“Cathy will do it… Cathy, you’ll do a half ironman won’t you?”
And just like that, one morning in November, Liz and Laura had managed to persuade to do the hardest race of my life so far.
The race was in the very beautiful and posh village of Marlow. Full of fancy cars and restaurants and home to a very large Crew Clothing, it was exactly the kind of place one imagines there to be lots of triathletes with very fancy bikes. We had go along to register have a briefing about the race on Saturday afternoon, so after a big lunch and a wander down the Thames – where we’d be swimming the following morning – we headed to the athletes’ village, collected our numbers and sussed out the competition. Everyone looked really rather serious, all mirrored sunglass, ‘m-dot’ tattoos and long socks, and by this time Bez had already rubbed his race number all over my face, so we looked a little out of place. We were told in the briefing how great the bike course – with the addition of a ‘small’ climb: bleugh – was going to be and how hot it was expected to get. All the things you want to hear before a race.
And suddenly it was 4.30 on Sunday morning. As we loaded the car, scoffed down some porridge and a cup of coffee and headed to the park it still didn’t seem quite real that I was going to head out to race for about 6 hours. It really wasn’t until Mark and I said goodbye when he headed to the water to start his swim that I realised that it was here – the day we’d trained so hard for so long for.
The swim was that part I was most worried about. Apart from swimming in the sea a few times, I’d not really swum in open water at all, and never in a river with loads of other people.
There were so many ‘unknowns’ with the swim – would I get my googles kicked off? Nearly. Would I swim into the riverbank? Yes. Would I manage to get my wetsuit off at the end? Not without a considerable amount of difficulty.
The water was pretty grim – I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but thankfully quite warm. I tried to stay out of the main body of swimmers and find a rhythm, but never really could. People seemed to be everywhere, and I didn’t know how to handle being clonked in the head by stray arms and my feet being tickled. That said, I sort of started to enjoy it by the last buoy, but by that time it was time to get out. I managed to get out unassisted – winner – only to get terrible calf cramp and have to hop most of the way to transition.
Swim: 38: 40
T1 was a nightmare – the cramp in my calf stuck around until I’d reached my bike and the zip wouldn’t undo on my wetsuit. These things, added to the fact I was convinced I’d swallowed far too much of the Thames and was going to die from some disease mid-way round the bike, threw me right off my game and I ended up faffing around for ages before heading out on the bike leg.
Part of me was really looking forward to the bike, and an equal part of me was dreading it. 53 miles is a really long way to ride by yourself, a bit damp, and a lot of things could go wrong.
Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the bike at all – not one bit. But I did do much better than I thought I was going to though, so every cloud.
I didn’t have fun because:
- The route was dull, and the roads were pants.
- I had to stop to sort my front wheel out 3 times – something that’s never happened before in all the weeks of training
- My tool bag came loose so I had to stop to sort that out, too
- One of the marshals really confused me at a junction about 40 miles in, so I nearly fell off when I had to stop
- I managed to not get overtaken by a single other woman without a sperm helmet on until the last lap – when about 6 women in normal hats zoomed past
- I opened a gel and spilt it all over my hand and handle bar
- Some twat in a sperm helmet passed me waaaaaaay to close on a downhill and scared the sh*t out of me
- I needed a wee the entire way around
- My hip hurt really badly from about 10 miles onwards. This hasn’t really ever happened before, so thank you, hip for making an appearance
I really wanted to like the ride, I really did. I guess there were some fun downhill bits and I passed enough people to give me a bit of a boost.
T2 was much more successful than T1 – thank goodness. As soon as I got off the bike, my hip stopped hurting and I stopped needing a wee. I shoved my visor on and headed out, hoping to have a much more enjoyable time. I’d been telling myself the whole way round the bike that the run was going to be ace and I’d love that bit and to stop grumbling about this warm up.
The run was four lots of 5K laps along the river and up through the village – not the most exciting or scenic run I’d ever done. It did mean, however, that it was easy to mentally tick off sections, and we passed through the start/finish area 3 times, which was fun.
I had a great run – much, much better than I ever thought I could run. I was passing people the whole way round, which was great for my confidence, and being able to have ‘targets’ to catch the whole time. I felt strong for most of it, was sensible with gels and drinks and mostly enjoyed it. It made me so grateful for all the running I’ve been doing since December – marathon training has helped no end.
I started to feel a massive blister developing on my foot as I neared the end of lap 3 and was getting really desperate for the toilet, so ran as fast as my weary legs would let me for the last 5K – so fast that I nearly fell down the footbridge I’d already run over 3 times.
Coming into the finish was brilliant. Mark was stood with a beer and a medal and the announcer called out your name as you crossed the line. Everything in me wanted to finish – as is always the case in a race. I wanted to be sick, cry and downed a bottle of water as the medal was handed to me. It was honestly the worst I’ve ever felt after a race!
Mark came to find me, we had sweaty hug and headed over to print out our times and find out who’d won… and there were three minutes in it. He’d zoomed round the bike, had a brilliant swim and a solid run, and took this particular Beresdrew smackdown.
I was really chuffed with my final time of 5 hours 30, and was really happy with my run – one of the fastest female run times of the day.
I came 205th overall, 20th lady and won my age category (but there was no trophy, which made me sad.)
I’ll 100% be back to do another half iron before too long, but there are a few things I need to get sorted first – namely getting used to the swim and investing in a proper triathlon wetsuit, as well as getting a bike fit and learning to ride a bike with a bit more oompf.
It’s fair to say, hard as it was, triathlon has me hooked.