Okay. The thing is done. The BHAG has been achieved. Yesterday I swam, biked and ran the Vitruvian race in Rutland, UK. I made it round and all was good. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, or didn’t hurt. But I had some big talks with myself in the week leading up to this event about how to cope with my result (if you remember, I struggled a bit with my unimpressive Olympic distance time on the same course in the summer). My training had not been amazing – I had been consistent-ish but had missed chunks of training through injury and life interference. I am new to the swimming and biking part of this. So I knew I was not going to blow everyone out of the water with my result – I just wanted to blow myself out of the water with my result. And I did. I pushed and pushed and pushed. Everytime it hurt I told myself to smile. To push ahead, to remember I am strong, I am tough and I am determined. I was focused on enjoying the day as a celebration of all I had worked on in the past 9 months rather than worrying about what I could still work towards.
Time for some bullet points for a recap of highlights:
- Nuun asked me to become an ambassador for them in UK on Thursday and by Friday had sent me a drinks bottle, some new nuun tabs and a tattoo and bumper sticker! So cool and perfect timing – I far prefer these sugarfree hydration drinks to the overly sweet stuff I’ve been using so far and my stomach is far happier with it on the run as well.
- camping the night before. This weekend has been one of the hottest of a crappy summer, and it made for perfect camping weather. 28 degrees and sun on the Friday hanging around the lake, setting up the bike and hanging out with my tri friends. Then a nice and cool night. Thanks to a worried and panicky Thursday night, I slept soundly from 9pm to 4:30 am when the first early birds around me started to wake up and make their coffee.
- the swim. Man oh man, has my swim coaching been worth it. As in – I could barely make my way across 25 metres of the pool at my first lesson in late December. Fast forward barely 9 months and there I was, ploughing round the 1900m swim course – 2 x 950m with a short run in between – with confidence. I just kept it strong and steady and really felt confident, in a rhythm. Overall time? 47:50 – quite happy with that. Thanks Jon – you’re a super star!
- T1. Remember in June I was in there for over 5 minutes dicking about with my watch? Cut that down to 3:18 and at least a minute can be blamed on dicking about with bike gloves. Which I normally don’t ever wear so lord knows why I got that into my head.
- The bike. When I did the Oly in June I was dead after the first lap – close to tears before heading out on the run. This time I had to go twice the distance and did my first lap in just over 1:30 – faster than before. But I paid for it in the second lap – all was good until about 40M in when my stomach started to cramp, my right shoulder started to hurt and my left knee acted up. But I held it together, ploughing on as hard as I could. Weirdly I kept overtaking people on the uphills and then losing them again on the downhills and the flats. One girl and I kept leapfrogging and had the course been hillier (not that I’m begging for that – the hills were quite enough!) I would have beaten her on the bike. As it was – I didn’t…
- T2. As I came into transition it struck me I hadn’t actually run this distance – 13.1 miles – for a long time. As in, I can’t remember how long it’s been. A year or longer? By this stage it really was hot and I knew the run course was more or less free of shade. And this is where I really pulled it together – I just told myself to NOT give in to any negativity – to just plough on regardless and to smile. I can do running. And I did. My Garmin died 8M into the two lap course and I could see my pace was slow – 9:30ish – but I was just overtaking people left, right and centre. Many of them were people who must have been well ahead of me on the bike (like the chick on the bike I mentioned? Took her early on!). By mile 7 I overtook a girl who I’d chatted to in the morning who had sped past me on the bike on the first lap and who I’d never seen again (she shouted at me “this is where your marathon advantage kicks in”). And I think it did. I found I was capable of plodding on, not walking like so many did.
- The finish. Oh lord the finish. 6h and 15 minutes after starting the race, it was unbelievably wonderful to stop. I was SO happy and so thrilled to have got there, to have done it, to have completed it.
And there, on the finish line was my amazing support team. BFF Dawn and my godson Peter had driven up from London at 6am to get there and support me on the way round and Adam had helped to get me set up the day before and organised bikes for my support team so they could come out on the course to cheer me on. Their cheering – with signs! I was the only person in the race who had signs! – and talking to me during that hot hot hot and exhausting run was amazing. I felt so admired and loved and just carried by them.
So – what’s next? Setting the BHAG of a half ironman seemed like a bright idea last November when I was casting about for some direction, a new challenge and a structure for my training. I took a while to get started, it took me while to figure out how to train for this thing and I’m not convinced I have yet figured out how to fit this amount of training around the rest of my life. It’s been a success in that it forced me to learn how to swim, it forced me to get out and STAY out on the bike – far longer than I would have chosen to – and I have really pushed beyond what I thought I could do. I love that feeling – it’s scary and good – and I want to keep at this. I want to incorporate the training and a better lifestyle more firmly into my life – build my life more around triathlon. It’s going to take some time and mean some changes. At the same time – I miss running. I particularly miss my long runs. Running feels like an almost incidental aspect of triathlon training to me because mentally so much space is taken up with swimming and biking – both are still so hard for me. And given that I have a place in next year’s London marathon, I want to do that. So until April, the marathon will be my A goal. But with the help of my supercoach Mary I want to keep up my cycling and swimming and I will definitely consider another half IM next year. This week is going to be easy, easy though – there’s plenty of stuff left lying around that I’ve neglected in the past week and my legs are tired… So I’ll be back soon!