• PLANNING OR LACK OF IT.  Try to explain to your spouse that while looking for a local 10K as part of a family vacation you actually found one of the premier races on the entire global calendar, 2017 ITU Leeds.  This was not an elaborate excuse for a tri-cation.  Just a chance to experience a race in England.  After the eye rolls subsided it was time to register.  The first thing that got me was the incredibly affordable registration fee of about $115.70.  That price was about half the cost of the last ITU race in San Diego.  As for gear I certainly wasn’t going to bring a bike and the wetsuit got jettisoned in favor of more travel clothes.  Bike & wetsuit would have to be rented and I could certainly endure a one mile swim in cold water, right?  As it turns out, the best place to rent a bike was Tadcaster, 15 miles northeast of Leeds and it had a regular bus route.  The only issue would be the return route as only fold up bikes were accommodated on the buses.  No matter.  A 15 mile casual bike ride through the English countryside back to downtown Leeds would be a perfect pre race warm-up, right?That 15 mile white knuckle ride on roads named the A1 and A64 were enough to intimidate even a confident cyclist.  Bike and gear in tow it was time to head 5 miles from Downtown Leeds to Roundhay Park where the race would start.  The finish would be in downtown Leeds on the blue carpet.  There were special shuttle buses to take participants and fans to the park but bikes were not permitted on those buses either so it was time to clip in again.  My plan was to just follow one of the buses and I was accompanied by a Brit, David, who joined in the fun.  We made it to Roundhay park unscathed and high on bus fumes.
  • THE DAY BEFORE.  There was nothing unusual about packet pickup except the heavy presence of well-armed British police.  The London Bridge attack was the previous weekend and the police were outfitted with military gear which is quite unusual from anything I had previously experienced in England.  They were making quite the presence to make sure everything stayed safe.  I made way to transition where race officials welcomed athletes by requiring helmets on heads with chinstraps snapped and required athletes to press front and rear brakes.  This is the equivalent of USAT officials checking bar end caps or plugs.  With my bike safely in transition it was time to find a wetsuit rental.  As it turns out, wetsuits were required for ITU Leeds.  I made way to the HUUB tent and was lucky enough that they had an XL Albacore wetsuit and were willing to lend it out for a small deposit.  I found at later this was their top of of the line wetsuit with all the bells and whistles and a $850 retail price point.That was a huge favor and the wetsuit was amazing.
  • RACE DAY.  The race itself was extremely difficult with headwinds and crosswinds making a hilly and technical bike even harder.  The run rolled and never let me get comfortable.  I’m normally in the 2:20 - 2:30 range for an Olympic but at Leeds it was 2:55.  This was not a PR course and as expected I finished behind both Gold Medalist Alistair and Silver Medalist Johnny Brownlee who raced later in the day.  That is the way I would like to remember it anyway.  Both the pro male and female races were amazing.  The British Triathlon Union, the City of Leeds and all of the sponsors put on a 3,000 person all-day party suitable for pro and amateaur athletes and families and friends alike.  The crowds were 10 deep in some places.  It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.  Thank you Leeds!
  • THE DESSERT.  My favorite part of the race happened after my race was done but before the pros started.  I made my way back to Roundhay Park to collect my bike and on the return ride back to the city came across the “broom wagon” motorcycle right behind the last women, Tracey Windscheffel of the Wakefield Triathlon Club. Tracey was right up against the clock and the motorcyclist suggested I encourage her to keep a solid pace and not get her pulled off the course.  Through both tears and smiles I had the fortune of escorting her all the way to the finish line.  Way to go Tracey!
  • I want to thank my wife and daughter, Team Richmond, for their support and encouragement as well as a small contingent of UK based Cal Tri athletes who made me feel right at home.  2018.  Uh, yes!
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