The perfect race for first time triathletes! ;o)
Tony and I arrived in Milton Keynes on Friday for our first triathlon, with a car full of kit and lots of nervous energy. We had booked a self catering cottage months ago, just down the road from the venue in Olney and it turned out to be the right choice given the camping conditions for the weekend. The weather forecast was pretty dire, changing from thunderstorms to heavy showers and back again over the few days running up to the weekend, so we had no idea what conditions to expect and were trying to prepare for anything!
Will we need goggles for the swim, bike and run ??!!
Saturday morning brought sunny spells before heavy rain causing flash flooding on local roads, only to dry up again in time for registration at 4pm. We signed on and had a look at the lake and transition area, deciding to rack our bikes up in the morning rather than leave them outside in the rain overnight. We headed back to our pad for lots of food and an early night, setting our alarm for 03:30…
Sunday dawned overcast but luckily no rain. After forcing down some porridge and packing our kit in the car we arrived at Emberton Park to rack our bikes and lay out our transition kit in a soggy field which was turning muddier by the minute. Tony was starting in the first wave (all men under 44) at 06:30 and I was to start half an hour later. By 06:15 he was clothed in neoprene and heading off to the race briefing being held by the lakeside. This was my cue to get my wetsuit on and do my final prep. I was wrestling with my wetsuit (after realizing that my nerves had caused me to start to put it on back to front) when I heard the one minute warning for Tony’s race to start and wished I could have been there to see it!
Swim course at Emberton Lake
15 stressful minutes later I was stood at the lake edge with around 300 starters (all women plus men over 44 and relay teams) trying to hear the race briefing and take it all in. It all seemed to happen very quickly after that – 5 min warning was given so we all filed into the water, I was out of my depth and swimming in weed only a couple of feet from the shore so I followed the lead of others and clambered onto higher ground, waist deep to wait for the start. In what seemed like seconds we were given a one min warning and then we were off!
I had to wait for some space to open up before I could step down and start swimming, although for the first few seconds it was more self defence than swimming! I managed to breath in a lung full of water during the melee so had to tread water to try and get my lungs working to catch my breath! After what seemed like forever (and a tad embarrassing) I finally got my breathing under control and started my swim properly.
The first lap of the lake was pretty busy and I found it difficult to get into a rhythm, especially rounding the buoys, but as the field dispersed I found more space and started to enjoy myself, especially when I found myself catching and overtaking a group ahead :o). It wasn’t long before I was being hauled out of the water at the swim exit and wobbled my way into transition, hearing my name and time called out as I crossed the timing mat was a nice touch.
After a slow and muddy first transition I headed out onto the bike course, trying to remember how far the “draft zone” was so I didn’t get a time penalty for drafting any bikes in front, surprisingly difficult when there are big numbers of bikes on the road. I also remember thinking how strange it was to be riding a bike when I was soaking wet! We had 2 big loops and one smaller loop to complete the 56 miles of the bike course, each one included one gentle climb and one a bit steeper (this is the spot the photographer decided to snap us). The first time round I was out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals (that was the picture in my head at least), the second time I was seated and spinning comfortably but I fear my last photo opportunity would show me chewing on my handlebars! In order to have enough energy for the whole event, I chomped through 2 energy bars, 3 gels plus 2 bottles of energy drink while on the bike. That might not sound like too much but I found my stomach churning after the first hour and really had to force the food down to be sure I could make it round the run course.
After 36 mins of swimming and 3 hours 11 mins of cycling I was back in transition, putting on dry socks and trainers (which lasted 5 seconds in the run through the transition swamp) and heading out onto the run course. They sent us out of the park and up a hill next to the main road for a mile or so before turning round and heading back to the park for a loop around the lake. As I headed out of the park for my first lap I passed Tony coming the other way for a ‘high five’ and a surge in motivation as he headed back towards the lake for his last lap. We had to do 3 loops, and each time I had to run past our car parked on the side of the run course. Tony was there to cheer me on as I passed our car on my second lap, he was already putting his bike and kit in the back of the car (mental torture!). At the start of my run I had knocked my Garmin watch and stopped it recording, so I had no idea of my time, but I still got real-time heart rate and pace data. Unfortunately it was telling me I was running very slowlyand I had no reason not to believe it. I finally made it to the finish line and saw/heard a time of 6.09 being called against my name. If I’m honest I was a bit disappointed as I’d really hoped to get in under 6 hours, but was happy to have finished a pretty tough first triathlon. Tony met me as I left the finish area and handed me my printed results – I then discovered I had actually finished in 5 hours 38 mins – I’d forgotten that the race timing on the finish line would have started when the men set off in the first wave, so I had to deduct 30 mins from that time to get my race time! That produced a big grin but I did have to double check a few times before I really believed it ;o)
So Tony and I can officially call ourselves Triathletes! After 6 months of training at 5am during the week and long sessions at the weekends, plus competing in duathlons during the winter and a tough training camp in Lanzarote, we managed to produce the results below on the day :
Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Total
Tony : 30:44 3:08 2.39:50 2:32 1.31:39 4.49:55
Lorraine : 36:11 3:11 3.11:32 3:07 1.44:29 5.38:33
To help keep us motivated through the long winter training sessions, we decided to raise money for a worthy cause and chose the charity Help for Heroes, whose Ironman Bolton team “True Spirit”, made up of injured soldiers, inspired us to take on the middle distance challenge in the first place… We managed to raise a fantastic £790 for the charity