Monday, 17 April 2017

Our Weekend Triathlon

This year Dean and I are training up for triathlons. Different triathlons. His is an Ironman in July, mine, a half iron distance in June. Along the way we're doing a number of events under the guise of training, but really we just quite like doing events. In all seriousness, the events are definitely helping me to gauge my progress along the way. And so it happened that the weekend of the 8th and 9th of April saw us covering all three disciplines in separate events. A sort of "Weekend Triathlon" if you will.

Saturday morning was a parkrun morning. We've not done a parkrun in ages so it was a bit of a change for us. Our local course had changed twice since we last went, and has become slower, so no chance of a PB. Given we actually (shock, horror) had a free morning, we decided to jog the two miles up to the start as well. For me, this was a sluggish, stress-ridden run followed by a very slow parkrun. The bottlenecks on the new course didn't even bother me that much! But with 5 miles under our belts we wandered home in the sunshine feeling virtuous.

Next on the agenda was Swimathon on Saturday afternoon. This was to be my third time taking part in Swimathon, having increased my distance on each occasion from 1.5km up to 5km this year; far further than I need to be able to swim for the triathlon and a challenge in it's own right but useful nonetheless for confidence building. I'd been on BBC Radio Berkshire (listen from 41:40) the day before having a bit of a chat about it and was somewhat nervous. It was to be the first time I'd ever swum the distance, having only gone up to 4000m in training. Dean had covered the distance before but not this year. Both of us had swimming lessons as adults and Swimathon is a great motivator for keeping up with our swimming and improving our technique, I cannot recommend it enough as a life skill. Our pool was Bracknell Leisure Centre. We duly arrived at 2:30(ish) for a 3pm start and were surprised to find the car park almost empty. Previous years had been much busier and more atmospheric with music and spectators. We took to our lane with two other swimmers and started our swim finishing just a little over 2 hours later. I can't fault the staff or the facilities, but it did feel a little lack luster this year, perhaps as it was a much longer time in the pool than before. Still, medals earned and confidence boosted.

Last but by no means least was the cycle. I'm not a cyclist. I've never considered myself as one nor found an affinity with the bike before. I envy those who go out and do long rides on Sundays... and suddenly here I was, off to do a long ride on a Sunday! I'd been encouraged to sign up to a Sportive as a way to ensure I didn't duck out of the cycling. I'd done a couple of short outdoor rides early in the year and since then, steadily built up time in the saddle on gym bikes. I'd tried rollers but not managed to progress past hanging on for dear life to the back of the dining chair, and I'd stubbornly ignored Dean's attempt to get me suing cleats by fitting clip in pedals on my bike so it was only the weekend before the event that I took the plunge and actually went out for a ride using them. And I didn't fall off - result!

So Sunday rolled around and we headed down to the New Forest with both bikes stuffed in the back of the car, enough snacks to feed a small army and my nerves jangling so loudly it was a struggle to hear the radio. And it wasn't just the clip in pedals that were making me nervous. When we'd signed up the standard distance was listed as 50 miles. Two weeks prior to the event I discover it's been increased to 66 miles. But that's only 16 miles more, I hear you cry. Ah yes, but I'd only managed to get up to 40 miles in training. An extra 10 miles on top of that is quite manageable in my head but a jump of 26 miles... something quite different.
Feeling like a plonker
The Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was a much larger event than I'd anticipated, but wonderfully well organised. No queues for loos, quick and easy registration, comprehensive briefing... and sunshine! We set off, quickly getting left behind my the bulk of our wave (waves of about 30 people were going every couple of minutes). The idea was just to ride, no expectations, no aims for speed, just get around and try to enjoy it. And I did for a while. The scenery was lovely, both out on the heathlands or through the villages. The way was really well marked (no getting lost like last time) and the first food station at 15 miles was soon in sight.
Spoilt for choice
Onwards. It was a long way to the next food stop, and I'd underestimated how much fuel I'd need to take on. I started to flag, to tire, to get frustrated that things were so hard, that Dean was pulling away from me. Dean got a puncture after a few miles and I was grateful for the rest. The energy bar I inhaled didn't seem to help much and at around 37 miles, at the top of a hill, I sat down on the side of the road and started sobbing my heart out. It was too difficult, I was too tired, I'd phone the medical team for a rescue, it was stupid to think I could do this. The numbers were too big to comprehend. It was just. So. Much. Further. Dean tried to talk some sense into me and somehow got me back on my bike and pedalling.
There are tears behind those glasses
At the next food station I downed water, sat down, inhaled many many fig rolls and found solace in conversation with others who were also finding it hard. We got to 50 miles... this should have been the end! 16 miles to go! We walked up a particularly nasty hill, but somehow I managed to cycle the remaining hills. As the miles ticked off I found reserves. 10 miles to go! We stopped again and a pony tried to eat my saddle, helmet and energy bar. It made me giggle and put me in the right frame of mind for finishing.
Greedy pony

The last six miles were fine. As we pull back on to the estate we'd started from I could feel myself welling up. I told Dean to expect tears on the finish line. It had taken me over six hours but I managed to complete the bike ride. I was a big bag of emotions. I could do this. It was further than I'd have to cycle in the triathlon but of course I'd not just done a swim nor did I have to run a half marathon right away. We collected our medals, finishers t-shirts and snacks. Once I regained the use of my legs and had finished reassuring my mum on the phone that I was ok, I got us some ice creams and my word they were the best ice creams ever! The benefit of finishing so late was that we had plenty of space to laze around in for a while and could easily find the car. Every cloud!
That weekend has been a real turning point for me in my training. It was a lot of fun, but tiring. All the events were great and I'd especially recommend the Wiggle events. The process has helped me to consolidate what I've already done and identify what I still need to work on. I've since signed up for another sportive and put some club rides in the calendar. Lake swimming season is upon us as we've plans to go together when we can. I'm still nervous for the triathlon, especially as my running seems to be consistently sluggish at the moment, but I know I've got the strength to pull through.

Do you use events as part of your training plan?

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