Harrison Smith - 8th place in World Triathlon Championships
28th October 2017
This year’s World Triathlon Championships were held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With the race scheduled for late Sunday afternoon, my dad and I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, clipped the bike to the top of the car and breezed through the six-hour trip. Our hotel was situated about a mile from the finish line, so, after unpacking, we walked down to catch the elite men’s race. The pace they can sustain for 10km never ceases to amaze me. I went through the standard procedure: register, go back to the room, stick everything onto the bike, and go for an easy shake-out run to check out the course.
I woke up feeling fresh and relaxed; I focused a lot on my running last summer and my only other triathlon had been the Sundried Southend Triathlon three months previously. I wasn’t hugely confident, but I knew that if I could get myself into a decent group on the bike I would come through in the footrace.
Unsurprisingly, the day dragged on as we waited, idly watching the other age-groupers. The race was at three o’clock so I had a small bite for lunch before setting up in the two transitions- T1 was on the north side of the river, we would cross the bridge during the bike and finish on the south side for the run.
I warmed up with my usual run followed by drills before slipping my Tri’n’Swim Well wetsuit on and doing some sprints in the water to get a feel for the rather fresh 16-degree temperature. Alas, we were let out onto the pontoon and I realised how big the field actually was- over 70 guys from countries as far away as Australia had made the trip.
I went hard to the first buoy- as did everyone else- and was forced backwards in the ensuing chaos. As we rounded the last of the two buoys and began our journey to the swim exit, I was latched onto a set of feet, focusing on maintaining my technique and keeping up the cadence, consciously aware that I was toward the back. As I sprinted out of the water and into the 300m run to transition, my dad shouted that I had swam 10.40, hardly my fastest time for the 750m but not awful considering I had swam only a few times all summer.
I put a big effort in through transition while trying to focus on being as efficient as possible. It paid of as after a couple of kilometres of hard riding I found myself in a group of about eight, around 45 seconds behind the main peloton. Luckily the bike course was narrow- mainly on bike paths- and particularly winding, which suited our small group. As we worked together I did take a moment- at about 15km- to acknowledge how awesome it was that I was chain ganging through Rotterdam with an Aussie, and Belgian, another Brit and an American. We made good progress through the final miles, bringing the peloton from out of sight, to within 20 seconds as we leaped from our bikes into T2.
Surprisingly for me, I breezed through T2 too without a problem. I had a slight stich but I also had a long line of competitors in front, enticing me to push on. I was told at the start of the run that I was in 40th, hardly where I was aiming for in the back of my mind. By halfway I had passed most of the peloton and was in about 15th with my sights set on the stragglers from the first group out of the swim. Ignoring the rising pain, I focused on holding form and I raced down the last hill toward the finish, picking people off all the way. As I turned onto the carpet I was in 10th, so, with one last burst of adrenaline, I sprinted past two more guys, collapsing across the line in 8th with the fastest run time by 30 seconds- a respectable 16.05.
As we drove home that evening I was content with my effort, but excited for the year to come; the winner had only swum 35 seconds faster than me, with a faster swim I could potentially have won. With the priceless support of Sundried for my kit, Tri’n’Swim Well for my wetsuit and swim coaching, Finely Tuned Physio for my sports massages and injury treatment, and my coach- Nick Wetheridge- for guidance, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to fulfil that potential and win next year.