Monday, 17 July 2017

Event Review : Cotswold 113 Triathlon - June

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet! This year, just over a month ago in fact, I completed my first ever middle distance (half iron distance) triathlon, the Cotswold 113. It was a bit of a step up from the sprint distances I'd completed so far (and only three of those at that) encouraged by Dean quite soon after we started going out. I'd been dithering about what my "A" race or big goal could be for 2017 and he seemed so sure that I could do this, that I got swept up with the idea. I asked around, weighted up the merits of river vs lake swim and eventually settled on this one as being a good beginner event and well spoken of. And it just so happened that my friend Juliet was also doing it as her first as well.
Neil, Juliet and me, before the start.
So it was on the 4th of June I found myself getting up at 3:30am, struggling into a trisuit and being bundled into the car to get to the race start near Cirencester. We'd driven up to the area the day before,  staying at a Premier Inn which was just a 20 minute drive away. We'd been to the race village the day before to register, attend a briefing and suss out the swim start. I won't lie, I was really really nervous about it all. I'd had a couple of set backs in training, knocks to my confidence, and I wasn't really sure how I would fair. I was confident that I could do each discipline on it's own, but stringing together a 1.2mile swim, 56mile cycle and 13.1mile run was a different matter altogether. Juliet and I approached it as "just a bit of a swim, then maybe a bike ride if we fancy it and perhaps a jog?". The best bit of advice I got was to smile.
Carb loading the night before the big day
The hotel had very kindly made us up some breakfast boxes full of pastries and yogurt which we took with us, although I barely touched mine until after the event. Parking was a breeze and transition very empty when I arrived so I had plenty of space to sort my thing out, check and re-check everything, without being stressed. Time to eat breakfast, wriggle into my wetsuit and stare out at the lake I was soon to be swimming in. One of the nice things about this event is that swimmers are set off in waves and if you have a preference about what wave you want to be in, you can request it. I opted for wave 4, starting at 6:30am. The cut offs for the event run from the time the last swim wave sets off, which meant I had an extra half hour or so to play with.
Racking complete
Gorgeous morning. The calm before the surge of swimmers.
The organisation was superb. There were loads of marshals on hand to direct us (at some volume) and  the swim starts were brilliant. Everyone got a mini brief before the start of their wave, ten minutes to acclimatise to the water and then a count down. I hung back because I'm not strong in a mass start, and got round without panicking, albeit not all with front crawl.
Swim done!
I was hauled out of the water by several strong hands, shouted a quick hello to a Team Bear member, Kevin, who was marshalling at the event. I saw Dean as I came out of the water and headed to transition. I didn't rush too much, turns out putting on arm warmers when you're damp is rather tricky, and opening cells or bars similarly so! As I wheeled my bike out of transition I felt more the part than I've done before. I knew I'd still be slow, by most standards but I knew that I could cover the distance. The sportives had taught me a thing or two about nutrition and so my bento box was full of fig rolls and I had two gels taped to the bike as well. The plan was to have a fig roll every 4-5 miles and a gel when I fancied. Drinking whilst riding is a skill I'd still not developed so it became harder and harder to get the fig rolls down but they certainly did the trick! The course was beautiful; a two lap route through the countryside and small villages, with just a couple of slightly hilly bits, but nothing I needed to get off for. I saw my parents part way around and then again at the food stop, where I paused for a drinks break, a loo stop (crikey that was a faff!) and a brief hug. I saw them again at the turn around point, along with Dean, and then at the same two points on the second loop.
Looking the part, even if I'm slow.
Pit stop!
My backside was really aching by the time I got back into transition. A quick shoe change, removal of my cycling top, addition of a sports bra (I need a better plan for that next time), a few gels in my back pockets and I was off. My folks and Dean chatted to me in transition and cheered me on my way, as did Kevin on the way out of T2. I had the biggest grin on my face. Last stage, this was it, just three laps of running to do, no biggie!
On the run!
The run course was a lovely flat loop around the lake and some surrounding area. Lots of greenery, lots of spectators where the path allowed, and two aid stations at the points where I felt as though I was flagging. I didn't expect any great results on the run but even with stopping for drinks and some nibbles at the very well stocked aid stations, I still managed to match my recent pacing times. I found Juliet on the run course, one lap ahead of me, and just keep plugging away at it. Dad had found a bench in a play area that the route went through (he's good at finding benches) so I saw everyone there for cheers, hi-5's and a boost. I couldn't quite believe I was doing it! You pass more people on the run course, and everyone's really encouraging, whether they're over taking you or vice versa. It's one of the things that makes this event so great.

And then the finish. Wow. Oh my God. I'd had to pass it twice on the run section but the marshals knew when I was on my last lap and the loud chap who helped directing people in transition and helped drag me out of the water gave me a big shout every time, but none louder than when I came into the finish. Running down that red carpet was amazing. I was determined not to let any tiredness show but really I was on cloud nine. I hadn't stopped smiling the entire way round and I wasn't about to stop now.

I got my medal, printed out my times and found my support posse. Best. Day. Ever. Dad got me the now-traditional post-event ice cream and I found Juliet again to swap experiences. Kevin found me too and declared that he'd packed up my stuff in transition for me, bless his heart, so I only had to grab my bag and bike and go! A short trip back to the hotel for a mineral salts bath, a bite to eat and then home for fizz and a celebratory dinner.
I was, and I did!
I had the best time at this event and I looked at doing the August edition but alas, we're already committed to other things. But this will not be the end of my triathlon story. I've got my eyes on Outlaw Half and IM 70.3 in Portugal next year. I've loved the training and next time I might give it a bit more structure. I'm not ready for full IM any time soon mind you, but I'm sure I've said that about other things in the past that I've ended up doing, so who knows. It's not as if I don't have enough influences and encouragement around me.

The 113 events are really well organised. The only hiccup for the June race was the increase in on site parking prices due to new management of the land, but I've heard that will be dealt with for the august event. It's perfect for first timers and seasoned triathletes alike, indeed I saw some people from my triathlon club,  TVT there. Loads of safety boats on the water, a clear, warm, not-very-weedy lake, the best marked bike route I've ever seen and bags of support (and food) on the run. I may even do it again!

Swim: 43:02
T1: 7:33
Bike: 3:58:36
T2: 6:44
Run: 2:21:27
Overall: 7:17:23

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