In Full: This was to be my 2nd Sprint Triathlon, and my third Tri in total (having also managed the Standard distance in last months rescheduled Newcastle Tri). I only found out about this particular one during a conversation at Ryton Tri swimming training just a few days earlier. A last minute entry went in and I was given a number and 8:05 start time.
The event registration was due to open at 5:30am on Sunday, adjacent roads closed at 6:30 and a competitors briefing 6:45 for a 7:00 start. An early alarm clock at 4:30 was set for the 45-60 minute journey to South Shields. The forecast all week included warnings for bad weather due to the tail end of hurricane Bertha heading North. I’m sure if I’d opened the curtains at that hour to see the worst of what could have been, I may have forfeited and crawled back into bed. However, skies were light, broken and pleasantly warm. Ultimately, it managed to stay OK for the entire race, with only the first rain falling during the awards presentation several hours later.
I arrived and already quite a few competitors were assembling in the many car parks on the sea front (these were ran by the council so a small charge was needed for parking). The transition area/finish line etc. were all taking shape and registration open to collect race numbers.
I joined the queue and was sorted with my number and timing chip (worn on left ankle) fairly quickly. However, a long queue was starting to develop behind me and the people arriving later must have quite a long wait. Indeed, even at time of the briefing at 6:45, there was already calls going out for the early start competitors to make their way to the front so they didn’t miss the swim start time. I went to the transition area to rack my bike, lay out my towel, running equipment, helmet, drinks/nutrition etc. and checked out the ‘Bike Out/Bike In/Run Out’ routes ready for the race.
The start times of the swim are arranged with the slower swimmers generally starting first, slowing working through to the faster times towards the late starters. There was a mix of people doing front crawl, breaststroke or even the occasional backstroke with the early starters. This particular event had the pool split into 8 lanes, with everyone doing 16 lengths. In lane 1, each swimmer would swim up then down before ducking under the rope and then the next two lengths in lane 2, and so on through to the end of Lane 8. Once complete, climb out and make your way out the pool area and to transition. Saves having to count to 16 which can be easily missed when swimming!
The time in transition depends on how organized you are and how much faffing around you want to do. I made it out from the swim before the person next to me, but she made it out of transition well before me! Less faffing next event! Because of the timing chip, which records exactly when you cross the entry point and exactly when you cross the exit point, you can even quantify the faffing ready for next time.
There are various rules to follow in Triathlon (too many to list), but one key one in Transition 1 is helmet on & clipped before you touch the bike. Something perhaps easy to consider in calm times, but with the red mist of competition, something easy to forget. Get it wrong and time penalty! Sorting out race number, socks (remember the talc!), shoes, glasses, gloves if you like them – all takes time!
The bike route was very well signposted and marshalled, out from Haven Point, along the sea front past Marine Park towards Gypsy’s Green stadium and then along to virtually the point the GNR ends. Several ‘sleeping policeman’ in the first few hundred yards needed to be navigated but this wasn’t a problem. A slight incline, together with a strongish headwind, made the first part of the bike tough. However, before you knew it, you were at the turnaround point and heading back down the same road, this time with the wind on your back.
3 bike laps made up the 20k route before heading back for Transition stage 2. Stage 2, rack the bike before taking the helmet off (or another time penalty!). Sort out anything more before heading out on the final event, the 5k run.
This run retraced the first part of the bike route (uphill, into wind!) before a sharp left turn took you right to the side of the beach for the return leg towards the rear of the Dunes amusement park and short journey towards the finish line. I wasn’t taking too much notice on distance so wasn’t expecting such a long last loop along the promenade before the final leg towards the finish line. The last 100 m had you running along the sandy beach – first time for me running on sand! Harder than I expected and was glad it wasn’t further!.
At the finish line, lots of people were there waving and cheering everyone on. A bottle of water handed out to everyone was most welcome.
As the race was chip timed, a quick visit to the timing van, enter my race number and I was presented with a lovely print out of my entire race details – swim time, T1 time, run time, T2 time and then finally run time!
I managed to knock of several minutes of my Weardale Tri time (even taking into account the slightly shorter bike route). Definitely now believe I have the Tri bug!
The remaining people continued to depart out on the bike/run routes so plenty of opportunity to support your fellow participants. However, before the weather turned for the worse, everyone was home and finished.
A buffet was provided as part of the event which was most welcome afterwards! Bar facilities were also there. Awards were presented to top 3 people in all the race categories by the Mayor/Mayoress of South Tyneside showing the great support this even has in the community. A raffle, in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, offered 3 bikes as well as a host of other prizes which seemed very well supported.
Just at the close, the heavens opened but by this time everyone had had a great event. I, for one, am looking forward to doing this again next year. Who else is with me?