Last Saturday, with 2.5 weeks preparation and recovering from a cold, I faced my first open water triathlon.
Tatton Park in Cheshire was a fantastic venue for the triathlon, and I arrived early enough to watch the sun gaining height in the sky, revealing deer strolling through the fading mist in gaps between trees. A beautiful sight to behold, but I had a transition area to prep and no time for sit back and take it all in!
In transition, I set up my road bike (with new budget aero bars), my road bike shoes, running shoes, socks coated with talcum powder, bottles of water and isotonic mixes, energy gels and a towel. I faffed about putting on my wetsuit for the second time ever (the first had been at home). Another competitor looked dismayed when I confided in him that I had never been open water swimming before!
With a light breakfast in me, I gingerly headed to the start line shortly before my wave was called into the water. I adopted the “monkey see monkey do” approach and echoed other competitors warm-up routines, even once we were in the water waiting for the countdown. If others swam a few strokes, so did I. If others fussed over their goggles, I did too.
All too soon, with numb toes and a large measure of anxiety, the countdown to zero began, followed by the inevitable mélée as competitors jostled for position. I received plenty of kicks and even a slap to the head as people swam around and over me. My right arm ached from the start and I rolled around in the water with the grace of a drunken otter. In my head, I tried to gain composure. Re-address the gameplan: just survive the swim, then blast it on the bike, and go steady on the run. I liked this idea, and in less than ten minutes I found myself at the halfway marker buoy of the 750m course. I wasn’t breaking any records but I was holding on to the back of the pack.
My first transition was clunky. Out of the water, feelig light-headed, even finding time to help another competitor out of their wetsuit. I moved slowly to my transition area, conscious that I was dizzy. I slowly peeled the wetsuit off and got my helmet, socks and road bike shoes on, then walked to the exit. Results would show I spent over five minutes here- not impressive!
The second my legs starting turning the pedals, I felt back in my element. At first I thought others had a reason to be going slow, then I decided to up my game, drop them and win back some time lost in the mediocre swim. On the short cycle course I was overtaken by two riders but overtook dozens as I negotiated familiar corners and rises. Not bad considering I hadn’t sat on my bike in a year!
My second transition from bike to run was fast. Initially I was pleased, till I noticed a discomfort in my right trainer which turned out to be an energy gel I’d left inside it! Overall the run was slower than I hoped but I kept my pace steady and accelerated to the end. At the end, I was greeted with a medal and the party atmosphere of the finish line. I hadn’t done my best, particularly the swim, so I’ll have to improve on that for early next season. However, the sun was still shining and at last I could stop, relax and appreciate the beauty of Tatton Park 🙂