Time for a catch-up blog (its a long one… made a cuppa before you start reading!)
My triathlon season was condensed into three weeks and on balance, I have to say a good three weeks.
It started off about a month ago, when I was taking part in what was supposed to be my main race of the season the Hever triathlon.
Initially, I had planned to do the middle-distance race, but it soon became apparent that 8 weeks was not going to be anywhere near enough to go from no running at all to 21kms. I got very stressed about 3 weeks into training and made the decision to drop down to the Olympic distance and concentrate on building my confidence on the 10km run. I carried on doing long cycle rides and swims and my running stress dropped considerably.
I was slowly building up my running after the 10-month injury lay off. My knees were not completely pain free, but they were much improved, and Coach Sarah had advised to warm up on the bike before setting off on any run and this did seem to make a difference. Basically, warming the joints up before starting off.
The week before Hever the weather forecasters started talking about Storm Helene but at that point it didn’t seem to be going to affect the south. This changed as the week went on until the weather for the Sunday was looking absolutely pants! Basically, heavy rain all day, temperatures around 7 degrees and windy. Lovely! I had my fingers crossed that the forecast was totally wrong. Hmmm.
To be fair when I got up it wasn’t raining, and it was barely a misty drizzle as I got all my kit out of the car and headed across the two fields to registration. However, by the time I got to the registration tent the rain was making a real effort to change from a light shower to a steady downpour. All competitors were given numbered stickers for both their bike and their helmets. Trying to place a sticker on a wet bike helmet in the rain doesn’t work let me tell you!
The rain was now heavy, and I stood rather glumly trying to keep my kit dry placing it in bags next to my bike. My hands were already cold, and I was beginning to wonder why I hadn’t listened to the hubster and just stayed in bed.
I pulled on my wetsuit and put my coat back on until the last possible moment before heading down the muddy track to the lake where the swim would take place. Everyone huddled close to each other to try to glean some warmth and I was beginning to wish the race brief was over so that we could get going. Surely the water couldn’t be any colder than standing on wet concrete.
The swim at Hever should be lovely. It’s a beautiful spot (well it is in the sunshine). A big lake and then you turn and swim around the river. Unfortunately, it is very silty, and your feet sink down into the slimy silt. This makes the water very dirty and it doesn’t smell great. And it was pretty chilly.
I set off with a kind of grim determination really. Let’s just get this over with. Out of the water and quite a long run/walk to where the bikes are racked through the mud. I was so befuddled that I couldn’t remember which rack my bike was in (a very rookie error). Eventually located, I struggled with cold hands to get my wetsuit off and a jacket, socks and gloves on, followed by a hat and my bike helmet. Possible the longest I have spent in transition since Ironman!
Again, another long run/walk to the mount line. This track really was just a mud bath and my feet were soaked before I even got on my bike. What can I say about the two-lap 40km bike route. It’s hilly, the roads are potholed, it was extremely wet, and it was freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my feet and I seriously thought about jacking the whole thing in after the first lap. Eventually I was heading back into transition, peeling off sopping jacket and socks and trying to pull on dry socks and my running shoes. A quick loo stop and I set off on the 10km run (another long transition of nearly 8 minutes!).
I actually felt quite good as I started running, the rain had eased a bit and it (and I) had warmed up a tad. I hit the first hill and was pleased at how my legs and knees felt. This little bit of euphoria didn’t last long unfortunately. The track turned and suddenly became a quagmire of clay and mud. I found it was impossible to run. I could barely walk without losing my feet from under me let alone run. The first stretch of mud went on for the best part of 2km. Then a stretch of drier stuff and then back onto a hill of mud. I was getting extremely frustrated. I had hoped to run the whole 10km and so far, I had walked more than I had run. The rest of the route alternated between boggy mud and trail until we reached the castle grounds again and ran on grass for the last 3km. Finally, I could see the finish gantry.
I was handed my medal and got a drink and then picked my way back to transition. I shoved all my wet kit into a bin bag, got my coat and bag from the luggage area and trudged back to the car shivering from head to foot. I had some dry kit in the car which I pulled on and drove home.
Was it worth it? Probably not. I didn’t enjoy any of the race and I didn’t feel I had achieved much by it.
On a whim I had entered a sprint triathlon which was taking place on the coast at Littlehampton. A pool based 400m swim, 25km cycle and 5km run. At the last minute, Scott decided to enter too, and he came home from Manchester on Saturday afternoon ready to race next day.
It was a bit of a ridiculously early start. I was up around 4:30am and we were in the car heading for the coast at 5:30am. We arrived at the leisure centre at 6am just in time to watch a guy try to go into the car park which had a low barrier entry. As he had his bike on top of the car this didn’t end well! Having made this mistake myself in the past he had my sympathies! Fortunately for him, he didn’t seem to have done much damage to his bike.
It was still dark as we set up our bikes in the small transition area. This was a very late season triathlon and only 50 people had signed up for it. It was a lovely surprise to see Steph from the tri club there too. Always nice to see a friendly face.
The pool swim turned out to be very quirky indeed. There were only 4 lanes available and we had to swim up and down each lane in turn then at the end of lane 4 hop out, walk along the pool and drop back into lane 1 and start all over again. This meant that faster swimmers were getting in with slower swimmers, but I don’t think it held anyone up too much.
Transition couldn’t have been closer to the pool if it had tried. Literally out of the door and there you were – perfect! By the time the swim was done the sun was up and the sky was a clear bright blue. It was however around 6 degrees! A tad fresh! I decided on the jacket and gloves approach again but was much quicker this time round. Scott, being made of much tougher stuff (or just plain daft) opted for no jacket, just gloves. My legs were stinging from the cold and never really warmed up, but it was a beautiful morning with the mist hanging over the fields. The bike route was a practically flat out and back route along what would be a very busy road later in the day. A bit of a convoluted trip around the one-way system back into Littlehampton and then off onto the flat out and back run along the sea front.
My legs took a little while to get moving but the best thing was I wasn’t getting any joint pain at all. At the first turn around point I passed another lady runner about 500m or so behind me. I wasn’t 100% sure but I had a feeling I was sitting in 3rd female position at this point. I lifted the pace a bit and headed back passed the transition area, along the sea front to the second turnaround point. This seemed to take for ever, round a bend and finally the traffic cone and marshall with a camera. I noodled around the cone and there was the other lady, now less than 100m behind me. I kind of knew at this point she would catch me and I just don’t have the speed in my legs yet to respond to her. She soon pootled off ahead of me and although I kept my pace up there was no way I was going to catch her. Soon I was crossing the road and onto the grass and under the finish gantry where Scott was waiting for me.
I felt exceptionally good. It had been a great race and I was fairly buzzing – a feeling I have not had for a good couple of years.
We hung around for the prize giving and found out that Scott had finished 5th overall and I had indeed been 4th woman home.
We packed up and headed to the Sea Lane café for a well-earned breakfast. It was so good to be racing with Scott again and just such a good feeling to finish a race feeling strong.
The same team who organised the Littlehampton tri sent out an email promoting their end of season Open Water Swim Challenge event. Based at the Chichester Water Sport venue they were hosting an event where you could swim 10km, 5km, 3km or 1km depending on your ability. As I knew I could comfortably swim 3km I decided to give the 5km challenge a go. When I signed up we were still in the throes of summer and warm water swims. Unfortunately, summer is a bit of a distant memory and we have had a bucket load of rain over the past few weeks which means the water temperature has dropped considerably and obviously the air temperature is cooler too.
I have been swimming at Diver’s Cove all summer and have become friendly with another lady swimmer there called Penny. I was pleasantly surprised to see her there with her hubby. I had mentioned the swim to her a few weeks back and she had decided to enter at the last minute.
I have managed some decent open water swims at Diver’s Cove over the past couple of months and decided not to put any pressure on myself. The course was a kilometre lap and I would just take each lap as it came. Saturday morning was cold and overcast with rain forecast for around 11am. We were told that the water temperature was around 15 degrees and it certainly felt chilly getting in despite the wetsuit. The first wave of 11 swimmers were doing 10km. I was in Wave 2 and we were held just a tad too long in the water before being set off. The course was marked by big yellow buoys and was more or less oblong in shape. We turned the first buoy quite quickly and the second buoy looked a long way off in the distance and was not easy to spot. The first lap went reasonably quickly, and I settled behind a swimmer as we started the second lap. This helps with resistance and gives you a little bit of a pull along, so you use less energy. I stuck with him for three turns and then passed him and swam on my own for the rest of that lap. I was feeling good and seemed to hit turn 3 of lap 3 before I really knew it and then out of nowhere I was hit with cramp in my right calf. I flexed my foot and tried to stretch out my calf and the cramp eased a bit but came back again within a few minutes. This pattern continued into lap 4 until the cramp became so bad I honestly thought I was going to have to call over the safety canoe for assistance.
There was a pontoon half way along the back leg of the swim which was supplying water and nutrition, and I decided to head for it. The lady on there asked if I needed anything and if I was ok and I told her about the cramp. She handed me a piece of banana and told me to eat that and then to take on some water. I have to say banana was really the last thing I fancied but decided the potassium might help and the water helped wash it down. I managed to stretch out my leg long enough to get rid of the cramp, thanked the girl and pushed off again. The water seemed a lot choppier along the leg back towards the club house. I certainly hadn’t noticed it before. Finally, the turn towards the starting buoys and the last lap began. I was going to get around this one way or another.
Although it was difficult to tell I assume there were very few of us still left swimming by this point. As I headed up the long 2nd leg I was tracked by two separate canoes. I couldn’t tell if this was because my swimming looked laboured and they were concerned, or they were just bored and thought they would keep me company. Across the back leg and passed the pontoon I felt another touch of cramp, but a few kicks seemed to push it away. The waves were really choppy now and I was losing pace all the time. I always struggle in heavy water, one of the reasons I avoid sea swims, and I could actually see the waves coming across me now. One last turn and I could see the finish line. It seemed to take an age to get to the guy waiting to help me out of the water but finally I was there, standing up and feeling just a tad dizzy. As I headed towards the steps to the finish line Penny came scooting down and helped me up. I had honestly expected her to have gone home as she would have finished some 40 minutes before me, but she said she had wanted to see me finish. That was such a lovely thing from someone I hardly knew. She was so speedy she was 2nd female finisher so I decided I would wait to see her get her prize.
It was freezing on the deck even after putting several layers on. A cup of tea and a mug of hot chocolate helped but I can honestly say I don’t think I warmed up all afternoon.
I am pretty chuffed with my achievement. I am a little disappointed with the time it took me as I have been swimming faster in training, but I think the cramp, stopping at the pontoon for several minutes and the choppy water in the latter stages all took their toll. My lap times reflect that to be honest:
Lap 1 – 19:48
Lap 2 – 20:35
Lap 3 – 22:02
Lap 4 – 22:48
Lap 5 – 24:71
I actually swam 5.2km in total in a time of 1:58 which is ok, and should I ever decide to swim another 5km open water swim is a good benchmark.
It is a good event which with a few tweaks could be a great event especially if it was a month earlier which would mean it should be a tad warmer.
So that’s everything up to date. I am currently working on what events to do in the final couple of months of this year and hopefully a proper triathlon season of events next.
Watch this space!