then up to Billingsgate. It was lovely except I still needed a wee.
I'd spotted my parents with Sophie by this point which I was pleased about but I'm also embarrassed when I'm being watched.
I don't normally get to ride quickly in London so the closed wide roads and the empty roundabouts were an absolute joy. That said the last 50 were a climb up a ridged ramp to the first floor of the excel.
I'd felt pretty good on the bike but the moment I got off I realised the run wasn't going to be easy. My foot which had been uncomfortable all week was now painful to run on. I had just 3 laps of the running circuit to go but I was thinking that finishing this was going to be something of a challenge.
Running is by and large a solitary venture...Unless you are running on the same narrow path with a thousand other people, whose friends and family are screaming support. The other runners were either going for it or hurting by this point. Everyone was also suffering from wind. Too many gels and sugary snacks. I however also still needed a wee.
I had to walk up the ramp back into the excel on all three laps but was pleased to have run the rest. Warren had joined my folks by this point so I was even more embarrassed but happy to see him.
As I crossed the finish I heard them announce my completion over the tannoy and I was presented with a medal. I declined the alcohol free beer and headed straight for a long overdue toilet stop.
I could barely walk but was happy to have completed my first triathlon.