The water is so cold it seems to take my breath away. I try to start swimming as the klaxon goes off, and my breathing is quick and shallow. I can’t get into a rhythm. I start to panic.
I ask the man near me who looks like he’s standing if the water is shallower where he is. We walk together along the river for a minute before I start to calm down again.
However, over the 750m river swim, I never get my groove.
Two years ago I swam the Henley Classic and had no issues in the open water, and have done a lot more training this time around so I wasn’t expecting the swim to be quite so tough.
Lesson learned -> I was one of the last swimmers in the water, and thinking back, I wonder if I should have got in earlier to allow my body to get used to the temperature and to control my breathing before we started swimming.
I spent a lot of the first 325m doing breast stroke, occasionally flipping to my back to try to regulate my breathing. Although I knew that I would be killing my legs, in the moment I just wanted to keep moving forwards. Turning around at the buoy to go with the current was much better, and I did manage to swim some of it front crawl.
Getting out of the water, I knew I was one of the last, but I didn’t care. I was just pleased that I hadn’t given up.
I struggled to get out of my wetsuit, feeling constricted and still like I wasn’t able to fully catch my breath. My Mum and Step-Dad had come to support and they were there to run/walk in to transition. I told my Mum I did not want to do an Ironman anymore! I
I ran the 1/4 mile to transition 1 in my flip-flops, then struggled to get out of my wetsuit, put my tank and shoes on, then push my bike out.
Lesson learned -> take off my chip timer to remove my wetsuit more easily (or manoeuvre my wetsuit over it more carefully so that it doesn’t get stuck). Oh and buy a trisuit!
Within minutes on the bike I was overtaken by two others and later on, by a third rider. I was alone for most of the 20KM loop. My goal was to maintain a 12mph average, which would be an improvement on my previous rides! I hadn’t anticipated the very long hill in the second half of the loop, and I found myself once again re-thinking the Ironman.
One success was that I managed to drink my entire bottle while on the bike, which had 150kcal in as my fluid and fuel for the triathlon.
Lesson learned -> I would probably take more fuel for that distance next time.
I was on my old, cheap road bike for the first time in a while after punctures plagued my training this week. However, we both held up OK.
The dismount spot was another 0.15 mile away from transition, and my legs felt like jelly when I started running. But I soon got into my stride. The run course was two 2.5KM laps, and I really liked having people to overtake during my first lap (they were on their second lap!!). The marshals were amazing and so encouraging, and they all commented on my earrings (cheap plastic pearls to make me look a bit more glam!)
It surprised me that I was able to maintain an 8.30 min mile pace during the run, despite feeling like my legs were toast when I first stopped riding. The second lap there were still a few people out on the course doing their first/second loops, and I managed to overtake another few runners. I felt strong and it reminded me how much I love (and miss!) marathon training!
I finished in 1.58, and 85/90 participants (more proof that I have a LOT to learn!) I was immediately handed a glass of Champagne and a medal by the organisers – enough to convince me to sign up again next year.
All in all, this race was an incredibly well organised, friendly and supportive local race. It did however raise a lot of questions, concerns and fears within me…but that’s for another blog post on another day!
As always, so grateful for my Mum and Dave for supporting (they managed to get to the swim, two spots on the bike, and on the run!) plus all the photos!