When I entered a Facebook competition in June, I never thought in my wildest dreams that it would lead me to represent Great Britain in the ITU World Triathlon Age Groups Grand Final at Rotterdam in September but that’s exactly what it did! I basically won a competition for a free entry to the Llandudno Sea Triathlon on 25thJune which was an ITU World Sprint Distance Qualifier involving a 750m sea swim. 20km bike and a 5km run which I completed in 1 hour 31 minutes and 26 seconds. To my amazement my time was good enough to earn me a qualification place at the World Triathlon Age Group Championships in my age group 60-64 years. I was going to represent Team GB against triathletes from all corners of the globe. However my joy of representing my country was quickly given a quick jolt when I realised I was one of the slowest of the 20 GB Triathletes in qualification. Over the 3 months to Rotterdam I therefore trained really hard racking up over 100 hours of combined swimming, cycling and running.

I arrived in Rotterdam 5 days before the big event, allowing myself plenty of time to recce the courses and geography of the area; register and collect my race number. I even treated myself to a well earned leg massagewith the GB team therapist. The excitement began to build when I looked at the event programme and saw that I would be competing against triathletes from the USA, Australia, Mexico, Canada Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Ireland, some of whom I made aquatance with at the pre race Pasta Party

Race day had finally arrived and I put on m y team  GBR Tri Suit with my name proudly displayed front & rear.

The sprint race began with a 750m Open Water swim in the Rijnhaven which is one of the oldest ports on the south bank of the Nieuwe Maas River. My age group 60-64 years consisting of a wave of 61 competitors were ushered onto the pontoon in the middle of the river awaiting our start. Three waves of athletes of 60-100 peoplehad already gone before us with several groups of similar numbers still behind us waiting to swim. We were then directed to climb into the river and hold onto the Pontoon. A long blast of the airhorn signalled the start of our race. The river was fairly choppy & cool with a temperature around 17 degrees but the course easy to follow with big orange marker buoys showing the way to swim. I had a good strong swim exiting the water in 18th place in a respectable time of 13 minutes and 54 seconds.

Swimming was my stronger of the 3 disiplines so I knew I had to work really hard on the bike and the run to maintain this better than expected placing. Before getting on the bike I had a long run of about 700 metres along the carpeted route to transition, stripping my wetsuit down to my hips as I ran along. At this point my lungs were bursting as I gasped for air. Upon reaching my bike I quickly put on my bike helmet whilst standing on and kicking off my wetsuit. I was then required to put my wetsuit, swimcap and goggles into a blue supplied swim bag before I could leave transition. It took me several attempts to get my wetsuit into the bag’losing valuable seconds. Some triathletes who had exited the swim after me had sucessfully done this in one go and managed to get out before me in T1. I grabbed the bike off the rack and hastily made my way to the bike mount line. I then heard an official shout to me “Fasten your helmet”, in my haste to get of transition I completely forgot so quickly fastened it up. This worried me throughot the remainder of the race, as i kept thinking about being disqualified.

The  20km bike course was very technical with alot of tight corners, speed bumps, ramps and cobblestones in the roads. It also had narrow sections. The route also followed the Rotterdam cycle paths under & over bridgesand through tunnels. It was a course where you had to constantly look in front of you for the relevant dangers, you could not just put your head down and go hell for leather. From Transition the cycle route went over the Rijnhaven Bridge, along the docks then over the famous iconic 800 metre long Erasmus bridge. This bridge spans the Maas River and links the northern and southern parts of Rotterdam. The suspension bridge has a 139 metre high steel pylon secured with 40 cables. The shape of the pylon gives the bridge its nickname as the swan. After being almost alone for the first 8km of the bike course I managed to latch onto a group of 4 ridersfor the remainder of the course and could draft behind them as it was a draft legal race. This conserved me lot of energy for the final discipline the 5km run.The bike route finished at Parklaan where transition T2 was located and I completed the bike in a time of 38 minutes and 37 seconds, averaging 31.5kph.

The 5km run was around the winding paths of picturesque Het Park. I felt incredibly strong on the run and knew I was doing well as I caught and passed several triathletes in my age group. I finished the run in a time of 22 minutes and 21 seconds. My overall time for the 3 Disciplines of swim,bike,run was 1 hour 22 minutes and 40 seconds finishing in 22nd place out of a field of 61 Triathletes in my age group. The 3 months of hard training  leading up to the event had paid off as I was also the 6th GBR vest home of 17 British athletes.

Representing my country at the ITU World Triathlon Age Group Sprint Championships was a fantastic experience that I will remember for the rest of my life!   Kevin

Author: bassetlaw

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