There coming thick and fast now. Here's Ruth adventures at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in the Netherlands.
I arrived in Rotterdam three hours late on the Thursday night due to the heavy rain over the Netherlands. The weather didn't improve much on Friday or Saturday.
The course was, to put it mildly, complicated. The bike course was entirely on bike paths: narrow, twisty, and with lots of 90-degree and 180-degree turns. Doing a bike recce on Friday, we noted several potential danger areas - such as the sharp downhill turn onto a quayside, with the risk of over-cooking it and ending up in the river. At the intersection of the Erasmus bridge, the turn point of the two-lap course, there were a number of challenging ramps built up staircases and over tramlines. So we were all very relieved that the race organisers decided to spread the wave times out over an extra hour to reduce congestion on the bike course.
And then there were the transition arrangements. T1 was on one side of the river, T2 some distance away on the other. The swim start was in a dock between the two. Setting up your kit was a logistical challenge in itself. The prospect of 2,500 athletes aiming for three boat shuttles between the two transitions did not fill me with confidence. Neither did the idea of two kit bags, one with my wetsuit and goggles, the other with all other the other tri paraphenalia (flip flops, oil, talc, tracksuit etc) making it back to the finish area. Added to which was the thought that our ferry from Calais was booked for 6pm, so we also had T3 (collecting kit and reuniting with Mark and the boys) and T4 (getting to Calais) to contend with.
Despite my reservations, everything worked out remarkably well. Sunday morning dawned clear, sunny and with little wind. I got to T2 in good time, dropped off my running shoes, easily found the free boat shuttle, and had time to take pictures of sunrise over the Erasmus bridge. Having checked my bike & sorted stuff out in T1, the rather smart hotel by the swim start had clearly given up on its dress code and we had a remarkably civilised pre-race coffee. At 12.15, we had to assemble. About 85 of us - Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, Canadians, three Icelanders and assorted others - were cooped up in our pens for half an hour before the start. Suffice to say that the race marshal was rather over enthusiastic and that "YMCA" can be a painfully long song... And then we were off.
Normally, my race tactic is to draft the legs of the leading lady in the swim, try to exit the water in the top three or four athletes, and then attempt to hold off being overtaken on the bike and the run for as long as I can. That strategy did not work at all! There were so many very strong swimmers that I left the water in seventeenth place. I picked up a couple of places on the long 750m run into T1, and exited swiftly onto the bike.
After all those worries, the bike course was actually tremendous fun: twisty, technical, stop/start all the time - but nonetheless surprisingly fast. After a speedy T2, I was off on the run course, which was flat, compact - and crowded. Suffered wobbly legs in the final 3 or 4 kilometres of the run, which cost me a few places, but nevertheless finished in 2:24 and very content with my eighteenth placing in my final race as a 45-49er.
PS: we caught our ferry.... eternally grateful to Mark for driving all the way back to Malvern that evening!