An account from “Team Iain” (Iain Robertson and Iain Dawson), racing as a pair in the PT5 category of the Paratriathlon World ITU Series. An excellent first outing as a guide for Iain R. and a big effort collectively, resulted in the pair on the podium…
A club mate of mine competes on the ITU circuit in paratriathlon in the PT5 category – Iain Dawson (TORQ ambassador), is visually impaired and has previously won World and European titles. Both of Iain’s regular guides were unavailable for the London event at Hyde Park, so about 2 weeks before the race, I was asked if I was available. I was really keen to get involved in guiding, but had never been on a tandem or swam tethered before.
The London course is particularly technical, as it contains multiple laps with dead turns, speed bumps and sweeping bends. In the week leading up to the event, we went out on the tandem a couple of times and also did some tethered swimming. On the bike, we seemed to get on well together and were both happy that we could at least get round safely.
Luckily, on the morning of the event we had dry conditions, which would help with the bike course. It was however quite cold and there was some doubt as whether the swim would take place, as the combination of the water and air temperature were below the minimum threshold. An hour before the start, it was confirmed that the temperature was warm enough to go ahead. We set up in transition, ran through our tactics for the race and finalised how we would deal with the transition – which was split over two locations. There was a factoring system which allowed the blind athlete pairs to set off prior to the partially sited athletes.
Once the starting horn went, we had a few minutes to wait on the pontoon until we were off. We had a good start and swam well together, a couple of pairs got away early on, but we swam a good line and did not lose too much time. When we exited the swim, we removed our tether and made our way to our bike. We got through T1 quickly and were on our way. I found that fastening my shoes (once on the bike), was more difficult than on a solo bike. Then similarly, trying to control the bike with one hand and get my shoes on with the other also proved to be difficult, however after a bit of weaving we were on our way.
It was a 5 lap course and after a couple of laps, I got used to cornering and felt more comfortable. Also Iain got used to the location of the speed bumps – which felt like a heavy impact on the tandem and were quite disruptive to our rhythm. We were going well, but the nature of the course meant you could never really get up any constant speed for long, before there was another dead turn. We both worked really hard and entered T2 in second place, less than a minute down on a Polish pair.
However, we lost a few seconds in T2 after firstly getting on the wrong side of the bike and then Iain tried to get my trainers on. This delay was then added to as I then knocked the Poles’ bike off their rack! T2 resolved and we were quickly on our way, with our sights set on a medal. On the first of the 3 laps it was clear that the Polish pair were quick runners and the aim was to hold off the French pair behind. On the last lap the French pair passed us, but we held on for bronze. I was relieved that I had not let Iain down and that we had gone round safely – maybe not as quickly as we could have done, but it was a good result none the less.
It was inspiring to see the courage of the athletes, competing at the highest level in their sport with disabilities which would prevent most people from carrying out day to day tasks. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and if ever Iain needs guiding again, I will be happy to help – with a bit more training time together, I am sure there would be a room for improvement.
A big thank you to our Sponsors for making it happen:
www.wilier.it – Triathlon Frames
www.ffwdwheels.com – Race Wheels
www.huubdesign.com – Wetsuits
www.schwalbe.com – Cycle Tyres
www.ismseat.com – Saddles
www.invisciddesign.com – Speedfil Hydration Systems
www.lezyne.com – Pumps, Tools, Bottle Cages
www.zyro.co.uk/altura – Triathlon and Cycle Apparel
www.fenwicks.info – Lubrication
www.camelbak.com – Bottles
www.tifosioptics.com – Sunglasses
www.limarhelmets.com – Helmets & Glasses
www.lakecycling.co.uk – Cycling Footwear
www.jagwireusa.com – Cables & Housing
www.swansuk.co.uk – goggles
www.shimano.com – Groupsets
www.amphibia-sport.com – Transition Bags
www.stagescycling.com – Power Meters
www.racewaredirect.co.uk – Custom Garmin Mounts
www.zeropointcompression.uk – Compression wear