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Cycling Plus Editor and Team Triathlon Plus-Boardman member, Rob Spedding, relives the Virgin Active London Triathlon.

Like a Gremlin, Rob and water shouldn't mix

It was a feat of endurance but Team Triathlon Plus-Boardman did it! Yes, in less than three hours James, Adrian and Rob managed to move the Cycling Plus Skoda less than two miles…

The traffic around London’s Excel as we made our way to the Virgin Active London Triathlon on Saturday was horrific and, once we finally arrived late in the evening, three quarters of TTPB agreed that they’d spent more than enough time in each others’ company. Luckily once the race got underway next day we’d have at least three hours apart…

So, dear reader, other than the traffic how was my first ever triathlon? Well, when I tell you that experimenting with the Skoda’s SatNav and air-con just to annoy James and the duck tongues and sea cucumber at the Chinese restaurant were a highlight of the weekend you’ll get a pretty good idea. I had, of course, gone into the event with crushingly low expectations. They should have been lower. Much lower.

The problem was the swim. God knows I’ve tried with swimming, I’ve spent more time in Bath’s municipal pool changing rooms than I’m comfortable with. I’ve frozen half to death during a practically Arctic first open water swimming session, and cursed – in between mouthfuls of  brown water – as my team ’mates’ Adrian, James and Tom have left me for, literally, dead during swim sessions.

Sure occasionally – okay once – I’ve been for a swim and got out thinking “Yeah, this is just about a bearable thing to do with 45 minutes…” but more often than not swimming has come close in pleasure terms to being trapped for all eternity in a One Direction concert. Next to Michael McIntyre. On Sunday I’d have taken that eternity over the 47-minutes-ish I spent in Royal Victoria Dock.

I’m not going to mention the rain just yet – we were swimming, we were going to get wet anyway – and it wasn’t actually too cold but boy was it slow. Okay, was I slow… I quite sensibly decided to take it easy, but I probably should have also decided to take it in a straight line. I can’t be sure as I failed to fire up my Garmin but I reckon that I swam an extra 1500m on top of race distance. That would certainly explain a swim time of around 45-minutes. At one point I reckon a tectonic plate over took me… The only highlight of my time in the water was having a personal canoe escort – think they were hoping for a bit of rescue action!

After being dragged from the water and cramping up nicely I found my bike. I dithered a bit with clothing choices as the rain was hammering it down but I’m glad I went for the gilet option. This meant that I stayed reasonably dry and vaguely warm for my hour and twelve minutes in the saddle. By now the weather was horrific. If it’d been my Sunday morning ride, I’d have bailed after the first five minutes – horizontal rain and sidewinds that turned bikes with disc wheels into little more than expensive windbreaks. After the hell of the swim, though, the ride was close to bliss…

Transition wasn’t though – nobody warned me about the weird numb feet that you get when transferring from cleat to EVA! In theory the run leg should be my strongest – despite being the editor of Cycling Plus my sporting background is in running.

And, in practice, it was. Perhaps it was because the end was in sight, or maybe because the slow swim hadn’t taken much out of me, but I felt pretty good. That feeling was aided by the fact that the crowded nature of the run meant that I was constantly overtaking. I also got a tiny boost from seeing JamHam and Adrian a couple of times. They were a couple of laps ahead, but I’m pretty sure I was catching them! And despite the weather the crowds were great too – running through Excel gave a welcome respite from the rain but also an instant pick-me-up thanks to the cheering. I even managed a little sprint to the finish to end my triathlon career…

…Well, my Olympic distance triathlon career. I now have a PB (of sorts) for the distance and that’s likely to stay in place for a long time to come. Swimming 1500m just isn’t for me. But I reckon 750m or 400m might be okay so perhaps a sprint or supersprint next year. And then there are duathlons. No swimming at all. Sounds good to me. is the online home of Triathlon Plus. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

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