In October 2015 I secured a charity place for the VLM and started running. Then exactly a year ago today I bought a bike and started cycling and a couple of months later, in August we signed up to do IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire so the only thing left to do was swim which I started doing in Feb this year. I had booked a Sprint distance Triathlon as my first event in April, however, at the time had (unknowingly) entered a super speedy time for the swim and the thought of being chased and having my feet tickled in the pool was enough to cause a huge confidence crisis resulting in me dropping out! So fast forward to yesterday and my first ever Triathlon, an Olympic distance consisting of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10k run.
I’ve done hardly any running since Chicago marathon due to injury yet knew mentally I could cover the distance and I’m a fairly strong cyclist so hadn’t been too concerned about that, it was all about the open water swimming. So two weekends ago I went to the Lake District and swam for the first time in Rydal Water, which was beautiful. I noticed that the buoyancy from the wetsuit made me much more streamline and , therefore, more efficient in the water. I then attended the Endurance Store’s Open water swim time trial event to get used to swimming amongst other people as I was terrified of the washing machine effect.
And finally a last minute swim clinic with Jo Jackson the day before the event for some useful hints and tips. Key learnings which I found very helpful including reaching forwards as if you were stretching over a barrel and having your fingers enter the water with your palm facing towards. Also rotating from the hip and keeping a continuous steady kicking motion and finally positioning the water line at your temple with nose perpendicular to the floor.
For me a triathlon is a logistical nightmare requiring a lot of thought into kit, transitions, fuelling, where to put all the stickers and tattoo placement! After a few phone calls I had prepped everything, including gels tapped to the bike, which if you haven’t tried is a fantastic and efficient way of fuelling on the bike.
Other top tips include taking your wetsuit off when it’s soaked, therefore, easier to remove and having a fizzy drink in transition one to stop the dizziness and take away the taste of the lake! I had a big bowl of pasta in a last ditch attempt to carb load and went to bed early.
5:30 alarm and trying desperately to eat porridge and drink loads of water and electrolytes when your stomach is doing somersaults is most tricky but I donned my tri-suit and drove the short distance to the event. Racked my bike, laid out all equipment and then wrestled to get into my wetsuit, which I have to say I think is the hardest thing about a triathlon. We then gathered for our wave race briefing at which point I was desperate for a wee but couldn’t face trying to get in and out of the wetsuit so put it down to nerves and danced about instead. I got talking to some of the other girls of which for many it was their first Olympic distance and some were even training for Staffordshire which was great to see. We made our way into the water and I positioned myself at the back knowing I would rather have the space than a good time.
And we were off! At first I really struggled to regulate my breathing as the water was very cold but soon got into a rhythm. I then started getting cramp in my arm and was freaking out that so many people were ahead of me. We had to loop an island twice and after the firs loop I was thinking this was a big ask but just tried to stay calm and keep pushing forwards and 41 mins later I was done. Quick jog to transition, gulp of coke, dry the feet off and I was on the bike, relived to be back in my comfort zone.
The bike route was flat but exposed so quite windy at points. I was overtaken by so many people on the most amazing bikes I have ever seen and felt as if I wasn’t moving but was actually doing about 17mph which given the wind I was quite happy with. The bike portion was the opportunity to hydrate and refuel. I’m not great at doing this but made a conscious effort to drink/eat every 9 miles ready for the run. The only thing I found with the cycle was not being as comfortable in a tri suit as I’m used to having lots of padding in bib shorts and there’s next to nothing in the suits so I was shifting my weight around trying to get comfortable.
Cycle done, quick change of shoes and I was off on the run. This is where it all went wrong. I have never done any brick training (big mistake)! I felt like a drunken octopus with zero control of my feet and legs. I had numb feet and literally couldn’t get them to do what I wanted them to. I was also running too fast. I even tried to walk at one point and had even less control then. It took 3 miles to feel normal by which point I was hungry and noting the lack of running training. Also, I was being overtaken by all the University teams who were tonnes faster and mentally I felt a bit tired. But I shuffled along and finally made the turn and ran over the finish line to be awarded with a massive medal by Jo Jackson which was very nice. Total time 3:29:11! I had three friends also competing and they got great times so a fab day for all. Awesome experience and really well organised event.