Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The great big tri report

It's funny how you can do tonnes of blogs about a single race. One to say; "I did it, thanks everyone" and then one to get into complete detail for people who come to your site googling "bodyglide vs baby oil" and then once you have had some reflection.

So this is the big long one with waaaay too much information to serve as an aide memoire for when I have forgotten I did such things as my youth.

Entering the tri was a whim, I wanted to just get the first one over and done with without thinking it. I had seen that Lakeside hosted a tri which was very affordable and easy to get to, the latter being quite a problem as I don't have a car or a driver's license.

I had been training with coach Jonathan to learn how to swim crawl and I had done one 750m open water swim so the tri seemed perfect: 750m lake swim, 20km ride and 5km run. And it was in about two weeks time.

I put a training plan together where I would build confidence on the bike (I'd rarely ridden and didn't have any handling skills), keep my swimming where it was and hopefully my marathon training would take care of the run. However I got a bit sick in this short two week period, I can't recall because I keep getting sick but I know that four days before the race I collapsed with nervous exhaustion so it was never going to be a massive speed event.

I took the bike on the overground Saturday morning which meant I only had to ride from my house to Brondsebury Park (safely done) then keep taking the overground and overland till I got to Lakeside, so I didn't have to cycle the dozens of miles there. Instead I had to carry my bike up and down a lot of stairs which I don't have much practice doing. I then pootled off from Lakeside to the hotel I was staying at but found the traffic a bit scary so hopped onto the footpath on a roundabout. Bad mistake as I don't really have cornering skills and the bike went into some bushes. I had hoped that the triathlon events team who were having breakfast directly opposite my crash site didn't see, but I gave them a chance when I walked into the hotel lobby wheeling my bike, with plants in her spokes and crashed it into a door. Look out Lance Armstrong.

The next day I wasn't having any such issues as Jon kindly offered to walk my bike down the road to registration while I had the arms full of kit. Tri is like sport for planners, it's all about having the kit. There were some lovely bikes at registration, and lots of people with big plastic crates. I don't know why, it doesn't seem like a very ergonomic thing to carry around but there you.

We were given armbands instead of body marks (disappointing) especially when the woman doing them says your wrist is smaller than her granddaughters. I wanted to say, "does you granddaughter have triceps like this" but I don't have any triceps. Then it was a hurried rush to transition zone, dump stuff in, come out again, get stuff off Jon, come in again, panic, until it was time to get into the wetsuit. Then run into transition, leave glasses, run out while wearing prescription goggles and dressed like Bertie Bassett's licorice wife (black rubber, pink swim cap). Some bloke went around kindly fixing everyone's wetsuit - there were mostly men who were either lean as spaghetti or looked unfortunately inappropriate for wetsuits. The women's wave was at the same time as the relay wave (I ask you!) and there wasn't a lot of us and there were a few women in surfsuits (not me!) I got in the water pretty quickly and let it into my wetsuit. It was quite nice, warmer than Eton and maybe 15C.

The start was a bit hard to work out with an imaginary line on an angle for a floating start. There was a bit of knocking but as they were mostly women it was pretty gentle. I realised at this point how bloody tired I was and was amazed when I did get to the first buoy. After that it was just about swimming down the lake. I overtook the people doing backstroke and breaststroke and found myself a bit on my own - I'm not fast enough to be fast nor slow enough to be slow! As a result of being alone I got my own kayak! I asked if I was on course, and they said I was great so I just kept at it. I also realised the buoys were held down by cables so I followed the cables underwater. I was delighted to find my stroke was straight (thanks Jonathan). The next buoys were all dandy until it got to the finish and I realised I didn't quite understand the reference to the paddle steamer in the briefing or where the briefing was. I lost a bit of time sighting. When you finish there is a load of rope and you crawl up that and get dragged out. I told the draggers I wasn't ready but they quickly had me up before I could muster the strength in my arms and I floundered on the jetty like a little eel! I was pleased to know I wasn't last and in fact had passed the stragglers on the previous start wave who must have had at least 5-10mins head start)

It seemed a long run back to transition especially with goggles on, so I walked a bit, saw Jon and then broke into a run when my head was on. I wasn't out of breath so I was pleased. In T1 was a girl who in the registration queue had told me she was going to swim last. Pah - she did just fine. The camraderie was excellent with everyone congratulating each other as they came in and left. I plonked my butt down, got some shoes on, through on the world's lumpiest bike pants and helmet and was wheeling my bike off like a pro (in my head ok). There were two guys in front of me (remember they had a head start) and I told them I hoped they knew what they were doing as I was following them. They said they didn't so I headed off and they must have passed me a bit later when they had sorted their clipless pedals out. There's a lot to be said for keeping it simple.

The race briefing for the ride was confusingly humorous but the marshalls were great; so great I tried to thank all of them. The course is open to traffic which was a little scary but I found I was more competitive than scared! I passed two guys on hills (in my head: "you've been chicked"). I really didn't know how to corner especially after a downhill so I slowed down a lot (especially after one big wobble on a roundabout with cars). This was the only time I was passed by girls and the numbers I passed vs numbers that passed me were pretty even.

Had a chat to a guy I kept swapping places with who was an on awesome bike - I kept competing with him (why?) and he said he was pretty new to all this. I pointed out his awesome bike and I think he might have got a bit ashamed of hanging out with my hybrid and put some welly in it! I really enjoyed the rights: I had found out how to take the hills and that my weight worked an advantage on these. I had a gel at the start of the ride (once I felt comfortable) and on the second loop of the course, on a safe stretch of massive dual carriageway. Thank goodness it was 8am by this point and traffic was minimal except for scary trucks. There was an event van picking people up who had broken their bike and a motorbike just checking on us all. The worst bit of the bike was the speedbumps in the shopping centre coming back into transition. Madness.

Unfortunately being so competitive on the bike meant I was pooped coming in for the run. My arms were a little wobbly and while I wheeled my bike intro transition the announcer called out that he didn't know who I was as my race number was all twisted. I went to correct it and my bike came crashing down bringing some shin skin and my dignity with it. The commentator saw it all so it was a nice laugh for everyone. Call me the entertainer.

I couldn't get my lungs and heart rate where I wanted for the run start. It was laps of the car park so it was lined with spectators and Jon. My legs were just lead. When I got around the corner for my first armband I took some energy drink and water, walked and then plodded off. When I ran past Jon I always made an effort but I couldn't sustain it when I was out of sight. It felt really really hard and I didn't want to make eye contact. But you know eventually you have enough of the arm bands and support from fellow competitors, still on the track, ahead of you or who had finished, was great. The announcer remembered me as the girl who tipped her bike over as I crossed the finish line and I was really pleased to have made it to the end  given my poor health and training preparation.

A great triathlon, perfect for first timers but with a strong enough field to make it competitive. Just don't go by train.

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