I hadn’t trained properly and had a cold last week. So I decided to stop trying to set myself goals (eg. finishing in the top 50%) and instead just take part, have a go, tri it out.
The night before I stayed at a friend’s nearby, to make the early start easier. I was provided with pre-race nutrition – beetroot and goats cheese risotto, and copious Ben & Jerry’s icecream – and we watched a Disney film (my friend is 40 years old).
I woke up at 5am and crept downstairs, almost tripping over an errant cat. I got dressed and ate some Ready Brek, sitting on the kitchen floor. It had started to rain, but stopped by the time I arrived at Hampton Pool, where I attempted to enter transition without putting my race numbers on.
After racking my bike, I took everything out of my bag. Put everything back. Took everything out again. Took out two plastic bags and decided to separate everything into the 2 transitions. Moved things between plastic bags. Eventually stood up and bashed my head on the bike rack.
I wandered over to the race briefing. As the briefing went on, my stomach started to feel unsettled and as soon as it was over, I headed to the toilet block – which had underfloor heating, so was a good place to be.
It turns out that beetroot risotto is NOT good pre-race food. I won’t go into it but let’s just say I spent significant time in the toilet block.
My race number was 405 and participants started every 15 seconds, meaning I had quite a wait. I was told that the lowest numbers were for novices, so I’m not sure why my number was so high. I chatted to a few people, most of whom seemed surprised I was new to triathlon, maybe because I had no shame in wandering about in a trisuit.
When the numbers hit the 300’s I decided it was the perfect time to adjust my bike brakes.
As my number got closer I chatted to a girl who was also doing her first triathlon. She said I was brave for going along on my own.
I joined the queue. Someone said my name – it was Chris, the Iron Lamb! He’d got up at 5am and cycled over to cheer me on! I set off on the swim with a big grin on my face and didn’t feel nervous at all.
The nerves kicked in on the 2nd length when the familiar panic made an appearance. I didn’t get into the groove for a while, by which point I’d been overtaken a couple of times. The moment I felt less tense I swam a lot better and ended up overtaking a few people.
Out of the pool and into T1. I pulled off my goggles and swim hat and ran to my bike. What first? I’d not practiced transitions. Jersey. Gilet. Tights. Oh god I can’t get the tights on. Tights off. Oh god they won’t come off, one leg is stuck. Fall over. Get up. Abandon tights. Socks. Shoes. Gloves. Garmin. Cap. Helmet. Bike. Argh, race belt!
There was a bit of a run out onto the main road, where we were told to mount by a steward. The chap in front of me stopped suddenly, almost causing a pile up. It was quite straggly and I was glad to get away on my bike.
It was raining and windy, but a nice easy route, and Chris was standing at the corner of Sunbury Road, which made me grin again. I felt comfortable and overtook quite a few people, and made sure to say thanks to all the marshals.
A few things slowed me down – one chap who refused to let me overtake him (he kept re-overtaking and I didn’t want to be near him in case it looked like I was drafting) meaning I held back a little to let him go; wet gravel at the roundabout in Chertsey; and a lorry pulling out without looking in Sunbury, resulting in some foul language from me.
As I neared the end of the bike course I felt relaxed and not at all like I had exerted myself.
T2 was spent jogging on a slippery mat/slippery mud in road shoes, until I could rack my bike and take my shoes off. Helmet off. Trainers on. Race belt off. Gilet off. Jersey off. Gilet back on. Race belt back on. Garmins swapped over and unnecessary saving activities. Grab a gel. Go!
I wasn’t sure where transition ended and the run course began – it wasn’t sign posted – so I pressed ‘start’ when I could see the road. Hello again, Chris! My legs felt fine although I was paranoid that my lack of brick training would bite me on the arse and I tried to hold myself back.
The course went along the road for 500m or so and I nearly got car-doored twice, and then into Bushy Park – thankfully I was following other people as it wasn’t well signposted. The park had a wintry air to it but my legs still felt okay. There were some cheerers in the centre of the park and one marshal had a list of names that he checked against numbers so he could shout our names, which was a nice touch.
At 3k I got a stitch. I need to learn to run through a stitch instead of trying to make it go away – when you’re running 5k you may as well just get it over with. I spotted Chris, who told me the finish line was just around the corner, and it was! I picked my feet up and sprinted over the line.
Chris and I strolled back to Hampton Pool (again, not very well signposted!), sharing a Coke. My transition zone looked like my bedroom, age 14, with clothes strewn everywhere. All soaked by the rain.
I was happy to have completed my first triathlon and pleased I removed the pressure of ‘doing well’ – and I was surprised to find out that I came 18th in my age group (out of 52). There are easy gains to be made and key lessons to be learnt, along with actually doing some training:
- Don’t eat beetroot the night before.
- Take food to the start if there might be a wait.
- Don’t make bike adjustments when the swim has started.
- Put Vaseline under your ankle timing band or risk chafing.
- Don’t panic in the pool, it’s ok if someone overtakes.
- Pack a towel.
- Don’t try getting dressed when you’re wet.
- Find out where transition ends/the race starts.
- Practice bike mounts.
- Don’t faff about with garmins in transition.
- Don’t faff about with clothes so much, it’s not a fashion show!
- Don’t leave clothes all over transition, including your clean clothes for post-race.
- Swim: 00:11:01 (2:35/100m)
- T1: 00:03:10
- Bike: 00:44:36 (18mph)
- T2: 00:02:10
- Run: 00:30:02 (9:40/mile)
- Total: 01:31:01