I don’t seem to get on very well with events in Devon. I think this is partly because Dan always massively undersells the hills and partly because I am not very good at those ongoing huge hills that Devon specialises in! On reflection, this weekend’s triathlon didn’t go badly, but the run left me feeling defeated, while I’d hoped to finish the event happy and raring to go for Staffordshire! If we ever move to Devon I would either need to give up on Triathlon all together, or just man up and some how learn to enjoy constantly cycling up and down hill.
In a bid to be organised and relaxed ahead of this event and those to follow I made a kit checklist, with space to write distances, event location and start and briefing times. Dan didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about the list as me, perhaps because of the prominent inclusion of ‘sports bra’, but I think it worked well to make us a) think about what we’d need and b) locate and pack it all with minimum stress.
The other feature of this list was space to write the event distances, this is mostly because we are both working in miles in the build up to the half ironman and I thought working it out exactly in advance would avoid any nasty surprises on race day.
The Swim – cold water and victory!
Roadford Lake is a large reservoir and was much colder than the lakes we’ve been swimming in recently in Oxfordshire. On the day they’d measured it at 13C, so I was really glad that we’d been in for a dip when the local lakes were still down at 10C rather than waiting for them to warm up first. Getting in wasn’t too bad, using Katia from OxfordTri’s splashing your face and neck first technique, but it was still quite a cold shock when the water started soaking through the zip of my wetsuit. It felt like hard work when we started but I reminded myself how much practice we’d had, got my head down and started swimming like we’ve done so many times before, I could do this bit and those faraway buoys would get closer at some point!
Somehow Dan and I always end up together on the swim and that’s when the real racing began, the top priority being to keep going and finish ahead. It was neck and neck as we reached the second buoy on the last lap, but I kept beside and ahead and finished the swim just ahead and joyous :)! Surely it doesn’t matter that Dan had already overtaken me by the time we’d run up the hill to T1?
The Bike – hills and views!
Somehow I’d remembered to my leave my bike in a low gear in transition which was rather helpful on the first hill that lead up to the start of the bike ride – bonus! The organisers, FreakEvents, had very kindly marked out hazards on the roads with fluorescent orange paint, including circling potholes and writing SLOW across the road before steep downhill corners. I liked the concern they showed for their competitors, but the ambulance also parked ready and waiting at the bottom of one of the hills was rather off-putting! The first part of the course was technical, hilly and hard work with lots of undulations and and a particularly nasty big long hill. That said, the views were gorgeous and the steep downhills weren’t as bad as expected. I got onto the second, flatter faster part of the course and overtook Dan! Sadly this was due to him a getting a puncture rather than my cycling prowess. I shouted out to him on my way past but he seemed to be ok so I carried on, getting braver on the tri bars as I went. Everytime I heard a speedy bike coming up behind me I’d hoped it would be Dan and was a little concerned by the time he did overtake me well into the second lap. He seemed ok though, yelling “fucking punctures” as he whizzed past. Yes I’m pleased to see you too!
Eventually I was back at the dam / bridge over the lake again and pulling into transition with the familiar and relieved ‘got through the bike with no mishaps’ feeling. Little did I know what was to come!
The Run – mud, hills and more mud!
So onto the final part of the race. I rushed to put on my socks and trainers in T2 then tugged my number round to the front, pressed lap on my watched and headed off on the run. It started off ok with a downhill tarmacked stretch then quickly my race went downhill. Not only were there huge hills on the course which seemed to sap all speed, but the main part was two loops through the woods in squelchy sticky slippy mud! In cross country I love a good bit of mud, but it was no fun at all in road shoes when trying to get a decent time on my first tri of the season. Everytime I looked at my watch it gave me bad news and it felt like all the effort I was putting in was making no difference. Then my trainer came off in the mud and I’d really had enough, I was cursing Devon hills and mud and races and once again wishing that Dan was from a flatter part of the country (or that our weekends in Devon could just involve relaxing at the beach!)
In the end, there was nothing to do but keep going. I tried not to get too upset by the pace on my watch and just kept telling myself it was nearly over. The ladies by the last gate were great – cheerful and encouraging. One of them yelled “Go on, you can catch those blokes!” which gave me the extra spurt of speed I needed to get to the finish line, and overtake one of the men along the way!
With my 57:30 10k I finished the race in 3:00.22. At the finish line I was really disappointed with how the race went, so much so that I didn’t even take a single photo!
On the journey home the results went up online and it turned out that I’d finished just in the top half – 11th out of 23 women, 6th on the swim, 15th on the bike and 10th on the run.
We talked over the race and it turned out there were a lot of positives to take from it. It was good to practice doing a triathlon again, getting the right kit together at the right time, transitions, the thrill of rushing from sport to sport. Before the next big race on June 12th I think I need to work on drafting on the swim, cycling up hills and tri bar confidence and not panicking when things aren’t going well on the run.