The final race of the season and my very first Olympic distance race!
I missed the race briefing as I was queuing for one of the few unblocked portaloos, so quizzed my fellow competitors on the water’s edge. “Where do we swim to? Which buoy?” The water was cold but not shockingly so. I tried to let as much water in to my wetsuit as possible before the start and did some comedy shrieking.
The horn went and we swam off in a flurry of neoprene arms and white latex hats. I was all over the place, breathing on pretty much every stroke and feeling bad. Everyone swam away. I switched to breaststroke to try to get my breathing more settled and by the time I reached the turnaround point of the first lap I felt a bit better. On the return, the boys from the wave behind started overtaking and this unsettled me. The second lap was less eventful although my goggles filled up twice and I burped a lot underwater, which is a strange sensation. I hauled myself out of the water, with no idea of how long I’d taken (ages).
I got my wetsuit stuck on one foot but eventually freed myself without toppling over. It occurred to me afterwards that in transition I am like a newborn horse: staggering about, covered in a weird membrane (wetsuit) and mucus (mine) and poo (swans), until I figure out how my legs work.
I overtook a few people – however there weren’t that many people to overtake as my swim and transition had been so slow. I’d looked up the course briefly and saw that there was a hill at around 10km; however I’d obviously not paid all that much attention as I thought the bike was 40km instead of 45km. The hill was fine, both laps, and while the rest of the course was undulating rather than flat, I thought it made it more interesting.
The weather was perfect for cycling, sunny and clear and neither too hot nor too cold. I saw quite a bit of roadkill (foxes, mice, a stoat) and other than my right hand going numb and my toes going to sleep a little, the time flew by.
I have no idea what took me so long in T2. I was about to head off when I remembered my Cambridge Triathlon Club vest, but this can’t have lost me all that much time.
I set off, feeling leaden-legged, but going too fast. It’s hard to tell what your legs are up to when you get off the bike! I was immediately glad I’d stopped for my Cambridge vest as I was cheered by fellow club members and spectators. Another club mate ran with me for a minute (until I realised I was going unsustainably fast) and we got a few “looking good, Cambridge ladies!”. The first lap went by quickly, and I grabbed some water at the aid station as I began the next lap.
With each lap the number of runners thinned a little, but I could see I wasn’t last and could also see I was doing a reasonable time. I stopped for a little longer at the aid station at the end of the 2nd lap, and again on the 3rd, when I finally finished the gel I’d started at the beginning of the run (my only nutrition throughout the race!). By the 4th lap I felt tired and was moving quite slowly (including a sneaky walk, when a couple on a bench asked me how far I was running), but I was still moving and intended to carry on this way.
I ducked under the bridge, rounded the corner and could see the finish line, semi-hidden behind some weeping willow trees. I passed two dog walkers and heard one ask the other “do you think there’s a race on?”. I reached the end of the lap and into the finishing chute, in the sunshine, spectators clapping, feeling happy – and tripped on a clump of grass and went flying! Luckily I saved it and crossed the line laughing and feeling relieved.
Total time: 03:15:44
I wanted to do around 3 hours, but knew that my lack of training wouldn’t allow that. Therefore I can only be pleased with my final time. I could easily shave 3 minutes from transitions; my swim could improve exponentially; and the bike would be faster on a faster bike (ahem) – however I felt comfortable during the run and could have pushed harder (though I didn’t realise at the time), so overall I’m happy. I’ll be back next year to claim my 3 hour time…