Last week came the turn of the Triathlon.
It has taken a week to write this report as I’ve been deciding whether or not I enjoyed the experience and ultimately whether I will do one again.
Having rested for a week after the Manchester Marathon I decided that I could recover in time to have a good crack at my first Triathlon. I decided to start with a Sprint triathlon and join Jimmy and Katie in the Hampton Thames Turbo Triathlon. 426m swim (pool), 21.5k cycle and a 5k run.
I think I need to split the report into two – training and the race.
So 6 weeks to get in shape. Swimming, Cycling and Running. Each on their own quite manageable, but a different prospect altogether to complete each one after the other. I also wanted to post a half decent time.
Having completed the Sportsrelief 2.5k back in March I had built up some decent swimming fitness with breaststroke, but decided that I should give frontcrawl a shot. Ever since school this was the one swimming stroke that I couldn’t really do and definitely couldn’t do for very long. The first couple of sessions I could only manage a couple of strokes without stopping, but after the 4th or 5th session I started to build up some endurance and I was close to swimming 426m in one go. The issue was I was very slow. It was taking me almost 2 minutes more than my breaststroke and the inefficiencies of my stroke meant that I was a lot more tired at the end. I decided to have a couple of lessons to see what I could do. They definitely helped and I felt like frontcrawl was a definite possibility. After my second lesson I went for one more swim session as a time trial. I felt shattered. Training 22 out of the last 23 weeks had started to take its toll. I managed about 300m and had to stop. I took a little breather and decided to see how my breaststroke was feeling. Again it was still much more comfortable and a lot quicker. Breaststroke it was going to be.
I think most people are relatively relaxed about the cycling element of a triathlon. The thought of 21.5k didn’t worry me, however I knew that because it was the longest element of the race it was the one that I needed to spend the longest time doing. Had some good rides along the way and managed to fit in a couple of brick sessions, 48k Sportive and a few other Cycling challenges in the Olympic park. Most of the details for my cycling training can be found in earlier posts.
During the 6 weeks Triathlon training I was also hoping to work on my speed, having been so focused on endurance up until now. Having recently joined Ealing Eagles Running Club I now had access to some coached sessions. My 5k PB was 23.36, but having put in a few interval sessions I have got this down to 22.33. The aim is 21.30 by the end of the year.
With the race day fast approaching I started to get everything in place. My new tri-suit had arrived in time for my last swim and I had read through the race pack to get familiar with the course and how to get through transition. I always knew it would be an early start, but when the official start list came out with my name next to number 34, it dawned on me that I was be in the pool around 6.45am! Being a pool triathlon, competitors are set off in waves dependent on their predicted swim and completion time. So on the morning of the race, I got up at 4am to have a light breakfast consisting of a banana and an energy bar. I didn’t feel like I could stomach anything else that early.
I was one of the first at the pool, so had plenty of time to set up my bike in transition. The weather at this point wasn’t too bad but the forecast was not very good at all and around 5.30am the heaven’s opened. So me and my fellow triathletes headed for cover under a tree and the race briefing was delivered in the most horrendous conditions.
6.42am – I had been queuing up by the pool for around 10 minutes by now and was really very cold. Jimmy and Katie were watching on – they weren’t due to start until the 3rd wave. So in I went – 12 lengths of the 32m pool. My aim for this leg was 11minutes and I was almost spot-on. 11.07 and onwards into transition. This is something that is very difficult to practice and in truth I hadn’t give it enough thought. The rain was still very heavy so I had to dig into my black bin liner to get my helmet, gloves and trainers. I was now set for the cycling. This was all done on opened roads but as it was before 7am there weren’t many cars out yet. The cycling was the most isolated part of the race – and at times there weren’t any other riders or marshals in sight. Around half way, I was going pretty well. Having only been overtaken by 1 person in the swim, I had picked off 4 or 5 by now on the cycle. The roads though weren’t great and the sheer volume of water meant that it was difficult to see potholes at the sides of the road. As I approached the bottom roundabout I was determined to keep up the momentum that I had built up until this point as there weren’t any cars around I didn’t slow down too much (I really should have). I lost control of the bike and although I didn’t completely wipe out I ended up hurting myself quite badly trying to keep it upright. I had bruised my ankle, cramped my calf and tweaked the top of my hamstring. On top of this it was still pouring down and I was the furthest possible point away from base. I decided to keep going with the hope that my muscles would loosen up and I’d be ok for the run. The next few miles on the bike were tough and by the end I did start to feel better. I moved into transition number two. This was much quicker than T1 as all I needed to do was rack my bike and take off my helmet. I still wasn’t sure whether my calf would stand up to the run, but once I got going it seemed alright and my pace was good. By now the rain had started to ease off a bit and I was starting to enjoy myself. I was running at a comfortable pace for the first couple of miles and managed to overtake a couple more people when suddenly competitor 33 came past. My competitive spirit kicked in and I knew that if she got too far ahead she would finish above me. She started around 30 seconds before me so I picked up my speed and stayed in touch all the way until the end. My 5k run finished in 23.28. I was over the moon with this time. 6 weeks previously this would have been a PB and I did it having already completed a swim and a cycle.
I was shattered and in a lot of pain. The adrenaline that had got me through had started to wear off.
My final time was 1.25.28. 171st out of 331. A pretty good effort for my first one. Reckon I might give it a go again – just maybe one that starts a little bit later in the day. And yes, I think I enjoyed it.