My first Olympic Distance race..!
My New Years resolution this year was to do an Olympic Distance Tri. I had only ever done a couple of Sprint Distances before that and I wanted to give the longer distance a go. Unfortunately a car accident in December last year that I hoped would take a couple of weeks of recovery actually took several months and I didn’t start any proper training this year until about April, so I had set the bar quite high – from almost no fitness to Olympic distance. During a trip to Lisbon to watch our amazing club age groupers (and after a couple of alcoholic beverages) – I thought –let’s give it a go and entered there and then!
I got an 8 week training plan off of the internet. That was a bit of a shock to the system – going from a couple of hours a week of physical activity, to 9-10 hours of training a week, but I love a training plan – ticking off as you go. The only thing I didn’t like was that it didn’t have regular tests of improvement, but other than that it was great. After a week I did notice that it was an intermediate plan, not a beginner plan, but thought I’d just carry on with it anyway.
The swim was always going to be my biggest challenge. I hadn’t enjoyed at all my first open water swim in Reading in 2015, and had not done it again until this year. Eastleigh lake was recommended to me. It was fantastic – so much less intimidating to a new open water swimmer than Reading at only a 300m loop rather than 750m (plus none of the weeds of Reading). I came to really enjoy the open water swimming and when I first managed to do my 5 laps to get me up to 1500 m – something I hadn’t done since I was about 10 and got a badge to stitch onto my cossie – I was really pleased. My time was about 38 minutes. I knew I could run 10km and I knew I could cycle 40km – neither of them at any impressive speed, but it was all about finishing, so I was happy I could do the individual events, but could I do them altogether?
There were new things to think about over the Sprint distance. All I had to do for a sprint was eat 2 hours before and then go full pelt at every discipline (not fast but definitely furious). There were no pacing issues and no nutrition to think about. Olympic was a bit different – expecting to take about 3 hours 15 minutes, I knew I couldn’t even sit at my desk for that long without eating, and going full pelt at everything really wasn’t going to work. I introduced myself to the disgusting world of gels and got my body used to them whilst training. I don’t like them and they didn’t used to like me either (if you know what I mean!) but I tried the Torq ones and they seemed to be fine.
I worked steadily through my programme – some weeks feeling pretty exhausted, but each 3rd week it ramped back a little allowing a bit of a rest. I also added in a weekly session at the gym, on top of the core sessions that were part of the programme. I am positive that strength work makes a massive difference to performance in all disciplines so I thought it was important to put in (well that’s what the experts told me!).
The day of the race came round quickly. Unfortunately Rob had an injury so couldn’t take part – he had an Ironman in a few weeks and an injury was affecting his running – such a shame as he is a great competitor – but also turned out to be a great supporter too!
Up at 6.30am for porridge, a few nuts in the car on the way and then we were there. I didn’t feel very nervous. I felt well prepared and quite level headed. My only worry was the water temperature. During the week the emails from the organisers had said that it was currently above the maximum level for wet suits – eek – I had measured my swimming times the week before and I was 30 seconds per 100m slower without a wetsuit in open water – another 7 ½ minutes for 1500m and a lot more effort required without a wetsuit, so I was really concerned about that. At registration we were told that wet suits were optional – phew!
I racked up my bike, faffed a bit with which way to point it, but got some good advice from Judit about which way round to face it, otherwise I might still be in transition now. I laid out my kit and left transition with my wetsuit and my Glide. Thanks to Gina for getting me the Glide in the week (it made a massive difference to taking off my wet suit after the swim). I faffed a bit more and had some issues with my contact lens falling out but I was still pretty calm and it was time for our wave to go into the pen, get our hats and hear our race briefing. We were told that there were a big number of DQ’s the day before for not putting a foot down at a junction on the bike course, so we all knew that was important.
We had to do 2 750m laps of the swim, 2 20km laps of the bike course and 6 (yes 6!) laps on the run course.
We all got into the water and were ready to start the swim. The first wave was already in the water and some were coming around just as we started – not ideal organising, but as we know it’s difficult to get these triathlons perfect! During the first lap I had real trouble with my breathing. I felt puffed out – perhaps the adrenaline, nerves, or maybe I set off to fast. I tried to slow the stroke down, but that made no difference, so I did breaststroke for a while. Then I tried front crawl again, but still felt puffed out, eventually I went back to front crawl and got my rhythm. I got round to the start (the end of the first lap) just as the next wave was going off, and as they went every 15 minutes, I knew my time was better than I had expected. I was concerned about getting caught up in the melee of the next wave but I was fine – I kept my rhythm and carried on around the next 750m. I had a wobbly exit from the water and walked a bit back to my bike, which was very close, then set about the wetsuit removal (thanks again to Gina) and getting on to my bike. I dropped my bike trying to tidy up my wetsuit a bit, but was soon on my way and enjoying the beautiful, flattish, bike course.
One the way out of transition I saw Gina who had gone off in a wave 15 minutes before mine. She was having her bike fixed by a marshal – the saddle had come off. Gina didn’t finish the race last year as she felt poorly on the run and now it looked like she was being held up this year too. In fact her bike couldn’t be fixed – perhaps sabotaged by Chris(?!) and she just did the run (she’s a glutton for punishment!)
On my first lap of the bike course I got a massive cheer from the ATC fan club – its such a great club to be part of – everyone is so supportive and that spurred me on for the next 20km. I had a couple of nuts on the bike course and a gel about 10 minutes before the end, but I felt quite full and actually that was all the nutrition I had on the way round.
As the race is non drafting whenever someone overtook you, you hoped that they would move away fast. Most of the whooshing carbon bikes did exactly that but I played cat and mouse with one guy most of the way round – getting a bit concerned when he didn’t pull away from me fast enough, so that I had to slow down and then the same would happen in reverse.
Then I performed my unimpressive bike dismount to a lot more ATC cheers and ran into transition to start my run.
The run is now my weakest area – it was 6 laps of quite a narrow course with everyone whizzing past me at high speeds while I plodded around at very low speeds, occasionally throwing myself into a bramble bush to clear the path as they motored past.
At the end of my first lap I saw Tracey with a trophy – she had got a very impressive 3rd in the aquabike. Judit also overtook me on one lap – she’s such a fantastic athlete – a real role model in triathlon.
On the 5th lap my legs started to feel tired, so I felt as if I had got it about right for how hard to push it on the bike, but maybe I could have pushed harder and still had something left – that’s the skill of these longer distances I guess. Jez gave me a massive shout from the massage table just as I set out on my final lap and Chris had also finished and was cheering me on.
I finished in 2 hours 54 minutes – 20 minutes quicker than I had expected, so I was delighted. All the bike envy on the course makes me want to buy a new bike for the next time
Gina got a DNF unfortunately, Judit finished in a GB (and club champs) winning time of 2 hours 23 minutes and was 5th woman in. Jez was our male club champ and finished in 2 hours and 47 minutes and Chris finished in an impressive 2 hours and 48 minutes, after chasing Jez around the course (knocking 13 minutes off of his time for last year).
A beautiful course, fantastic supporters (Mel, Peter H, Lou, Rob, Nev and my mum!) and a great venue for the club champs – hopefully we can go again next year (with slower opposition of course!)
Well after reading all that I bet you are glad I didn’t do an Ironman – imagine the length of that report! Finally just a little health warning – an Olympic followed by 2 pints can cause drowsiness…..