Saturday, February 16, 2019

Race Report – London Triathlon 2015 – Olympic Plus distance

Posted by on in Race Reports
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 7248
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print
  • PDF

My first encounter with the London Triathlon (the one held in Docklands, not the Hyde Park one) was in my first season of triathlon back in 2010.  If memory serves me right, I did the sprint distance and I think I came about 33rd in my Age Group, which at the time I considered a good result.


Fast-forward five years and I’m back after a long break (a triathlon in the East of London when I live 80 miles to the West of London may as well be in another country, what with all the road closures etc!).  Only this time my penchant is more towards the longer-distance races.

With the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria now only a few weeks away, an Olympic distance race with a double-length (80km) bike leg seemed like good race practice.  Close enough (give or take 400m ) to the 70.3 swim distance, only 10km off the bike distance but a nice short (short being a VERY relative term!) 10km run to try to really up my pace and address my main triathlon Achilles heel – running off the bike.

So, after some ‘interesting’ logistics and a bit of confusion as to whether I actually had a place in the race or not, I arrived early (5.30am) at the ExCel center in London to rack up before the first wave of the day.

Obviously not too many of us had been stupid enough to go for the over-distance bike, as out of many thousands of competitors over the weekend, there was only maybe 200 of us in the Olympic Plus wave off at 6.40am.

Setting up

For those of you not familiar with London, the transition area is inside the huge cavernous building that is ExCel.  This has a couple of ‘challenges’ – a) slippery floor, b) impossible to get a GPS signal to set up your Garmin and c) it’s miles from swim exit to bike exit, and from bike in to run out.  It is ‘free racking’, so you just have to find a space on the rack allocated to your wave.  I settled for a space that didn’t look too cramped and meant I didn’t have too long to run with the bike (always better to run without a bike, I feel!)

The swim

London Triathlon 2015 swimAt just below 20 degrees C, the water felt positively balmy compared to most races I’ve done so far this year!  My plan was to keep the swim controlled, so that I could hammer the bike and run. But nevertheless, my ego took over (or perhaps I just didn’t want to have to battle through the field) and I found myself at the front of pack, just off the racing line (which had been occupied by the Freespeed boys – and I’d learned at Blenheim that it wasn’t even worth trying to draft them!).

The hooter went and we set off. Thanks to being a fairly small wave, it wasn’t as manic or aggressive as your typical 70.3 start and I soon found myself swimming with another guy (or maybe girl, hard to tell sometimes!).  Bearing in mind my plan to take the swim relatively easy, I decided to try to save some energy and do a little drafting.  It worked partially.  Either they or I were doing a crap job of sighting and I felt we were zig-zagging rather than taking a straight line.

On the homeward leg, I started feeling tapping on my feet.  It became more and more present and then after a while I could see a girl pulling level with me.  Again, I could see that the person I’d been drafting was off-course, so I tried to straight-line to the buoy, leaving the draft and actually arriving at the buoy at the same time.  Not sure if that was wise or not!

Eventually we got to the swim exit (again, my Garmin trace shows we definitely went the ‘long way round’) and I exited the water a couple of seconds down on AG superstar Jane Hansom and with a called named Sophie.


At the London Triathlon, once you’ve climbed up from the swim exit pontoon you put your wetsuit in a plastic bag before you head into the building (and onto the slippery floors). The Zone3 Victory wetsuit came off super-easily and I had it into the bag quickly.  I ran up the stairs behind Jane and found my bike easily enough.  As usual I was way too causal in T1 and faffed a little too much.

Out onto the bike and I made sure I was past the mount line before executing a less-than-perfect flying mount (i.e. not very ‘flying’!).


London Triathlon 2015 swim

The bike leg consisted of four laps of 20km (more like 19.2km) each.  The course first took us West towards Canary Wharf and the Limehouse Link tunnel before doubling-back and heading about 3km past ExCel to another turnaround.

We’d been warned that the section around Canary Wharft was particularly technical.  It wasn’t.  On the first lap, I spent pretty much the whole lap alone, so we had a good chance to learn the lines for different turns before the bike course got busier later on.

My favourite part of the bike course had to be dropping down into the Limehouse Link tunnel, carrying around 60kph through most of the tunnel until we had to climb out again.  I won’t lie, it was exhilarating!

Although it looks fairly flat on paper, the bike course has a few lumps in it, but I tried to stay both aero and in the big ring as much as possible (only on the final lap did I stand for a couple of the climbs and I never left the big ring for the entire bike).  The road surface was pretty dire in a lot of places, hardly the smooth roads we get to ride on abroad.

The bike course got steadily busier as later waves got onto the course, which actually made things a little more fun as everyone loves overtaking! I did get stuck in traffic around the Canary Wharf complex a couple of times, but overall I doubt if affected my time by more than a few seconds.

My Garmin Vectors broke a while ago (I’m sure I’ve written about it before!) and I’m still waiting on the replacements, so I was pretty much just to HR, trying to judge what would be a reasonable effort that would still leave me able to run at the end.

I’m not sure if others would agree, but the wind seemed to get stronger through the morning, and the last two laps certainly felt more of a slog than the first two.  I’d purchased a ‘Fuel Cell’ gel holder to fix to the Shiv, but to my disappointment, it wouldn’t hold as many gels as I’d hoped for, so I had to ration my gels a little.  To make things worse, towards the end of lap three, I tried to remove some empty gel wrappers from the cell and throw them towards the Skechers guys who were spectating (no littering on course!) – the problem was that the whole Fuel Cell came off its mounting and I ended up throwing that too, complete with my unused gel I was saving for lap four!  Doh….  I think I need to find some smaller gels than the SiS ones I normally use (I've tried High5, Torque etc. but they all give me GI issues).

I upped my drinking (I never drink enough liquid on the bike) in the hope that would replace the lost gel.  Since changing bike from my old Argon18 to the S-Works Shiv earlier this year, I've struggled to come up with a drinking solution that's suitable for 70.3 distance racing, so I was relying on my usual Elivar Endure drink in the 'Fuelsalage' (Specialized's name, not mine!) bladder which fits about one litre and slides inside the over-sized downtube of the Shiv.  I'd say for Olympic races it's perfect, but too small to be your only drink source on a longer ride where there's no on-course drink stations to grab refills.

At the end of lap four (I made the course length around 78km) I headed into transition (nice of them to end the bike course with a steep slope!) and found my racking spot.


T2 was pretty straightforward – grabbed my box-fresh Skechers GORun4s (there's not many shoes I'd trust to run a race in without ANY wearing-in at all, but the Skechers are the exception) and a spare gel I'd left in transition, just in case!  Then it was a longish run from my bike to the official start of the run course!  Not Mallorca-long, mind you…

The Run

London Triathlon 2015 swim

My back had been getting sore on the bike and I was a little worried whether I’d be able to run or not.  In the end, it felt okay as I headed out of T2.  Hopefully that’s a testament to the bike fit I had recently with Richard at Freespeed.

I even started to get some compliments from both spectators and fellow runners – “wow, great form”, “jeez, you’re quick!”. Those sorts of things are great for the ego! And true enough, I wasn’t losing any places, I felt relaxed and my pace was (for me) pretty good.  For the first of the three run laps, I admit, I felt pretty good.  Probably too good, as it happens, as come lap two, I was beginning to question if I could keep the pace up.

I had to take water at about 5km, slowing to a jog for a few seconds, then back up to pace, but mindful I still had another lap to do.  As I reached the end of lap two, one of the Freespeed chaps who had pulled-out after the bike yelled that I was only about 30 seconds down on the next guy in front.  He gave me a pointer as to who I was looking for and told me to go hunt him down.

Yeah, right!  This is Matt Fisher, you’re talking to. My modus operandi on the run is ‘survive’, not ‘hunt’! I felt I was going about as fast as I could sustain, but I kept a note of what I’d been told, just in case….

About half-way through the third lap I lapped a chap I knew to be in my wave, and he offered the information that he thought I was in the top five.  I was surprised, but it was welcome!

As it happened, I finally saw my ‘target’ with maybe 400-500m to go.  It took another 200m to catch him and (silly as this sounds) I tried to run past him as nonchalantly as I possibly could!  With so many of us running different races on-course I hoped he wouldn’t realise we were competing against each other.  I swear I could hear him react as I went past, so I just tried to raise my pace a notch or two, then a notch more and a notch more!  I daren’t look back but by the time I was within 150m of the finish I was going as fast as my legs would carry me, just hoping it would be enough.

It was, and I crossed the line about seven seconds before he did.

I know it probably sounds really petty, but I was proud of myself.  I’d actually hunted someone down on the run! And what’s more, I’d found pace that I didn’t think I had. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.


Annoyingly, for such a large and well-organised triathlon, there’s no live timing! So I had to rely on others for an indication of where I’d come.  The guesses ranged from fourth to sixth. We knew Freespeed had taken slots one and three and Paul Burton from BlackLine had had a stonking race to take second.  I was some way back, but whether or not there was anyone in between me and third place we weren’t sure.

Although it’s yet to be confirmed officially, it looks like I was indeed fourth overall and first in the 40-44 Age Group.

For me, the highlight of the day had to be my run.  It hurt like hell, but it was definitely a step forward from where I’ve been in races over the last year or two.  I’d love to think I can hold that pace at the world champs, but I doubt it!  But even with some moderation, maybe I finally put in a half-decent half-marathon time off the bike.  Lots of work to do between now and then, though.

A big thank you to the Skechers and Freespeed guys who gave tons of encouragement on the bike and run courses, it was a big help! And thank you to our Racetime Events Tri Club sponsor, Zone3, for the entry!



Last modified on
Rate this blog entry:

Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs