Like probably half of the field, I originally entered Leeds Standard Triathlon back in 2019 for the 2020 iteration of the race. It was billed as a qualifier for Worlds 2021, and I didn’t fancy any of the other races on offer.
Fast-forward 18 months and a pandemic, and imagine my shock when I got an email containing my start wave! I had assumed (it turns out wrongly) that as COVID was still knocking around and we weren’t fully unlocked, it would be delayed another year. Or at least another few months. So there was me, merrily ignoring all of the emails with “Leeds” in the title. But nope – I had just 2 weeks to prepare!!
Like most of the UK, I had very limited swim training in the bag due to pool closures. I had at least managed to continue swimming during lockdown #1 with a DIY swim tank in the garden and access to the local lake. I had continued running throughout, and taken part in a LOT of high intensity Zwift racing with KISS race team and Socks4Watts. But, I had also suffered a major bout of depression and lost around a stone in weight over winter, something which I’m still recovering from.
Nevertheless, I agreed with my friend Chris to get to the start line and “have a go”. Sadly, we realised the night before when we were in the pub (like true athletes) that we’d both forgotten to register our interest to qualify, having assumed that we’d done it when we originally entered in 2019. Oops. A quick email to the managers to see if there was any COVID leniency, but alas not. C’est la vie.
The trip itself was a mixture of stress and hilarity, with a weenie bit of an accommodation issue and massive delays on race morning due to some interesting car park marshalling. Chris unfortunately missed his start, as did many others, but as it was a rolling swim entry it didn’t really matter. I made my way down to the pontoon, braiding my hair as I walked, boshed a gel back and then I was off! I quite enjoyed the swim without its usual washing machine start. I settled into a nice pace early on and managed to find several pairs of feet and hips along the way. Interestingly, I exited the water in the best OWS pace I’ve done in 2 years… lockdown swim technique training had paid off 🙂 After a looong jog to transition, and a mildly comedic attempt at a running mount (sorry pedicure!), I made my way around the 36km bike course. My Garmin never found my power meter, so the whole thing was done on feel. I didn’t get the best speed, but it was a reasonably technical course with lots of dead turns and undulations, so coming away with 3rd fastest female 35-39 on the bike wasn’t too bad. By the time we got onto the run, it was muggy and I really wasn’t sure how it would pan out. Again, it was a very undulating route with some thigh-burning hills. However, I managed to mostly overtake rather than be overtaken, and didn’t start to fade until part-way through the final lap.
I found Chris who had also had a reasonable race, and we retrieved our stuff from transition, before someone text me to say congratulations on my bronze at the British Champs – say whaaaat?! Amazing! That more than made up for lack of a qualification spot in my eyes 😀
Would I do Leeds again? Probably. The undulating nature suited my strengths, and the run was mixed terrain and quite enjoyable. Parking was a nightmare on race morning, and this will be fed back to the organisers. However, there were lots of positive moves towards making the event more environmentally friendly and sustainable (wooden medal, biodegradable packaging on race merch), the atmosphere was great with spectators allowed, and we got to top it all off with inspiring performances from the paras and elites.