If there’s one certainty around triathlon, it’s that you’re guaranteed to have to get up super early. On Sunday, the alarm went off at 5.13 (I have a thing about setting the alarm for 3 minutes something…) and Mark and I donned our trisuits, gulped down some porridge and had a whispered argument about how we were going to actually fit the bikes in the back of the car.
– you need quite a lot of kit for tri-ing.
We’d already registered the previous afternoon, and so rocking up that morning was pretty straight forward. We set up our bikes in the tennis courts, arranged and rearranged our shoes, sunglasses, helmets and visors. I knew it was going to be a pretty serious race, full of actual triathlete types, but I hadn’t realised people would be quite so keen…
-the bike leg is 25K, people.
The whole start was super chilled. The sun was out, everyone was smiling and happy and there was excitement and the smell of deep heat in the air. Mark and I headed off to the toilet, and as we crossed the car park, who should we bump into but my big, big, big boss! Probably one of the most awkward moments of my life, standing in my trisuit, talking to my boss, also in a trisuit. We swapped good lucks. I wasn’t sure if I should let him win.
Triathlons with swimming pool swims are funny old things. Yes, the race starts at 7am, but it can be a fairly long wait before you can get in the pool. The organisers ask you to submit your predicted swim time when you enter, and then the slowest swimmers start first. I can’t think of any other way of doing it, but it does mean as a relatively fast swimmer, I wasn’t in the pool until an hour and a bit after the actual start. Mark was due in the pool quite a lot earlier than me, and I left him in his group and we said goodbye with a big high five.
It was quite lonely at the deep end, and I was kind of freaked out by how fast and focused everyone around me looked. Eventually, I got chatting to a really nice Australian man, a member of Chrissie Wellington’s old tri club (the BRAT club) and some bloke who told me off for looking so nervous. The highlight of the wait was watching Mark whizz up and down the pool, and yelling in his ear as he touched the ends to turn.
Suddenly it was time to get in the pool and… three, two, one, off I went. Too fast, of course. The 400m was 16 zigzagging lengths of the pool, and it took me a while to work out how to dip under the lane ropes… I quickly lost count of how many lengths I’d actually done, and just tried to find some sort of speedy rhythm in the water. The man who’d set off just behind me quickly caught me up, which threw me, but then I managed to catch a couple of swimmers just ahead. The swim was over just as quickly as it started, and I leapt out the water like a confused salmon and headed to transition.
400m – 6 minutes 59
The worst and best thing about triathlon is transition. It’s so baffling, confusing and you are forced to put socks on damp feet.
Number on, helmet on, socks on, shoes on, watch on… AND GO! I managed to run through transition in my bike shoes without falling over and managed to get going on my bike without falling off – just for this, I’d already won.
The bike leg itself was brilliant fun. Who doesn’t love riding their bike as fast as they can possibly go?! The roads around Burgess aka Burger Hill were really quiet as it was still far too early, and there were no major hills to speak of. I think the bike is my favourite part of ‘racing’ triathlon. It’s just ace to be able to zoom around country lanes, passing people as if you’re in formula one, and not having to worry about where to go, and there are nice people in hi-viz pointing you the right way (although even with them on hand, I managed to nearly miss a turning. Muppet).
I was passed by a few people, but luckily they were all in sperm hats and/or sporting aero handle bars and/or wheels that whoooooshed, so I didn’t get too disheartened. It really, really started to hurt after about 10 miles, and I was very pleased to see the leisure centre on the horizon.
I unclipped pretty early, as I didn’t want get over excited and forget, whizzed into the ‘dismount’ area and then got confused about where the hell to go…
25K (plus T1 and possibly T2): 51 minutes 12
T2 was less baffling than T1: bike shoes off, helmet off, sunglasses off, trainers on, visor on, spin number round. GO! Only to get lost in the transition area and run around a load of bikes I didn’t need to.
I tried to concentrate and gave myself a little pep talk: “this is what you’re good at, this is what you like”, but my legs still didn’t really want to work.
The route itself was pretty dull and not much fun, and in the first 1K, there was a steady climb out of the leisure centre. This really hurt. As it was an out and back, there were lots of runners coming back the other way the whole time, which made it quite difficult at times. On the “out”, we were sharing the path with a mass bike ride; bike riders with no road sense what so ever, which was kind of annoying, and, again, made it quite tricky to get into a rhythm as it was like a bike obstacle course. After the turn around point which had some top cheering types from the local secondary school, I just had to stick my head down and ignore that my legs were really, really tired. I’d glanced down at my garmin, and noticed I was going quite a bit quicker than I felt like I was going, but it wasn’t comfy. I pushed on, and passed a couple of people. Soon enough, the finish started to come into view, and I made my legs go a bit faster, especially as when I passed some bloke, someone shouted “go on mate, don’t get chicked”. He most definitely was going to be now. Mark was also cheering, medal on and beer in hand, which, of course, made me go that little bit faster.
I should have enjoyed the run the most – but it was horrible!
5K (plus possibly T2): 22 minutes 44
The race was brilliant: well organised, a really great atmosphere, amazing goodie bags that included a COW BELL and super brilliant volunteers. The standard of tri-ers, if you look at the results, was really high, and it was fun to be competing against people that really knew what they were doing! I had loads of fun on Sunday, and finished the whole thing in 1 hour 20 minutes 55 seconds, 101st overall and 13th woman.
The next race is the BIG ONE, the Marlow half iron-distance triathlon. I can’t wait – I just hope I don’t get too lost in transition.
P.S I managed to beat both Mark AND big boss overall. Not sure how it happened, but it did!