Dartford Bridge Olympic Triathlon – June 27th 2021
I’ll open by saying I enter these events with excitement, only to forget that it’ll invariably involve a 3:30am start…but I didn’t let that dampen the mood! The morning of the race I felt very calm. This being my second triathlon helped as I felt I had the basics down, plus everything packed the night before.
This was an Olympic Distance event, which excited me but I was also keen to see just how much my swimming had improved. Bit of background context, my first race was a Sprint Triathlon 3 months ago (April 2021) and I could barely swim 400m in a pool without gasping for breath. Now almost quadruple that length and make it an open water swim…this was going to be interesting!
4:15am and myself and Ellie (Girlfriend/No.1 fan) were on our way to Dartford (if you’re unfamiliar with Dartford, it’s an exotic location in Kent). Drive took 45 minutes and after an easy check-in (which also involved receiving my ‘finishers t-shirt’ prior to finishing… I could have left at that point but I knew Richard would be checking my stats!) I was over to the transition area.
This event felt really well organised and I’m always surprised just how nice the other competitors are. The aim of this race was to get a good time, although I do remember saying to Ellie “what’s the point of entering if you don’t win?”…but that was the early morning talking! Looking around I saw a few guys putting their wetsuits on, thank goodness I packed mine last minute because I thought it was a non-wetsuit event! I was blessed it was firstly because I’d paid a fair wedge buying and trying on various wetsuits just for this (and future) events and it also provides buoyancy, just in case I ended up slowly drowning in the lake!
Despite not being a mass start into the lake, it quickly became mass brawl of 200+ competitors from both the sprint and Olympic distanced events. Despite being wary of the lake swim, this was actually my favourite part, despite being kicked in the face and almost knocking my goggles off…my fault for drafting looking for some free speed! I started over taking a few competitors and quickly started to think “perhaps I should go pro?”. Maybe it was too soon for these thoughts! 1000m in my arms were a little tired but I felt so much better than expected as I latched onto the draft of a similarly paced athlete, who essentially carried me the final 500m. I felt good and all the practice with Coach Richard’s guidance paid dividend and I exited the water 43 rd (middle of the pack), which was far better than the last place I thought I was going to get… believe in yourself Alex! 1500m in 30 minutes 20 seconds, a personal best and one very sore nose! Annoyingly, I was so happy with the swim time my Garmin watch was showing that I forgot to take off my wetsuit during transition until the last minute… concentration will be something to work on!
Straight onto the bike dripping with quality Dartford lake water. This was a pacey closed road event (brilliant!), with a couple of long straights down the motorway and a few tricky corners, which suited the brilliance of the System Six nicely. I felt strong and found that I was over taking competitors with snazzy looking TT bikes. I ended up in a pack of three TT riders and we continuously overtook each other for the remaining 3 laps of 6…until we were flagged for drafting by one of the race coordinators! I made a bit of an error by forgetting how many laps I’d done and ended up shouting “I DON’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP?!”, which garnered a few laughs from the decent turnout of a ‘crowd’…turns out I had one more lap left. Another error, was attempting to dismount and my shoe fell off the bike (in front of the same crowd) only for a very helpful spectator having to throw the shoe at me over the fence into the transition area!
Straight off the bike and into the run. Poor signage meant I ran to the wrong end of the transition zone only to have to run back to start to run (does that count towards the 10k?). The first 2k I kept my heart rate below 170bpm, but soon my left leg really started to burn up. I’ve been having ankle and knee problems for a while now, but this feeling was something I’ve never felt before and it was aching big time. I didn’t stop and ran through the pain which lasted for the vast bulk of the run. Annoyingly, it really hindered my pace and I couldn’t pick it up with the final 3-4k as intended, so instead chose to main the steady painful pace I was going. Funnily enough, on the second lap past the spectators, someone shouted “you’re the floral tri guy that lost his shoe”…making an impression as always! “Floral Tri Guy”, I like it. Thinking about a total Instagram re-branding with that name took my mind off the pain of my left leg, which had transferred to the bottom of my foot at this point… oh, the joys of triathlon! I managed to get a fairly decent 10k time of 46 minutes, but ideally I wanted to be somewhere near 40 minutes… there’s always next time!
Overall, great time! Dartford Bridge Triathlon was a great event and really well managed (even if they didn’t give out medals), would fully recommend! Will certainly do this event again to prove to myself I can achieve a better result.
Bring on Bolton Ironman 70.3!