Monster Middle triathlon: race report

I’d had my eye on the Monster series of races for a while. They’re based in Ely so when I was living in Cambridge it seemed ideal, and even now I live in London, it’s nice to race somewhere that is familiar, and I can combine it with visiting my parents.

Last year I did sprint, olympic and middle distance triathlons. So far this year I’ve done a few running races (including 5 half marathons) but no triathlons, so I jumped straight into a middle distance. Was this to be a big mistake?!

Pre-race

At 04:45 my mum very kindly drove me to Ely, where it was dark and rainy. I registered and stuck the requisite stickers on my bike and helmet, then said goodbye to mum and went into transition. Once I’d laid out my stuff I wriggled half into my wetsuit and queued for the loos, feeling nervous, then walked to the swim start, about a mile downstream.

On the walk I got chatting to a man doing his 59th race. He was super inspirational and good conversation, which helped take my mind off my nerves. We chatted to his club mates and another random they’d picked up along the way, a young guy who’d signed up the night before.

Briefing done, the first wave (inc. me!) were told to get into the water, which wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.

pre swim2

Swim

Although I’m not a terrible swimmer, I’m not confident in open water swims, and I’m also not at all well-trained. This year I have swum five times: 1) with a sprained ankle, just before the marathon, 2) the day after that, 3) one 1km swim a few weeks ago, 4) at a spa with my mum, where I mainly did handstands, and 5) at the lido last week but I decided it was a bit chilly and didn’t stay in long.

I therefore didn’t have high hopes, and when the swim got underway I felt the beginnings of panic. But amazingly, I was able to ignore it! I swam along and felt quite relaxed. I focused on breathing, although I did a lot of breaststroke (my front crawl sighting is pretty bad) swimming towards town.

I have no concept of time when swimming, but knew that the second wave were starting ten minutes behind, so tried to work out when I might get overtaken, hoping that it wouldn’t be until near-ish town. I enjoyed the cheers of people on the river bank and watched a family of swans swimming imperiously through the wetsuit-clad swimmers. People on boats were watching – it must have been surreal for them.

The course went upstream for 1.5km, past the exit, around a buoy and back 400m. By this point I was looking forward to getting out, and although I’d been kicked a few times, I was still calm and happy that I had survived the swim. At the exit, I reached up a hand and a man pulled me out. I then staggered about a bit and another man caught me, and then another, with me ricocheting around the slipway like a pinball, trying to shake the water out of my ears.

T1

There was a walk back to transition from the swim exit and I struggled to get my wetsuit off my arms. Once I had it down to my waist I jogged to transition and then struggled to get the stupid wetsuit off my legs. I chucked it on top of my bag (containing my post-race dry clothes, doh) and toweled myself down. Garmin on, jersey, hat, helmet, gloves, shoes, glug of water and off I went. Somehow this took four minutes? I definitely didn’t feel like I was rushing, maybe I should have been.

Bike

I’m more of a cyclist than a swimmer or runner, and normally, the bike is the thing I don’t worry about in a triathlon. But I was worried about this one. I’ve not ridden my bike much this year – two days in Wales (less than 100km each day), a ride from Bath to Andover, and two trips to Regent’s Park, where I was shocked to discover how slow I am. I have been finding cycling nerve wracking of late, something I’m yet to get to the bottom of.

The forecast was for strong wind – 15-18 mph – and this was correct. We cycled north with massive crosswinds, then west directly into the wind, south with crosswinds from the other side, and then finally a tailwind for the final stretch (the course wasn’t a perfect square so this bit was, of course, the shortest bit). It was really grim. I hate cycling in strong winds, I’m always convinced I’m going to get knocked off. And every time I was overtaken (which was a lot) I lost more confidence and motivation.

My legs had no power and while everyone else sped past, hardly affected by the wind, I was locked in a battle, my (slightly too big) mass against the force of the wind.

Halfway round the first lap I thought I might not do the second lap, partly because I was worried about not making the time cut off (which is incredibly depressing) and also because I was just not enjoying it. I was eventually lapped at the very end of the first lap, which added an extra layer of depression. But I went on to the second lap.

It was slightly better on the second lap but my hands were numb from gripping my handlebars too tightly and I stopped every half hour to shake them out. I managed to eat one peanut butter bar and one gel.

By the end of the bike course my legs felt tired, every pedal stroke had been an effort. The end of the course had a little uphill and a sharp turn around a mini roundabout, which I nearly toppled off at, to the disgust of a motorbike behind me. Then downhill and weaving through traffic to transition, where I could finally ditch the bike…

T2

Again I took my time. Bike racked, helmet, gloves, jersey off. Tshirt, sunglasses, hat, fuel belt on. Bike shoes off and socks and trainers on. Sitting down, because why not. And then off again.

Run

By now it was very warm, although I probably just noticed it more as it was less windy. My legs had felt tired on the bike but when I started running I felt alright; my feet had been sore while cycling but I was surprised that they didn’t really bother me. Could this last?

I set off on a meandering route through parks and woods, eventually joining up with the rest of the route, where we would run laps through the town, picking up a wristband at the end of each lap. In my head I heard “four wristbands” and thought I had to run four laps, so I was a bit put out when I finally worked out that actually there were five laps (one without a wristband, four with increasing numbers of wristbands). Gah.

I had a fuel belt with Shotbloks, two gels and a packet of jelly beans but it was bouncy and annoying, so when I saw my mum (she went home after dropping me off, but came back for the run) outside the cathedral I decided to leave it with her. She didn’t spot me running towards her and eventually I yelled out “HELLO!” so loudly that it made some tourists jump. Then I posed for some pictures and went on my way.

Although my legs felt alright, I walked up the hills and ran everything else – which meant three walks per lap (one of the hills was probably more of a slope, but these were my rules!!). It was a relief to get my first wristband.

The course went past the cathedral twice per lap, which was cool. The people of Ely were all friendly and there were quite a few retired couples who’d stumbled across the race and were enjoying cheering. Lots of confused looking tourists.

Ely is very pretty, with the exception of the bit past Sainsbury’s, which still isn’t that bad. I went past my brother’s old school. I waved to my mum on each lap. I petted a small dog (who looked like a teddy bear!). I got in an argument with a lorry driver who nearly ran over me and the guy I was running with.

By the fourth lap I was starting to feel tired, it was so hot and there were fewer people still running to chat to. I was drinking lots of water but had only eaten a packet of Shotbloks. At one of the water points I picked up a gel but it was horrible, granular and really thick. Mum drove past me as I ran down the hill towards the start of my final lap and heckled me from the car.

Mum thought the run was 4 laps so once she’d parked, she went to the finish. When she didn’t find me there, she thought something must have happened, so got the marshals all looking for me, radioing each other to report on me. Embarrassing – but also quite funny.

I broke my rule of only walking uphill on the final lap as I was knackered, my knees and hips ached. I said thanks to all the marshals and as I jogged down the hill in the final kilometre I thought to myself: wow, you’ve gone and done it, you’ve finished a half ironman with no training and barely any food – you total moron.

I ran into the park, and turned left to the finish line. At last! My running form was totally pants by this point but I had four wristbands and I was coming for my medal!

run finish

Swim (1.9km): 00:45:55

T1: 00:06:49 (including run from swim exit)

Bike (92.8km): 04:06:46

T2: 00:04:06

Run (21km): 02:20:47

TOTAL: 07:24:23

 

A banana and some water later, I got changed in the carpark toilets and went for lunch with my mum – a massive salad with a heap of bread, followed up by a 99 with a flake.

I’m pleased that the swim went better than expected (actually faster than last year, and no panicking!) and I inexplicably ran faster than the last two half marathons I’ve done (Richmond and Ashridge) – I actually felt pretty good on the run, apart from the final 5km and when I thought I might be sick in a bin after eating that gel. But the bike… I’m shocked at how bad I was. As I struggled around, I promised myself that I would cycle more and get my cycling legs back, which I’m determined to do.

I’m glad I did the race, though it was maybe a bit silly to do without training. I would really like to improve on my time. Perhaps I should join another club…

St Neots Standard Triathlon

The final race of the season and my very first Olympic distance race!

Swim: 1.5km

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.

St Neots Triathlon

Sceptical on the startline

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).

Time: 00:37:40

St Neots Triathlon

T1

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.

Time: 00:03:33

Bike: 45km

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.

Time: 01:38:59

T2

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.

Time: 00:02:00

Run: 10km

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.

Time: 00:53:30

11934569_887513431338840_8203593383887365594_o

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…

Incoming: another triathlon

It’s less than a week until my next triathlon. Having already done a Sprint and Middle distance triathlon this year, next up is Standard distance (also known as Olympic). The race takes place in St Neots, a town about 30km from Cambridge, consisting of:

  • 1500m swim, 2 laps in the River Ouse
  • 40km bike, 2 laps of a course in the countryside to the west of the town
  • 10km run, 4 laps of Riverside Park

I’m a little apprehensive about the race as – as ever – my training hasn’t been ideal. Let’s look at each area:

Swim – since swimming 1800m for the Cotswold 113, I’ve swum a couple (and I mean only a couple) of times. I went to the lido the other week but almost immediately had stabbing pains in my ears and got really dizzy, and had to leave. However, the lido is near my work and I should make more of it. Every time I go to the indoor pool I get really angry with people swimming in the wrong lanes or STANDING in the lanes. Last week I threw a float at someone for swimming into me, so I’ll try to go to the lido between now and the race for a last-minute practice.

Bike – I have every Wednesday off work and I try to go for a bike ride in this time. Normally I do around 40km, but would like to up it a little. I cycled 100km on one of the hottest days of the year, and other than it being over 30 degrees and having to stop to buy a Calippo and put it down my vest, it was fine. And I cycled across Europe last year. I’m pretty sure I can get round the bike… it’s just whether I can do it on my Time Trial bike.

Run – I’m trying to run more and run better. This means running about 30km a week and trying to mix up short fast runs with long slow runs. I’ve even done some intervals! I enjoyed intervals but am yet to see any amazing improvements in my times. I did a 10k recently but had a stomach bug so will discount that (59 mins) and have done 2 parkruns recently, the most recent being 27:30. Running seems to be an entirely mental thing, as ever, as I just don’t believe I can do it. Every time I start a parkrun I think “this could be it!” and then I get halfway round and give up. Cambridge parkrun is quite tricky if you start at the middle of the pack as at least the first 1k is stuck behind people, so you have to be able to get faster as it clears – not get slower because you give up! I set myself the aim of doing a 25:00 5k more than a year ago and I’m still nowhere near, which is depressing.

Despite the obvious problems I am up against, I’m quite looking forward to the weekend and having a go at a new triathlon distance. Now I just need to work out the logistics…

Cotswold113 Middle Distance Triathlon 2015

I’ve previously done 2 pool-based sprint triathlons and decided to venture into middle distance. My brother recommended the Cotswold113, as he’d previously done the Cotswold Classic, and we entered together. Our mum kindly drove us to the Cotswolds on Friday afternoon and we spent a rainy day hanging out eating desserts, driving about in a white van and getting ready for race day.

Swim: 1.9km

It was my second time swimming in open water (and the first time I’d been freaked out by a fish) and I was anxious. My brother (Chris) and I were in the 4th wave, which meant a 6:30am start – we’d been there since 4am. Just before the start I spotted an internet friend, Ewan, and he gave me a few words of encouragement.

Chris and I had a last minute hug and got in the water. We skulled about acclimatising and I could see mum on the edge of the water so goofed about for photos. I was nervous as hell.

The countdown went and we swam off. I felt okay initially and then started panicking. I felt myself hyperventilating and making little progress. Two women in front stopped and a canoe arrived to check on them. I became paranoid that the canoeists were laughing at me, and this gave me the impetus to sort myself out and I settled into a steady stroke, not fast but not exerting myself. I’d never swum 1.9km before so my plan was centred on not drowning.

The swim course was one lap around the lake with a diversion into the middle to make up the distance. I’d miscounted how many buoys there were before this diversion, convincing myself for a while that we didn’t have to do it. I was overtaken by fast swimmers from the wave behind and decided to push on and see whether I could speed up. Turns out I could keep up with the front-of-middle swimmers and for a second in the last 500 metres I felt almost fishlike.

I swam to the jetty where volunteers were pulling people out. Using my arms to drag myself up as high as I could, I looked up to see Loudmouth Dave, one of the most vocal marshals. I put my hand up and he shouted words of encouragement while hauling me out of the water. This is the best thing about triathlon: a strong man pulling you out of a lake.

Time: 00:47:20 – genuinely shocked, I was expecting an hour after such a shaky start

“How do I undo this again?”

T1

I’d forgotten to let water into my wetsuit before getting out but didn’t struggle too much extricating myself. I walked briskly to my bike, concentrating hard on remembering to take off my goggles. I wrestled with a jacket and dropped my helmet putting it on. Socks on, shoes on, mitts on and I trotted through transition to the bike mount line, letting out a substantial burp on the way.

Time: 00:04:34

Bike: 90km

My legs felt fine as I got on the bike, a little tired but I figured they’d warm up. The course was two laps, an out and back with a large loop as the turnaround halfway through each lap, on reasonably quiet roads including some pretty lanes. It was narrow in places, making it difficult to overtake – especially when I came across a man riding in the middle of the road in the other direction, who I may or may not have called a dickhead.

I found it hard to keep my speed up and there didn’t seem to be a reason for it. It wasn’t windy and the course was predominantly flat. I was riding a bike that I normally ride a lot faster when laden with a heavy saddle bag. It was disheartening.

On the loop there was a hill – “the hill” – just after Hanningford. It wasn’t too bad but after descending there were another two rollers. The first was fine, but on the second I was overtaken in a pincer movement by two men, who came to a standstill directly in front of me. I screamed at them to move but I was boxed in. They must have known they didn’t have the momentum to go up the hill so why pass me only to stop, blocking my path? I can only assume they are London bus drivers.

From here I rode back to the start line. My mum was marshalling here and so it was good to see her. I don’t think she spotted the chap who rode into my rear wheel as I slowed to pull back out onto the main road and begrudgingly began my second lap.

By this point I’d eaten 2 bites of a PowerBar Ride bar (a chocolate and peanut concoction) but my hands were numb so I couldn’t eat anything else as I couldn’t pick it up. In the end I stopped to shake some life back into my hands and ate the rest of the bar, which annoyingly let lots of people past me.

One part of the course had subsidence due to a badger sett, and a marshal was positioned here to warn cyclists/scare away badgers. I didn’t see any badgers here BUT later on I saw a dead badger by the side of the road – hopefully there hadn’t been a cyclist-badger incident. My mum saw one rider come down and not get back up, so I hope he was alright. My brother also spoke to a chap who’d ridden into a ditch and cut his face.

My second lap was slow and rubbish. I struggled for power, motivation, speed and confidence. Nothing hurt but nothing felt great. I’d been hoping for 3 hours on the bike and felt very disappointed when this slipped by, but couldn’t do a lot about it.

Time: 03:12:25

113 Cotswold Middle Distance Tri –- Harriet Lamb

T2

I ran to where I’d racked, where the label clearly had my name and number… and could only see other people’s stuff. There were towels and clothes strewn on the floor but none of my belongings. Hmm, I thought, I must have been moved elsewhere. I set off to have a look around before realising this was absurd and looked under the pile of stuff – there were my shoes! I had to rearrange all the bikes to get mine in and root around to find my shoes.

Time: 00:04:01

Run: 21.1km

I planned to walk the first 100m of each kilometre and run the rest. As I set off, a woman on her 2nd lap passed me and commented “it feels like you’re running in bike shoes at first, doesn’t it?!” – I had to check I wasn’t running in my bike shoes. I ducked into a field as I needed the loo, and had cramp in my foot that wouldn’t go away until I took my shoe off to rub my toes.

There was a concentration of cheerers at 3km, where the run crossed the bike course, and I saw mum again (as well as Ewan, well on the way to the finish). At 4km there was an aid station with an array of goodies – I had water, a jaffa cake and a handful of jelly beans, which melted and left brightly coloured sticky streaks on my palm.

I wasn’t feeling great and passing through the finish area to start my second lap (of three!) was depressing. There were people finishing and others with medals around necks.

I felt worse and worse and at 9km I spotted some public toilets so popped in. I wished I hadn’t as I saw my reflection in the mirror – I was deathly white. I stayed there for a few minutes but knew I had to carry on.

Soon afterwards I saw mum and she walked alongside me for a minute, telling me I was doing well. I felt terrible. I asked how Chris was doing and she said she didn’t know. I saw a man on the ground being treated by paramedics and the temptation to climb into their car was enormous.

I passed the aid station and had 2 small cups of coke and more jelly beans. A man grabbed some ginger cake, which I thought was an interesting thing to eat while running. Finally I felt a little better and when I passed through the finish area again I gave Chris a wave.

By this point I’d picked up a new friend, a Welsh girl who was also having a tough time. We stuck together for a while before I headed off, still trying to adhere to my 100m-900m walk-run ratio (although sneaking in extra walks). The lakeside path was quiet as there weren’t many competitors left and I was embarrassed to still be trudging around.

At 17km I saw mum again, this time with Chris. I felt immeasurably better than the last lap and posed for photos. I asked Chris how he’d done and he said he’d tell me later. I wanted to know but there was no point arguing. I set my sights on the aid station: what would I have this time? The answer was, yet again, jelly beans.

With a kilometre to go I polished off the last jelly beans, overtaking people and patting them on the back, saying inane things like “come on champ!”. I turned onto the finishing straight and heard my mum and brother shouting my name – I took off my cap, smiled and sprinted for the line.

Time: 02:40:33

Cotswold113 Harriet Lamb

Total time: 06:48:55

Meanwhile, another story had been unfolding. My brother, the Iron Lamb, had had a reasonable swim and set off on the bike only to hit a pothole about 6km in and pinch flat his front wheel. His race was over in less than an hour. Cotswold 113 Middle Distance Tri - 14.6.15 - Harriet LambAs he waited for race support to pick him up, he hid so that I didn’t see him – he knew I’d be behind him on the bike and that if I’d seen him I would have stopped to try to help. My mum and Chris kept it a secret until I’d finished, as I’d looked so grim halfway through the run and they knew I already felt bad at keeping them waiting. I am impressed at how philosophical my brother has been about it.

I’ve held off writing this as I was waiting for my feelings to settle down. At first I was happy to have finished (especially the swim!). But this turned into guilt: I wished I’d had the mechanical and not Chris, and that I’d been able to put on a better performance for my mum, who’d given up her weekend. And remorse: for not training enough, for not prioritising running over the last few months. And shame: for being so slow – I didn’t come last but I was 152nd out of 171 women. I’m still waiting for self-acceptance (I’m always waiting for this).

I’ve learnt a lot: I need to eat more in races; I need to dedicate more time to running and run better when I do run; I need to keep calm swimming and I need more confidence on the bike. So now, another race?

Shake It Off – a triathlon song

I greased up my limbs
Zipped up my wetsuit
That’s what people say
That’s what people say
I always do front crawl
I’m not a breaststroker
At least that’s what people say
That’s what people say
Bilateral breathing
Can’t sight, won’t stop swimming
It’s like I got these goggles
On my face, and I don’t think they’re watertight
Cause the marshalls gonna shout, shout, shout
And the kayaks gonna float, float, float
Baby I’m just gonna swim, swim, swim
Swim it off

Bikebreakers gonna break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake
Baby I’m just gonna swim, swim, swim
Swim it off, swim it off

I never miss a beat
I’m pedalling with my feet
And that’s what they don’t see
That’s what they don’t see
I’m riding on my own
I never draft, oh no
And that’s what they don’t know
That’s what they don’t know
But I keep riding
Can’t stop, won’t stop cycling
It’s like I’m just so aero
On my bike, saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the mamils gonna wear lots of rapha
And the hipsters gonna skid, skid, skid
Baby I’m just gonna ride, ride, ride
Bike it off

Bikebreakers gonna break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake
Baby I’m just gonna ride, ride, ride
Bike it off, bike it off

Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you been sleeping in and all warm in duvets
And the comfy pillows in your bed
You could have been getting down to this sick race

My club mate bought a new P5
I’m like oh my god
But I’m just gonna tri
And to the chap over there with the pointy aero hat
Won’t you come on over baby we could tri, tri, tri

Cause the mamils gonna scorn, scorn, scorn
And the hipsters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I’m just gonna run, run, run
Run it off, run it off
Trisuits with no sleeves, sleeves, sleeves
And no socks on my feet, feet, feet
Baby I’m just gonna swim, bike, run
Sleeves are off, sleeves are off
Sleeves are off
Sleeves are off
Sleeves are off
Sleeves are off

Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon, 2015 edition

My first triathlon was the Thames Turbo sprint. I really enjoyed it, more than I thought I would. So I did it again.

I’ve done a bit of running since but after getting home from the #hatsradtour I’ve done no cycling. I hoped (vainly) that this wouldn’t be a problem. I felt nervous, underprepared and if I hadn’t promised not to beat myself up about it I’d have felt even worse at the start line.

As it was, I stood in the training pool keeping my feet warm, taking deep breaths and wondering how the next 90 minutes would pan out. At this point I’d done the world’s worst warm up, lost (and found) my bike and goggles and not eaten anything.

Swim: 426m

I panic if I don’t find my stroke immediately so I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about the first 2 lengths. And of course, found my stroke straight away! If I didn’t feel like a fish, I didn’t feel like a drowning cat.

T1

I ran about looking for my bike, then struggled to get my top on thanks to wet skin.

Bike: 21.5k

At the bike mount point I realised I didn’t have my gloves on. The gloves are a two-handed operation at the best of times, especially with wet hands… Not a great start, and things didn’t get much better as I was disappointingly slow. As it went on I felt slightly more comfortable but was overtaken by a lady (who told me in transition that she’d been chasing me the whole way) who I couldn’t get back in front of and so held back a little so I didn’t get too close. I should have smashed it to get convincingly in front of her.

T2

I ran about looking for my bike spot, forgot to grab a gel – not that it would do much but I was absolutely famished – and tried to ignore the fact that I was wearing a trisuit and gloves. Oh, the joys of poor circulation.

Run: 5k

It started well. Well, not well, but not terrible. Into the park, looking for my friends who’d said they’d come. 1k done. 2k done. Water station, cup of water downed (first liquid since yesterday evening), immediate stitch. Dragged myself to 3k. Thought about asking some horse riders if I could borrow a horse. 4k, zonked, no energy, leaden feet, feeling like crap. 5k, urgh god.

Lessons to learn

  • Don’t ride to the start if it’s further than the bike leg. It’s stressful and tiring.
  • Don’t spend the day before racing helping your boyfriend move house. If you think that’s a euphemism you might be right.
  • Pack a towel (yes, this was a lesson from last time).
  • Eat dinner the night before and breakfast that morning!
  • Don’t lose your bike. Not once, not twice, and certainly not THREE TIMES.
  • Try changing gears on the bike, instead of doing it in one gear.
  • Don’t rely on seeing friends as a pick-me-up, in case they don’t show up.
  • Afterwards, don’t scrub your arms with a hammam mitt to get your race number off, you’ll make your arms bleed.

Final results:

  • Swim: 00:10:14 (2:24/100m – improvement from 2:35/100m last year)
  • T1: 00:02:13
  • Bike: 00:46:40 (27.6km/h – at least a minute went on the gloves; but last year I averaged 28.9km/h)
  • T2: 00:01:29
  • Run: 00:29:22 (5:52/km – last year was 6:00/km but this is still awful)
  • Total: 01:29:58

I didn’t do well and I’m particularly disappointed with the bike. I take some solace in beating my overall time from last year despite not riding my bike AT ALL or eating anything. With a bit of breakfast – and no pesky gloves – my bike time would have been more similar to last year and I wouldn’t have fallen apart so dramatically on the run. Time to start planning the next race!

hampton pool

Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon

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.

Swim: 426m

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.

Transition

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.

Cycle: 21.5km

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.

Transition

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!

Run: 5k

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.

Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon

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.

Final results:

  • 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