I know this is a little (read, very!) late but I finally completed my first ever (definitely not last) triathlon! The London Triathlon Olympic distance! I bloody loved it! SO much fun, as you will have probably seen by my instagram feed, the smile says it all! Anyway, let me start at the beginning, apologies if this gets a bit long…
The Friday before the race me and a couple of friends took the bikes out for an easy 20 miler, there were a couple of hills but we kept the pace super steady so it was really nice to spin the legs out, the bike felt perfect and I finished feeling nice and fresh and ready to race!! Saturday morning I was up with the birds and off to the lake with the lovely Vas, I knew the distance wasn’t going to be a problem but I just wanted to cover it one more time and also get in a last minute bit of OW practice, I have had issues here in the past and so I wanted to make sure I felt as comfortable as possible in my wetsuit and in the water. I then spent the rest of the day with the parentals who had come down to London for the race…
All packed and ready to go…
Somehow I dropped off to sleep at 10:30 the night before with zero problems, I was expecting to get little to no sleep to be honest so this was awesome! It wasn’t a super early start for us either so I was up at 6:00 to be out of the house by 8:30. Here is where I encountered my first problem. The night before, me being me, I just had to mess around with my bike, tightening things that clearly didn’t need to be tightened and just generally messing things up. As I looked over my bike on Sunday morning I noticed that my chain was outside of the derailleur and was catching on it! Cue panic!! Luckily we got to the ExCel centre with loads of time to spare so I quickly picked up my race packet and chip and took it over to one of the guys at Tri Radar who told me that it was pretty much buggered and needed a proper service! #facepalm He fiddled with it a bit and said he thought it would tide me over, I had a little ride and all felt normal, massive sigh of relief!
We walked around a bit and went to watch some other athletes starting the swim, man those buoys looked a long, longggg way away! I reminded myself of the 5km Eton Dorney swim and the more recent 3km charity swim at Stubbers and all those early mornings in the pool, I could totally do this! Despite a few pre race jitters and loads of chomping at the bit to get going, I actually felt really, really calm. When it was our turn to load into the swim start coral I followed the advice of swimming guru Dan Bullock and already had my wetsuit on and zipped up, I pushed (politely) through the crowds and made sure that I was at the front so that I would have extra time in the water to get acclimatised and fight any panic, should it arise! I also took in a bottle of water and flushed my wetsuit as you don’t get the chance to do this properly when you’re already in the water. Finally, I started warming up. You might feel a bit silly swinging your arms about and mimicking front crawl etc but at the end of the day, you have probably trained hard and sacrificed a lot for your races and so you can’t let something as trivial as that stop you from preparing properly. Also, when Dan tells me that something will help, I listen! :)
Finally, it was time!
I lowered myself slowly into the water, not much badassery going on here but what the hell! Spent a few minutes holding onto the pontoon and breathing out under water, still feeling calm, so far so good! The actual swim start was about 50m from the pontoon so I swam out, honestly expecting to start panicking and flapping but I’m ridiculously relieved to report, the panic never came!! Whoop! I positioned myself to the left, a little more at the front of the pack than I would have liked (or would advise, to newbie triathletes) but I had a bit of space around me and was feeling good. I could see (and hear!! Good god a mix of Northerners, Americans and Canadians are LOUD!! Haha!) my family and friends shouting and hollering so I gave them one last wave, the gun went off, I got my head down and got swimming! It was awesome! I felt pretty strong, didn’t get swam over ONCE! Thank f**k! I really loved that it was one massive loop so on that first long straight I breathed to my left and used the side of the dock to keep me in a (relatively) straight line and just got into my rhythm. I must say, I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it to end! Definite breakthrough! I was so lost in the swim though that I didn’t start swimming to the right, towards the buoy, until the very last minute so I definitely added a fair bit of distance to my swim that wasn’t needed but hey ho! The way back was a little tougher, it was against the current and I couldn’t really see the buoys so I just had to keep an eye on people around me, again I think this method of ‘sighting’ added a bit more distance as well. Things were a little rougher here but still, pretty enjoyable!
I came out of the water in an official time of 35:10. About 5 mins longer than I had hoped for (and am capable of) but for my first attempt, I am pretty happy! That swim was brilliant, if only just for how much confidence it has given me, going forwards!
I unzipped and squeaked out of my wetsuit and started running towards transition, such a buzz!!
Spent a ‘bit’ of time faffing in transition, I mean it was a huge transition but I spent 4:59 in there doing gawd knows what!! Will do better next time, hopefully!
Out onto the bike. Literally as soon as I put force onto the pedals, something went and I had ZERO tension! Arghhhhh! (Lots of swearing ensued!) I managed to shift it back into a gear (any gear) and despite the awful noise the bike was making, I could at least move forward!! The bike course was fine, it could have actually been quite enjoyable had I had a properly working bike but as it was, the wind and constant change of gradient / direction etc (nothing too crazy but there was always something going on, if you know what I mean?) was a pain in the arse! I couldn’t hammer it on the flats and downhills as much as I would have liked and going uphill was more difficult than it needed to be, as I could either have NO tension at all or a way bigger gear than I would have usually used. Also, every single time I went over a bump in the road my gear / chain would pop out and I would have ZERO tension again. Talk about frustrating! I must have looked a bit scary at this point, cadence at 160 (jokes), red faced and swearing! Haha! Joking aside though, thanks to my lovely coach, Stevie T making me do lots of high cadence work, I just stepped things up a notch and was able to keep moving at a decent ish pace. This was also helped by meeting and chatting to a lovely guy called Dan who, due to our mutual need to beat each other, kept me pushing on despite the issues! I finally finished the bike in 1:11:07. Not totally happy as my average speed was a good bit slower than I know I am capable of and the bike is my strength (or at least it isn’t a weakness! Ha!) so I really wanted to hammer it BUT so far I was loving the whole triathlon experience! Reminded myself that it’s all a learning curve and that I should be happy that I had a mechanical here and (hopefully) not at Weymouth in a months time! It definitely helped having my sister from another mister, Anna and my parents screaming and hollering louder than EVERYONE else!!! Ha!
Again, considering I am still using toe cages and not clipless pedals I took me sweet time in transition… 3:21… whoops! Oh well, out onto the run!!
As I was still leaving transition I got to see this crazy lady, her hubby and one of my good friends from ooop North, Jon, which gave me another massive boost! Felt pretty good here, legs felt good and didn’t have that jelly sensation that I was sooo dreading! I wasn’t running particularly fast though, started out slowly and although I felt good I had it in the back of my mind not to push too hard and end up having to walk! After my stress fracture, my training (specifically my run training) has been less than stellar (to say the least!) so I really just wanted to finish! In hindsight I should have had more faith in myself as I finished with a sprint and plenty left in the tank, immediately regretting my decision to take it steady. Anyway, I started to step things up after the first few hundred metres but still didn’t check my time as I was sure that after my bike, my goal time wouldn’t have been possible. It was only as I was coming out onto the last lap that I checked my overall time and saw 2:2o something that I realised that if I just kept running at the same steady pace I would come in under 2:40 (this was the original goal I had set myself before I even started training properly so it was a bit of a stab in the dark at the best of times! Factor in injury and time off and I was honestly just hoping for sub 3hrs). As I rounded the corner to the finish shoot and saw 2:38:41 (we started at 12) I couldn’t believe it and sprinted to the end! Got a lovely little shout in from my coach, who is also triathlon legend and commentator extraordinaire! I retuned the favour with a massive sweaty, over excited hug! Haha! I also saw Dan at the finish line who beat me by about 30 seconds! (Damn it! Haha! I’ll get you next time! ;)) Official run time was 46:06 which will ding dang do for starters!!
Can you tell I’m enjoying myself?! :D The day finished with me on a high achieving a time of 2:40:56 (stupid chip time was over a minute out from my garmin time so I didn’t quite reach my goal of sub 2:40) and absolutely chomping at the the bit to get out there and do it all over again!
Anyone out there thinking of doing a triathlon but hesitant to take the plunge? Or do you have a ‘first time’ story that you fancy sharing? Would love to hear them, if so!
Lots of love,