Hever Castle Triathlon, Olympic Distance

This was my first step into the world of the Olympic Distance triathlon; I was very nervous. The Olympic distance consists of a 1,500m swim (that’s about a mile), a 44km cycle and 10km run. At Hever Castle the swim was to be in a lake and river, a very cold lake and river. Brrrrr. In preparation for this, I took myself off to the Kings Cross Pond Club again last week and managed 30 lengths before I started shivering and had to get out, so I was a little bit nervous about having to be hauled out with hypothermia! But before I could attempt any of this we had to get there.

This was my birthday present from Edward and Hector (yes, I know my birthday is in December, but I do like to milk it!), so we were all set for a nice family day out in Kent. We hired a car (triathlon is an expensive business) and set off bright and early for my 9.45 wave start. Of course, along the way we realised we didn’t have any cash, so took a detour to find a cash machine in the countryside. We also had to pause briefly to deal with poor Hector’s travel sickness and off we went…to join a massive queue to the car park.

Jam

Jam

Due to the wet weather earlier in the week, the car parks were a slippery, muddy mess and there was a tailback of about two miles, with cars populated by twitchy triathletes, eager to get to transition. Eventually, as my start time got closer and closer, we decided to put my bike together and I would cycle down by myself. It’s a good job I did! By the time I reached transition I didn’t have any time to fret and quickly racked my bike, laid out my stuff and put on my wetsuit. The ground was muddy and squelched a bit between my toes as I headed to the water.

Lake

Lake

You see that? That’s where I swam, all the way to the last buoy (which isn’t showing in this photo, taken later in the day), sharp left, then into the river and back round! As we had all been delayed by the traffic situation, the waves were moved back fifteen minutes each (phew!) and we all gathered in our red swimming caps for the pre-race briefing, given by the race director. This was really good, with maps, and very clear but obviously a little scary. Again, this distraction stopped me getting worked up about the upcoming swim and we were soon heading away from the beautiful loggia and into the 14 degree water, gasp. It was an absolute stunner of a morning, with clear blue skies and a lovely golden glow over the water’s surface. I positioned myself near the back and let everybody else head off and do their thing before I eased forward into a tentative breaststroke, head out. I looked at the first buoy, deciding to break it all up into chunks: swim to the first buoy, count your strokes, enjoy the view, breathe out steadily. I chuckled to myself, imagining I would be last out of the water, but I soon passed other swimmers and caught up with those ahead of me, ticking off the buoys as I went. At the far end of the lake we turned towards the Japanese tea pavilion (yes, it’s a very fancy sort of a swim) and into the river Eden, under a bridge and around a bend. There was a lot of this around the bend thing in this section and I would approach each turning afresh and aim for the next corner. It was along here that I thought it might be nice to thank one of the marshals in a kayak, not a great idea when your chin has set frozen and you swallow a load of water. I overtook some more swimmers and started to hear the noise from the start/end point, I wondered if the boys had made it to the car park yet and looked out for them as I swam to the swim-out area. This was being assisted by some Speedo people, putting out a helping hand as you reached the edge. I made the mistake of putting my foot down and felt it sink into mud that was the texture of marshmallow! Climbing out, I reached for my zip and heard Edward and Hector cheering my name. I kissed Edward, feeling a great sense of relief at having completed this swim: ‘You’re so cold!’ he shouted as I ran to transition.

Relief

Relief

This was where I thought the otherwise excellent organisation was lacking, just a clear sign at the end of each row where you come in from the swim would make it so much easier. Luckily I had taken a look at what was at the end of my row, so located a big red flag at one of the stalls and tried to pick out my bike amongst the many others. I peeled off my wetsuit but couldn’t find anywhere to lay it, the bikes were all so close together, so I fumbled about for longer than I had hoped, guzzled a gel, downed some drink and ran along the exit and bike mount area, trying to stay upright in the mud. It took great concentration to exit safely, with the mud being covered by big plastic boards, which were tricky to negotiate on a road bike. Over some speed bumps, around a corner and out of the grounds to the bike leg.

Concentration

Concentration

From this point Edward and Hector had a fair bit of time to fill as I disappeared out into the Kentish countryside, so amused themselves with all the great stuff on offer…a bit of archery.

Archer

Archer

Some trampolining.

Boing!

Boing!

And even some bungee jumping πŸ™‚

Happy

Happy

Meanwhile, I was getting my head round cycling in a race along open roads. Not that I go that fast, but you really have to have your wits about you when dealing with potholes, other cyclists (some overtaking at speed) and cars. The whole two-lap bike course was well sign-posted and marshalled and I didn’t have to stop and wait at road junctions at any point. Every so often I would pass residents who had come out to cheer (thank you) and was given a boost when we cycled past the in/out area each lap – there was a woman at the roadside who called out ‘come on lady!’ each time, I think she probably did this for every female competitor (I did feel we were very much outnumbered by the men). Before I knew it I was bobbing back over the speed bumps and into T2. Here I did a double-take as a woman’s voice reached my ears from the crowds along the edge. I had just swum a mile, cycled 40k and the thing she thought to call out was: ‘Oh, snotty face’. Yes, really. Thanks for appreciating my effort.

Racking the bike in T2 is always a wobbly sort of moment, the legs were still spinning, my toes were still numb and it was a very wobbly, hobbly affair. Edward and Hector called out some encouragement and I headed off into the woods, wishing I could feel my toes. I guzzled some more gel – yuck. I felt able to run steadily and enjoyed the setting, it really is quite a lovely race. Along the route there were water/gel stations and many of the volunteers were teenagers who were so incredibly enthusiastic, you couldn’t help but pick up the pace. Briefly. This was a two-lap course and each time we encountered an incredibly muddy down-hill section. I commented to a fellow runner here that I wished I had worn my trail shoes, he said he wished he had entered the sprint! A nice straight stretch towards the beautiful castle and around then up a hill, a steep and cruel hill. I had one of those moments where I wished I hadn’t noticed someone walking and walked myself 😦 I normally love a hill, but I really was knackered by now. Through the finish area and into lap two but not before going over a cheeky little footbridge that felt like Mount Snowdon. I knew I only had a few more kilometres to go, but had to guzzle gels and neck water to get me there, I really was struggling by now, none of the nasty cramp I had at the London Duathlon last week, just sheer tiredness. As I tackled the hill for the second time, I knew it wasn’t far, so sped up to cross the line with my hands in the air.

Finished

Finished

The finish area was excellent, like a bit of a food fest! There was coconut water, cola, water water, water melon, melon, oranges, Soreen, biscuits…pretty much something for everyone! I couldn’t get enough of the watermelon, so took some time to refuel before gathering my bike from transition. It had taken me three-and-a-half hours to complete the race, quite a lot longer than I had hoped, but I was so happy to have done that swim, probably the slowest swim I’ve ever done, but still! We spent some time afterwards enjoying the beautiful grounds and refuelling before heading home for steak and chips. I would definitely recommend this race, it’s rather wonderful, if challenging. Hector asked if we would go there again, saying ‘Maybe if we do, it will be because I’m doing a triathlon’. I think he’s tempted πŸ˜‰

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

Advertisements

Lidl Bananaman Triathlon Race Report

Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?

Happy cyclists!

Happy cyclists!

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!

The lake.

The lake.

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.

Registration

Registration

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.

Hungry boys

Hungry boys

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!

Still relaxed!

Still relaxed!

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!

That's me, there!

That’s me, there!

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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Thank you Hector for the photo!

Thank you Hector for the photo!

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…

The numbers

The numbers

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.

Magnificent March, A Round-Up

At the beginning of the month I decided to re-brand March as ‘Magnificent March’. I didn’t share this with anyone, it was just in my head. It wasn’t one of the ‘-Athons’ or ‘-Tastics’, just me and my challenges to overcome. When I was struggling with a run or tiring mid-swim, I would shout ‘Magnificent March!’ to myself and the pace would lighten and a little surge would happen.

It was a busy month, with two half-marathons and some of the longest swims I’ve ever done. After a PB at the Brighton Half, I went on to run a *tiny* bit faster at the Richmond Half, securing another PB. On a roll, I decided (prompted by Edward) to undertake another half-marathon to see if I could go that little bit faster and hit 1.50 mark. The next ‘local’ race was the Paddock Wood Half, but it was sold out. Luckily I was able to transfer a place from a friend of a friend who couldn’t run (why don’t more races do this?). Unfortunately the PB streak wasn’t going to continue, with the conditions (wind and rain and general grimness) not being in my favour and a hideous state of GI discomfort from the half-way point rendering me pretty useless (yes, I did have to duck behind a much-welcome wall at around the nine mile mark). Eek!

This was my first race wearing my Kent AC club vest (I’ve had the vest for about a year, but have never really thought about wearing it!). Sorry I didn’t do it justice, fellow club runners!

Clubbing

Clubbing

As I turned a corner into some serious head-wind at around mile eleven, I slowed to an uncomfortable walk, only to be picked up by a friendly ‘Come on Adele!’, a fellow parkrunner, who accompanied me to the finish line, thank you Ian! It was a great race and certainly does have PB potential, being flat (ish) and scenic. It’s very well organised, with efficient baggage storage, well marshalled and friendly support and even a marshal telling you which portaloo to go to. I’ll give it another go next year, maybe that’ll be the day for a super-PB.

Lovely Medal

Lovely Medal

In my post-race state of illness, I didn’t register how lovely the medal was, just felt happy to get home, into the bath and then to bed (very weird for me). You do see this scene all around the course, so it’s worth entering just to see a bit of Kentish countryside.

Alongside all this running, my swimming has been going from strength to strength, with the Swimathon just around the corner. I have been following the schedule closely, so closely in fact, that I noticed a discrepancy in a couple of the weeks’ distances. I like to scribble the lengths down on a piece of paper and seal them in a little waterproof bag to peruse poolside, but found the lengths didn’t add up, meaning a shorter distance. I got in touch with the Swimathon team and they sent me an amended schedule promptly πŸ™‚ This week I have completed two swims of 2k and today I swam 3k. The furthest so far has been 4k – 4k!! I know! Only another 1k to go and that’s the full distance. I really didn’t think it was within my reach when I signed up, but I’m proving myself wrong <<<this is good.

“But what about the cycling?” you may ask. I did dust off my road bike and give the tyres a little pump a few weeks ago, when I was invited to meet the people of ashmei at their headquarters in the Hertfordshire countryside. I had been shortlisted, along with a fair few others, to possibly become an ambassador for the brand. The plan was to either join the others on a run or a ride and I decided it was the perfect chance to get out on my bike, and made my way up, all lycra-clad and eager. Getting off the train in Tring, I met a few other would-be-ambassadors and headed over on my bike, to be greeted by a gate that opened as I approached. Small pleasures. We were quickly mingling and exchanging Twitter names (I found I already ‘knew’ quite a lot of people already) and then listened intently as Stuart, ashmei’s founder, told us all about where they were coming from and where they were going. You might already know about ashmei’s (rather lovely) products, which are made from merino – super wicking, non-stinky, soft as – and have a distinctive colour-way and cut. We were all treated to a pair of socks to put on straight away and test on our ride or run.

Soft socks

Soft socks

People quickly gathered outside, next to the lovely AirshopPhoenix and off we went.

Runners

Runners

Having a look around at the other cyclists (and triathletes, I discovered) and their super-bikes and top-notch gear, I felt a little out of my league, but I’m not one to be put off by such things, so got chatting to a couple of people and set out to enjoy the ride. It was so good to be out pedalling again, but I soon found myself away from the pack with another cyclist, Cav (thankfully!), and well, lost! The group had pulled away and left us behind, turning a corner and going out of sight. Oh dear. We looked at a fork in the road and went on instinct. We may have lost the group, but we would enjoy our outing. After a few ‘this way, or that way?’s, we made it back to HQ just as the runners were tucking in to the post-exertion snacks (and a little ahead of the other riders πŸ˜‰ ). The volume levels increased as people chatted, all glowing from a good, sociable run/ride. Photos were taken and off we headed.

Photo-taking

Photo-taking

I spent the return journey in the company of new friends, talking endlessly about running/riding/adventure (oh yes). Goodbyes were said and Twitter buzzed with the excitement of the day and a slight curiosity about what ashmei were looking for in an ambassador. I didn’t get selected, but you can read about the three people who did here, here and here. Maybe Google them too, they have done some interesting things!

And so into April I go. Awesome April maybe? My Swimathon is two weeks away and then I will be focussing on the Crystal Palace Triathlon. I can’t wait πŸ™‚

New Year’s Resolution!

Really, that’s what a parent at the school gate had the cheek to call out the other day as I ran past. She clearly doesn’t know me!

Happy New Year and good luck to any of you who are trying to stick to new year’s resolutions, I don’t have anything against them, I just think January is a crap time of year to deprive yourself! It’s the perfect time to try something new and commit to getting fitter though and, with so many group initiatives to help you along, you won’t be alone. This year I’m logging my activities on Jantastic as part of the Hilly Fields parkrun group. I did this last year and found it gave me a real focus and helped me commit to a set number of runs/swims a week. Another group endeavour I’ve taken part in previously is Janathon, where you jog, blog and log every day for the month. It’s a great way to receive some support and encouragement to get you out there (and there are prizes too!).

I thought this might be a good time to look back over some achievements in 2014 and look forward to some new challenges in 2015. Last year was a fantastic year for my running, with a new direction and a new pace. My regular involvement with Hilly Fields parkrun helped me make lots of new running friends and encouraged me to become a regular at Kent Athletic Club, which inevitably helped me to get a bit faster, at last ducking under the 25 minute mark for 5k, something I had been aiming towards for a long time. This sense of camaraderie also saw me entering more races and smashing my 10k PB along the way. 2014 was also the year I tried triathlon, with a local race at Crystal Palace really giving me the bug. This new interest made me realise just how much I love cycling and led to me competing almost to the point of collapse at the London Duathlon in September (it hasn’t put me off wanting to do it again!). I also took part in my first sportive, hopefully the first of many.

It was a good, consistent year, giving me a strong base to move forward with this year. First up is the Brighton Half-Marathon in just a few weeks. I haven’t run this distance in a very long time, with the Cabbage Patch 10 being the longest recent race, so I’m steadily building up towards the 13.1 miles. This is going to be a very sociable one, with a group of us heading down from Hilly Fields, and Edward and Hector coming to cheer us on. A month later I’ll be facing the distance again, with the Salamon City Trail Richmond Half-Marathon – I enjoyed Richmond Park so much in the duathlon, that I wanted more! There are still places available, and you can also enter the 10k race alongside it. I’m hoping to get a place in the Crystal Palace Triathlon again, it was such good fun last year and, for my birthday, I was given entry to a triathlon, so went for the Hever Tri in September. I decided to set myself a greater challenge by entering the Olympic distance race, so that’s a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’ll definitely need to work towards this one, especially the swim, which is in open water, expect lots of posts about tentative dips in slimy ponds…

For now I’m ticking off my four runs and three swims a week on Jantastic, and keeping it interesting by visiting some lovely locations. Good luck with all your running/swimming/riding adventures in 2015!

Aquatics Centre Mile

Aquatics Centre Mile

London Duathlon, I am a Duathlete!

I had a feeling the London Duathlon might be tough, but I hadn’t realised quite how tough. As always, I found the journey to the start almost as challenging as the event itself – I get so nervous about being there on time and, with the transporting of a bike added into the mix, I stress about everything that little bit more. As it turned out, it was an easy two train rides and a pleasant walk from Barnes station to the park.

There was a real buzz as we approached the park, but it was difficult at times to work out who was a duathlete and who was just out for a Sunday ride (I get the feeling there might have been some disgruntled cyclists who turned up to find their route closed). The event village was busy, with some of the ultra, sprint and super sprint competitors already out on the course. I could tell from my event pack that this was a very well organised affair, with wrist bands for transition, a number belt and a rather humongous timing chip strap to wrap around your ankle (we looked like we were on day release).

A number for everything

A number for everything

The transition area was closely monitored by marshals, who checked your wrist band and made sure everything else corresponded, and you were only allowed in once you had your helmet firmly fastened. The different distances had allocated areas, but you could rack your bike anywhere within this, so I chose sort of middle, since the run in and bike out were on opposite sides (I would say the signs for this need to be higher up, they were big, but were not really visible once the transition area filled up with bikes and people). Once I had racked up, I wandered through the event village to the loo (that nervous-going-to-the-loo-when-you-don’t-need-to thing) and noticed all the handy stalls around – you could even ask advice and get your bike checked over while you were there (I opted for a bit of extra air in my tyres, again, nerves).

Before I knew it I was herding into a start pen with the other Classic distance athletes and getting a little wave from Edward and Hector before we were set off in waves of about thirty people – this was excellent and so well done, with a little safety advice and pep-talk before the buzzer set you off. The first stretch was on bumpy grass, peppered with deer poo, but we were soon on a lovely smooth road, with cyclists coming at us in the opposite direction. At this point I felt good, I had been so eager to start and it was reassuring to know that everything was working properly. Not having undertaken a duathlon before, I wasn’t entirely sure how to pace myself, but I knew I couldn’t run a 10k PB with a 44k cycle and an additional 5k still to come, so aimed to keep to a 5 minute per km pace. The course was lovely, with lots of twists and turns – though one loop in particular felt like a loop too far – and I even had a magnificent stag strolling alongside me at one point. I kept to my pace and ran into transition after 50 minutes. I had started to feel a stitch in my side, but thought I would lose that on the ride. A quick change into cycle helmet, gloves, shoes and a gulp of my drink, and off I went.

It felt hard, my legs felt heavy and my breathing was laboured, but it was so good to be on the bike! My only previous experience of riding in a race situation was at the Crystal Palace Triathlon back in May and, as I knew so many other people there, this was a friendly affair with lots of ‘hello’s along the way. This felt different, with some really fast riders shouting ‘Right!’ as they overtook at speed, and a need to keep your wits about you if you planned to overtake yourself. I liked this πŸ™‚ It felt serious, speedy, and I found myself pushing harder as my legs got used to the new range of movement. The bike course was pretty hard really, with a quite steep climb, some fast descents and some really tight corners (I was rubbish here and simply had to slow to an almost stop and pump hard to get going again!). On the more exposed sections it was windy and I gripped tight to attempt to stay on course. This was my chance to take on some liquid and fuel, and I now know I should have been getting something inside me at regular intervals, but instead I had my head down, enjoying the ride. One of the best moments for me was going into the second lap. I spotted Edward and Hector sitting in the grass at the side of the road, holding up a colourful sign saying ‘Go Adele!’, with lots of cheers and waves, it really does give you a boost when you feel some support πŸ™‚

The last lap of the ride went by in a flash, and I could feel some cramping in my calf muscles and a stitch-type ache in my side…keep going, keep going. There’s such a lovely sense of excitement as you turn off towards transition (all of the transitions were made really straightforward by clear signs and friendly direction from marshals), the sense of starting the next leg, getting going again on another adventure. This felt hard though. I jumped off my bike and hobbled in cycle shoes across the rough grass, my legs heavy and full of spin. Hanging my bike back up, I took a long drink, put on my running shoes and stumbled out to the run course, feeling slightly dazed.

*a little cheer from Hector, with Edward at his side, looking at the tracker on his phone*

I could see that I might make my goal of three hours if I ran a good time for this 5k, somewhere a little slower than I have been running recently, so not a problem. My legs were not hearing this though and before long I felt the cramp creeping up around my quads and decided to move over and stretch it out. Straight away my hamstrings seized up and I wished I hadn’t stopped…go, go, go! I hobbled on a bit further. Ahead of me I could see a drinks station and I thought maybe a few gulps of a sports drink might help, it did. Now, for the first time in a very long time, I found myself walking (‘To the next tree’), and slowly plodding along as best I could. I broke down the rest of the run, thinking ‘Just another fifteen minutes’, and saw people standing aside, also struck by cramp, doubled over and walking as if their knees were locked. Now, with just two kms to go, I tried to run again but my legs just couldn’t do it. A fellow runner asked if I needed a shoulder, saying he was hobbling too and another kind chap handed me an energy gel. I’m not entirely sure they work that quickly, but something did the trick and I ran those last two kms, with the finish in sight and the thought of a long drink to push me on.

Crossing the finish line (in 3 hours 4 minutes and 44 seconds) I took my medal and flopped down to have a little cry as Hector handed me a lovely medal he had made with ‘1st’ in silver sparkly stuff. The relief at finishing was overwhelming, it was so tough dealing with cramp and I quickly drank anything I could get my hands on and forced down two bananas before collecting my bike. Once again the organisation was excellent as my wrist band was cut off once they had checked I had the right bike, and off I went to enjoy a berry smoothie.

Two medals!

Two medals!

This was where I started to feel quite unwell. Not having taken on fuel at regular intervals, and then downing as much as I could stomach in a short space of time, I felt dreadful. Numerous trips to the portaloo, a lie down on the ground, and I felt able to start walking towards the station. We decided a stop at the park cafe might help and I watched the boys disappear into the distance as I bent over and publicly ‘shared’ my smoothie. Still, people were kind and a few asked if I needed help. On I went. It was decided that I should cycle to the station and the boys would catch me up, cycling seemed easier than walking at this point. At the station I bumped into my friend Roni, who had also been taking part in the Classic challenge, we exchanged stories of grit and determination and the colour started to gradually move back into my cheeks. In an attempt to get me back up and running and get some nutrients in my body, Edward suggested a big pub lunch…which really did the trick πŸ™‚

Meat!

Meat!

You might think that someone who found themselves stopped by cramp, doubled over with stomach pain and vomiting into the grass would give such an event a wide berth, but I can’t wait until next year, I really want to do it again. This time I will work out a fuelling strategy (I have a year and other events to work this out – and any advice would be great) and I want to be able to give it my all right up to the finish line. And of course, my position of 12th woman in my age group needs to be beaten, top ten next time!

Entries are now open for next year, with early bird prices if you’re quick!

I am a Triathlete

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…

Paris, London

Paris, London

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).

That's me in the middle

That’s me in the middle

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).

Happy!

Happy!

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 meΒ 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.

Edward's panoramic view

Edward’s panoramic view

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 πŸ™‚ Just a lap and a half to go now. As I saw the finish line, I ran hard, a bounce in my step.

Look at that hair go!

Look at that hair go!

And there I was, a triathlete!

Gold?

Gold?

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 πŸ™‚

1.37.59

 

Aldi Cycling Gear In Store Now!

If you get yourself down to your local Aldi store, you can get your hands on some great new cycling gear. Having tried out their running gear not so long ago, I can definitely vouch for the quality of their sports-wear and it’s definitely good value-for-money. On offer right nowΒ is a great range of summer cycle wear, ranging from gloves at Β£3.49, helmets at Β£9.99, shirts at Β£14.99 and even a tri-suit at Β£14.99. In addition to the clothing there are also essentials such as light sets, mini-tools, saddles and pumps.

Yesterday I went out on a big old bike ride (50k) with some of my lovely parkrun friends. We ventured south into Kent, enjoying a little light refreshment along the way…

At a cafe called 'Cake'

At a cafe called ‘Cake’

When we first met up near home, I noticed one of our riders had already got herself down to Aldi and was head-to-toe in new gear! She said the gloves are perfect for small hands…something I have problems with. I have been sent some padded cycle shorts and some socks to try out, an incentive to get out on my bike again this week…watch this space!