As the third half iron distance event of my year, I was hoping that it was going to be third time lucky, and that the stars would align for me to have a good race whereby I executed things well and got the best out of myself.
Things got off to a bit of a wobbly start on Friday afternoon when I decided to have a little practice mounting and dismounting my bike outside my house. The neighbours have got used to me jogging around the street in my socks getting on and off my bike at an imaginary mount/dismount line! I clipped my shoes onto my pedals, trotted up the street and prepared to get on. Just as I steadied the bike and swung my leg over, my back brake jammed on, and I ended up on the floor in a bit of a heap.
Thankfully the bike was undamaged, but my back brake was well and truly jammed. As I have absolutely no bike mechanic skills, I was in full panic mode, as I had to set off to Keswick for the race the next day and it was 4.30pm. After a quick call, I threw my bike in the car and dashed over to Darwen to drop it off with Ed, who was a true hero and fixed it for me and returned it to my house by 10am the next morning. Phew! And thank goodness it happened before the race and not during it.
So, after a bit more running around the street in my socks on Saturday morning, I checked my kit for the umpteenth time, and then set off up to Keswick. Registration and bike racking was on Saturday afternoon, which suited me well, as it meant that I could get all the transition stuff sorted, and then head to my hotel knowing I was relaxed and good to go the next morning.
My alarm was set for 4.30am, and after two cups of tea and a pot of porridge I walked down to the race at about 5am. The full iron distance athletes were off at 6am (blue hats) and us half distance green hats were off at 6.10am.
The swim was 1900m in Derwent Water, and although it was quite bracing at first, I was pleasantly surprised that the water temperature felt OK. I made my way towards the front of the deep water start, but made sure that I was to the side, so that I didn’t get involved in the inevitable chaos when the hooter sounded. This worked pretty well, but unfortunately I still managed to find myself choking on a huge mouthful of lake water within the first minute or two. After a few seconds of “can’t get my breath” panic, I told myself to stop being stupid, I’m not drowning, and I settled back down to the task in hand, which was getting through the swim as best I could. I have been experimenting with doing breaststroke for the swim, as I have reached the conclusion that I can pretty much breaststroke at the same pace as I can do front crawl, and I find it much easier and less stressful, especially in open water.
The rest of the swim passed pretty uneventfully, as I counted off the buoys one by one. As I passed the final buoy and headed for the swim exit, I noticed there were a few blue hats starting to swim past, to which my only thought was wow!!
There was a bit of a run up from the lake and then it was into the transition tent where you had to wrestle your T1 bag off a peg and get your helmet on and your wetsuit stuffed into the bag and put back on the peg. Then out of the tent, and to the racks to collect your bike. No problems with brakes jamming and I was on the bike and off onto my favourite bit, the bike leg!
The 56mile bike course was a nice mixture of fast smooth roads, coupled with some undulating quieter lanes. Having reccied it twice already, there were no surprises, and I was able to gauge my effort levels appropriately knowing what was to come. I passed lots of people as I worked my way up through the field. Unfortunately one of the people I passed was fellow Racepace athlete Ste Ormson who was fixing a puncture roadside.
I finished the bike leg feeling good. Having refined my fueling strategy on the bike over the last two half iron distance races, I was confident that I had enough energy to tackle the 13.1 mile run. So, after racking my bike, I took off my helmet whilst running to the transition tent, and after more grappling with bags and pegs, I set off on the first of 5 laps around Keswick.
There was lots of support along the run course, which really gives you a lift and makes for a good atmosphere at an event. It’s especially nice when it’s people you know. But the biggest surprise was to be cheered on part way around the first lap by Paul, who I thought was at home in Blackburn! I had no idea he was going to come up to watch, so that was really nice. I was also very pleased to be overtaken on the run by Ste, which meant that he’d been able to fix his puncture and was finishing the race.
I had to dig deep for the final two laps, as I was starting to suffer, but I held on as best I could. I deliberately don’t race with any devices or garmins, so although I had a rough idea of how long I’d taken, I was actually delighted to discover that I’d sneaked home in 5hrs 58mins.
When looking back at the race stats, I was particularly pleased with my transitions times, which were some of the quickest in the race, and I was pleased that from coming out the water in 112th position out of 126 women, I managed to move up to 19th women overall, and finished 4th in my Age Group.
As the event was an early start on Sunday, we had to register and rack our bikes on the Saturday. Something that was new to me, we had to rack our kit in numbered bags too. Even though I checked and double checked, it still felt like I had missed something (I hadn't). Then it was race brief time. Worryingly there was a sound of people's tubes bursting as the sun was shining on the bikes. Briefing was delayed slightly so people could nip and let some air out of their tyres.
4am Sunday morning, sat in the room eating overnight oats (cold porridge 😂) and a premade carton of coffee then made my way to the event. Nutrition sorted, tyres pumped up, checked bags were still there, wetsuit half on and time to find some friendly faces.
Walked out of transition to be met by Sarah and Pete. Wendy was walking just behind me too. As we waited near the lake I saw Rodge too. Great support crew.
We watched the full distance swimmers set off and it was our turn to head into a very cold lake.
10 seconds after putting on my goggles, they were misted up. I tried the usual fixes but they just misted up again. Bugger.
I swam the whole way not being able to see more than 20m which definitely added a bit of distance to my swim. Pity as I felt I swam really well. After a fairly long run into transition, I ran into what can only be described as chaos. People everywhere, getting out of their wetsuits and trying to get their bags. I managed to grab my bag and went to the end of the tent where there was a bit of space. Managed to get in and out fairly quickly after looking at others times.
I quickly grabbed my bike and got to the mount line. I really struggled getting my feet into my shoes, Sarah spotted this too so I feel there will be a few more practise sessions coming up. Once out on the bike, I felt good. I overtook a good few people. By the first bike split, I'd moved from 157th to 92nd overall. Then I noticed, puncture. Gutted.
I managed to sort it pretty quickly apart from I couldn't get the tyre seated on the rim properly next to the valve. Let air out, push tyre, air in. Repeated a few times until it seated correctly. By the time I'd reached the next split I'd lost 54 places (146th). I had to be careful for the rest of the bike as the devil on my shoulder was telling me to give it everything while the angel on my other shoulder was telling me to save some for the run.
I arrived back to the venue, feet out of shoes, good dismount and bike racked. I'd clawed back 23 places (123rd). A decent transition 115th now. As I set off on the run, which is a 5 lap course, I passed the Racepace support and it's amazing how it makes your legs feel a little lighter. I wasn't sure if I liked doing laps but after Sunday, I definitely do. There was awesome support all around the course which I loved. It definitely gave me a boost as I got a half marathon pb at the end of tough triathlon which got me a 81st place finish overall.
Summary: I'm pleased with the way I handled the goggles issue. I could quite easily have freaked out there so I'm chuffed. I could quite easily have spat the dummy out with the puncture too but Sarah has got through to me, we can only control what we do. Some things just happen and it's how we deal with them that makes the difference. I'll be back next year for another crack.
Now it's time to get ready for the push for my first (probably last) ironman - IMUK.