east-leake-tri-sept-2016-167-zf-3393-42864-1-001So the day dawned for my first ever triathlon… was I nervous? Does Winnie the Pooh like hunny!?

I was awake far earlier than my alarm and after a quick breakfast checked my kit for the umpteenth time and loaded the bike in the car. This could have gone badly wrong as I changed my car a couple of months ago and hadn’t yet transported the bike in it but luckily there was plenty of room.

East Leake isn’t too far away but my swim time was 8:03am- they were obviously letting the slower ones start earliest as some folks weren’t starting their swim until 11:30am. I got my bike out and eventually found my way to registration, where I collected my race numbers, had my number (5) written on my hand and rather apologetically asked what to do with my bike, stammering that it was my first triathlon. One of the ladies immediately offered to show me the transition areas and took me to the swimming baths, indicating the exit and then walking me along the route to the bike transition. She pointed out where to rack my bike and explained how things worked- I was so grateful to her.

She told me she’d look out for me to cheer me on later and she kept her word- I spotted her as I was heading out on the second lap of the run.

After thanking her I racked my bike, which involved placing a sticker with my race number on onto my helmet and another sticker onto the bike frame then hanging my bike on a rail by its saddle. I had decided to put my clothes outside of the swim area to save running past loads of people in my swimming costume and bare feet (don’t want to be responsible for any nightmares!!) so I left my helmet and drinks bottle by my bike.

I walked to the swim exit and faffed around with my gear, spending ages trying to pin the race numbers to my t-shirt as I needed to be poolside a quarter of an hour before my swim and I was fast running out of time! I walked round to the pool in my costume and waited with some other people- two ladies and a chap- who also confided it was their first time. It does feel good to find other people in the same boat and just as nervous as you!

I was in the second wave of swimmers, along with one of the ladies I was chatting with, and by this stage I just wanted to get in there and make a start. We were told to get into the pool, we were counted down from 30 seconds to 15 and then we were off! I managed to avoid starting out too fast but overtook the chap who was already swimming as he had to stop and rest after every few lengths. Another chap got into the lane for the next wave, then a lady got in who promptly overtook me on her first length. I didn’t mind this, but what was rather annoying was that although she was much quicker than me on the turns, she was actually a slower swimmer, so I kept catching her up and felt that she was holding me back but I didn’t have the confidence to overtake her.

Ah well it was my first one so I wasn’t going to beat myself up too much… I was just pleased to finish the swim after managing 16 lengths of front crawl and getting my breathing right. I was again lucky enough to be in the lane with the steps and so clambered out and lumbered for the door and my stuff.

It is so hard pulling clothes on over a wet swimsuit and to my dismay my race numbers immediately started to undo. I had to hold the one on my back in place with my hand as I ran to my bike and quickly pinned it back on with just two safety pins, hoping it wouldn’t go flying off.

Helmet on, quick drink, fumble my bike off the rack and then I was running with it to the bike mount line…

A I mounted my bike I wobbled a little but an organiser said ‘you’ll be fine once you get going’. I was touched by her assurances as it was the bike leg I was most concerned about, not being the most confident rider on the roads and still trying to get used to stopping and starting properly!

The route was a 13 mile out and back from East Leake down to Gotham (pronounced Goat’em and no I didn’t see Bat Man!) before turning left to Ratcliffe on Soar, where we had to go right round an island to retrace our route back to the leisure centre.

I was whizzing downhill, quite happily, until it occurred to me that as it is an out and back course these lovely down hills would be not-so-lovely up hills later! The road from Gotham to Ratcliffe could easily be described as undulating, and faster riders soon started overtaking me, often shouting words of encouragement which was nice.

I had a couple of sticky moments when I had two buses inching their way behind me but reached the turnaround point unscathed- which was manned by a couple of encouraging ladies- and set off for home.

As expected, the hills back up to East Leake sapped my legs but I was determined to keep cycling so crawled up them in low gear. It was then downhill to the Leisure Centre and I managed to spot a photographer so put on my best smile! Suddenly I was at the dismount line and jumped off the bike (okay it was more of a crawl off) and ran it back to transition. A chap said ‘did you enjoy that?’ and I confirmed I did but mentioned that there had been quite a few hills… ‘Ah well, you’ve only got one more hill to go’ he said.

He must have seen the look on my face as I stammered ‘there’s another hill?’ as he replied ‘well, it’s more of a slope really…’. I swallowed some ‘sports beans’ and decided to carry my drinks bottle with me as I hadn‘t drank much, then lumbered out onto the run.

The run involved three laps- up a track, turn left, run round a cone at the turnaround point, back down the track to the leisure centre, round the complex and back out again. The first thing that struck me as I set off was a) running suddenly felt like bloody hard work and b) the track goes up a sodding great hill!! I thought- ‘I’m not going to be able to run this’, but told my brain to shut up. It was painful- there was a marshal sat at the top of the hill, shouting encouragement, and loads of people passed me, looking so much fitter than me!

The second time round I thought I am going to have to walk up that hill, and slowed to a walk for a few steps to drink, then thought, come on, just try a little slow run, and managed to heave myself back up it as a lumbering trot.

On my third lap I passed the lady who had been in the same swim wave as me, on her first lap, so we said ‘well dones’ to each other. The hill actually felt a little easier third time around, and after some encouragement from the marshall I managed a what was for me a sprint finish but in reality was just running a bit faster! As I ran, I thought- I am just about to finish my first ever triathlon!!

I heard my name announced as I crossed the line, and grabbed some water. I had to stand still for a couple of minutes fighting a bit of nausea; a marshal told us we could print out our results from a machine in the back of a van, which was great- my times are as follows;

Ok I don’t think that the Brownlee brothers need to watch their backs just yet, but it was my first triathlon, I had finished the thing and felt well chuffed! All the organisers and marshals were so lovely and helpful, it was a good event to do for my first ‘tri’ and I would recommend it to all virgin ‘tri‘-ers.

I sprang my bike from transition, gathered up my scattered gear and bought a coffee; as I was standing drinking it, the lady from my swim wave came in and I offered my congratulations- we were both chuffed to have actually done it!

I feel as though I have completed a major milestone on my quest for Iron Man one day… still one heck of a long way to go…

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