After months of training, anticipation and nail biting, it was finally here – my first triathlon.
The idea of doing the triathlon came from a lovely group of ladies I “met” on Facebook. Some had done the event last year and were keen to have another go. So team “Flat Friends” came about.
Of course no endurance event is complete without the pre-race pasta party, so on the Saturday evening we all met up in Maidenhead for a hefty dose of carbohydrate, chat and laughter.
Sunday morning breakfast was a bit subdued – we were all nervous and just wanted to get on with it. So once breakfast was over, we packed up our cars and headed to Eton Dorney Lake.
The event itself is held around the lake which was used for the Olympic rowing events in 2012. As well as triathlons of all lengths from Olympic to Novice, there was also a 5km run, a duathlon (run, bike, run) and a “scootathlon” for the youngsters.
Registration was quick and helpful – one of our group had been put in a different start wave and this was sorted very easily so we could all set off together.
3 of our team were doing the 5km run which started at 9:30 with the rest of us doing the Super-Sprint triathlon: 400m swim, 21km bike and 5km run, setting off at 11:30. So we had plenty of time to cheer on the runners. Sue, Gilly and Julie went round the whole course together and there were emotional scenes at the end.
With the run finished, the triathlons began, starting with the Olympic distance. We could only watch in awe as the leader set off on her swim and established a huge lead. Gliding effortlessly through the water and lapping a fair few of the others over the 2 lap 1500m course. She eventually won by 25 minutes!
There was no time to watch any more as we needed to get ready for our start.
First up – setting up transition. I didn’t trust myself to remember everything so I’d made a list! What I hadn’t thought about was wet weather (and it was dull and drizzly) so hadn’t brought anything to protect my gear, but I crossed my fingers that the weather forecast was vaguely correct and that the rain would ease off.
Next up was getting into the wetsuit then just time for a quick team photo before we headed to the start.
The water temperature was a pleasant 20 degrees so those of the group swimming breast-stroke decided to forgo wetsuits. I reckoned my front crawl would need all the help it could get! A quick safety briefing and it was into the water and fortunately they didn’t keep us hanging about before sending us off.
I found the swim really tough, struggling with the front crawl and my breathing and generally feeling anxious. It was a massive relief to get to the end, get out of the water and into transition. At least I managed to get the wetsuit off OK, my shoes on – and I remembered to put my helmet on before touching the bike.
The bike ride was 4 laps of the lake. Flat but with a noticeable cross wind which became a nasty head wind as we rounded the head of the lake. But I really enjoyed it. I got myself into a high gear and just kept pedalling. There were plenty of supporters around the track and it was great to hear my name called each time I went past the event village.
As I rode round the last couple of kilometers I could tell I was close to completing in under an hour which would have been fantastic (I was expecting around 70 minutes), but in the end I was just over. Never mind, it was back into transition, rack the bike and set off for the 5km run.
Except that I was only walking. After all the months of pain and physio for my hip, I’d decided not to risk trying to run. I’d done a fast walk of around 4km in the week before without any pain but felt there was no point jogging when I hadn’t done any training for months. And I certainly didn’t want an injury before the event.
So it was a fast walk for me. And there were plenty of others who were either walking or alternating jog and walk. I spent most of the 5km with a lovely lady who kept pulling ahead when she ran – while I passed her when she slowed to a walk! The run course was basically 2 laps up and down one side of the lake so we could see how each of the rest of our team were doing and urge each other on as we passed by.
About 5oom from the end I caught up with Sally Anne and Sarah (who’d gone past me on the bike but I’d managed to stay just a little behind them). We decided to sprint the last 100m to the finish together and cross the line in a row.
It was amazing to get over the line, get our medals and be greeted by the rest of the team and friends and family. I was also amazed to have completed the whole thing in just over 2 hours. Even my swim time of 15:52 wasn’t too bad and I’d managed under 45 minutes walking the 5km.
The whole day was just a fantastic experience. The atmosphere was relaxed, encouraging and absolutely perfect for triathlon novices. There were plenty of us “of a certain age” with absolutely no pressure to be mega sporty. Everyone was made to feel great for taking part.
And doing it with a group of such fabulous ladies really made the day – we had an absolute ball.
Huge thanks go to Sarah J Dow who took the photographs (and gave me permission to use them).