EVENT ANALYSIS: Leeds ITU Triathlon

After months of planning and preparation, the first ‘A Race’ of the year came round for a lot of the Vikings athletes at the Leeds ITU Triathlon, in both Sprint and Standard races.

Gwen Leeds2016 saw the first change of World Triathlon Series UK venue from Hyde Park, London, to Leeds, as the flagship event for UK triathlon. Featuring both open and elite races, across junior, Go Tri, Sprint, Standard and Relay events, the weekend saw over 5000 competitors from all over the world taking the opportunity to compete on the same course as the world’s best.

Brownlees LeedsHosted on a course taking in some of the main sights of Leeds, with a significant Yorkshire feel, the event was looking to build on the success and popularity of the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire events that the county has hosted in recent years. It also saw the return of both Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee to elite triathlon competition, and to their home town, in their preparations for Rio 2016.

The course was a split transition setup, with T1 at Roundhay Park Swim Start, and T2 in the City Centre. Starting with a swim in Roundhay Park’s Waterloo Lake, the bike course wound into the city, finishing with a multi-lap run around the city centre through the cheering crowds of Leeds! Each run lap crossed the infamous blue carpet in front of the grandstand and noisy crowds, with the run leg completed in front of the big screen.

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For Vikings Naiomi Saunders, Felicity Caddick, Susie Foster, Lorna Watson, Heather Blakey, Anne Lewis, Rob Jamison, Dave Burrows, Mike Evans, Phil Caddick and Steven Dews, it was the culmination of months of hard work, long sessions, and meticulous preparation that had brought them to the event. All training over the winter and spring period had led to this event, and there was a mix of excitement and nervousness in the air as race day approached.

Phil LeedsThe weekend’s events took place over both Saturday and Sunday, with Phil Caddick the first Viking up to take his place on the start line, in Saturday’s Go Tri event. Cheered on as ever by his teammate and wife Felicity, Phil, who (in his own words!) was looking forward to the event as something for a “fat old man with a bad back and dodgy knees to feel competitive in”. Go Tri events are a fantastic opportunity for all abilities and especially beginners triathletes to really get their teeth into triathlon, something Yorkshire Vikings as a club are very much embracing, hosting our very own Go Tri events later in the year. Phil was impressed with the competitors taking part, with each of them showing “sheer enthusiasm, and even when super nervous, they were desperate to give it a go”. Phil completed the event, comprising of 200m swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run in 00:55:42.

For the Sunday competitors, preparations began on the Saturday, with the course design for the ITU event being over a split transition setup. Many of the athletes unfortunately commented on the complicated nature of the event only serving to increase nerves, but all Vikings managed to successfully get everything set up on the day before, to prevent any last minute logistical disasters pre-event!

This preparation was that bit more important for the first two Vikings of the day on the start line in the standard distance race, Naiomi Saunders and Felicity Caddick, who thought they had drawn the short straw with a 7am race start time….having to rise at 3am to begin race day preparations. Though, as it would turn out later in the day, that would prove to be a good thing, as they were two of the only Vikings to get their bags delivered back on time! But we won’t dwell on that subject…

Naiomi LeedsNaiomi had a great time, particularly on the hilly bike course, “squealing with glee on the downhills, reaching 34mph!”. Naiomi’s race was also saw a great example of the kindness you can expect in the triathlon community, with a good samaritan helping her get her shoe on the bike whilst moving uphill. Naiomi very proudly finished the 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run standard distance course in 03:09:28.

Felicity LeedsFelicity also braved the 3am start to the day with the same standard distance race. The early start had absolutely no impact on her speed out of the blocks, as she completed a 1500m swim PB in 00:33:33. Unfortunately the complicated logistics of the day included an unusually long T1 for everybody, with only the fastest of the day managing anything less than 5 minutes, and Felicity was another sufferer of the length of transition, robbing her of her desired sub 3 hour time. Felicity finished in a time of 03:02:23.

Next up was Heather Blakey, who came into the race dreading the swim the most, but came away from that discipline with a huge positive for the day, swimming a 1500m PB of 34 minutes. After putting in a great swim, and negotiating the run to T1, which Heather commented was “more tiring than the swim”, the race took a very unlucky turn for the worse, as Heather’s chain snapped 2 miles into her bike section. Extremely bad luck and an extremely disappointing finish for Heather, who, like all the other Vikings, had been looking forward to ITU Leeds race day.  Heather proved on her swim section that all her hard work and training had been a success – on to the next event Heather!

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Race number 1157 was Steven Dews, who also took his place on the standard distance start line. A seasoned triathlete, Steven used the Leeds race as a training session and benchmark for his goal of GB qualifier status Steven finished the race in a very impressive 02:19:31….watch this space for Steven at The Dambusters ITU qualifying event on Saturday 18th June.

Rob LeedsThe Leeds ITU Triathlon Yorkshire Vikings line up of course wouldn’t be complete without our resident GB athlete, Rob Jamison, who also took on the standard distance. Rob was the only Vikings athlete who hadn’t peaked for this as his “A Race”, with his GB Aquathlon event just around the corner. That of course didn’t stop Rob from soaking up the atmosphere of the event, who particularly enjoyed “running through the grandstand and on the ITU blue carpet, which felt pretty special”. Rob finished the race with his usual high position on the leaderboard, with a 02:21:46 finish.

Mike LeedsCompleting the YVTT standard distance line-up was Mike Evans. Where some might have been phased by the hilly course, Mike embraced it, commenting on the “awesome bike route, with testing up hills and fast downhills”, and was particularly pleased with the team spirit from the Vikings, who gave “some genuinely amazing support”. All of this led to PB’s on both swim and bike, in 00:28:50 and 01:15:19 respectively. A huge achievement. Mike completed the standard distance course in 02:40:52.

Hot on the heels of the standard distance athletes were the Vikings sprint distance racers, taking on a course of 750m swim, 20km and 5km run.

Dave LeedsFirst off was Dave Burrows. Having only ever competed in pool based triathlons, this was his first experience of an open water triathlon. Dave commented on his nerves before the race, explaining that the logistics of open water swim to T1 was feeling like “a bit of an unknown”. Unfortunately this did prove problematic, with Dave navigating round the wrong buoy and swimming over 800m in the process!! Something to learn from next time round! The positive to that error being that in trying to make up some time brought with it a post-bike run PB of 00:21:16. Dave completed the sprint event in 01:26:18.

Anne Leeds 2Thanks to a birthday gift from her son of a Tri Suit and Leeds ITU race ticket; Anne Lewis took to the start line and finished the sprint triathlon with a simple “I loved it!”. A great response from a great race. Anne particularly enjoyed the run section of the course, which she explained was made “a lot easier because of the crowds”. Anne conquered everything she wanted to from the race, purely down to all the hard work she’d put in beforehand, turning up “knowing she’d done the training”, and “feeling really fit beforehand”. Not only did Anne put in a superb performance bringing home a finish time of 02:01:56, but she also raised a fantastic £1050 for Epilepsy Action. Well done Anne!

Lorna LeedsLorna Watson came into the Leeds ITU with the previous experience of last year “only being able to swim 25m front crawl without having a meltdown”. After a full winter of hard training, Lorna not only completed the full 750m swim course front crawl, but was expecting to hit the 21 minute mark, and instead she came home in 00:18:11. Amazing swimming. Lorna was another to embrace the finish on the blue carpet, and was quite right to be proud having finished the race in an impressive 02:00:52.

Susie LeedsAnother Open Water Triathlon newbie, Susie Foster, started the race taking on all the coach’s tips to quickly acclimatize to the lake temperature, which made all the difference. Susie came out of the water having “loved the swim”. The bike route was tough, mainly due to the lack of hills around the Vale of York area that Susie lives. Whilst Susie commented that she maybe didn’t “push herself hard enough during the run to get under that 2 hour mark”, she did complete the race with a “massive smile on her face”, so there is absolutely no doubt Susie will be back for more. Susie really should be proud, she came home in a very good finish time of 02:00:35.

At the end of the race, all the Vikings were beaming with positives about the route, and the atmosphere. “Clear, warm water” in the lake, a “hilly bike route, but a great experience screaming through Headingley on closed roads”, and “running over that blue carpet”, all to the sound of “great crowds” and “amazing Vikings support”. It all made for a very special day, and made all those months training worthwhile.   Every single Viking can be impressed with their performances.

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Special mention goes to fellow Vikings; the Weston’s, Mum Sarah, and Tristars Joshua and Dominic, who came along for the full morning to cheer on and support all their Vikings teammates! Sarah will be competing in next week’s Allerthorpe Sprint Distance triathlon, so it would be great to see some Vikings down at the event returning the favour!

So, with the “A Race” done and complete, will the YVTT team all be winding down now and relaxing? Of course not! On to the next event…