Just home from racing in the Cotswold Classic Triathlon today, showered, and lucky enough to have tea in hand and blow up legs on for recovery (much needed!) I can now reveal how racing triathlon during the current pandemic played out today.
These opinions are my own, and simply from what I witnessed today whilst taking part.
If you have ever raced Cotswold 113 events you will be aware of the hugely informative emails that organiser Graeme and his team put together for the athletes and their supporters. These events are relatively small, but have a wonderful atmosphere. I'm sure its because of their size, communication, and can-do attitude, alongside the easing of lockdown measures, that this was the first race in the UK to go ahead since Covid-19 starting affecting us in March this year.
In terms of communication, we were all made well aware how much was being done behind the scenes and with the BTF to allow this ‘race’ to take place. This was to be the practice run, to see how other races can start to open up (baring any significant spikes in the virus of course)
If you have races still going ahead this year, or if you are keen to learn how they may look next year, here are my observations and thoughts from todays event.
· We arrived at the start of transition to queue up with our bikes, masks on, 2 meters apart. The atmosphere was positive, everyone knew what we had to do, there had been a race briefing via video as well as a comprehensive race pack. It was a shame they didn’t write a kit list too, then I may not have forgotten my trainers and have to borrow a friends at 9pm last night!! #oops
We showed our BTF cards or popped £5 in the pot, then had our temperatures taken. After fumbling around in the dark (as anyone who wears glasses can appreciate, masks, helmets & visors are not a good combo!) I found my position in the transition racking. To be greeted by a HUGE amount of space, and my timing chip and cap attached to the metal racking.
After arranging my transition items for speed, as if I was a Brownlee, racing for Olympic Gold, I remembered there were no transition times. Each athlete had 10 minutes of ‘free time’ in T1 from swim to bike, and 5 mins of ‘free time’ for T2 from bike to run. This was to allow everyone to socially distance without the pressure of time.
· We lined up for our allocated 15 minute swim time slot, and was reminded by one of the 100 volunteers who helped out today to keep 2 meters apart. There was a 1900m option as planned, but also a 300m and non swim option as a nod to the fact many haven't had chance to pool or even open water swim this past 6 months. There were many mutterings along the line of how tight the wetsuits had gotten over lockdown, I said hand gel carries extra calories that seep in through your skin. Most seemed reassured by this!!
· We were funnelled into the start shute and each athlete went over the timing mat with 15 seconds between them and the next competitor. This meant for a very relaxed swim, with so much space it was like no other swim start I've ever experienced.
· Leaving the lake we didn’t get help up the slipway but we did get massive support from the shoutiest Marshall in the world, what a star!! Into transition over the timing mat….. and rest!!!! Stroll through and get bike kit on, and take on as much fluid as possible as there are NO AID STATIONS on the bike, except for absolute emergencies.
· The bike was fast and furious, so impressed with everyone’s skill to stay 2 meters apart, navigate the odd car, and keep going despite everyone having their own unique lockdown story.
· The same was true on the run, with everyone treating it like a race, despite the fact that under BTF guidance this was NON COMPETITIVE. True grit but also much politeness and respect to be socially distanced. Sadly this wasn’t possible for some of the run, as the paths were tight and with 3 laps there was quite a lot of over and under taking. Aid stations were water in paper cups (great!) and gels. You needed to sanitise your hands before and after picking up the cups. I wasn’t sure about this process, as you were just grabbing your cup, but it didn’t slow you down too much.
· The finish line was a welcome sight, as always! There were the usual professional photographers, giving out of medals, and your water/tshirt were in individual Cotswold 113 bags.
· There was time to recover at the finish line without being too crowded, but there were many more crossing the finish line later who had later swim starts, and I wonder if this would have got crowded. I'm sure the brilliant marshals would have managed the situation.
There wasn’t any prize giving, but it was nice to chat in transition post event and relive stories of the race. Then it was time to find our supporters, in my case the husband and the spaniel, who had the chance to spectate but only out on the run or bike course. Athletes were discouraged to bring too many spectators and they must observe social distancing. This worked really well from what I saw, there was lots of lovely support, cheers, cow bells and whistles on the bike and run route, but never too crowded.
In my opinion, and of course you make your own based on these observations on the day, the whole event was as close to a traditional tri that we know and love. If you are very conscious of the 2m rule, and will not tolerate anyone being in this 2m then it may not be for you right now. There are the odd times this just wasn’t possible. But all contact points have been removed and you can safely navigate your way to completing a swim, bike and run in relative safety.
Overall a dose of normality was just what the doctor ordered. But for now, the tea has turned to fizz to celebrate a very hectic lockdown for my little family, but made all the more worthwhile with an unofficial, non-competitive 3rd position today, and yet another list of things to work on for next season!
Thankyou Cotswold 113, all the supporters, and the BTF for allowing us this opportunity. We know and appreciate the work that has gone in, and I hope the smiling faces today made it all worth while.
Good luck with future races you may have planned, and please do get in touch if you have any questions, we love to hear from you!