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 🙂 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.

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Aldi Specialbuys Cycle and Triathlon Gear

…is in store now!

I’ve been having some fun trying a few things out this week 🙂 Once again, Aldi comes up with a selection of super-bargain-priced gear to stock your sporty wardrobe, this time with a range of cycling and triathlon gear. On Friday I headed over to the Olympic Park to get my bike spinning around the road track that weaves around the outside of the Velodrome. Before I mounted my trusty steed, I slipped into a base-layer vest and some rather fetching bib-shorts. This was the first time I ventured into the world of the bib-short, so was pleased that they were way more comfortable – and possibly even flattering – than I had imagined. If you’ve never seen bib-shorts before they’re hidden away under a jersey, think Big Daddy and you’ve got the right idea.

70s Stylee

70s Stylee

These are particularly good because they have a little clasp that brings the ‘braces’ together in the mid-chest area, to keep them firmly in place (this a female-specific feature). Well, I’m definitely a convert now! The good thing is, they keep your midriff and lower back warm and there’s no chance of anything riding up and revealing more than you would like. The base-layer, whilst seeming a bit stiff and rustly at first, turned out to be nice and long and also kept me warm and cosy on what turned out to be a windy ride. I also rode in some nice little black gloves which, for me and my *tiny* hands, were perfect in an extra-small.

Next up on my race agenda is the Crystal Palace Triathlon, where I will be showing off my new triathlon suit. At £14.99, this is an incredible bargain, when you consider that you can often end up spending up to and over £100 for other brands – great if you’re embarking on lots of triathlons…and have the cash to throw around, which I don’t so this is a welcome option. There are some nice details such as an internal mesh bra in the women’s model and also leg grips to keep the shorts in place and some handy pockets for gels. I’m always surprised at the detail in the Aldi gear, when you consider what a bargain they are. This current range has items ranging from gloves at £3.49, base layers at £9.99, bib-shorts at £11.99 and even cycle shoes at £24.99. If you like the running gear, then you’ll find the cycling range a useful addition to your kit mountain drawer.

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 🙂 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 😉 ). 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 🙂

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 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.

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 🙂 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 🙂

1.37.59

 

To the Spitfire

School holidays are always tricky for someone who likes a bit of consistency in their training, but I seem to have managed to keep up my training over Easter (although the swimming took a bit of a back seat). I was starting to get a bit anxious about the lack of cycling going on, as the triathlon gets ever closer ( just over three weeks to go now!), so Edward suggested getting out on my bike on Easter Monday. I was a bit excited about this prospect and lay awake, twitching at the thought of whizzing along the roads on my lovely bike. My main worry has been getting lost…I know, I know, so Edward suggested using Google Maps, which can be set to give directions, so I got that going and, after way too much faffing, I set off on my merry way.

My solo ride gave me the opportunity to try out my new cycling shirt from Tribesports. I have found it hard to find a cycle top that is long enough, doesn’t ride up around my middle but is nice and close around the arms and shoulders, but this one does the trick and also looks rather lovely too.

Selfie with cheeky imposter

Selfie with cheeky imposter

The stay-in-place ability of the top is helped by these neat little rubber grippy nobbles on the seam around the bottom. Another nice detail is the little zip pocket in addition to some larger pockets, allowing you to secure a bit of money, or your phone (though I found the bigger pockets more easily accessible and deep enough to keep a phone safe).

2014-04-24 14.26.18

So, bedecked in lycra, I took to the roads of South East London, and was soon heading into unknown territory on a quiet Bank Holiday morning. In my state of general nervousness, I had to stop every time I came to a new junction and check my map…numerous cyclists passed me by, doing the nod and probably muttering ‘Amateur’ under their breath. Whenever I reached a quieter stretch of road, I went for it, picking up speed and noticing just how smiley cycling makes me…I can’t be the only person (adult person that is) who goes ‘Weeeeeeee’ as they cycle down hill.

Magnificent

Magnificent

In what seemed like no time at all, I was seeing signs for Biggin Hill and was soon speeding along the road that takes you to the Spitfire. Of course, I had to pull over and take a photo, I was pretty chuffed to have reached this point. As I looked at my map, I could see that I could keep on going towards Westerham, but decided I should turn here and head for home. The return leg was less consumed with map-studying – it always seems much easier to navigate home. My competitive streak kicked in as I tailed some fancy-schmancy riders and I felt fresh, with enough fuel in my limbs to go further. Next time.

So that’s 40k of solo riding.