I entered Leeds for the experience of riding on closed roads on the same route as the elites. The organisation was pretty confusing, but I loved the whole day! It took me some time to get my head around registration and the two transitions and we did end up driving in circles around Leeds city centre quite a few times over the weekend.
I setup my transitions on the Saturday. At both transitions, you were given a bag for shoes etc. Bikes were racked in your wave on a first come, first served basis. So it was good to be near the beginning of the queue and having my bike right at one end of the racking. Putting everything in a bag was strange.
Sunday morning I got a lift to the lake, so didn’t try out the shuttle bus. I deposited a third bag with a change of clothes for after and waited in the queue for the start. Each wave was quite small. We started from the pontoon, rather than a mass start. We didn’t get to dive in, but had to get in and then hold onto the pontoon with one hand. My swim was terrible. I hadn’t realised how slowly I usually start off because I keep near the back on a mass start. Instead I got carried away and sprinted off. Then had to breaststroke for a while to recover my breathing. Not a great moment. Once I’d recovered, the swim was fine – the water was still and a good temperature.
Out of the water and a 400m run to transition. Hard. Then as well as removing wetsuit, etc, etc, you had to pack all discarded belongings in the transition bag and carry it to the mount line 500m away. Even harder. I have an old time trial bike with a very small selection of gears and I was very worried about the start of the bike since it went straight up hill. However, it was fine.
I loved the bike course. Pretty technical with fast downhills, lots of cornering and cyclists everywhere. All very well sign posted.
As I got into the run transition, I realised I hadn’t paid enough attention and had no idea where my bike was. I think I’d got over enthusiastic on the bike and was pretty tired. I finally got sorted and set out on the run. Unfortunately I didn’t really appreciate the amazing atmosphere through Leeds city centre; my run was just too weak and I really struggled. The low point came at the start of the second lap. I knew I had to run past the finish. So when I looked at the screen showing everyone finishing, I ran the other way. Unfortunately the screen was above the transition area. So I was plodding down the finish funnel. Had to stop. Turn round and carry on. Embarrassing.
I found all the volunteers everywhere really helpful. Unfortunately they were completely overwhelmed with the task of handing out our transition bags. I was lucky and had a spare hoodie to wear but I think a lot of people had nothing. When I saw the number of people waiting to get their bags, I decided to come back after the elites had raced. We’d booked grandstand seats for the two races and got a fantastic view of two amazing races. After the ladies’ race, I discovered that only the standard distance bags had been brought over from the lake. All sprint distances had to go back to the park to pick them up. We did this on our way home after the men’s race. It was a pain, but because I was with other people, it was manageable.
Certainly a very different event to any I’ve entered before. A lot of preparation and confusion, but worth it.