Bristol Triathlon 2012 – Race Report

We’ve just got back from a great weekend of racing in Bristol at the 2012 TriBristol Harbourside Triathlon. Organised and run by BADTri and 1 Step Beyond it was a well run event that saw 900 triathletes competing in either a Standard Distance or Sprint Distance triathlon.

The Sprint Distance Triathlon had been “chosen by the BTF as one of the qualifying events for the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Auckland 2012. Making it a priority event on the national circuit for aspiring world class sprint distance athletes.” I had already qualified for the World Championships in a previous race, so the pressure was off as far as I was concerned. Although training had been going well, I was now in a Base Phase, hadn’t peaked for this race, hadn’t tapered for it and hadn’t done any speed work for it so it was really just a training session for me. However, a race is still a race so I was likely to give it my all. I knew quite a few other people that were doing the race as well and for some of them it was a little more important.

My brother Brad was doing it and this would be his first proper triathlon and his first open-water triathlon too. My sister’s boyfriend Mike was also doing the race and was in a similar situation to Brad, but he had been training hard for it and was hoping to do well.

Also competing from  INTRtri, the triathlon club I’m a member of were Sharon and Karen. This was Sharon’s third and final attempt at qualifying having narrowly missed out on previous attempts so the pressure was on.

We parked fairly close to the event and then Anna kicked into her support role, not only taking care of Morgan and making sure I had everything I needed for my race, but also lugging my kit from place to place throughout the day. What more could you want from a wife? – Thanks Anna!

The event was really well organised and was already in full flow when we arrived at around 9am. The first competitors were off at 7am and subsequent waves were set off at exactly the times published throughout the morning and into early afternoon. Brad was off at 10:02am, Mike at 10:56 and I was off at 11:14 with Karen and Sharon setting off later. The high-vis army of marshalls, officials and organisers were keeping everything running smoothly and doing an amazing job. For a start there were loads of them, and not only did they all know exactly what they were supposed to be doing but they seemed to be enjoying it and did a stirling job of clapping, cheering and dishing out encouragement throughout the long day – Nice work!

I watched Brad set off, then got changed. This was an opportunity for me to try out my new Team GB tri-suit, although, when I first put it on I felt a little self-conscious in it, so covered it up with a jacket and then my wetsuit before the race. I then watched Mike set off before running across to the swim start myself.

This is were the level of organisation really became apparent. We were shepherded into a holding pen, given the race briefing which was well-practised, succinct but contained all the necessary info before being herded down onto the pontoon. We were held there for a while with more officials telling us what to do. With around 50 people per wave it was a little cozy on the pontoon and once in the water there was no room for a warm up but everything was running smoothly and at 11:14 the claxon for the start of my heat sounded.

The Swim

The swim took place in the Cumberland Basin, part of Bristol’s historic Harbour adjacent to the Brunel Lock. I used to swim in the Docks as a child (even though we weren’t allowed to) but had never swum in this part.

My start wave comprised of all the Male 40-44 entrants, a hotly contested age-group so there was a fast and furious start. I sprinted off for the first 5o metres or so before looking up to sight the first buoy and see where I was. As far as I could tell there was one person a few metres ahead of me, one neck and neck with me immediately to my left and everyone else was behind me. I did briefly contemplate catching the lead guy and drafting behind him but decided against it and stuck to my own pace.

I started sighting for the marker buoys every few strokes and each time I did had to adjust my course as I seemed to be veering to the right. Around the first buoy and the leader was pulling away but the guy to my left was still level with me. Around the second buoy and things were unchanged. The next leg of the route was the longest and each time I sighted I was still veering off to the right. There were loads of canoeists around for safety cover and helping to mark out the route though so you couldn’t go too far wrong. At one point I was quite a way off to the right and the guy with me was a little way off to my left, so I decided to pick up the pace to the next buoy to try to distance myself from him without allowing him to jump onto my feet for a tow. It worked, as I  rounded the third buoy I was in 2nd place with a little gap behind me to 3rd and I was beginning to reel in the guy in the lead.

I picked up the pace a little more to buoy 4, further closing the gap to first place and then on the final leg to the pontoon closed down the gap a little more to exit probably around 20 seconds behind him with a clear gap to 3rd place behind me. There were helpers on hand to assist us out of the water and up the steep slope to the pontoon and then I ran up the slipway to the harbour wall for the long run into Transition.

Anna timed my 750m swim at 10 minutes 30 secs.

Transition 1

It was quite a long 200m run along the side of the transition area to the far end, into the transition area and then another 200m through transition. The transition was an open one, with people coming and going, setting up, packing up, racing and generally milling around the whole time. This could be a recipe for disaster with plenty of potential for people to get in each others way, but there was an army of marshalls in the transition area throughout the day and they were ever vigilant, shouting instructions and telling people to keep out of the way whenever someone racing was coming through. It worked well for me and I ran unimpeded through transition to my bike, stripped off my wetsuit, put my new aero helmet on and ran off with my bike.

The start of the bike involved two 90 degree bends onto and off of the little swing-bridge. I had a little bit of trouble getting my feet into my shoes, not helped by the bends but by the time I was off the bridge and out onto Cumberland Basin Road I had my feet in and started the cycle in earnest.

The Bike

The bike route was two laps out along the Portway, under the Suspension Bridge to a U turn just before Sylvan Way. The roads were closed to traffic and being a dual carriageway meant that there was plenty of room. Being relatively flat it should have been fast as well, but for some reason I just couldn’t get up to speed properly. I actually think it was windier than I realised, although, even on the return leg it didn’t seem that fast.

I wasn’t sure what the guy who had excited the swim in front of me looked like. I was fairly sure there was only one of them though so only had him to overtake to move into first place. I overtook lots of people from previous start waves and a few people on decent bikes with disk wheels and all the kit, a few of whom could have been the guy in front of me but I couldn’t be sure.

As I returned from the Portway to finish my first lap I caught a cyclist I had been chasing down for a while and overtook him thinking that maybe that had moved me into first place, but as we came off the flyover to start the second lap he peeled off into transition as I rode around for lap two… Obviously it wasn’t him! I was averaging close to 23 mph by now though and enjoyed the little chicanes as I headed out onto my 2nd lap. I found myself out on my own now and didn’t see anyone for a while.

Once again, the route was lined with marshalls and the draft buster and race referee motorbikes were ever present. There had clearly been an accident though as there was an ambulance at the side of the road. I later had a bit of a run in with the ambulance myself. As I returned from the Portway and was just about to ride up the slope onto the flyover I started catching an ambulance that was driving slowly along the inside lane. Not wanting to be penalised for drafting behind it (I don’t even know if that is allowed or not!), I rode out wide towards the middle of the road to overtake it. As I did I was just starting the little sope onto the flyover where the road narrows to a single lane. The ambulance therefore moved out towards me as well but the driver hadn’t checked his mirror and obviously wasn’t expecting a cyclist to be coming up so fast alongside him. The bit of road I was on narrowed between a line of closely spaced cones and the side of the approaching ambulance. There wasn’t going to be enough room for me soon so I had to take evasive action, touching the brakes and swerving through a gap in the cones to the other side of the road. The driver saw me now and slowed, allowing me to overtake him fully and swerve back through the cones onto the correct side of the road in front of him. I’d lost my momentum for the little slope though so had to sprint back up to speed before riding on towards transition 2.

Official splits aren’t out yet, but I have the cycle down as being 12.6 miles long and I did it in 32:45 with an average speed of 22.9 mph.

Transition 2

T2 went OK, I did a flying dismount and ran through the transition area barefoot with my shoes attached to the pedals and bouncing along the ground. I had a bit of trouble racking my bike as it wouldn’t fit the way I wanted to put it on so had to take it off, turn it around and re-rack it, but I soon had my running shoes on and was running off for the final discipline of the day.

The Run

The run didn’t feel great, I just couldn’t really get going and felt slow the whole time. It was here though that you could really appreciate how supportive the marshalls and spectators were and where I noticed for the first time that my Team GB tri-suit stands out quite well. There were marshalls and spectators everywhere and they were all cheering, clapping and shouting encouragement – “Go on Cole”, “Well Done Cole”, “Nice work Cole”, “Keep it Up Cole”! Having your name emblazoned across your suit makes a difference and people take notice of it – Weird at first, but I soon got to like it!

The run goes out of transition, up ono the flyover and then down along the tow path under the Suspension Bridge to a U Turn and then back for a tricky little bit over the old railway line and back onto the flyover to the finish. The surface was fairly wet and muddy, there were lots of runners and with the path still open to cyclists and walkers there were times when passing people was a little tight, but I was passing plenty of people despite the fact that I wasn’t running that fast. My mile times were showing me running at around 6:14 mins/mile. Much slower than the  5:45 I was doing in Big Cow a month or so ago. I kept at it though, continued to overtake people and not long before the turnaround point saw Mike heading back in the oppositie direction. He was probably now only about 2 minutes ahead of me having started 18 minutes before me.

I didn’t feel any faster on the way back but did settle into the run a little more. By the time we got back to the flyover I could see Mike a few hundreds yards ahead of me so picked up the pace a little and finally started to feel good. I sprinted for the line but wasn’t quite able to catch Mike on the road. He finished a couple a seconds ahead of me so I had caught him for nearly 18 minutes.

The Aftermath.

Milling around after the race with my Team GB suit on was a little different to usual. At first I had a quick chat with Morgan and Anna asking if I was indeed 2nd out of the swim and if I’d managed to catch the guy ahead of me. They confirmed the 2nd place in the swim but couldn’t be sure about overtaking the other guy. I was either 1st or 2nd though as no one had overtaken me on the bike or the run and what’s more, there were prizes for 1st and 2nd… Cool!

However, as other people in my age-group crossed the line behind me, they started coming up to me, shaking my hand, hugging me and congratulating me on the win. I wasn’t sure about it myself but they had been trying to stick with me and my Team GB suit with my name on it had made me fairly conspicuous so they knew who I was. Some of them even said that they’d been checking me out online before the race so knew exactly who they were racing – Wearing the Team GB suit just meant that they knew who I was so knew who to chase!

I soon got a bit chilly in my tri-suit though so got changed and once again became an anonymous face in the crowd. I checked the official times and was given a total time of 1:06:59 which did indeed put me in 1st place in my age-group.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a presentation ceremony at the end of the race nor a prize-giving, The orgainsers had changed this the day before, changing the official word from:

“Presentations will take place by the finish. You must be in attendance to collect your prize. Prizes will not be sent out after the event.”


“As you have a long day racing, we have decided to send prizes out after the event.”

This caused a little confusion for us, but the latter seemed to be true which was a bit of shame really. I understand why they made this decision as some people would have finished their race not long after 9am so it would have been a long wait until 4pm for the presentation ceremony but on the other hand the presentation ceremony is a nice way to finish the event and a good opportunity to wrap things up and thank everyone for a good day. I suppose there may not have been many people left around for the presentations but we would have waited, not just for a prize but just the chance for my supporters to see me on the podium. Not to worry though as everything else ran smoothly and it seemed as though everyone involved had a great day.

I had a good race as did everyone else I spoke to, everyone commented on how well it was organised, spectators and competitors alike had a good time and hopefully the marshalls, helpers, organisers and everyone else involved had a good time and went home exhausted but proud of the event they had put on.

After packing up, we had some chips and cheese in The Cottage at Baltic Wharf and walked back to the car, packed up and headed off on what turned out to be a long 4 our drive home… We’ll be back again though.

4 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    A Comment from ‘FattMatt’ on TriTalk:

    I think i was the swimmer alongside you, it was along the 2nd straight that i went too far to the left and you pushed faster, i lost a couple of places there and came out of the water 5th, you must have overtaken the lead swimmer in transition as i came out just behind someone to be 3rd onto the bike, though i thought i was 2nd as you had a lead and i couldn’t see you ahead. i caught him in the first mile or so and didn’t get caught for the rest of the bike. my run let me down again, which is what usually happens and i finished 7th, but looking at the results i think i may have the 4th qualifying spot, so thanks for qualifying previously! (though i have a place in the olympic race so will take that instead.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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