Jersey Triathlon – Olympic Distance – 18 July 2015
By Joanne Ford
This weekend Paul, Manuel, Celine and I took part in the Jersey Olympic distance triathlon.
For those of you who have never visited, here are a few facts about Jersey:
– It is definitely not to be confused with New Jersey.
– It is the largest of the Channel Islands (roughly 4.5km by 8km with a population of approximately 99,000) and, despite forming part of the British Isles, is actually much closer to France than it is to Britain.
– It has its own currency (the Jersey Pound) which cannot be exchanged off the Island (much to the annoyance of its tourists).
– Jersey experiences some of the largest tidal ranges in the world (this was evidenced on Saturday night at low tide when we noticed that the buoys marking the furthest part of our swim were lying in the sand).
– The Island is the birthplace of none other than our very own Paul G.
Despite its relative proximity to Paris, getting to Jersey took a mammoth effort from the Paris contingent. After my 50 minute flight from London, I met my fellow Expatriés outside their hotel. Their journey had started at 2:30 am on Saturday with a five hour bike laden car journey from Pigalle to Saint Malo where they then picked up the one hour ferry to Jersey. It was no surprise that the afternoon’s activity consisted of a well-deserved nap.
The race briefing was on Saturday afternoon and before that we had our bikes and helmets checked. This was a well organised and smooth process however it was at this stage that we started to realise what we were in for. Within a few minutes and after some serious “bike perving” we had spotted at least 10 bikes worth in the region of €8,000. Given that there were only about 160 competitors in the Olympic race, it was fast becoming clear that this was no novice event. It turns out that if you live on a small and beautiful island like Jersey, there is little else to do other than run, swim and cycle (a lot) and this explains the number of triathletes on the Island. The race briefing was delivered by a Liverpudlian (we call them “Scousers”) who made many jokes but, given that even some of us Brits struggle to understand the scouse accent, I’m pretty sure most of it was lost on the overseas competitors. Much of the briefing revolved around the abundance of sea lettuce in Jersey at this time of year. Basically, this is slimy seaweed that looks like floating bits of lettuce and is not particularly pleasant to swim through (although we were reassured that it posed no health risk).
With the briefing over it was time for the Expatriés to share a carb heavy dinner of pizza and pasta at a restaurant on the beach followed by an early night.
I was concerned in the night when I woke to the sound of rain. However, the weather on Sunday morning turned out to be cloudy with a stiff breeze to dry off the roads. The swim started in the sea (as opposed to on the sand) due to the high tide and consisted of two laps of the course. A highlight of the swim was the sea wall in close proximity which meant that the many spectators could sit and encourage the swimmers throughout the race. The water was a balmy 18 degrees and there were a number of swimmers braving the conditions without suits. Thankfully, the much referred to sea lettuce had abated and the (sometimes choppy) sea was relatively calm. Once out of the swim it was up some stone steps and into the (mercifully flat) transition and onto the bike. The bike course was beautiful. It took us all over the west of the Island and there were a number of points where the route took us over the brow of a hill to take in the most spectacular views of the coastline (it was a just shame that there wasn’t time to take a picture). That said, the cycle route was no mean feat and included three steep climbs (don’t be fooled, Jersey is by no means flat). Once off the bike, the run route consisted of four laps around the marina in St. Helier. Yes, it was repetitive but did have the advantages of being flat and allowing plenty of cheering spectators to line the route- the Jersey people are a very friendly bunch- and also gave us a chance to shout words of encouragement to our fellow team members as we passed them.
In terms of team performance, the race was a great success with each of the Expatriés achieving a PB (not sure if this counts given that it was my first (and probably last) Olympic distance but I’ll go with it). Special mention must go to Rajah and Wanda who traveled to Jersey but were sadly unable to compete on the day- we really welcomed their support. A big, big thank you to Paul for organising the travel and accommodation.
Finally, if you fancy a friendly (yet competitive) race with a beautiful (yet challenging) course- this one’s for you next year.