When you rouse from a dream which finds you in a vaguely familiar North East town, getting more and more frustrated because you’re lost and can’t find the start of a triathlon, it’s time to get up, even if there are 30 minutes more before the alarm is due to go off.
Yes, the nerves were pretty palpable today. First tri of the season and time to see what my training could achieve. Hard to believe it’s my third time at this race.
After worrying that I’d be freezing on the bike leg a couple of weeks ago, Northumberland put on its finest triathlon welcoming weather with bright blue skies, a little sunshine and a slight, drying breeze. I arrived in plenty of time to register and get racked up in transition, then did a little warm up run and running drills to calm my nerves before I made my way poolside for the swim.
I took some deep, slow breaths as I was waiting to be called forward to start, and I got chance to do a couple of sinking out breaths in the water before the whistle. I was first off in my lane with two guys behind me. I fully expected to be passed. I didn’t get a great start and on the first length, the first guy swam alongside and got ahead.
My focus was to have a controlled swim. Not to struggle with the panicky breathing I’ve had in the past, just keep it steady and enjoy it. Swimming in the churning waters and through the bubbles didn’t distress me too much and I kept the breathing smooth. I felt a tickle on my foot about 8 lengths in and let the second guy past.
I was just happy to be swimming my own race. I felt good and strong, and made an effort to pick up the pace a little for the last few lengths, spotting the guy ahead of me was running out of steam. I managed to catch onto his feet but didn’t tickle his toes as I thought it unfair to do that on the last length. Instead we raced side by side to the end and I just pipped him out of the pool.
That gave me the incentive to really run into transition to keep him behind me. I think some of my barefoot running drills paid off!
Nice, smooth transition, no mishaps and a sensible mount onto the bike. I kept the gears low and easy through the turns onto the main road and was passed by quite a few on the way out. I pretty much expect that now, as I know cycling is my weakest discipline. Once out onto the main road, I picked up the gears and tried to keep my legs turning over at a decent rate, feeling my heart rate settle after the adrenaline of the swim and transition.
Up to the roundabout and left onto the country roads to pick up some free downhill speed before a left hand turn into the village and the short, steep climb of Bothal Bank. Dropped into the lowest gear and climbed steadily, getting out of the saddle at the turn for the last section and breathing very heavily at the top. But once over the crest, there’s a good long run back round onto the main drag again.
For the second lap, I picked up the effort, taking advantage of the fast rolling start. With this being a multi-lap course, some of the speedier athletes started to come through and I was admiring their sleek carbon machines, but most of the time I was out on my own, just trying to keep focused and actually having a lot of fun.
The second time up Bothal Bank I spotted a rider being overtaken and looking like he was working hard. I controlled my ascent much better this time, just keeping the power on, moving slowly and recovering more quickly at the top to go past the slower rider further along the road.
My bike was running beautifully, the sun was shining and I felt great as I came into the last half lap. Just up to the roundabout and back and I’d be done. A bit of a catch up moment with two speedy riders and then back through to transition, where I managed a moving dismount and was swiftly onto the run.
A shout from parkrunner Tove as I set off kept me moving as I got a quick shot of cramp through first my left calf, then my right. I decided to ignore it and run it off, taking short strides and trying to settle into my new running style. I was soon bouncing along, and as my legs loosened off, I kept thinking of lifting my hips and bounding forwards.
There’s great encouragement from the marshalls on the corners, who give you a shout out by name every time you pass on the three lap course. The first lap I overtook a couple of people, but it’s hard to know if that’s for places or not.
With the sun growing strong, it was a relief to get some shade around the playing field towards the end of the lap and enjoy an encouraging cheer each time round. I felt I’d held back a bit and really tried to push on in the last lap, but in truth there wasn’t much more pace in my legs. Not even when I told myself to run it for katypie because I knew she’d love to be out running and smiling in the sunshine. I did manage a bit of a pick up and a Scribbler sprint finish over the line.
What a great day for a race! Once us back of the packers finished, we soaked up the sunshine, sitting on the grass and cheering on the racing snakes. I caught up with Tove who had been supporting her husband on his first tri and a couple of my PT’s other clients who’d both had great races.
My initial feeling was that I wanted to go and do it again. Three years ago, when I did this race for the first time, I was elated and, to borrow a word from my fine Scottish friends, gubbed. I thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Today, I just had a great time and remembered all the reasons why I enjoy this challenge so much.
There are things to work on, sure. I held back a bit. I don’t really know why. I found a groove and stuck there, then found I didn’t have much more to push with when the end approached. I also need to remember the important patches to body glide as I’ve got a nice bit of chafing under my armpit where there’s a seam on my tri suit.
But I gave it a decent shot, and I know there’s more if I’m brave enough to live with a bit of hurt. It’s early days and I have plenty of time to see what I’m really made of.
I had a great day. I scored a massive course PB and was 5th in my age category. With more tris lined up for the summer, I’m looking forward to more great days to come. Open water training starts on Thursday evening at the QE2 lake.
Stats and stuff
400m swim 08:71
20k bike 48:08
5k run 26:28
Total 1: 25:15