When Leeds was announced as the race venue for the UK leg of this year’s World Triathlon Series, I was beyond excited. Hopefully seeing the Brownlees rip up the race in my home city would be beyond exciting! And then they announced an amateur race on the same weekend…. Sign me up!
After a less than stellar race at last year’s triathlon at Castle Howard, I felt I really had something to prove to myself this time around. Fortunately, I had what was (for me) a fantastic swim- no pauses for breaststroke/treading water/absolute panic; just smooth, controlled front crawl, sighting properly and not coming out of the water feeling like I’d had a massive trauma. Goal number one, nailed!
And onto the bike. It was SO much fun to race on roads I’ve lived and commuted on, but traffic free- Lizzie and I had masses of fun chicking men on the downhills AND the climbs, whizzing about and flying around corners pretending to be pro. HAPPY FACE!
The run? Never the most fun part of a triathlon, but with crowds starting to gather for the elite race, I felt like an absolute rockstar as I ran the couple of laps around the city centre, soaking up the cheers before crossing the famous blue archway.
Overall time: 1:43. 19th in AG and 182nd woman… By no means stellar, but an absolute breakthrough for me, and a massive confidence boost to go away and put in the work to race faster now.
Where do I start? I think I was spoiled by Ilkley Triathlon and Castle Triathlon Series for my past races, in that they excelled at the communication pre, during and post race, and really cared about their athletes, not just making money out of them.
Pre-race, the communication from WTS Leeds was bad. Like, had to find out your information from other athletes on social media bad. The information was sparse, emailed out pretty late and lacking in detail- I had no idea until race day what route I was supposed to be following! We also never received the athlete backpack promised to us in the pre-race info, with no explanation.
When I arrived on Saturday to rack my bike and set up T2 (in separate locations), I was horrified. The run from the lake to T1 (only partially carpeted) was a good 400m, followed by about half a mile down a slippery tarmac slope (not carpeted) either in bare feet or bike cleats, carrying a bag containing wetsuit to the bike mount line- and time penalties for any kit left in T1- a bizarre and completely made up new rule? Great!
Bike mount done (at the bottom of a short sharp hill no less… Great planning leading to several men crashing in front of me when trying to pedal off in too big a gear) and on to the bike course, which was narrow and over-crowded but surprisingly passed without incident for me… Unlike T2!
A long run from the dismount line into the shambles that was T2… An un-carpeted building site filled with mud, gravel and broken glass… Just where I want to rack my pride and joy and be running through barefoot!
I then got out onto the run, where there was huge confusion about lap counting, leading some Standard distance competitors to receive a DNF on their precious, once-in-a-lifetime race. Not cool! I however managed to complete the course correctly, and then finished.
Ah, the finish. Where to begin. Cold and shivery, I was ushered through and given a medal, but no mention of a goody bag or finishers’ t-shirt- a surprise at nearly £100 for a sprint tri! The food I was ushered through was slices of orange and banana, stale halved bread rolls and bottled water, and free Erdinger Alkoholfrei- not exactly what a starving triathlete needs!
As number 5584, I was told my bags of wet swim kit and my dry bag containing phone, money and dry kit were on their way from Roundhay… So I waited, and checked, and waited, and checked…. And watched the whole women’s elite race, since I couldn’t find my friend and my Grandstand ticket with no phone, and waited a bit more. Finally, after 7 checks on where my bag was, I was told by a marshal that it wasn’t being brought from Roundhay and needed collecting. No announcement from WTS or explanation. Just no bags, and a shuttle I could get on to collect it- but by then I had my bike back and couldn’t take it on a bus.
By this point I was shivering in my still damp trisuit, starving hungry having not eaten for 9 hours, and seriously pissed off. I had to miss the elite men’s race, and miss the Brownlees racing on home turf, to cycle to Roundhay carrying my running shoes, to collect my kit.
At no point did WTS apologise or explain any of this, and when I got to Roundhay, bags were lying in piles with no security whatsoever- so I’m amazed my stuff was still there.
All in all, I have never been made to feel more like a cash cow to fund an elite race. WTS Leeds clearly did not care about the logistics of the amateur race, and despite charging almost £100 per competitor for us, didn’t see fit to make it safe or enjoyable for us, or to see that we were looked after post-race. They also failed to provide the stated services (bag transport) or resources (athlete backpack, finishers’ t-shirt)… An absolute disgrace!