On April 21st 2013 I completed by first ever triathlon at the East Coast Triathlon in Gt. Yarmouth Norfolk. If you have read by blog before you will know that I had set myself the goal of beating the winning time in the 19-24yr age group from the previous year. I set my self a target time of 53 minutes to complete the 250m swim, 16km bike ride and 3 km run. This is the story of the 24 hours prior to the triathlon and hopefully the 53minutes of the triathlon.
I push off into my swim, gliding for as long as possible under the water to save as much energy as I can. I pop up and take a breath for my first stroke, I am swimming breaststroke, to the bemusement of my competitors, but I know I am much faster and more efficient swimming this way. As my head pops up and I see number 99 making his first turn 25m down the pool. I hone in on him as a target, focusing on making each stroke big and powerful, and each glide as long and as smooth as possible. I reach the first turn, grab the wall pull my legs up nice and tight to my chest and push off as hard as I can, trying to glide as far as possible. I come up for my stroke and see that I am gaining on 99, I fight the urge to try too hard to try and catch him, and refocus on keeping my stroke smooth and efficient. I am aiming for 10 strokes every length.
By the 7th turn of 10 I’ve caught 99, and fighting the massive grin on my face I keep going, knowing I now have 30 seconds on at least one of my competitors. On the next turn I have a cheeky look back to see how 101 is doing, working out that if he is one length behind me then he is probably on the same pace as me. I look, and he is a length and half down, brilliant I am swimming much better than I planned, and I feel like I am taking it steady, no need to worry whether I’ve blown my load on the swim.
The swim turns out to be 25m longer than advertised as there is a 25m swim after the final length to the ‘beach’. I try to swim for as long as possible knowing that it will be faster than trying to run through water. When the water becomes shin deep I jump up and to start running out of the water towards the transition area, pulling my swimming cap and goggles off so I can see where I am going. Trying to look impressive for the photographer as I exit the swimming pool to the bright morning sunshine next to the sea, it’s much warmer than I thought it would be for this time in the morning. As I come out of the doors I see number 98 just in front of me, I put a little burst of speed on to overtake him before we get into the transition area, another 1 minute on a competitor.
At my bike I have to pull on a cycling jersey as I’m just wearing tri-shorts for the swim, using one of my race fit jerseys for extra aerodynamic fit I try to pull the jersey on over my wet skin. I hadn’t practiced this and it turns out to be much harder than I anticipated, but I struggle on and finally get it zipped up. Next my helmet, making sure it firmly done up to avoid any time penalties I turn my attention to my shoes, being a cyclists they are not tri-specific so a bit slow to get on, but I get them on. I then unhook my bike run through the sports hall and out to the bike leg.
The bike starts by taking an immediate left over the line and too a mini roundabout 50m away to turn back to head out for the 6km loop up the sea front. I jump on my bike and sprint up to speed and into the roundabout, taking the tight turn sharply and sprinting away again to get up cruising speed, where I then quickly gobble down a SiS Go Caffeine Gel. My plan for the bike is to hit the first 10km hard to try and gain as much time as possible. As the the ride is three laps there are plenty of riders ahead of me to use as targets to chase down. I make my way from one rider to the next cheekily slipstreaming them briefly to overtake. I catch 3 people on the way to the first turn around, a dead stop around a cone to head back, I attack the turn wide and try and take as racier line as possible, although judging by the blood stain on the tarmac I don’t think I’ve taken the most aggressive approach of the day. I sprint out corner and back up to speed, I’m aiming to keep my speed above 29kmh for the whole ride, whoever my computer isn’t working so I am having to just guess how fast I’m going.
In part 1 I mentioned the importance of paying attention during the briefing, and as I reach the end of the first lap I was about to find out why. The tiny loop around the first mini roundabout turned out not to be the turnaround point for the lap but instead just a little pre curser to the lap to get the riders onto the right side of the road, the actual turnaround was the roundabout I was now approaching with speed assuming I was heading straight over. As I approached at full speed I heard a marshal shout something, but didn’t register at all, focusing too much on the rider ahead, but as he entered the roundabout he turned right. I suddenly realised that the marshal had shouted this was the turn around, but it was too late to make the corner. I slammed on the anchors and headed straight on, as I skidded to stop I turned the bike hoped the road island and sprinted back the way I had come an onto my second lap, swearing to myself that I’d lost time, trying desperately hard to catch the rider I was about to overtake.
By the midway point of the bike I had passed a fair few riders without a single rider coming past me and was feeling pretty chuffed. But as I made the turn at the top of the lap number 101 was just on my wheel. Damn… he’s made up a good 45 seconds on that bike….. Stupid me for missing the turn that was at least 10 seconds lost……Perhaps I haven’t being going hard enough… were some of the thoughts going through my head as he came past. Planning suddenly went out the window as the competitive cyclist reared its shaven legged, gaunt faced head, and I decided the race was on. Luckily I felt I had a bit more to give on the bike without taking too much out for the run, so I chased him down. For the next lap and a half we traded places, taking it turns to attack the other then settling back into a rhythm, only to be overtaken again.
As we approached the end of the big leg and transition 101 was slightly ahead, and I knew that it was pointless to attack again just to have to slam on the brakes to get my feet out of my shoes, so I glided the last 100m whilst I undid my shoes and took my feet out. Just before the line I hope of the bike and my feet met the tarmac to sprint back into transition. My station as just next to the door, I racked my bike, and quickly did my toggled laces up and headed out, number 101 was still trying to get his shoes on, I was ahead.
As I exited out the back of the sports hall and onto the promenade my legs suddenly felt like lead. Bollocks…. I’d given it too much on the bike…… I’d never done a full race distance simulation of bike and run in training… again these doubts crept in. But I pushed on just running as hard as felt I could, hoping they would come back to me.
As I am about to under the peer I see my girlfriend Alice with her camera and shout, “I hate running” to her as fight through the wooden legs to try and find some speed. I am aiming to do the run in 13minutes 20 seconds, but right now that seems like a very long time. I have a peek over my shoulder and can see number 101 coming, he’s looking good. As he sails pass I get an encouraging “Keep Going!”
At 1km I decide I need another sugary hit of caffeine so I down a final gel, making sure I time it so I can drop the wrapper in the bin. Almost instantly I feel better, my legs are starting to come back to me I and I can lift my pace. As I reach the turnaround I start to pick up even more, getting into my stride. In the distance I can see number 97, he’s about 300m away, and I make him my target and keep going.
There’s only 1km to go and I’m closing in on my target. My legs are burning and screaming at me to slow down, but I tell myself (out loud, and maybe with a couple of harsh words) to keep going, and that I can do this. I keep going, 500m, keeping my pace constant knowing that I have enough to left so sprint the last 100m. 250m number 97 is just in front, I can hear him panting, and he’s in as much pain as me. 100m, I can see the finish line, there are a few supporters and volunteers cheering the finishers home, just as I reach the shoulder of 97 I open the taps and let everything I have left out. I go past and continue to open the gap pushing as hard as I can for that line, dipping for effect as I cross. I let a small cry of relief and joy as I crash into the barrier blocking finishers from crossing into the path of oncoming cyclists coming into the transition zone, running past the lady holding my finishers medal and a cool bottle of water. I go back to collect these and find a nice wall to sit on and recover. I’m still panting, my head is pounding to the sound of my heart beat and my legs feel empty. I’ve done it…. I’ve finished my first triathlon and I have a massive grin on my face.
I have no idea what my time is as my Garmin switched itself off half way through, but my girlfriend reckons that I’ve done it, based on my start time of 9.26 its now 10.20 and I’ve been sat down for a bit, so I think I’ve gone under 53 minutes but right now I don’t care.
After recovering I go and collect my kit and head back to the hotel for a quick shower before checking out and a very contented drive hoe feeling pleased that I was able to give my absolute best today and left nothing out there.
The results are finally up and I can see my time and my placing. I completed the course in 50 minutes 58.2 seconds smashing my goal by 2 minutes 1.2 seconds. I couldn’t be happier, I set myself a performance goal and I achieved it.
When I started this journey I set my self a performance goal that would hopefully have resulted in a top outcome in the standings. Overall I came 16th and secured second place in my age group, an age group higher than I was expecting to be competing in, Incidentally if I had been competing in the 19-24 age group I thought I was in I would have been the only one, making the outcome a pretty hollow one, whereas there were 11 other athletes in my age group. Needless to say I am absolutely delighted with my performance, and even more delighted with the outcome as I achieved far more than I anticipated.
Now it is on to my next goal the inaugural Ride London 100 in August.