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The London Triathlon – Thoughts on First Draft Legal Race



So tomorrow will be my first ever draft legal race.  For those of you who watch test matches and love all kinds of sports like me, but don’t know about draft legal race due to it not being very popular, here’s my explanation (those of you who do, can skip the next paragraph)

Draft legal racing means that you can….draft on the bike (ta-da!).  Most races in the US (Ironman, 70.3, almost all age group races) are non-drafting, meaning you ride the entire bike course by yourself.  Drafting on the bike changes the dynamics of the race, effectively emphasizing the swim.  What tends to happen is that strong swimmers will finish the swim near each other, group up on the bike, and take off.  This leaves slow swimmers (like me) alone to either with little chance to catch the group.  It can happen, but most times it does not. 

Draft legal is the style used by the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and therefore, in the Olympics.  The Olympics have always been my highest athletic dream.  Originally, I was going to play basketball in the Olympics.  When I stopped growing 9 inches too soon, I thought I would run in the Olympics.  I would love to, in an ideal world, compete in ITU events for an Olympic spot.

However, the drafting dynamics of the race make it much harder for me to be competitive.  As much as I have improved my swimming, I am not in the same universe as the guys who compete in these events. The fastest guys will beat me by 2-3 minutes over a 1500m swim.  For me to finish well, there has to be (1) a bunch of guys who are as slow as I am in the swim, (2) these slow guys and myself have to be strong cyclists, (3) we have to work hard, and work together on the bike to catch the lead group, and (4) if I’m not completely dead by then, I need to have enough left to run a very fast 10k (I should also say that the best ITU racers are amazing runners, sub 30 min 10ks are not uncommon).

So why am I doing a draft legal race?  Because you never know.  It’s possible that in the right race, that crazy combination of things could happen.  Or, who knows, I could have a ridiculous swim, or everyone’s tire could flat except mine, etc.  I guess its the same reason I’ve decided to take this year off from a “real job” and compete, because you won’t know until you try.  

All in all, I’m actually pretty excited about racing tomorrow.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect to get dropped on the swim, blast myself on the bike and then struggle to finish the run, but I’m excited for the challenge and the venture into the unknown.   If you’re awake at 10:45 London time and have access to British television, it’ll be live on channel 4.

6 comments to The London Triathlon – Thoughts on First Draft Legal Race

  • Little Bro

    Good Luck Man!  Hope the race goes / went well!

  • […] The London Triathlon – Thoughts on First Draft Legal Race […]

  • […] I was expecting to get dropped on the swim, and the short story is…I got dropped.  I was in the back of a group (right where I wanted to be) for the first 600-700 meters, and then didn’t go around the buoy very well (by which I mean I ran into it), and next thing you know, I’m in No Man’s Land.  I started swimming by myself, and for the rest of the swim thought I was in last place and was worried that I would miss the cutoff time (25 minutes) and completely embarrass myself.  I literally swam the rest of the way solo, which is not what you want to do if you swim like I do (slow and not in a straight line).  However, turns out I came out in 20:27, which is a 1500m PR for me, and I was only 2.5 minutes off the lead pack, which is a ways, but a significant improvement over the 4-5 minutes the lead group used to put on me (and this lead group included world champions and multiple Olympians). […]

  • […] easier to understand how good the real athletes are.  I got shellacked at Antwerp 70.3, took a “personal tour of London… Triathlon”, and ran ok, but still got my ass handed to me in Knokke Heist, So I’m going to call this my […]

  • charlie

    Hi, I just heard this morning that I’ve qualified for the elite wave at London tri in a month. I’m a decent age grouper whose strong cycle usually saves me! Never raced a draft legal race before and swim 1500m in 25 mins. I do the run in around 35 mins. Initial reaction was not to do it but my wife found your blog and now I’m thinking… I want someone who knows to tell me I’d be dumb to do it (or dumb not to!). What is your advice? It would be greatly appreciated. Charlie

    • Jesse Thomas

      Hey Charlie, just saw this, not sure if you’ve raced already or not, but if not, I say go for it. It’s an awesome experience. You will most likely get dropped pretty quickly on the swim honestly (those guys swim under 20 minutes), but you’ll have a closed course (like me) to race, and there may be some stragglers behind that you can group up with. It was fun even though I got destroyed. Good luck man!

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