The Windsor Tri is a very early start for most waves however it is definitely worth it. The first wave is 6am and the last wave is 7.50 (as they close some of the roads which then have to reopen by 12 midday) and they have both Sprint and Olympic distances.
I racked my bike and picked up my race pack on the Saturday and made a weekend of it which worked well. On the Saturday walking along the route by the castle I couldn’t believe how many people were on the street probably increased by the royal wedding fever. You get a good crowd of spectators at the event and as I walked along I wondered how many of the Saturday crowd would get their first taste of a triathlon. Its a great atmosphere on that Saturday afternoon as you rack your bike and start chatting to the range of people who love the sport as much as you do or who are doing it for the first time and wondering what the hell they have got themselves into.
After an early night it's a case of creeping around getting fuel in your body trying not to wake the spectathelete who will have to get up pretty early anyway to catch you at the start. Its a great feeling walking to the transition area which starts off being eerily quiet until you get closer to the race site where you start to see more and more people making there way from all directions. Its a bit of a walk along the river from transition to the start point but this year rather than doing it in bare feet or risking losing my flip flops I acquired a rather nice pair of white hotel slippers which seemed to stand out amongst the hundreds of competitors making their way there but I'm sure the looks were jealousy rather than mickey taking.
Getting into the river is the first challenge as it’s quite a drop from the edge to the river itself but the water temperature was fine and it was a very quick wait before we were on or way. There are a lot of big orange marker floats in the middle of the river to separate you from the boats and this gives you plenty of opportunity for sighting. Its a bit of a scramble of bodies to get out of the swim and the exit is quite narrow but I miss the full contact of rugby so I didn’t mind that.
Its about a 400m run to the transition area to get your bike and already there was a decent crowd of people shouting you on. The bike route is very well marked and marshalled so even I couldn't go wrong. On the bike route there are a few long hills and one long descent which I love as its one of the only times where being a big lad has some advantages, as I pedal as hard as I can in the biggest gear as long as possible and then throw my weight into an aero position and fly past the smug skinny people who overtook me on the hill on the way up 5 minutes before. I was looking out for some of the hills from last years race and in my mind they were steeper than they felt this year, which was probably due to the hills I had to cope with on the Tri Training Harder holiday in Portugal. Any time I felt like my pace was dropping or I was struggling I kept repeating the phrase that Wendy put on my Facebook post…Don't be Sh**. It really did help!
The run is out on the streets along the castle and then along the "Long Walk" and again the crowds of supporters here are a brilliant motivation. Its a tough run course and early on you feel like you’ll never do it, as you come up the first hill and realise that you have to do that twice, or three times if you are doing the Olympic distance. There are lots of runners out on the course at this stage so its great to try to catch someone to push yourself until you realise you are in fact getting no closer but then there is always someone else to turn your sites on. The scenery on the long walk is amazing and you can’t help wonder if the queen is looking out of her window wishing that she had given triathlon a go when she was younger. Thankfully the last stretch of the run is downhill and then flattens out when you peel off towards the finish as you look at the faces of those who still have more laps to go. You get a nice medal at the end and a finishers T-shirt so you can swap stories with random people you see around town for the rest of the day.
All in all its a great event and knocking 7 mins off my time from last year was the icing on the cake.