Race Re-Cap: Blenheim Palace Triathlon

I am now a triathlete! Yesterday I completed my first triathlon- the Blenheim Palace Tri and I loved it! 

Here is my re-cap of how the day went (warning: it could be a long one)! 

Before
Heavy rain was predicted for the day of the race, and as we were driving to Blenheim it was absolutely pouring down. Some members of my club were competing in the earlier waves and had been caught in the worst downpours which had made the cycle course slippery. 
Arriving at Blenheim, we unloaded my bike and bags of kit from the car and headed to the registration marquee to have my ID checked and collect my timing chip. I’d booked spectator tickets as my Mum, Dad, Brother Sean, their dog Murphy and of course Glen, all came to watch the triathlon. It was great to have so much support, but I felt a little extra pressure with so many people watching me!
The rain had stopped and the sun came out, just in time for my race. The palace looked fantastic and I was excited to be taking part in such a huge event with over 7000 people competing over the weekend. 

I wanted to get set up in transition as soon as possible, so I made my way over to the palace courtyard, which meant carrying my bike up some stairs and over a footbridge- I was knackered before I’d even started! 
My wristband, helmet and bike were checked as I entered the transition area, and found the bike rack which was allocated to my wave (lucky number 13)! The transition area was hectic with competitors passing through from earlier waves, so I took a few minutes to think about what I needed to prepare.


I set out my helmet, sunglasses, towel, trainers (with talcum powder inside), water bottle, race belt with number attached, and tissues!  Next, I rubbed Baby Oil onto my legs and arms to help my wetsuit slide off after the swim, and attached my timing chip band to my ankle. 



Swim- 750m- 17:58
The swim start was down a steep grassy bank, which was slippery with mud so I carefully made my way down to meet my family at the lake. My Mum zipped me into my wetsuit and everyone wished me luck, as I went to collect my coloured swim cap and listen to the safety briefing. I wore two swimming caps, as I have too much hair to fit into one!


I was in a female-only wave and the majority of the women were also first-time triathletes, so it was good to know that everyone was a little nervous about the swim.

We edged our way along a very wobbly pontoon and I slid into the water at the end. No sooner than I had got into the water, I felt a massive pain up the back of my left leg. Some idiot had jumped in right on top of me, landing straight on my calf and the back of my knee! I swore at her as I was so angry that she hadn’t waited a few seconds for me to move away from the pontoon! 
We had around 5 minutes to acclimatise to the water before the official start, so I bobbed around trying to calm my throbbing leg. With our green swim caps, we looked like peas floating in the water!



The klaxon sounded and we were off! I’d positioned myself towards the back of the pack to avoid the inevitable elbows and feet in the face, which helped as I had a little space around me to get into my rhythm. 
The lake was deep and I could see nothing under water other than a green tinge as the sunlight beamed into the water. As I swam, I tried to focus on the technique tips I had picked up at triathlon club. I looked up every 8-10 strokes to make sure I was in line with the buoy. The water felt lovely and cool and I began to really enjoy the swim. 
Around half-way through, the pack had spread out nicely- I was roughly in the middle. I’m not a fast swimmer, but I was glad not to be right at the back! We headed straight down the lake to the buoy, where we turned back on ourselves and swam towards the edge of the lake. 

Transition 1- 6:06
As I reached the slope to exit the lake, I was helped out of the water by a marshall and jogged through a sprinkler shower and up some stone steps away from the water. There was a 400m uphill section from the lake to the transition area, which was a little tough after the swim!
I took a slow jog along the hessian mats, as I unzipped my wetsuit, pulled off my sleeves and removed my cap and goggles. I went through in my mind what I needed to do as soon as I got back to the transition area. 
As I jogged into the courtyard, I heard someone shout my name and turned round to see Amy from my triathlon club, who was waiting for her wave to start later that afternoon. It was lovely to see a familiar face!
Finding my bike was a little tricky… it was difficult to remember exactly where I had placed it! I was looking for a white bike with a pink towel, but there seemed to be hundreds of white bikes with pink towels! I got there in the end… peeled off the legs of my wetsuit, sunglasses on, helmet on, quickly dried my feet, trainers on, race belt on with number at the back, blew my nose, took a few mouthfulls of water…
Unracked my bike and jogged with it to the mounting point…

Cycle- 19.8km- 1:00:05
The cycle started with a gradual downhill away from the Palace, I was able to overtake a few people immediately- off to a good start! My family saw me whiz past as they waited on the bridge, but I didn’t spot them on my first lap.


The cycle route took us through the grounds of the palace on an undulating loop which we would complete 3 times. We passed through wooded areas, fields of sheep, the Pleasure Gardens and a miniature railway. 
My problem with cycling is that I don’t have the confidence to ‘let myself go’ on the downhills- I’m scared to pick up any speed so I squeeze the brakes hard as my bike descends the declines. Cyclist flew past me with shouts of “on the right” as I nervously made my way down the hills of the course. 
Some of the climbs were tough and I almost ground to a standstill as I struggled uphill. Thankfully the course leveled out in places and I managed to pick up a little speed.
As the cycle went on, my hands became more and more numb until I had no feeling left in my right hand- I’m so tense through my arms and I grip the handle-bars much too tightly! It was a little unnerving as I felt like I was not in control of the bike with no feeling in my hands. 


My family spotted me as I passed on my 2nd lap, I look like I am enjoying it!

Transition 2- 2:08
As I finished the third and final bike lap, I turned back into the courtyard area of the palace and dismounted my bike. Again, I had trouble locating my area in the transition zone but managed to find the slot for my bike eventually! 
I racked my bike, took off my helmet, grabbed a water bottle, blew my nose (again) and was out on the run…

Run- 5.4km- 32:51
Onto the area where I felt most confident- the run! 
We started the run by ascending a footbridge to cross the cycle route, before joining a path which took us on a loop around the lake. As with the bike course, the run route was far from being flat. There were plenty of hills along the way, but I powered up them. The feeling gradually came back into my hands as I ran. Water and gels were being handed out along the way, but I carried my own water bottle to save having to stop. 
My family cheered me on as I completed my first lap- they said I looked strong and I was overtaking several people! 


I tried to pick up my speed a little for my second lap, but I actually had no idea of my pace as I was not wearing my TomTom watch. I think not having any idea of time made the triathlon more enjoyable, as I was not obsessed with checking my pace as I tend to be on a running race.
As I approached the final stretch, I looked around for my family and could only see my Dad. The others had gone off to get a coffee/use the toilets- they expected I would be a lot longer on the run!

I crossed the finish line feeling great, I had finished a triathlon! I collected my medal and water with a bike smile on my face and walked over to meet everyone.

After
After chilling out for a while and re-capping the race to my family, I had to go back to collect my gear from transition.
I was dying to find out my time, as soon as I had signal I logged onto Facebook where members from my tri club had been posting updates on our finishing times. I’d finished in 1:59:07- just under the two hour mark! I was pleased with my swim and run times and felt my transitions went smoothly. My cycle was mega-slow as expected, but I know what I need to work on!


My parents had booked us all a night in a lovely Cotswolds inn for the rest of the weekend, so we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the villages and walking Murphy who was desperate to be let off his lead! The weather had turned out perfect thankfully with no rain for the rest of the day.

Thank you to Posi+iv for giving me free entry to this fantastic race! My first triathlon of many!










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