After writing a blog post on Saturday about preparing for race day, I went and did something incredibly stupid. I forgot my running shoes for my triathlon.
Setting up in transition on the morning of the race, I opened my bag and realised I was missing a vital piece of kit. I felt absolutely mortified and started panicking. I hoped that the shoes would magically appear if I kept searching in my bag. I had my cycling shoes and two pairs of flip-flops, but nothing I could run in! I couldn’t believe that this had happened after I’d been so organised the day before.
Time was running out… the race was due to start in less than 15 minutes. My options were:
1) To not start the race
2) To start the race, complete the swim and bike but then withdraw
3) To borrow a pair of shoes
I went and sheepishly broke the news to my husband Glen, my brother Sean and clubmates James, Mark and Marton who were busy setting up their own transitions. Everyone was actually very supportive and didn’t make me feel even worse about my mistake. Mark offered me his spare shoes which were an 8/9 (I’m a 7), so it wasn’t ideal but it was the best option available. Another friend from the club Lisa who was spectating, kindly offered me her Converse, but I figured that would not be the best choice to run in!
The boys were in earlier waves so I saw them off and tried to calm myself down. I planned to complete the swim and the bike, then make the decision whether to run in Mark’s shoes.
1500m Swim- 29:12
The water was just as cold as I’d expected. As I waded in, my hands and feet went numb. I dunked my head under to try and acclimatise. We had a few minutes wait before my womens-only wave was set off.
I tried to put any negative thoughts out of my mind as I swam. I didn’t want to let this mistake ruin the entire race for me. I just focused on making it to the next buoy and keeping a strong stroke. The swim took us in a diamond-shape around three buoys. With the strong sun, it was a little difficult to sight at times.
Being overweight has it’s benefits- the cold water doesn’t seem to effect me nearly as much as some people! It certainly was chilly, but I didn’t find it unbearable once I started moving. I’d actually say it was quite refreshing!
We had actually been pre-warned that the lake was infested with microscopic shrimp. They are totally harmless to humans, but I did think about them going in my mouth as I swam so I tried not to swallow any water!
I got to the exit ramp and quickly glanced at the time, I was pleased to see it had taken just over 29 minutes. I always look terrible in photos from the swim exit!
Transition 1- 2:58
I found my place fairly easily… off with the wetsuit and on with helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes and race belt.
38km Cycle- 1:22:44
The bike route took us out of Grafham Water Centre onto the surrounding roads which were mostly flat and fast with a few challenging hills. Roads were open to traffic, but they were not too busy. There was a junction at mile 6 where we were required to stop completely and put a foot down before continuing on- it would be instant disqualification if we were caught not stopping.
The nice thing about the out-and-back was that I got to see the boys flying past on the other side of the road. I passed Mark, Sean, Glen, James and we shouted encouragement to each other.
As I was going up one of the steeper hills, my chain suddenly came off! I managed to stop and quickly fix it, but I had to walk to the top before I could remount my bike. I hoped that I could make up the lost time on the descent.
I ate a few Nakd Nibbles on the bike, but I was aware I was not drinking enough. It’s definitely something I need to work on.
Transition 2- 2:09
Tme for things to get interesting- I slipped on Mark’s shoes and laced them up as tight as possible. They were quite wide on my feet, so I hoped they wouldn’t slip and cause too many blisters. I laughed to Lisa as she watched me from the other side of the fence. I felt ridiculous!
10km Run- 1:10:14
The run began with an out-and-back along the dam wall beside the lake. My first two miles went surprisingly well. The trainers felt strangely comfortable, although noticeably too big for my feet! I had been interested to try this brand of running shoes for a while, I just didn’t think it would be under these circumstances.
I saw my friend Chris from the Triathlon England Media Team, who was unfortunately withdrawing from the race due to an Achilles injury. He looked really disappointed as he slowly walked back into transition.
The sun was blazing by this point in the day and there was no shade on this section of the course. The temperature had gone from one extreme to the other… from the freezing cold lake to the hotter-than-hell run route. My mouth was like cotton-wool, I hadn’t drank nearly enough on the bike. I grabbed two cups of water at the first drink station.
The next portion of the run took us onto trails and through a wooded area. The shade was a welcome relief, but I was starting to struggle. So many people around me were walking and complaining about the heat. I longed to jump back in that cold lake! One man shouted “I thought triathlon was supposed to be fun… when does the fun start?”, I replied “at the finish line!”
I kept expecting the turn-around point to appear, but the course just seemed to stretch on forever. I walked pretty much the entire miles 3 and 5. I just felt completely drained of energy, dehydrated and exhausted. I kept willing myself to run again, but I could only last a few minutes.
I finally reached the turn-around point, where there was another water station, I drank two cups and poured another two down my trisuit. I’d given up on any hopes of a sub-3 hour time and just wanted to finish. At mile 5.5 I started to slowly run again. The finish line eventually came into sight and I got high-fives off the boys and Lisa.
My finishing time was 3:07:18 and 15th out of 19 in my age group. It’s my slowest Olympic distance by far. However, I wasn’t too disappointed. I had the determination to finish despite the initial problems, it would have been easy to just give up. Forgetting my shoes is a mistake I will never, ever make again!
There was no finisher’s medal which was actually the biggest disappointment! A friend from my club, Marton actually won his age group (M 20-24) in a blisteringly fast 1:56:08, and another friend, Lucy Charles won her age group (F 20-24), so we stayed to watch the awards presentation.
Grafham Water was actually a lovely place to race, I’d like to do another event here in future only in slightly cooler weather and with my own shoes!
Have you ever forgotten anything on race day?