Part of the support crew arrived after a 3 hour drive to cheer me on, my sister, niece and her boyfriend. Also several friends from the gym were there to support me too. I couldn’t back out now even if I’d wanted to. I fuelled up ready for the event and then out of the blue it hits me…What am I doing? Who do I think I am? Can I actually do this? A wave of nausea washed over me.
So, feeling excited and nauseous about the triathlon challenge in front of me, we set off. As we arrived at Sandford Parks Lido there was a real buzz in the air. People of all ages, shapes and sizes milling around, some who had already completed the tri and others about to start.
I got checked in, numbers were marked on my arm and leg, bike and kit set up in the transition area; it was time for the safety briefing. There wasn’t a lot of time for over-thinking what I was about to do!
The pool looked really inviting. I focused on my swim thinking about my technique considering what Jason Tait at SouthWest Swim and I had discussed after the video analysis of my swim session; not crossing the midline with my hand entry, stretching out the stroke and the catch. Pushing all thoughts of the cycle and run far from my mind.
Getting into the pool was exciting, the sun was shining, glistening off the water and an amazing atmosphere around us. There were only 2 of us in the lane, which meant that there would be plenty of room. A quick brief about the swim from our lane official and we were off on our 400m swim. Not a huge distance just 8 lengths of the beautiful Sandford Parks Lido. I soon got into a good stroke rhythm, feeling strong and powerful in the water enjoying the sensation of the water around me. Proving that working on the tips and suggestions on improving my technique and stroke over the past couple of weeks were working a treat thanks to Jason.
Before I knew it, the swim was complete, I was one of the first out the pool from my session, feeling very pleased with myself, I trotted off to the transition zone.
As anyone who knows me knows, I don’t do running. It wasn’t long before the others caught up with me in transition. So it was bike shoes on and off on the cycle ride. It was such a beautiful day as I set off on the 10 mile bike ride, still feeling excited about the ride ahead of me. Other competitors passed me, but it was fine, this was my race not theirs. I hadn’t done much training on the bike but felt confident that I could complete the distance; as long as I didn’t fall off everything would be fine.
The ride was going well, going up a long slow incline of Cleeve Hill and then down into a small village. Dropping down the gears too quickly the chain came off! I wasn’t too impressed but soon got it back on. I was now over half-way through the ride. By this time cycling in a cold wet swimsuit and wet shorts was losing its appeal, my thighs were cold. My next challenge was making it up the racecourse hill. OMG this was hard work! Working my way through the gears slowly, not wanting the chain to come off again, I was getting slower and slower. I was done and had to admit defeat. I got off the bike and walked up the last little bit of the hill. There was a lot of support along the way from the marshals and members of the public shouting words of encouragement. At the top it was back on the bike and off for the last bit of the ride, passing a couple of friends on the way was a huge boost for me. Arriving back at the lido and next to the transition zone, cheering and clapping were my family and friends that had been waiting for my return. This was quite overwhelming and made me cry a little, so much support and encouragement for ME.
Back in the transition zone, bike re-racked, trainers on with just the 2-mile run to complete. Well what a shock! My legs would not work. I mean it was like they didn’t belong to me; I know I detest running but this was ridiculous. It was at this point that I wanted to cry, vomit and give up. But I couldn’t give up. My heart was pounding. It felt like it was trying to jump out of my chest. I was completely out of breath, I was really struggling.
I could hear my support crew cheering me on, there was no way I could give up now. I had to dig so deep and somehow I managed to run, well trot, pass them. Once out of their sight I began to walk trying to catch my breath, this was so hard. I had two laps of this route to complete; I had no idea how or if I could do this? I walked on and thought if I am going to get around this course, I was going to have to break it down into smaller sections, focusing on a walk jog between lamp posts and trees. Walking on I got the feeling that I was the only competitor about, as I passed the next marshal I asked if I was the last person to complete the race? To which she replied yes, so smiling/grimacing I walked on.
I WAS THE LAST PERSON!
Another wave of emotion washed over me. I had completed the 1st lap and right on cue I heard my support crew who were in fine voice. More much needed encouragement, I had to crack on. My legs were beginning to return to life, my breathing was more in control. Then it was time for the second lap. A lovely young man joined me and jog/walked next to me. He began chatting to me explaining that he was the health and safety guy for the event and would support me by completing the 2nd lap with me. Ironic really, he was nursing the nurse. Having a chaperone for the last lap was amazing (thanks Piers you were fab). The last section was downhill all the way, all I could think of was getting done, the finish was in sight. Turning the last corner, I was left to cross the finish line alone, to take my glory. The support crew were there, the noise was fabulous with lots of cheering and clapping. I think they were as relieved as me that I had finished. I fell to the floor….
There was much congratulating, hugging and more crying. Once I was able to stand and talk in full sentences, I was ecstatic that the whole triathlon was completed and over, even if I was the last one home.
Now that the triathlon is over, I can confirm that I will never do it again. I take my hat off to the athletes that compete in this sport, I am in awe of your ability to do this. Triathlons are not for me!
I have binned my cycling shorts, given my bike to my son’s girlfriend and the running trainers have been burnt.
I have decided to stick to what I am good at and really enjoy doing, which is swimming. Once recovered from this ordeal I will look forward to the Introduction to Open Water Swimming Session in June with Jason Tait of South West Swim.
Click here for Part 5 of Rachel's story.