I love triathlons. I love them soooooo much. I really, really do. Did I mention that I also love triathlons? They are super and lovely and excellent. This year I’ve done 4 so far and I have one more to go. My fourth triathlon of 2016 was the inaugural Brighton and Hove Triathlon. Wow, what an event.
Brand New Triathlon
It was the most beautiful, sunny day in Hove as I arrived with my wife and one of my children for the very first Brighton and Hove Triathlon. There has been a Brighton Triathlon running in the town for many years starting with a swim in the marina. It’s always been a low-key, friendly affair. But this was altogether different. Around 1000 people were signed up to take part in the new event and what with the Sport and Fitness Show also taking place on Hove lawns, it felt like a big event. It felt like the London Triathlon did last year.
Registration had actually taken place the day before. Unfortunately, I had been working but my friend Phil had taken my bike down there for me. All I had to do on Sunday was to turn up. There were various waves of triathletes setting off at different times, doing different races. The first wave was the Draft Legal Sprint and they were in the water for the sea swim at 8am. I was taking part in the Olympic Distance race and was due off in the over 40s wave at 9:30am.
I had quite a bit of time to prepare my race kit. So much so that I get to the point of thinking I must have forgotten something. It can be quite nerve-wracking, certainly if it’s your first triathlon, sorting out what you need and when you will need it. My kit generally consists of cycling shoes, running shoes, race belt, wetsuit, tri-suit, helmet, watch, vaseline, spare inner tube, CO2 canister, bike tools and drink. That’s for something up to Olympic distance. You don’t need the watch really, but I’m a stats geek. The vaseline is to stop the wetsuit rubbing your neck raw during the swim.
So Much Kit to Take
There are obviously lots of other things you could have in your kit bag. A towel and socks are two things I would probably add for longer distances. Up to Olympic distance, which for those that don’t know is a 1500m swim, 40k bike and a 10k run, I wouldn’t bother drying myself after the swim and I wouldn’t bother putting socks on either. I also wouldn’t bother eating any food. I make sure I have a drink for the bike, but other than that I don’t have anything else. I’m not a fan of gels. For longer races, I would certainly take a protein/carb bar or some baby food to eat.
When it comes to iron distances like 70.3 half or 140 full, there may well be mandatory kit like waterproof clothing or hydration system. I would definitely put socks on and I would also wear cycling gloves and a race vest with soft flasks or bladder for drinks. I might also have a jacket handy just in case the weather looks inclement. After my Bastion experience, I would also definitely take two inner tubes and small pump!
Fun with the BTF
With all that kit to think about and organise, it can really get confusing if you don’t keep a level head on. You just have to keep calm and organise logically. Some people put their race belt on with number attached underneath their wetsuit so they don’t need to think about it after the swim. Many experienced triathletes clip their cycling shoes on to the pedals too and slip their feet in as they get on the bike. I haven’t graduated to that level of transition hyper-organisation yet! I simply lay everything out on the ground next to my bike and hope I don’t forget something important!
The transition area at the Brighton and Hove Triathlon was huge. It would be with 1000 bikes to rack. Once in my tri suit and wetsuit, I headed over to the Race Briefing. The Race Director took us through the swim route following the big red buoys. We were warned about dropping litter on the bike and run and were introduced to the British Triathlon Federation (BTF) officials. Luckily the two officials were the same two I had met before at The Bastion Triathlon at Hever Castle. So I had a brief word with them to let them know I was filming the race. It is technically against BTF rules to carry a camera during a triathlon, but because I am classed as ‘Media’ or a ‘Journalist’, I get away with it.
Finally, we were ushered onto Brighton’s pebble beach and given a few minutes to get used to the water before getting out and lining up at the water’s edge for the start of the inagural Brighton and Hove Triathlon. There were around 100 participants in my wave. We were all in blue caps and my wife said that, from a distance, we all looked like penguins as the hooter sounded and we waddled off into the sea. We had to swim out to the first buoy, then turn left and across to the next buoy. From here it was right turns all the way creating a box. We swam around the box twice before heading back in to the shore. My swim started well enough. It’s always a bit of a melee at the start but it eventually settles down and you find some space.
Flat Bike Route
Normally I would be stripping the wetsuit off as I am leaving the water. However, because I was filming I didn’t touch the zip until back in transition. Victoria, Ellis and Phil were there to cheer me on as I ran past them. Back at the bike, wetsuit off, helmet on, race belt on, cycling shoes on and away we go for 40k on the bike. I felt like I was around midway in the pack. The Brighton and Hove Triathlon bike route is flat and consists of 8 laps of a 5k loop on closed roads on Hove seafront. This was not about stunning views or serious hill climbs, it was all about speed. Get in that aero position and go as fast as you can for 25 miles. I ride a Cervelo P3 tri-bike, which I love. I feel very comfortable on it even though I am not the most confident of road cyclists. I finished the milk in my bottle before half way and shouted to Victoria to get me a Red Bull, which she duly did by the next lap. I think it gave me a boost and I completed what turned out to be 42.5km in 1 hour 17 minutes.
Again I had to film some of the bike ride so I was not quite as fast as I might have been, but I think I did ok. I am a bit of a stats geek and having looked at various Strava profiles of others who competed in the same race, I am not convinced everyone did the full 8 laps of the Brighton and Hove Triathlon bike course. I’ve certainly spotted one guy who definitely only did seven and I am dubious about a few others. Could be genuine mistakes of course. I interviewed Patrick on camera at the end and he said he did two extra laps in the Sprint Distance by accident! I just looked at my bike computer and kept riding until I hit the 40k mark.
Four Laps to Run
I need to do some proper brick sessions where I cycle and then run immediately afterwards because in all the triathlons I have done, getting going on the run is something I have struggled to do. If I’m running 10k at my top speed I should be going under 4 minutes per kilometre. Once through transition, I started the run at 4:30 per kilometre and to be honest I didn’t improve much on that pace. It was very warm by now. My legs did eventually settle in to running but I couldn’t drag any more pace out of them. I remember seeing the Brownlee brothers in the Olympic Games throwing water over themselves at every opportunity, to keep cool. Happily, there were water stations at each end of the run route. The course was an out and back along the promenade heading west from Hove lawns 1.25km to the King Alfred Leisure Centre. So for the Olympic distance, I had to cover 4 laps to make the 10k.
There was lots of support on such a fine day and in fact, the promenade was quite crowded. I didn’t find it too bad but I know some people thought it was a little difficult weaving in and out of walkers and people with dogs or on bikes or skateboards. I guess I can understand that but I didn’t come across and congestion. Phil, Victoria and Ellis were there cheering me on each lap and, although it was energy sapping in the heat, I absolutely loved it. I crossed the line in 2 hours 44 minutes and 53 seconds. Certainly not my fastest Olympic distance, but given the extra swim distance and the extra bike distance, I’m pretty happy.
Brighton and Hove Triathlon
I was 25th out of the over 40s wave. I came 9th in my 45-49 age category and 57th overall. I was 130th in the water. I came 58th on the bike and I was 34th in the run out of the 224 who finished. Need to improve all round I think. Certainly, I’ve got to get that swim faster and pull out the stops on the run. My bike is improving. As far as the event goes, I think it was a great success for a first time. Things to learn of course. The organisers are well aware that the swim distances were a bit all over the place and I am sure that will be sorted for next year. The bike route is what it is. You can’t make it any more interesting I don’t think. But they need timing mats on the course to ensure people are doing the full number of laps required for each distance. The run could be improved by putting barriers along the entire course length. It’s only 1.25km and would create a great channel to run through with supporters then able to watch a more contained run route free from obstacles like dogs, skateboards and errant children!
I’ll certainly be back to race in the 2017 Brighton and Hove Triathlon, without the camera to see if I can get under 2:30. I do hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it and that it inspires you to have a go yourself. Triathlon is a great sport and is going from strength to strength in the UK with the prominence of Johnny and Alister Brownlee. Please do watch my other triathlon films, which are the Arundel Triathlon and the London Triathlon from 2015 and the Bastion Full Distance Tri from the Castle Triathlon Series this year, where I spectacularly DNF’d! So go have fun watching that.