Today was the Cotswold End of Season Standard Triathlon, my first Olympic distance event! It consisted of a 1500m lake swim, a 41km cycle and a 9km trail run…
After arriving and registering, I took my bike and hugely-oversized kit bag into transition. I laid out each bit of kit in the order I would need it and plastered on as much Bodyglide as possible to prevent any wetsuit mishaps (see here for more open-water swimming kit tips). One more quick loo stop and it was time to collect our swim hats and listen to the race briefing. Here we go!
Walking into the lake was nerve-wracking; I’d never done a mass swim start before and was dreading the thought of someone swimming over me or something. Looking around to see a mass of people treading water and swimming in circles to warm was slightly disconcerting. But it also put me at ease a little; everyone was in the same boat. The five minutes’ acclimatisation time passed by quickly and suddenly there were 10 seconds to go. At this point I realised I’d placed myself right in the middle of the pack. Great planning! All I could do now was focus.
It was easy to find my own space on the straights; the corners were more difficult to negotiate as everyone was trying to round the buoys without wasting too much energy, Despite my breathing being quite irregular for the first lap of the lake, I eventually found a rhythm and relaxed into it. Focus on your race plan, no one else’s. After completing my two laps, I headed for the exit. Part one done and still smiling!
Soon after gearing up in transition, I was out on the bike course, which consisted of two scenic 13-mile laps through the Cotswolds. The course was well sign-posted and mostly flat, with a few inclines and hills. There was one foot-down junction to look out for and one seriously steep downhill (I had to break rather a lot to make sure I didn’t career across the road at that turning!).
The first lap went smoothly… the second lap, however, posed a slight issue. I was having some kind of problem with my left shoe/cleat/pedal, or whatever wasn’t right, which meant I couldn’t clip in. (It later transpired that one of the screws holding my cleat to my shoe had come off, meaning the cleat moved around rather than staying in a fixed position!). I rested my shoe on top of my pedal so that it was just lodged in a more stable position and powered on through. Not optimum, but manageable. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the cycle. I managed to maintain a pace of 3:30 per mile (17mph), which I was pleasantly surprised at!
Back into transition. Helmet off, a quick change of shoes, take on some fuel, grab my gel and go… Time to run!
The run course was a mighty six laps of the lake, the first of which was challenging due to the inevitable jelly legs. I pushed through and ticked off each lap as I passed the spectator area. I also reassured myself with the fact that each lap was only 1.5km long and would take less than 10 minutes. The lake hadn’t grown in size since I saw it earlier that morning!
I must admit, my times got progressively worse as I went through the run section. After giving it my all on the swim and bike, I was exhausted part-way through the run! But with each lap, the finish came closer.
On my sixth and final lap I had a little burst of energy, finishing in a time of 2:55:57. I had predicted my finish time to be between 3:00:00 and 3:20:00, so was over the moon!
Organised by Events Logic South West, this was a brilliant event to do as my first Olympic distance. Friendly and supportive, with an easy-to-follow bike course and a great race village atmosphere. Despite finding the run particularly tough, I felt elated as soon as I crossed the line. I’m glad to have discovered the sport of triathlon and will certainly be setting myself some more swim-bike-run challenges next year. Now, where’s the foam roller?