Sunday was like a mock exam. A chance to put into practice everything I’ve been working towards since January.
Standing in the pouring rain on Saturday afternoon looking out across the Grafham water, my stomach churned with dread. I hadn’t revised well enough for this. It was going to go horribly wrong.
Sunday morning and THE SUN came around so quickly, and as Becca and I headed towards the race, I did begin to relax again. It’s just a long training day, with lots of other people. Lots of other people and lots of crowds. You like crowds!
The organisation of the Grafman is pretty faultless. Anyone who’s been in a triathlon where the transition area is a ‘first come first served’ will appreciate a labelled bike raking station. It was warming up and I was getting more excited to put everything I’ve been doing into practice. I met Emily (finally!) and we compared notes on how our newly expanded iron-shoulders were ever going to fit into the wetsuits that had been festering in the wardrobe since August.
I was unprepared for the swim. But, Drewbies, I hear you cry, you’ve swum 3 times a week for months on end! You’ve got 4 swimming costumes now! This is all true, but I’ve not been in open water since the summer, and the swimming pool in Lewes is warm, often too warm, dare I say.
This water was 14 degrees. 14. Things did not start well. This was too cold for me to handle right away. It was a ‘rolling start’, which meant we just headed in straight off the side with no bobbing around and having numerous wees to warm yourself up. I totally panicked, my breathing started to get too fast and I felt my chest get tighter and tighter. I knew that I just had to keep moving if I didn’t want to get pulled out, so I did some breaststroke and tried to calm down as everyone sped on past me. I kept stopping and panicking some more until a kind lady stopped next to me and told me I was going to be OK. I started to try front crawl and finally my breathing calmed down and I found a rhythm. After a while, I even started to enjoy myself. My face was cold, my hands and feet had gone numb, but I was doing it! Doing a half iron and the sun was shining.
Saying that, I was incredibly pleased to be out the water and heading to my bike.
Grade for the swim: C
Comments: fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
This was by far the worst part of the whole event. I was so cold that I couldn’t use my hands and take anything off or put anything on. My body was shaking and a nice lady had to come and pull my wetsuit off me. I also decided to put a jacket on, which I couldn’t do up properly or get over my Garmin. Not my best performance.
Grade for T1: D
I never, never EVER thought I’d say this, but this course was too flat. I’m from the hills of Sussex, and my bum is not used to being in the seat for quite such a long time. I was also really sad not to have aero bars, as everyone with them seemed to be having so much fun. The countryside was lovely though, and you could see for miles due to the lack of hills, obvz. I quite liked the switchbacks, and being able to see Emily and Becca zooming along in front of me. I had fun whizzing along the country roads, passing a few people, being passed a lot and smiling at people coming the other way. I ate a little bit every 5 miles, did a lot of mental maths, as I couldn’t work out what my watch was doing in terms of distance or speed, and didn’t even notice that I still had the sticker on my sunglasses.
By the time we got to the road leading back to transition, I was really, really ready to run, and tried to put the thought of doing double that distance to the very back of my head…
Grade for the bike: B
Comments: the hard work has paid off, but there’s still room for improvement
Happily, very uneventful. Hang up bike, do up laces, put visor on, find exit. Done.
Grade for T2: A
Lots of flies, this is how I’ll remember this run. If you need a protein boost mid-run, this route will sort you out. I had to use my visor as a fly battle device, and still a couple made their way into my mouth.
I love the run bit of a triathlon; especially on a nice flat course with great support. It’s also undeniably fun passing people who’ve clearly completely mashed their legs on the bike. It was a 2 looped course with switchbacks, and really nice to see lots of Emily and Becca again.
Despite the tree lined route, there were no ‘hiding for a wee bushes’, which is some the organisers should definitely look to improve next year. In the meantime, future competitors, I can recommend the large silver van parked near the third water station. Thanks, marshal! I promise I didn’t get any on your wheels.
I was very relieved to finish, but didn’t feel like I was going to die, vom or cry, which was a nice change from last time.
Grade for the run: A
Comments: if running is the best bit of the whole race every single time, why do all the other bits?!
Overall, I had a lovely day yesterday, but there’s a still a lot of work to do. From now until July, I’ll mostly be having cold showers and practicing taking my wetsuit on and off, if anyone needs me.
Overall: 5:41:29 (8th in AG; 60th female)