My first race
Southport Triathlon - May 2021
European Championships Qualifier
So my first race... was not that long ago, my first race surprisingly though was where I qualified to represent my country in triathlon. Very unexpected! I am super proud and honoured to have done this, and know I have SO SO much more to give in the sport. It's ignited a massive flame to push myself more. Ok let me rewind....
The Night Before
“Imagine the worst place to stay the night before a race, and I was there!”
I wanted to be super prepared before my first race, so I booked a hotel, to save me travelling on the day as it was a 2 hour journey and the start time was 9am, so it was doable but I wanted to treat myself. I actually booked it just for me too, no kids or husband so I could mentally prepare.
I emailed the hotel asking for a quiet room as I was doing a triathlon the next day - they acknowledged my request. I was placed in a TINY single room where I couldn't even put my bike, I didn't complain but they did offer to upgrade me for £10. So I did. I had a nice big room and TV with a big bed all to myself. Perfect. Unpacked, went downstairs and ate a massive carb filled dinner.
At 9pm I went back to my room, to get an early night... not a chance, blaring music, drunk people shouting screaming and talking until gone past midnight. It felt like the party was in my room it was literally beneath my single glazed window.
NOW, most people would have been upset, and rightly so - I did call reception and ask for the music volume to be lowered at 10pm she said it would, it didn't.. and I asked when people leave and she said about 11pm - so none of my expectations were ever met. But I figured I cannot and will not get stressed, it will not be productive to my race performance.
I put some yoga music on my phone, jammed it right up to my ear and tried to drown out the noise. It worked for an hour at a time when someone having a great night downstairs would scream.
Anyway - I got some sleep, about 5 hours... no breakfast as it didn't get served until 8am and I needed to be in transition by then, luckily I thought to take some chocolate brioche buns and orange juice!
I had already registered the day before so the first thing for me to do the morning of the race was to head down to transition nice and early to get my spot all set up. Due to Covid we all had spaces allocated anyway so it wasn't like I needed to rush to find a 'good spot' on the rack. Good spots by the way, are usually at the end of the rack.
I get there with my bike and a bag full of things I really didn't need, but figured I could take back to the car. I copied what other people were laying out, even borrowed some talc powder a girl kindly lent me. I think people were generally kind and could tell I was a newbie, after spending some time in transition, my mindset changed and I knew that there were some amazing women and it was unlikely for me to qualify for the Euros, maybe next year I felt, but I knew I needed to just have fun and try my best.
Everything was by Transition, I would go back later to open my gels and lay my shoes out etc.
“Don't panic. Don't compare. Think the race through and just enjoy!”
So at the start line, barefoot in my wetsuit I was standing waiting to go into open water. I have only ever been in open water twice before, and the first time it was tough as it was SO cold. Luckily today was a warmer day and knew it wouldn't be as cold as my training was. I'm a strong swimmer in the pool, but haven't seemed to find the same rhythm in open water yet.
There is great atmosphere in the air, a gentleman wearing very bright clothing and a fun hat has a microphone, and is enjoying said microphone immensely - he talks about the competitors, any interesting facts - I am stood there thinking please don't mention anything about me, what did I write, I know in the forms it asked, oh god what if he makes me stand up there with him... all this going in my mind...
Not sure how the swim will work in terms of order as it hasn't be clear, I stand at the front as I know I want to be the first in anyway. That way I hope the faster girls will set my pace or I can at least see where I fit in the grand scale of it all.
We all head to the pontoon, I am about 4 girls back from the start and there is about 200 others behind me. The girl in front has a wee in her wetsuit, she does a fab job at hiding it until she was shaking her leg like a dog and drips are flying out the bottom - this is normal I am sure and something I will no doubt need to do - so I am not mocking - it was just a funny memory I will always have before I start.
I am not nervous - why am I not nervous I think? I'm really excited to get in the water!
The staff member organising us says that we are best diving in... this worried me then, not been in the water much and needing to now dive, what was that going to be like but before I knew it the line was moving and the race was starting. We must dive in and start the swim, the chips on our ankles will start everyone at different times. It was not a mass start so I felt luckily in that regard. Read all sorts about getting kicked in the face and pulled under with mass starts - something again I am sure I will endure.
I dive in, I start swimming, and I am totally and utterly surprised.
'It's not cold' I think to myself, I enjoy the lake, the sun, the spectators, I look around a bit and then I think 'come on' it's a race after all - so I pick up the pace, girls are over taking me one by one but I think well I did start at the front and that's bound to happen. I try and count them as they go past, I got to ten, then twenty and got a little annoyed at myself - how have you let that many past, and then I realise, because I haven't done this before and I need to stop being so hard on myself.
I'm enjoying the swim, and don't go 100% to pace myself for the bike and run.
1500m and 29 minutes later...
I get out and run to T1... and due to covid the transition area was 0.3 miles long!!!!... I had to run barefoot and I must say my feet were burning when I arrive to my kit.
Be fast! Be fast! That's all I kept thinking. I made mistakes and didn't even have my shoes open on the floor, silly error that list me about 10 seconds... they were all fastened up still. In saying this though, I was actually 12th fastest female in T1.
After witnessing crashes during the mens race on the mount line I was a tad nervous, you don't know who or how many people will be around you as you head out and it maybe a cluster jam! If it was, how I would tackle it?... luckily I had just two other females that I was aware of so we headed out together.
I got clipped in and started pedaling, about 10 seconds later I got told to move over to the left by a man on a TT bike, 'I hope I didn't slow him down' I thought, and from then on I remembered to keep firmly left until over taking.
I kept a steady pace of 19 MPH while cycling... some ladies in GBR vest rode past, I looked on in awe. I welcome strong women in the race and look out for them so they can help push me along.
We had to ride out on a very straight and flat road on way, then do a hairpin turn back on ourselves and cycle back up the road. We did this four times. I was worried about the turn but I had practised this days before which certainly helped.
My legs feel good, sometimes getting niggles so I relax a bit, a few more ladies overtake, but I overtake others.
It goes so fast I can't believe, I see the cycle dismount and all goes to plan.
Running back in T2 with my shoes on was tricky but got into a rythme - I overtake a couple of ladies who aren't running as fast which gives me some energy. T2 is super fast as it's just putting your running shoes on... I don't wear socks when I race in triathlon, it's only a short distance so 40km bike and 10km run is fine for no socks.
And go... the last leg in triathlon... my legs were good I felt a tad zapped of energy and see someone take a gel, 'oh yeh I have those!' I thought to myself, grab a gel from my race belt and spot a bin just ahead to put the rubbish in.
The run starts as trial for a while, then road, then trial and then road... I had a lady in a GBR vest in front of me who I ran with for about 3km, I seem to remember people staring at her as she wears the countries uniform. After 3 km I think I can actually go faster, so I do and seem fine, I look around at spectators, and other competitors as the course is a mix of twists and turns and loops so you see a kind of caterpillar of race numbers bouncing around .. I wasn't sure who was in front or behind... but I keep running.
As I have said for all, it went quick! ... I remember having an extra burst to the finish and was very excited. The sun was out and there were a lot more spectactors than I thought there would be given it said not to bring any due to Covid Restrictions.
I see the end! The is a lady in front, I let her go a little bit ahead as I wanted my race photo with just me on - shameful I know, I should have sprint finished her to the end, again another learning and mistake I look back on and think I won't do again! I lost about 10 seconds there too probably.
So I finish, get my medal and congratulations from staff - walk a little sorely back to my car and think well I better drive home... CRAP... all my stuff is still in transition!! ... that's how disorientated I was, I was going to leave all my kit and bike there. So I walk to get it and drive the two hours home, not sure where I came or if I qualified but happy knowing I finished. And I finished a minute quicker than what my coach had predicted too.
My proud girl ...