So Sunday was my first ever Olympic distance triathlon … the event I have been building up to all summer, all year really. And how was it? IT WAS AWESOME. I’m so happy I still can’t really believe I finished it, and especially with the times I managed … I couldn’t stop smiling afterwards and still can’t really whenever I think about it … and when I talk about it … which I seem to be doing quite a bit!!! So here we go…
As regular readers of the blog may know, I kind of fell off the rails a little bit in the last few weeks, missing workouts for lie-ins in bed (so many mornings of various excuses to James as to why I was still in bed at 8am and not in the pool), missing runs due to an aching hip, losing the mental ability to believe in myself and the mental motivation to train. As a result I decided to forget about my goals and have my goal just to finish. Having not run 10k due to hip pain for the last few weeks I decided getting round would be challenge enough.
This meant that I strangely wasn’t nervous in the days approaching the triathlon, I almost kept forgetting that it was coming up in just three days … two days … oh shit it’s tomorrow.
The short version…..
Bike: 1 hr 39.35
On Saturday my mum and I had a little wander around Chichester, watched the Vuelta on TV, pre-registration for the event, and pasta with stir-fried veg for dinner, following by an incredible hot chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice-cream. And two little glasses of white wine. I doubt this is what the pros do but it made me happy. More appropriately, my bags were packed and the lights were out by 10pm.
The alarm went of at 6am for a quick cereal breakfast and the short drive to the lake, about 15 minutes away. We set up in transition, right next to each other, used the toilets and then went down for our briefing. The half ironman wave were already off, spreading across the lake due to big disparities in their speeds. I couldn’t wait to get in – there wasn’t a breath of wind and the sun was starting to shine, the lake looked beautiful. Flip-flops meant I didn’t have to gingerly and slowly pick my way over the stones and I was straight in the lake as soon as possible. It was a lovely temperature, slight intake of breath as it first went down the neck of my wetsuit then I was perfectly happy. I had over enough time to duck my head under, swim a little bit, and tread water with my mum before lining up on the right hand side near the front.
And we were off! I went out hard in the first ten strokes and felt really good. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. A recurrent theme for the first lap was realising that despite sighting often, I was on the right hand side of the wave of swimmers by a long way – basically out in the middle of the lake by myself. I resolved to sight more often but this didn’t seem to help! Onto the second lap and I felt in a pretty strong position as I rounded the penultimate buoy at the top with a bunch of men. I decided to stick slightly to the left of one of them so I couldn’t do my usual drifting to the right tactic. This seemed to work quite well!
Before I knew it the swim was over – I had really enjoyed it. The swim is weirdly now my favourite part of triathlon. Into T1 – quite a long way away – and mum was just about 30 seconds ahead of me. T1 felt slightly panicky and I almost forgot to put my helmet and race belt on, but all was okay and soon I was off for the cycle!
This would be a wonderful cycle were you not racing. Beginning with some nice straight flats to allow you to get your head down and your legs pumping (I passed someone!), it then takes a turn to the left and begins to climb up the South Downs towards Goodwood. It’s never a particularly steep climb, it’s just long and relentless especially when trying to go as fast as possible. Having taken one gel when I got on the bike, I shoved a [blox] into my mouth just after half way up and chewed on it gradually to get some more energy back into my complaining legs. Then some more flats with beautiful views of the South Downs dropping away to the left. A fast descent on a straight, empty road surrounded by trees. The two guys in front of me got into an aero tuck, but I kept pedalling (hands on the drop bars) and found I could still get some resistance to push the pedals round, meaning they didn’t get any further in front of me. Then some lovely undulating up and downs as we approached Goodwood, absolutely shrouded in mist so thick you could barely see the cyclist in front of you. Lots of TT bikes on the half ironman distance race overtook me, I overtook a few Olympic distance racers. Then a long, loooong lovely speed downhill followed by some more ups and downs (although they felt more like ups and flats). Then the whole thing once again! The second time it felt so long, like each section was taking so much longer than it had taken the first time. But it was almost over and mum and I passed each other just as she was turning into the road towards T2 and I was coming up the other side of the road… not too far behind!
She was running out of T2 as I ran in – bike racked, helmet off, a quick change of shoes. I actually don’t remember doing any of those things but I do remember running out of T2 and onto the run course. It was quite a nice course – 2 laps with several out & backs on each, over half on footpaths and a little bit along side the road with several supporters cheering. From the very beginning I was thinking “I don’t know if I can do this“. I had put my garmin on so I had an average speed and the time that I’d been running, although I had started it slightly after the starting point on the run. I said to myself I would run for 20 minutes and then I could walk for 30 seconds before running again.
When it came to 20 minutes though I was feeling good so kept on, made it past the half way point before a short walk break, and then another one 15 minutes later. Another thing that wasn’t helping was the out and backs, I kept seeing my mum for smiles and high fives but at every one I noticed she was slightly further in front of me…. I did not feel like I was running fast. My garmin was also showing an average speed of just over 6km/minute – this would mean just over an hour for the 10k. Once it had settled on this I decided that sub-60 minutes wasn’t going to happen, so just to take it slowly until the end when I could sprint for the finish. The worst part of the whole race was the fact that you had to run PAST the finish line and round a final out and back. Never has such a short distance seemed so far as I ran away from the finish, picking up my speed to fully sprint back towards and across the line.
Mum was still there, and as I was apparently looking in quite a bad way she made me sit down and gave me a cup of water until I got my breath back, while she went and got my times for me… well as soon as I saw my times I completely recovered! I COULD NOT believe it – both the swim and the run were far better than I had been hoping for, and I was only six seconds slower than mum on the bike which again, was far better than anything I’d ever hoped for. I had wanted 30 minutes on the swim but didn’t think that was possible (I managed under 29 minutes) … I had wanted 1 hour on the run but didn’t think that was possible (I managed just over 56 minutes). It’s actually the fastest 10k I’ve ever run so I am SO HAPPY.
The triathlon was wonderful. The weather was great, the volunteers were friendly (the guys at one turn-around point absolutely full of positive shouts and cheers), the other competitors were great (lots of calls of “you’re catching your mum” on the run from members of mum’s tri club… which, while untrue, was very kind!), and the supporters were wonderfully vocal. It was really well organised and all in all, incredibly good fun. I’d recommend it for a lovely swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a (relatively) flat run. I can’t wait until next year!