I did it, my first triathlon! It was amazing. I want to do it again.
I felt good: I had trained well, with four runs a week, three or four swims a week and cycling when I could fit it in (this bit could have been more structured) and felt strong yesterday morning as I pulled on my tri-suit and headed over to Crystal Palace Park. Yesterday we shared the park with some Minis, who were heading out to Brighton, as we headed in…
I was arriving with my parkrun friends Stephen and Siggy and, during registration and set-up, bumped into Sally, Marie, Ian, David and Viv…that’s the nice thing about attending a local race! By this point I was really, really nervous, and quickly laid out my bike and all my race essentials in transition before grabbing my swimming cap and goggles and heading poolside. I commented to the people around me that the swim looked quite relaxed, there was something quite meditative about watching people zig-zagging up and down the 50m pool…until it came to my turn.
I had trained so well, swimming many hours up and down my local pool, trying out different pools on our travels and venturing over to the Olympic swimming pool to try the 5om distance, but this was different. I climbed down what seemed to be a really long ladder into cold water with nothing on the pool sides to grab hold of before a marshal called ‘Three, two, one, go!’ (this was repeated at fifteen second intervals). Suddenly I felt panic, I was breathing in, but not out and couldn’t put my face in the water. I did a feeble attempt at a breaststroke, with my head out, thinking: ‘Breathe, breathe, you can do this! You’ve done this so many times! Why now?!’ (afterwards Edward told me that he and Stephen were at poolside mouthing ‘Breaststroke?!’). But I stuck at it, there was no way, after all of this excellent training that I was going to stop. Things felt a bit easier as I went on, moving gradually across the pool. The sun shone on this section, making it feel nicer, brighter and warmer, the end was in sight and I dared to put my face in. I tried a front-crawl and overtook some swimmers ahead of me, I could do this. Soon enough I was in the final lane and could see Edward, Stephen and Hector cheering and waving, I smiled and took the lane.
Now to transition. I had been awake throughout the previous night, worrying about transition, but I needn’t have been concerned. I was told not to run, so waddled damply to my spot, talked through my planned routine, chatted to a fellow athlete and off I went. Easy! (I did forget my sunglasses though, and on a 25 degree day, it might have been more comfortable).
It was such a relief to get out of the pool and onto my bike. Now this section was a bit of an unknown quantity to me, and I didn’t have a clue how long it might take, so I just went for it. It was my favourite part of the race, I LOVED it! The course is lovely: nine laps of the park, largely in the shade of the trees (phew), with one sharp hill as you leave transition and a superb down-hill section on your return. I love a hill, whether running or riding, so I would put my head down and take it on with determination each time. As I reached the flatter road, I changed gear, did a bit of overtaking and whooped my way down the hill (if I wasn’t clipped in, I would definitely have had my legs out).
I had been worried about keeping track of the laps, and that my Garmin might not have a signal during transition, so Edward had taped some masking tape to my frame to tear off at the end of each lap. All seemed to be going well, so I left the tape and used my Garmin and a steady chant of the lap number in my head. As the laps went on I thought I had another to go but, when I looked at the distance I saw 20k. Running into transition 2 my muddled head told me I had another lap, but the Garmin was pretty clear!
I wobbled through transition on an unsteady combination of cycle shoes and spinning legs, a quick change of footwear, an addition of my shades and a gulp of Lucozade Sport (bad move) and I was off again. Oh, it felt very odd. It was straight up the hill and I felt heavy and slow, though my Garmin showed a good pace considering. I looked sideways at the cyclists, thinking: ‘I wish I was still doing that’ but finding that, after nine laps of the park, the two and a bit laps of the run went very quickly and, before I knew it, I was heading into the stadium.
I threw my arms in the air as I took to the track, such joy! I heard a whistle and the beat of a tambourine and saw my support crew of Edward and Hector in the stands waving and cheering 🙂 Just a lap and a half to go now. As I saw the finish line, I ran hard, a bounce in my step.
And there I was, a triathlete!
Despite the poor swim experience, I loved it. I am eagerly looking for another event, to keep up the momentum and will definitely be trying for a place at Crystal Palace again next year. It’s such a great event for a first timer in particular: super friendly marshals who even looked up your name on a list to call out encouragement, a delightful bike and run course, a course that is perfect for spectators, with many ways of navigating the different disciplines to make sure you see all of the action, and a perfectly placed transition for viewing from above – it was odd looking up during transition and seeing lots of peering faces – and you even get a print-out of your results shortly after crossing the finish line!
I’ve really enjoyed the build-up to this event and a big thank you to everyone who helped me to reach this point 🙂