Last weekend, Travel Republic’s James Ratcliffe participated in the Dusseldorf ETU Sprint Triathlon as part of Team GB.
We caught up with James to find out how his race went and why we need to add Dusseldorf to our holiday list.
After six months of hard training and being almost injury free I felt on the best form of my life – however 10 days before the race I damaged my Achilles while out for a training run. With this in mind, I reassessed my race priorities and set my goals to be “Don’t drown, fall asleep on the bike or tear my Achilles on the run.” I had therefore decided to just enjoy the event, learn from the experience, finish in one piece and not come last.
On the Friday before the race most of the GB team met for the parade. This is like the Olympic ceremony parade where athletes are grouped by country and we parade around in a big circle waving flags. This gave me a chance to chat with my fellow GB athletes, pose for pictures and take in the sights of the city.
On the Saturday morning the GB Squad had a race briefing where they went through the race specifics, rules and regulations. The evening was spent racking the bike, then having a very late meal and a couple of beers – when in Germany!
Race day started early with a light breakfast followed by a 40 minutes’ walk to transition to check the bike and set up my equipment ready for the race. Other than almost forgetting to leave my number in transition and not leaving my run cap, there were no issues and I had a good chat with the other competitors.
It was a cool, overcast day with an odd small rain shower – I was aware that this would make the technical sections of the bike course quite treacherous, especially on the corners that had tram tracks across them.
My age category wave was the last and largest of the day with 55 elite age group competitors from 10 European countries lining up by the pontoon. Looking back I was not in the slightest bit nervous.
We started in the water in the River Rhine and had to hold onto the pontoon with one hand. The klaxon sounded and we were off – it was like being in a washing machine with bumping, barging, kicking and dunking. I dealt with this well and adapted my stroke to ensure I could breathe in this environment. I came out of the water alive, undamaged and in 34th place. The good news was the swim was the fastest I had ever swum in a race. My average pace is normally around 1:45/100m, however I hit 1:38/100m over the 875m swim.
The run to the first transition was really long- coming out of the water we had to ascend 67 steps and run 300ish meters to the bike. Wetsuit off, helmet and number on and I was off for the 300m run to the bike mount line. With such a long transition I was so glad I had recently switched from running in my bike shoes to attaching them to the bike.
With the damp conditions, my plan was to take the technical sections of the bike easy and then push hard on the long middle straights. This was a wise move as we heard after the race that there were quite a few crashes.
During the ride it seemed like the wind was either against or trying to blow me sideways – however, I posted a solid time with an average speed of 34.6kph over the 21.2 k bike section.
There was no drama in transition two, I managed to dismount before the line and make a quick transition to my running shoes.
The run would normally be my strongest discipline, however to avoid damaging to my Achilles, caution was a priority. This meant I was running at about 80% of my normal 5K speed. I still ended up with the 14th fastest run of the day in my age group with an average split time of 3:58/k.
In the end I came over the line feeling surprisingly relaxed, fresh and in 33rd place with a time of 01:17:26. With each discipline being longer than the standard sprint distances and the extra-long transitions I was pleased with the time.
As this was my first race at this level I learnt loads, met some nice people and now know where I need to focus my efforts to gain time and get closer to the podium. Dusseldorf is a fantastic city, with great hospitality, scenery and beer and I look forward to returning one day.
But first I now need to look to qualify again for the GB team. Onwards and upwards!
If you prefer your holidays off two wheels, Dusseldorf also has plenty to offer alongside major sporting events. The city was shortlisted by National Geographic Traveller as a cool destination to visit in 2017, due to its roots in the art world, and new art spaces popping up across the city. The city is also known for its fashion and shopping, especially along the Königsallee.
And if you are a big kid at heart, head over for the “Largest Fair on the Rhine” (14th – 23rd July 2017), an annual celebration for the city’s patron saint, featuring parades, amusement parks and of course beer!
Find out more here – http://bit.ly/2s9CDHf