Race Day – A Supporter’s Perspective

I feel like we’ve been preparing almost as hard as Alan for this race. OK, we haven’t been out running, cycling and swimming everyday but we have been there in the background supporting away since he qualified for the World Championships back in May. I’ve made sure he has all the healthy snacks he needs and put up with beetroot juice in every cupboard (and the side effects from him drinking the stuff every day). We’ve been out buying flags, union jack tattoos and red, white and blue nail varnish so that we could show our support during the race.

We’d survived the long haul flight from Heathrow to Auckland. On arrival at Auckland there were triathletes and bike boxes everywhere. I was really impressed though with how smoothly everything went at the airport. As we arrived at the baggage reclaim our bags (and most importantly the bike) were there waiting for us. Everyone was friendly enough as we made our way through passport control and boarder control. They did want to see how dirty our boots were and I nearly forgot to declare the “pot porridge” we’d packed for Alan to have on race day.

The next couple of days were all about the race. We had the Opening Ceremony, registration, bike and swim reccees to sort out. I know, technically this only involved Alan but in reality it was a family task. The events were all organised from the central event centre where there was plenty to keep us occupied while Alan was off swimming and cycling. The expo had plenty of freebies for Morgan to go and collect and the Kiwi café in the cloud was a pleasant spot to sit and wait, out of the wind and rain with a cup of coffee.

Finally it was race day. An early start for all of us but we’re pretty used to that by now. Alan had has his pre-race “pot porridge” and beetroot juice, we’d done our nails, Morgan had his face tattoo and as a special surprise for Alan we had our “team Cole” T-shirts which his mum had sorted out before we left. He knew nothing about these and I think he was secretly pleased even if he said we all looked silly!

Unlike other races I didn’t think we’d have a chance to see Alan again before the race so it was final good lucks and off Alan, Graham and Sharon went. I was looking after Charlie for the race as well since Graham and Sharon were racing. I hadn’t worked out yet how we were going to get to see all 3 of them racing and didn’t know if we’d be able to move around the course as we usually do at home races. It didn’t take long to walk down to the harbour with the boys where we soon found Alan’s parents. They’d just seen Alan getting into his wetsuit so we went off to find him before getting a spot along the dockside to watch the swim.

It was surprisingly busy but we found a good spot at the side of the dock where the swimmers would go right below us. It was a bit of a challenge to watch the swim, take photos and make sure the boys didn’t fall into the water but we managed without any incident and saw Alan’s wave take their positions in the water.

Lined up Ready to Go

Lined up Ready to Go

They were off really quickly and it is hard to pick out who is who when they are all in black wetsuits with the same coloured hat but we think we spotted Alan out near the front (although I’m not sure we if had the right person now or not).

Al in the Swim

Al in the Swim

Al close to the front

Al close to the front

There were loads more spectators out than I had expected for a cold 7 am start on a bank holiday for New Zealand but we soon found a good spot just by the exit to transition so could see people heading out on the bikes. There were so many athletes in lots of different age groups that we couldn’t tell if we’d got there in time to see Alan off on the bike. We had a good view though and the boys climbed up on a large gate so could see over people to see what was happening as well. After a little while we saw Sharon running past with her bike so gave her a big cheer (you can hear us on the video clip of her bike transition if you listen hard enough!). We knew then we’d missed the boys out on the bike as Sharon’s swim started after theirs so we headed off to find another good spot to watch the bike or run.

Transition Viewing

Transition Viewing

We found a brilliant spot just where all the runners were coming out of transition to start the run, front row, excellent view. Well, great view for me even if the boys seemed happier playing star wars or Harry Potter and not watching the race at all! I have a vague idea of how long it usually takes Alan do to each leg but each course is different and we hadn’t seen him go out on the bike so I was a little unsure of when to expect him through. Just as I was thinking that he might be through in the next 5 minutes or so Charlie announced that he needed a poo so Charlie, Morgan and I headed off to find a toilet. Fortunately there was a bank of portaloos on the main road with no queues not too far away. Charlie obviously wasn’t as used to using a portaloo like Morgan is (since that was all we had until Morgan started school) and it took him a while to figure out how the flush and taps worked.

Just as we headed by to our vantage point we heard them announce the first athlete home from an earlier wave and Alan’s parents said we’d just missed Alan run past. By this time we were on the opposite side of the course to the finish line. There were several crossing points but with runners going out on the run and some now coming back in there was little opportunity to get across so we soon decided against our original plan to get into the grandstand to watch the finish. We managed to get a spot alongside the run course and soon spotted Alan back in from the run towards the finish.

Running

Towards the Finish

I had been looking at all the athletes going past to try and spot those with an H (Al’s age group) on their legs and I knew I hadn’t seen many and certainly hardly any Brits. He was doing brilliantly and with a quick look at my watch and I knew he’d done a time he’d be happy with whatever his position. Given his recent injury worries I was concerned he might struggle on the run. We gave his a massive cheer as he ran past. I’m never sure if he hears us and if he really likes the attention while he is running but he looked like he was going for it and sprinting towards the finish.

There was no way now we’d get to the finish line in time to see him cross but we did make our way to a crossing point to try and get across so we could go and find him. We saw Sharon run past and finally made it across the course. We soon found Al with medal and chocolate muffin and it was time for ‘Team Cole’ photos.

Team Cole

Team Cole

Al looked like he had enjoyed the race but we had no idea how he’d done. He seen one Team GB athlete go past him on the bike but with no idea where he’d come out in the swim we’d just have to wait to find out his position. We saw Graham cross the line while we were waiting for Alan so left Graham and Charlie waiting for Sharon to finish while we headed back to the hotel for a well-earned buffet breakfast.

It wasn’t until after breakfast that we managed to get online to look for the results. It seemed that Al’s family had been watching the race online back in the UK and knew the results before us. He’d come 11th in his age group and second Brit which was a brilliant result and meant he’d pre-qualify for the London World Championships next year.

Looks like we’ll have to do this all again next year then, without the trip of a lifetime to sort out as well though. Morgan and I do enjoy the races though otherwise I doubt we get up quite so early to go and stand in the cold to cheer Alan on. We both very proud of his achievements even if we are both looking forward to at least a few weeks where we don’t just have to eat salad and only eat chocolate in secret!

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Anna Cole

Anna is an Administrator at Aberystwyth University. Originally from the Isle of Man she now lives a Simple Life of Luxury on the Mid Wales Coast.

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