By Sarah Clough
When I joined the tri club I wasn’t interested in doing triathlons, I just wanted to come for the swimming sessions, but I soon got dragged into the mentality of the club with its lively, enthusiastic members, so this year I decided to participate in the club champs and in April I started with the Oulton Park duathlon.
I moved to Pembroke at the end of July and love spending time down here, but decided I would still complete the club calendar events regardless, which meant I had to do a triathlon and Nantwich ended up the most likely candidate. My two months in Pembroke has inspired me into a totally different lifestyle, where I have jacked in TV and replaced it with much exercise – most days on my commute home from work I stop off for a run, walk or bike on the coast path or a swim or surf in the sea. It turns out this has been great training for the triathlon and I have lost a fair bit of weight too.
On the day my head was full of all the new information and things to remember – what to put in each transition, where to put my race tattoos and numbers, the directions to the swimming pool, and what I would need after the race, but I had a friend with me who took some of the load off. It was a longer walk to the swimming pool than they said so I was a little late for the pre-swim briefing, but I was still ready to enter the water at my allotted time. The pool is an open air brine pool so it was a little chilly but it was nice to not be under cover. The swimming is my strongest discipline and it would be easy to get carried away too early on, so I tried not to go at it too aggressively, by keeping my strokes long and controlled, but I was still passing people constantly – either I had mis-estimated my time or less likely the others had all over-estimated theirs… definitely the former as it turned out once I saw the results! I will have a better idea for next time.
I felt good on exiting the swim so ran round the pool building to my bike as I was wanted to try especially hard for a quick transition. I’ve always found it strange that someone invented a sport where you get timed for getting changed given I generally like to take time to get my socks on neatly.
As I put my socks and shoes on I looked towards my bag containing my shorts and top but it wasn’t there! I called out for help but nobody seemed to be in charge or know what was going on, although there were other NTC members there to help me figure it out. It is my first tri so I was a bit thrown. I also could have done the wrong thing with the bag but I was sure I followed the instructions.
They gave us a single orange drawstring bag for transition, after the swim we were meant to put our wet swim stuff in it and they would take it to the finish line for us to collect later. I had left my shorts and top inside it while I swam as it looked like it would rain – next time I’ll take them out in case it happens again!
There were two chaps at a truck with a bunch of orange bags to take to the finish line. They had been alerted to my problem but were looking through the bags very slowly and in no logical order. By now I had my shoes on so I ran over, pushed all the bags over to one side and sorted through them logically until I found mine, then finished getting changed.
My final transition time was 5:46, and I think 4 minutes of that was due to my bag being mistakenly removed too early.
I was very eager to get out on my bike by this point. I am not a very keen cyclist: I am okay at it as my legs are fairly strong but I don’t enjoy hills. However, it was a fairly flat course, and I have just had my bike fixed up and it has bright new bar tape and a very shiny chain and cassette, so it buoyed me on just looking down at it!
As I had started a bit far back in the swim I was still making up time to get near people the same speed as me so I was steadily passing people. Every time there was an empty road I pushed on to the next person. I was number 660 so tried to pass all the 650s, while I was doing that I passed some 640s too so worked on those next, then the 630s and some 620s. Thanks to the staggered start I never felt like I was playing catch up like I do if I start too far back in a running race.
Things weren’t all smooth as I have been suffering with silent reflux for 10 weeks and every time I had a sip of water from my bottle I heaved it up, getting some down my leg, but it’s only a momentary issue then I’m fine again. The roads were very quiet for the most part so at least I didn’t draw attention to myself.
I had looked at the course map beforehand so I knew there a s a long outward leg, a short dog leg and a long return leg. I started to push harder once I was on the return leg. The last km through town was very busy on the roads so I carefully filtered on the inside or overtook on the outside, still pushing as much as I could. I was pleased later to see I had averaged over 16km / hr.
I knew my legs would be like jelly for the run but running into transition with my bike took a lot of that out of them. I didn’t have clip in pedals so already had running shoes on, and thankfully my time for T2 was only 50 seconds!
The run was 4 laps of the field, which I was quite pleased about as it meant I got some incredible support from my friend and Eileen and Karen every time I came round. They would first check I was okay, and once assured I was would tell me to go for it!
I had no idea how fast I was going, my legs were a little leaden and I could only make them move so fast, but my heart, lungs and motivation were still there to keep that speed up. It was no longer possible to compare myself to other runners as I didn’t know what lap they were on. Unbelievably the 5k run was the quickest timed 5k run I have done, although that is partly as it came up a bit short, but it was still the second fastest I have run that distance.
I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed the event and how good I felt throughout it. Something weird was happening too as all three disciplines were faster than expected – my swim despite attempting to estimate my time as accurately as possible, my run being my second fastest 5km, and even the cycle: after the event I bought cleats which everyone says should speed you up, I just tested them properly and over the same distance I was 3mph slower.
It could just be first tri luck – I guess I’ll have to enter another one to find out!!