Triathlon World Championships – Standard Distance
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Report – Neil Gardiner
My goal to represent Great Britain at triathlon had been five years in the making. I did my first triathlon with a pool swim in East Leake in 2017. In 2019, I qualified for the GB Team in a race at Grafham, where the swim was cut short because the water was so cold (11 degrees).
The World Championships were meant to be in 2020 but they were postponed for two years due to COVID (so glad I didn’t ‘let myself go’ over lockdown).
Finally, it was on…Abu Dhabi, 26th November.
As the event got closer, I got a massive case of Imposter Syndrome…I didn’t think I deserved to be there and kept waiting for some official to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘there’s been a terrible mistake, you’re not actually meant to be here’. With this in mind, I’d set myself two realistic goals, 1. Get to the start line injury free, and 2. Don’t come last.
Swim 1.5km, time 29:36
The water was 27 degrees, so too hot for wetsuits. As swimming is not my strongest discipline, my plan was to take it steady and stay in contact with the other competitors. By the first buoy, the field had thinned out and I’d found someone who I could draft. This meant I could take it -relatively- easy, apart from when I had to fight for position as we overtook a couple of others. I deliberately never went above 7 out of 10 for effort, saving myself for the bike and run (as the saying goes, let the pain come to you).
Bike 40km, time 1:01:49
The bike is my friend and I enjoyed giving it some beans having cruised the swim. Although there were 4 U-turns, it was a very fast bike course, and I averaged a smidge over 24mph.
Run 10km, time 50:34
It was getting hot as we approached midday and I had the feeling that I might have over-cooked the bike. I wasn’t running particularly fast but my heart rate was already high. As people went past me on lap 1, I let them go knowing that I would blow up if I tried to chase them. I walked the aid stations, only 10 metres but it allowed me to have a proper drink, get an ice sponge down my back then go again. On lap 2 I was still slow and I could already feel the blisters on my feet, but I was picking off a few racers whose wheels had come off completely.
Overall time was 2:28:22, finishing 34th out of the 50 finishers in my Age Group.
Despite my nerves in the build-up, I love race day and this event was extra special because my family were there to soak up the atmosphere and cheer me on. Finally, I’d like to give a big Thank You to my club mates who make training 9 hours a week social, fun and competitive, and to the coaches who give up their time to help others achieve their goals.