Blenheim was my third sprint triathlon and after a good open water swimming session with my coach a few days before, I felt fully prepared (or so I thought). I met my friend Sean in the drizzle with high spirits and went into the beautiful palace court yards to where our transition area will be. Bikes racked and wetsuits on, we picked up our swim hats and headed down to the lake. With a motivating briefing (we had to hug the person next to you and cheer), I was pumped up and ready to go!
A new type of ‘start’ for me; you had to jump off a pontoon into the lake, swim 100m to the centre of the lake and tread water for a few minutes before starting. I jumped in at the front (not realising how many people were in my wave), which gave me time to acclimatise to the cold. However I had to bob around for a while and as the lake was only around 15degrees I started to get a little chilly.
The whistle went and I went into a steady front crawl for the first 100m. Suddenly the rush of a hundred or so other quick and stronger swimmers charged passed/over me pushing me out to the side and off course! They just kept coming and I lost my rhythm, struggling the rest of the way which was disappointing! Once being hauled out the water by very helpful volunteers, I jogged up a pretty steep hill for about half a km to transition. Passing Sean on the run (he later told me he fell over and hurt his toe exiting the water), T1 was quick. The wetsuit slipped off easily using the Vaseline trick and I avoided the temptation of drying my feet...
The bike course was fantastic; closed roads, beautiful settings, a fair few hills and the sun came out. I felt like I was flying, overtaking a fair few competitions and even having to shout out a few to move out the way!
After three laps and with a smooth transition, I ran to rack my bike. But I could not find my trainers, and jogged up and down with my bike like a headless chicken! I finally spotted my pink towel and trainers and set off on the run.
The run consisted of a 5.6km (two laps) race; a quick downhill and then a long uphill around the lake. My left leg kept cramping which is strange, and I put it down to the extra effort up the hills on the bike and not drinking any water (silly move!). With a last sprint to the finish I was very pleased to receive my finishers medal! I saw Sean on the last lap of his bike as I was going into the second lap of my run so having crossed the finish line, I cheered him to the finish.
I was slower in the run than at Hyde Park but was pleased to find I got the 3rd quickest bike and run time for women overall, 10th lady and 3rd in my age group with over 1200 women. I'm pretty chuffed as I have put in a lot of work to improve my cycling and Dan’s training programmes are clearly working!
I encourage all ages and levels to give triathlons a try; it really is a sport everyone can enjoy. Especially when you pick a beautiful setting like Blenheim to race in.
Here’s what I have learnt in my first three triathlons, which I hope help you avoid the mistakes I made!
Beginners Tips for your first Triathlon;
1. Practice an open water swim in a wetsuit as much as possible before the event, and if you have time acclimatise in the water (dunk your head under and try and breathe out under water).
|Holbourgh Lake (where I've started practising).|
2. Practice transitions; you can save minutes on a smooth transition and always make sure you have your helmet on before touching the bike!
3. Look for signs/marker to memorise where you rack your bike and remember the row number. Take a bright towel to place your trainers on so you can spot it on return from bike.
4. Wear goggles under your swim hat, not over! This stops other competitors knocking them off in the scrabble! Also spit in your goggles before racing this stops them fogging up.
5. Apply Vaseline on your inner wrists, ankles and neck to stop your wetsuit rubbing. Also apply onto the outside of your wetsuit up from your ankles to knees and wrists to elbows to help it easily slide off.
6. As you exit the water, open the neck of your wetsuit to let the water gush out (this makes it easier to take the top half off when running).
7. Don't dry your feet or bother wearing socks when getting on your bike, your feet will dry on the bike (saving a lot of time).
8. Take water on the bike (this may seem simple but I have forgotten this before and forgotten to drink if I have taken it! Dehydration will not only be detrimental for your run but will also slow down your recovery time after the race).
9. Practice drinking on the bike and how much you drink. I can only sip a small amount regularly or I get a stich on the run!
10.Use elastic laces, when your adrenaline is high and you've leapt of the bike, tying laces is impossible.
11. Save some energy for a sprint finish and enjoy the race, smile at the crowds and if the race is at Blenheim, you’re encouraged to high five the spectators on your run in, which makes you feel pretty cool J