Sunday morning started bright and early, well not so bright as my alarm went off at 4am so it was still pretty dark! After hitting snooze and wondering why I was awake so early before hopping out of bed to get all my kit sorted before trying to force down some breakfast with Liam.
The usual porridge with a banana and some honey and a big cup of coffee went down surprisingly easily, considering I’d gone to bed feeling absolutely stuffed after Liam’s mum’s delicious dinner!
After getting changed, and a debate as to whether to wear my tried and tested Zoot two piece or my new Zone3 one piece, I opted for the latter, a good excuse to test it out to see if I wanted to wear it for Frankfurt, we set off for the race venue, Buckler’s Hard, at 5:00.
It was much lighter this year than I remember it being last year, the race was a week earlier in 2016, and I was reminded later on that we had started earlier too, which had meant getting up even earlier…
We arrived shortly after 5:30, after listening to some motivational tunes in the car (a bit of Eminem- standard, and Major Lazer’s ‘Light it Up’ which I decided would be my anthem for the day) and got all the kit out of the car. It’s amazing how one person can need so much stuff for one race… that’s triathlon for you!
Liam and I headed into transition to find a spot and rack our bikes, I’d forgotten my bag of snacks so sent Simon back to the car to get that. I realized as I was laying everything out that I had also forgotten my towel to dry my feet after the swim 🙄 I took off my tshirt and popped that down to use instead!
Once I’d loaded up my bento box (my snacks of choice were 4 Nairn’s gluten free oat biscuits, a Get Buzzin’ banana flapjack and a Mars bar) and laid out all my kit I left the bike and headed back to Simon and Corinne.
After a couple of Portaloo stops it was wetsuit time and time for the essential pre-race photo…
Before long the standard distance athletes were off on the swim, they set off about 30 mins before us, so we got to see the first few coming out of the water before saying goodbye to Simon and Corinne and heading off into the river to start out 70.3 miles of racing!
After a few minutes acclimatisation, we were off!
The swim was 3 laps, and I have to say it was probably the least enjoyable, most aggressive swim I’ve been in during a race. My goggles got knocked, I felt like I’d been bashed and battered about and in all honesty felt really demoralised when I exited the swim (as the photo below shows quite clearly!)
The run to transition was up a hill, that we would be facing twice more later on in the day on the run. My legs felt heavy, breathing was really heavy and I honestly thought ‘how am I going to do this?!’
I got to my bike, wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes on, race belt on, sunglasses and helmet, food grabbed and off I went with my bike. I was told I was 1st lady out onto the bike course, how did that happen?!! (It turned out I was second lady out of the swim!) I used the first few miles to settle into the rhythm, and took a few sips of drink to rinse my mouth out as the water was really salty in the river (I don’t tend to drink the water I swim in but there wasn’t much escaping it!).
About 10 miles in, I was passed by another girl, she was absolutely gunning it so I knew there was no way I’d see her again on the bike. I carried on, occasionally glancing at my Garmin and seeing anything from 18-24mph… Amazingly fast for me!!
I was feeling good, remembering to smile at the photographer as well as to eat and keep drinking (I found the drinking part pretty hard as I finished the drink in the bottle on the front of my bike fairly quickly, it also has a tendency to splash everywhere when going over bumps… helpful, and my other bottle cages are behind the seatpost, reaching round to them and filling up the front bottle and then putting the bottle back is something I find really tricky!), and for the first time in a while I was absolutely loving it. Enjoying the bike is something I don’t often achieve as I find it such hard work. But this time it felt good, I could tell I was really pushing hard and had a slight burn in the legs, but I felt like I could keep going, which I did.
Obviously lots of guys were coming past me, and I was waiting for Liam to pass, which he did at around 15.5 miles… the same place Simon had passed me in 2016! We headed back towards Buckler’s Hard and out onto the second lap after 26ish miles, and soon after that a Tri20 club mate, Lou, came whizzing past and we had a brief ‘hello!’ which was nice… So now I knew I was in 3rd. I tried to keep up with Lou within drafting limits, but I just couldn’t get there, she was gone!
As I headed back towards Buckler’s Hard, with about 10 miles to go, I was passed by a third girl, in all honesty my heart started to sink a little… I came 4th last year by a matter of seconds, and was determined not to do that again!! I tried to catch her, but she was a figure in the distance.
Into T2 off a 2:51 bike split, possibly the most casual dismount and run into transition (it was a walk… I didn’t want to fall over in front of all the spectators!!)…
I racked my bike, changed into trainers and headed out for the 14 mile run. As I ran out of transition I saw Simon, who said I was 4th lady… the next marshal said I was 3rd lady, so I was a bit confused! I went with 4th as I thought ‘how on earth could I be 3rd…’
The first bit of the run at Swashbuckler is pretty much uphill, which hurt quite a lot! My first couple of miles were both sub 7:00… pretty silly really! I caught sight of Lou ahead after the 1st mile and knew it was going to be a matter of time before I caught up with her, which happened just before mile 3… on I went, and as I got to around 5 miles a marshal cycled past me and told me I was in second and that the first lady was about 5 minutes ahead of me.
I thought, I’ll never catch her I’ll just keep plodding on… Simon and Corinne were at around 5.5 miles which was a nice suprise on an otherwise very lonely run course! They went mad telling me I was second and there was only a couple of minutes in it…
I ran towards the finish, up the hill and out onto lap 2, and started to feel absolutely exhausted! It was really getting warm, and ther and wasn’t much shade at all on the run course. To top it off, my trainers were really hurting my feet… the elastic laces were too tight which made my feet feel like they were going to explode, and I’d found running over the gravelly path which made up the last 2.5 miles of the run route had really hurt my feet quite a bit!
As I got to around mile 9 I spotted the girl who’d overtaken me first on the bike. I knew then that I could take her and then it was just a case of hanging on. I passed her and kept going, knowing that she was going to be hot on my heels.
On and on I went, kept telling myself ‘run the mile you’re in’ which really helped. My splits were all over the place mind, but before long it was time to turn off onto the gravel path again, which meant it was only a couple of miles to go. The second lap is always much busier as more people come in off their bikes.
As I ran past the aid station the marshals shouted 1st lady coming through! That felt pretty awesome 😊
I kept pushing, digging pretty deep as it was hot, I was tired and my feet were really sore. The last couple of miles seemed to go on and on…
Eventually I got to the marina, and turned the corner to run towards the finish. One last time up the hill, past Liam’s mum who was going crazy, and past Simon and Corinne who were literally screaming at me. I crossed the line in 5:10:03, winning the women’s race and oh my god it felt amazing…
After hugs all round we watched Lou finish in 3rd, and then headed to transition to pick up my bike and other bits to take to the car. I changed and wiped some of the salty sweaty marks off my legs and face with a handy baby wipe before heading to the prize giving. I was pumped!
All in all a pretty awesome day. It’s such a great race, expertly organized, a beautiful course and it’s definitely become one of my favorites. Despite it feeling like it didn’t start well with the swim, I had a great bike and a solid run. I still can’t really believe it, it’s definitely given me back the fire and made me feel really excited about putting in some hard work over the next 7 weeks…