I like to be prepared, it irks my wife when we arrive at the airport with enough time to spare to not only catch our flight, but the flight before us, it’s just the way I am. Being prepared is not a bad thing, but it does lead to some anxiety on my part as to whether I’ve prepared enough, to-do lists get impossibly long, bags get packed, unpacked and repacked several times and the children eventually refuse to go upstairs to collect things for me that I may have forgotten to put in the car.
For my triathlon adventure, I think I prepared pretty well. Sure, I could have done more training, I think everyone says that. But given that I couldn’t walk in January with injury, given that I hadn’t exercised competitively in over a year and given that I only started back running in April, I think that just being confident enough to get to the start line for my first Olympic Triathlon was pretty good. I did get to the start line, early of course.
Despite the 2hour round trip, I had decided to register on Friday evening to eliminate any unnecessary delays or hiccups that might happen if I turned up on Saturday. That paid dividends as I was able to have a scout through transition to decide on a preferred spot which got me in the right frame of mind to consider what my race strategy was going to be. Plans were finalised during the drive home – I would aim for a 3 hour finish. 30minute swim, 90minute bike and an hour for the run. Of course, I completely forgot about transition times, but hey, I’m an amateur! I knew I could just about achieve these times individually in training, whether I could string them together in a race was the big variable.
Allocated to wave 8, I took off nearly an hour after the first Olympic starters. Having done SwimAthy the week before I knew what to expect getting into the river Barrow and luckily the water wasn’t as cold nor was the current as strong this time around. I took 40minutes to do this swim last week so I was up against it to hit target. It was a real struggle to get to the 600m turning buoy, I was happy to let the crowd swim ahead, my plan was to take it slow and steady, not expend too much energy and climb out with enough energy to run through transition. As it happens, I seemed to settle in with a couple of back markers and we seemed to pull each other along up to the turn and then back down to the finish. I know for certain i swam past another blue hat just as we went under the bridge, so I wasn’t last out of the water.
Into transition I ran (yes, ran!) and all I was concerned about was doing it right, but still beating the decidedly pedestrian 5 minute T1 I clocked up in my 2013 sprint. Starting so far behind everyone else meant that transition was practically empty when I arrived which was very demoralising. I was relying on having a decent enough crowd around me to keep my pace up, but here I was, nearly on my own. I made a mistake here too, whatever towel I had brought wasn’t big enough to both stand on and dry my feet with so it was straight on with the socks, into the cycle shoes and off on the bike I went, not feeling confident.
Getting onto a rhythm early on I actually started catching people, I seemed to work out wave starts from peoples numbers and I got a boost to find myself passing people from earlier groups. This may have been because they were slow as opposed to me being fast, but that didn’t matter as far as I was concerned, I was still passing them! I had planned a 2.15pace for the bike but seemed to be averaging about 2minutes which really gave me a boost. I was amazed at the amount of people that got punctures too. I had never considered that I would get a puncture, in fact I have never got a puncture on the bike, ever. God, I’ll have to bring a backpack full of spares next time I head out now in case it happens to me.
T2 approached and I was ahead of target, 80 minutes in the saddle and I knew I was facing into the toughest part of the race, both physically and mentally. Off the bike and runners on (why didn’t I buy elastic laces!) and I knew straight away this would be a struggle. I knew about jelly legs, but this was worse than ever, like the last 6km of a marathon, nothing seemed to work properly.
Out I went and much to my surprise I clocked up a couple of 5.50min km’s, had I gone out too fast? Would I last? Should I slow down? The aim was to finish, regardless of time, but 3hrs still loomed large in my mind like a New Years Eve countdown clock burned into my brain. But as time went on, pace was the least of my issues; the back of my heel was beginning to hurt.
I can remember specifically when I injured my achilles in January. I was just back training after more than 6mths out with Plantar Fasciitis. I was running down past the large playground in Marlay park, I felt a niggle and thought nothing of it, pushed on and it’ll go away but by the time I reached the park gate, I could hardly walk. What about now in TriAthy? Decision time; was this the same pain I had in January? Finish and risk being off injured for the summer, or stop and fail in the goal I had so publically set myself? Decision made, these were mind games, I had done the work, harden up and keep going, I was determined to finish even if I walked the rest of the way.
I crossed the line in 59:13.
I’ve really enjoyed my time training for this event. Is there anything I would change? sure there is. I’d get more race specific training in open water, I’d get more run experience; I’d do more distance on the bike. But with family, work and the time available I did pretty well, the goal was to get back training, get fit and lose a bit of weight. All three boxes were ticked.
There’s a triathlon out there for everybody, don’t let a weakness in one discipline put you off. The many different races around the country and distances available mean that there is an event to suit all abilities, no matter what your age, fitness or experience is. I’d like to put my sincere thanks out to all the volunteers in TriAthy that day; you gave up your bank holiday Saturday so 2000 people could participate. To Triathlon Ireland, thanks for allowing me to stay focused by publishing the blog and certainly not least to my family who have to live with my eccentricities every day.
Overall, my first Olympic Triathlon time was 2hrs 58mins 16seconds. Now, does anyone have a hotel recommendation in Lanzarote, Mallorca or Austria?
No Garmin data for the swim, but it came in under official timing at a little over 31minutes. Heres the details for the bike and run from my watch…