The Scribbler

7 August 2011

Now that’s what I call a triathlon!

Me on my bike at Hebburn triathlon

Enjoying the ride at Hebburn triathlon (photo by Simon Barclay)

I’m buzzing and boinging and full of leaping endorphins. High on adrenaline and fun. That’s what triathlon does for you.

I managed to sleep well, soothing my body into a good rest with a warm bath and an early night. The alarm buzzed and I was up and getting ready. No time to faff this morning. Dressed and all my kit ready, I didn’t much feel like eating my porridge. I still had to load the bike on the car and wanted to be away. But I forced down half a bowlful with banana and honey – fuel for the day.

I lugged my gear down the stairs and came back for my bike, loaded up the car and was away. I reminded myself to take some deep breaths to calm the nerves as I drove to Hebburn. Quiet roads meant I was there in plenty of time to register and get to the briefing.

I had a quick chat with Penny, doing her first tri today and went and got numbered up. The lady marking my leg made me laugh, saying “Imagine all the lovely legs I get hold of today”. And that really set the tone for the whole event.

Everywhere you looked there was a marshal with a yellow T-shirt. Shouting the way out of transition, keeping an eye on the traffic at the road crossings, shouting out encouragement or giving a quick rendition of ‘My Way’ over the microphone. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service do a fantastic job of putting on a very friendly and well organised event.

Into the best race briefing I’ve been to. More laughs, but clear instructions and a chance to look at the pool. All good and not too many swim flutters. Time just seemed to speed up as I went to rack my bike and lay out all my kit, then get changed and ready in between a few nervous toilet stops.

I bumped into my PT, Ian and another client Lee and had a chat about the race then took a few minutes to myself to do some breathing and roll downs to make sure I was as relaxed as I could be before the swim.

Back on the pool side, I saw Penny getting ready to start her first triathlon. And any last minute nerves were completely calmed by having Ian standing beside me, due to start just after my swim.

So into the pool and just three people in each nice wide lane staring at regular intervals. There were plenty swimming breast stroke or taking their time with front crawl and getting a breather at the end of a length or two.

Since my Friday night swim, I’ve felt much more confident about the swim and soon it was my time to go. Just 20 seconds to get into the pool, goggles on and take a couple of sinking out breaths, and I was off. Smooth and steady, slow and easy, breathing every third stroke.

There was absolutely no sign of the panicky, adrenaline-fuelled breathing that marred my last aquathlon. I was calm and in control and actually enjoying myself. I caught up to another couple of swimmers in my lane quite quickly and overtook them at the end of the length.

When a new swimmer entered the pool I let them go ahead of me and took a quick in and out breath, but basically I swam just like I have swum in training. Found my rhythm and stuck to it, then kicked out for the last two lengths and hauled myself out of the water with a smile. How great it was to be in the outside lane and take advantage of the steps.

Me on my bike at Hebbur triathlon

Zooming past on my road bike

Out of the pool and into transition. Trainers on, helmet on, a swig of water and unrack my beautiful bike for her first race outing. Round out over the grass and a gentle start, getting a shout out from Jill from work as I passed, then off into the unknown of a sprint on a road bike.

Despite telling myself to take it easy, I was away and flying, enjoying the thrill of being on the bike. Quickly up and onto the big ring and making progress. I didn’t pass many cyclists, but there was almost always someone in sight. I saw Penny and gave her a shout of encouragement and spotted Ian go past me approaching the only slight uphill on the course.

On the second lap I had a mini battle with a rider in a red T-shirt who passed me, then slowed down on a bit of a gradient, where I got my place back by putting on the power for a bit of a spurt. The wind was buffeting quite strongly and it made sections of the course quite tough. The rider in red and I continued to change places until his superior handling skills caught me on a turn and I wasn’t able to catch him again. But it made me put a bit more effort into the second lap.

The last section of the bike route was into the wind and quite hard work. I hoped I’d left enough in my legs as I dropped down the gears and spun the wheels ready to dismount into T2.

Off the bike and the legs are like leg. Round onto the grass to rack the bike and lose the helmet, not thinking about anything other than getting out on the run.

Wow, it was tough. Straight out into the wind and a deceiving incline. My steps felt small and stumbly, calves stiff. I just hoped they’d come back to me. An encouraging shout from Peter as he passed lifted my spirits and I kept pushing, hoping I’d ease into it eventually.

I passed a girl, saying “This wind isn’t helping is it?”
“Wait until we get round the corner,” she replied, “It’ll get easier.” Something that was confirmed by the marshal at the turn, reassuring us that the worst part of the run was over. They were right. Whether it was my legs coming back to me, a drop in the wind, or just a flatter section, I was able to stretch out my legs and pick up the pace a little.

Relax and enjoy I told myself. This is your run. This is your last triathlon of the year, make the most of it. And I did. Breathless thank yous to all the marshalls and just keeping one foot in front of the other, moving forwards.

I never really did get my head around the route or any useful landmarks. I had started to wonder if I’d gone out a bit too hard on the bike as I didn’t seem to be able to find another gear in my legs. So it was almost a surprise to realise I was crossing the road back round to the pool and the finish.

A shout out from an unseen Peter (can I hire you as my regular tri cheerleader?) and I picked my feet up for a last blast. Splashing through the puddle and over the magic blue timing mat. I finished and I felt amazing.

A marshal thrust a bottle of water in my hand while another took my chip off my ankle. This is such a well organised race. With the results car right by the finish, I soon picked up my times:

Swim 09:34 (400m)
T1 01:50
Cycle 46:38 (20k?)
T2 00:45
Run 25:29 (advertised as 5k, but more likely 3 miles)
Total 01:24:16

And a new PB for a sprint tri, taking almost 4 minutes off my time for a similar distance at Ashington.

Just amazing! What a buzz. I am in no doubt that this is my event. Three shots of adrenaline. Three sports to improve at. And there are lots of improvements I can make to do even better next year.

I’d really wanted to beat my Ashington time. I felt I owed it to my lovely new bike. But equally I didn’t want to put myself under that time pressure and fail to enjoy the race. I don’t have another triathlon lined up this year, so it was great to go out on a high. But I will be back. And I’ll do this one again. It’s a really good event and one I’d recommend to anyone dipping their toe into triathlon.

I’d like to say a big thank you to some smashing Fetchies including Al, Lesley (doing her own racing today), Penny and Peter. Knowing you’re there to ask questions, offer advice, sending an encouraging message or just a friendly face on the day, just makes it all so special. I forget that I’ve only known you for a couple of years and I’m as happy to have such wonderful friends as I am to complete an amazing race.

And to everyone who has tweeted, facebooked or sent me a text to see how I got on, thank you too. I have a fantastic support crew! And I know I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating. Thanks to the brilliant Ian Turrell for starting me off on this long road to fitness, fun and new challenges and for sticking with me, whatever I want to do.

Just one thing before I sign off. I’ve been following this guy @rungeordierun on twitter for some time. His name is Mark Allison and he’s currently got less than 100 miles to go to complete an awe-inspiring run across the USA. He’s raised a huge amount of money for two local charities in doing so. And I know he’s really put himself through the wringer to do it. Check out his website and read his amazing story. And cheer him on the final straight.

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