Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?
As we don’t have a car and I needed to transport my bike (and Hector was super keen to try out his new bike), we took all of our bikes on the train to Windsor and rode the two or so miles to Eton Dorney along the Thames Path. At the station we saw people dismantling their bikes to put into taxis…no need, just ride! And look at what greeted us on arrival!
I was a little taken aback at the vastness of the lake – with it being a purpose-built rowing lake, it’s loooooong. I took it all in, clocking the inflatable buoys and breaking it down into the little chunk that I would actually be tackling later on in the Lidl Bananaman Triathon. Phew. It is a stunning venue and the party was already in full swing, with little ones tearing around wearing medals picked up in the Scootathlon and older athletes already exiting the water for one of the earlier waves of the triathlon. Feeling relaxed and a little bit excited, I got myself a cuppa and headed over to registration where I was given everything I needed, promptly and with a big smile.
As the event was sponsored by Lidl, there were mountains of bananas, as much water/juice/crisps/cereal bars as you could ever need and a barbeque for competitiors and spectators, now how many events boast such hospitality?! With it being about 10.15, my support crew needed a pre-lunch lunch.
I paced up and down, checking out the swimmers, making sure the entry into the water wasn’t too scary and making sure I could see the bike out/run out points – not sure why, but the signs for these are often placed at ground level and, once transition is full of bikes and people darting about, it’s difficult to see where they are. Any chance these could be identified by a flag or something? After numerous nervous loo-visits (oh, how the tri-suit is the enemy of such pre-race nervousness!), I decided I should just get on with it and set up in transition. At this point I switched my Garmin on to get a signal and found that the battery was flat. After a minor hissy fit, I decided that it didn’t matter and I would embrace ‘going naked’, could be interesting!
Before long I was pulling on my wetsuit and heading to the water. Eek! Now, I’ve been very carefully preparing for my first open-water triathlon, with wetsuit-specific coached sessions and solo swims to build confidence, so I was totally thrown when given the option to go without a wetsuit – if the water reaches a certain temperature you have a choice. After much umming and ahhing I decided to stick with what I had planned – Edward pointed out that I had taken on this particular race as a practice/test event for future races and should use it to try out the wetsuit in the swim and transition. I’m so glad I did, the water didn’t feel that warm! I was in a women’s wave (complete with bright pink hats, oh yes) and we all bobbed about, acclimatising while the race organiser gave us a briefing then quickly sent us on our way with a loud parp of the horn. Cue lots of ‘Ooh, sorry!’ and ‘Oops!’ comments from my fellow swimmers, really! And I had heard horror stories about being kicked, ducked and having your goggles removed. How very civilised!
Interestingly, I found this open-water swim easier in terms of managing panic than the pool tri in May, as there was nobody tapping at my heels, I could take some deep breaths, compose myself and do as much breast-stroke as I liked :) And I did. Even after swimming front-crawl up and down the Serpentine Lido, I found myself bobbing along, head in the air. I did a few stretches of front-crawl as I grew more confident and off I went. I did it! I climbed up the ramp towards transition, whipped off my wetsuit like a pro and legged it to bike out. Yesssss!
The bike course was 21.2km, so four laps of a perfectly flat and lovely smooth road (it was pretty twisty and turny in places though and quite windy). The bike is always my favourite bit of a triathlon and I flew around, smiling all the way. Each time I reached the start area I was given a huge cheer by my crew and sent off into the next lap. After all my training sessions at the Olympic Velopark, I was swiftly pulling out my drinks bottle and taking a swig, unlike previous races where I’ve ended up dehydrated and turning green. Oh, what a difference a few swigs of electrolyte replacement makes.
Time to hang up my bike and pull on my running shoes, but not without banging my head on the bike rack first and shouting ‘B*ll*cks!’. Sorry. By this point it was hot and the run route was an out and back stretch fully exposed to the sun. I kept giving myself little pep talks: ‘Relax your shoulders. Light on your toes. Head tall. Arms lower.’ – this all really helped, especially at the point where I realised it wasn’t just an out and back, it was an out and back and out and back again. This is also where I appreciated my on-bike hydration and enjoyed a tri-run without crippling cramp. Carrying on the pep-talk, I soon turned to face the finish and picked up the pace towards the barbecue smoke and the giant Erdinger glass to give a little sprint through the arch and a very happy ending.
A few sweaty high-fives, a hug from a giant banana and I found myself holding a pint of ice-cold beer and a burger. Result! (I must point out that this was alcohol-free beer and bloody good it was too!). Hector punched in my race number to the machine that pumps out results and I could see how I had faired, competing somewhat blindly without the Garmin feedback…
I can’t really compare directly with my last triathlon because the swim distance is shorter and the bike slightly longer, but it’s a tri-PB for the bike and run (and check those transitions!), so I’m very pleased. Best of all was the fact that I could see that my training is paying off, I didn’t have cramp and I felt amazing afterwards as we cycled back towards Windsor. Thank you to Human Race for giving me a place – I’m already looking up future events at Eton Dorney and will be back next year to see if I can smash those times.