Tuesday, 5 August 2014

My bubbles

When I arrived at the London ExCel centre for the London Triathlon, I felt a massive sense of relief. Driving through central London with all of the road closures, two satnavs pinging at me (one saying go right, the other saying go left), tourists everywhere, speed cameras, Boris bikes, diversion signs, traffic lights and about 5 different lanes to choose from (how did I always get the wrong one?!) was so stressful. My heart rate was sky high, I was probably in zone 5 and producing lactic acid just sat at the wheel of my car. I'm surprised I had any adrenaline left in me for the race. I also lost the sensation in my left toes from the constant hovering on the clutch. This wasn't turning out to be a great race prep.

Race team athlete Eloise and I

The DOMS from the car journey settled in as I started to warm up, but I wasn't feeling nervous about this race, I was excited to be back racing in the elite field. We were allowed into the docks to warm up before the swim, and I was feeling great in my new Tri Training Harder trisuit until I started swimming and realised it was too big at the front and was scooping up all the water in the docks as I swam. Not streamlined, not aero, not ideal. We were then pulled out of the water (quite literally for some people!) and introduced individually by the commentator. I dived into the water and chose my place on the starting line. I quickly found that quite a few people had decided to scull right next to me, making me feel quite flattered that the other athletes wanted to start next to me for the swim!

The klaxon went and we were off. This was the bit I was dreading most as I had got caught up in the washing machine of the swim pack at Blenheim, but today I was away and had clear water straight away. I headed over towards the other leaders and settled into a rhythm in about 4th place. I could see one of the kayakers next to me holding a camera right in my face as I swam, so the next time I sighted I stuck my tongue out at the camera. I saw him laughing so gave the camera a big cheesy grin when I breathed. I was having so much fun I almost forgot I was racing. To some people this elite series is their main racing aim so they take the races very very seriously. For me, I just feel so privileged to be racing amongst these superstar triathletes from around the world so I have am having an absolute ball. I would be lying if I said I didn't care where I came overall, but in all honesty, its my second elite race, I know I am not up there for a podium finish so I might as well soak up the atmosphere, learn from the best, enjoy the whole experience and race with a massive smile on my face.

So back to the swim... I could see I was in a good position with only a couple of people in front of me and although the pace was comfortable, I didn't feel strong enough to put in an attack so I cruised along following the feet in front of me. Which is easier said than done, especially as it got more choppy after the turn buoy and I started swallowing the algae-water. One moment, I would be on the legs of the person in front by following their trail of bubbles. The next moment, the bubbles would have gone, I was separated about a metre from my lead swimmer and someone else would have their feet and their bubbles. Dammit! They were MY bubbles! It's so much harder to swim on your own than follow in someone's draft, so the next time I found some bubbles, I was determined not to let them go. My triathlon friends call me Nemo, but this little clip sums up the swim leg perfectly, where I am the yellow fish:

I exited the water in 3rd place but lost time to the other athletes who could run faster to T1. I headed out on the bike and started chasing down the lead pack. I was joined by one girl for a couple of km, I then accidentally dropped her whilst chasing to catch the two girls in front. After a few km on my own, the chasing pack caught me and we worked as a chain gang to catch the lead group. Emma Pallant was in this chasing pack and made sure we were all motivated to work together to catch the leaders. I did my best to take a few turns on the front and do my fair share of work, but the pace was tough and I was struggling so I sat at the back for a little while. With the help of some very strong girls in this chase pack, we caught the lead group and I stayed put at the back focussing on not getting dropped. I learnt so so much in this hour of racing on the bike. I almost got dropped so many times when my concentration waivered or when I wasn't quite on the ball as the pace was suddenly picked up, but each time I was determined to stay with the group and fought to get back on. Like in the swim, I was loving racing with the best girls and having the cameras on the motorbikes around me made me feel like a celebrity! I wiped the snot and salt from my face and adjusted my trisuit so my love handles weren't hanging out the back and hoped that I wouldn't look like too much of a numpty on the TV footage (the race will be aired on Channel 4 in a few weeks' time). Back towards transition and I took my feet out of my shoes early, learning from my mistakes at my last race when I hadn't left myself enough time. However, this time I had done it waaaaaaay too early and we still had a short sharp hill to climb to get to transition that I had to do with my bare feet on top of my shoes!

The run hurt from the outset but the atmosphere was great with lots of supporters cheering for us. Thanks so much to my Premier Chops Laura and Dave, my parents, the awesome TTH crew and all others who kept me going when all I wanted to do was walk! It felt like I was going so slowly, but I actually PB'd on the run (think the course might have been a bit short, but shhhh I'm calling it a PB) and sprinted across the line to come 16th overall. I had been overtaken by quite a few girls in the last km which was frustrating but I ran my best at the time so I can't beat myself up about it. I have never finished a race and collapsed before but as soon as I crossed the finish line, I fell to my knees, with no energy left to stand. A tough race but one of the most enjoyable ones I have ever done. London, I'll be seeing you again next year!

Great action shot, thanks Fiona for making it look like I was running fast!

Looking manly on the run. Erm, where have my boobs gone?

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