Oops, I did it again, or something like that. Yup, this time last year I did my first ever triathlon and on Sunday I had another go at it. This time I had Edward’s company (and the little fella, who cheered us on alongside our friend Sally). Having a fellow triathlete in the house meant dealing with someone else’s stresses and niggles in the run up and only added to my own stresses and anxiety levels (I do sometimes wonder why I do these things). So off we went, with Hector saying: “It feels like we’re going on holiday” and met up with our friends down the road at Crystal Palace.
We all had different start times (you give an estimated swim time) and, at one point, it looked like Edward would be hotter on my heels than we had anticipated, but (thankfully) there was a delay and chips (timing chips, calm down) were being handed out then we were called in number order. This delay meant we got to sit in the viewing gallery with our ‘fans’ for a bit…and I got to build up my adrenaline a little bit further. You may remember that last year I didn’t particularly enjoy the swim and experienced panic as I took to the water. This year was going to be different. In training for my recent Swimathon, I have covered many kilometers, reaching my goal of 5k in one go, so this would be a doddle. But it wasn’t to be. I climbed down and straight away felt a sense of deja vu, my breath shortened, my chest tightened and my limbs felt weak, I was panicking again 😦 A length of heads-out breast-stroke, a tentative face-in-the-water, some more breast-stroke and a few stronger lengths of front crawl. By now the faster swimmers (Edward included) were coming up behind me, wanting to overtake. I felt a tap on my foot so moved aside at the wall to let someone through (an excuse for me to take some deep breaths). What was happening?! I felt so upset, after all my hard work. About half-way through the 750m swim, I stopped at one end and lifted my goggles off, I was going to get out. Looking around I saw Sally and Hector jump up, waving the Hilly Fields parkrun banner, I felt such a surge of support from them, I couldn’t let them down. On I went, slow and steady, I wouldn’t get anywhere near the time I know I can do, but I would make it and get on my bike for the next leg.
Of course, the bike was excellent fun, though I did notice that things feel a little different when you start a bit later…there seemed more evidence of bike knobs and some really aggressive and thoughtless riding (yes you, silly arse who undertook me on the chicane and had the nerve to have a go at me, you inconsiderate tw*t), it also felt more crowded than last year which meant you really needed your wits about you. This is a nine lap, 20km course with a sharp hill that slows everyone right down, a steady climb then some super speedy descents (with a tight bend at the bottom, cue me holding tightly to my brakes, wuss). During this leg I was overtaken by Edward and also Stephen, this messed with my head slightly – because everyone starts at different times, you lose a sense of where people are and how far they have left to go…these two were fast and were basically leaving me behind 😦 I didn’t see any of our other friends en route, but I smiled each lap as Sally and Hector leapt up and cheered for me, banner in the air. Somehow I managed to keep track of the nine laps (this is so hard! Many people employ various tricks such as tape on handle bars. I feel for those – some of our friends included – who mistakenly added a lap). Into transition and the wobbly legged run. Both transitions I ran in to the wrong section, I really wasn’t focussed, so had to duck under with my bike until I located my stuff! Quick faff and a fumble and off I went.
Numb toes. This is what I remember most about the run, my toes had gone numb during the ride. It sort of helped in that it distracted me from the challenge of running 5k after the other two exertions. Up the little hill I plodded, onto the humid grass section, around the tedious car-park bit and – weeeeeeee – down the hill…twice. It’s a relief to head left into the stadium on lap two, a brisk trot around the track, a cheer from Siggy: “You look strong!” (‘I don’t feel strong’) and a last little push to the finish line. Once I had composed myself I gave Hector an extra big hug and congratulated my friends, who had all done brilliantly – Edward smashed his first ever tri, with a time of 1:23 (on no training, jammy bugger), he does now appreciate just how hard it is, telling me that he thought he might vomit during the bike leg (no thought of slowing down though)! One of our parkrun friends, David, who is a regular triathlete even took to the podium as the winner in his category. Wow!
Comparing my times with last year, I can see that even with a disastrous swim, I improved on that section, took a whole minute longer on the bike and a similar time in the run. Transition has improved (though I really faffed about) and I achieved an overall PB. I can’t say I’m over the moon, the horrible swim experience spoilt it for me, and I really, really want to sort this out ahead of my open-water tri in September…any tips welcome! But Hector said to me afterwards: “You should just be proud that you did it Mum”. Wise words.