Triathletes are known for their ability to cope with early mornings, and yesterday was no exception; at 5:30am on Sunday 26th May, 50 keen aero-helmet-clad athletes met in Oxford city centre ready for the race we had been training for all year. The sun was shining and the queue for the toilets had already formed when our troop of six vans arrived at Grendon Lakes. We registered and admired our free T-shirts before eyeing up our minty green rivals as we set up in transition. Fuelled up on High5 extreme and various other sugary, caffeinated products, we were ready to go. The triathlon consisted of a 750m swim in a chilly 12oC lake followed by an undulating 23km bike and a 5km run around the lake.
With the sound of the klaxon at 9am, the Varsity wave had begun! Tom Hughes was out at the front, keen to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the main pack. So keen was Tom that he decided to get a little too close and personal with the first buoy, getting his wetsuit caught in the chain! Sophia exited the swim first, closely followed by Cambridge’s leading man. Morgan decided to leave his timing chip with the fishes, so his overall time for the swim, according to the results system, was approximately 743 hours. After the first transition, there were a number of accidents on the lane out from the lakes. Alec, already sporting an ankle injury and broken hand, decided to add a couple of broken ribs to his list by getting pulled down by a man in the 65+ category struggling to get his shoes on. Tim also had a cuddle with the tarmac at the first junction, and somehow (no-one really knows how yet), John Ash ended up in a hedge. Andy Dyson returned back after the bike as the first Oxford athlete, with a 35 minute bike split, with Sophia and Aussie Jordan hot on his heels.
Sophia sprinted around the run course to finish in a time of 1:11:36, the fastest woman competitor of the day by a huge margin. Georgina Hellier and Marie McHugh followed to become part of the top three Oxford women. The wmen’s first team Andy Dyson (1:09:45), James Felce and Alec Watson narrowly lost to Cambridge by a margin of just 41 seconds, despite injury problems for all three athletes. The women won by a convincing margin of over 7 minutes, even without a contribution from Hannah, who very sensibly decided to sit out to protect her knee for the Europeans. The mob match – where athletes outside the top 3 finishers score for their team – was also evenly split. Cambridge’s total time for the women was 4 minutes faster than ours, whereas our men had a 1 hour 25 minute faster combined time than the equivalent number of Cambridge’s men. So overall, there were two very narrow victories for Cambridge and two very convincing wins for Oxford.
Perhaps best of all, Oxford entered over 50 competitors compared to Cambridge’s 30, which reflects the explosion in participation we’ve had this year. All athletes celebrated finishing the triathlon, for many of whom it was their first, by consuming copious amounts of calories at the BBQ after the event. And with that, the Varsity burger-eating and beer-drinking contests began…
PHOTO / Hannah Johnston