Standing brushing my teeth on Sunday morning I looked into the mirror to see an equally nervous and sick looking Shona behind me, half an hour later Julie wandered across with Tony towards our tent looking green. These were definitely not the same three people that the night before had been joking about carb loading and enjoying the party spirit. This was now real and about to actually happen!!!
Luckily Dave thought about the practical aspects of me competing and was busy checking over my bike while I drank my coffee and made numerous toilet visits. So, time for us all to walk across to the National Watersports Centre, a final check that I had everything and off we went.
Due to being a late entry we weren’t guaranteed t-shirts, well like every Squadder knows that is the only reason to actually enter a race so NO T-shirt, NO racing!! Unfortunately they had found us some, as Julie said we had sold our souls to the devil for a t-shirt and no backing out now.
So first off in our team was Jane Taylor and after racing double the distances on the Saturday, this was more of a cool down session for her. Jane’s splits were swim 4:54, bike 9:24 then run 8:04, most definitely our strongest team member. Next up was Fred Saxon with a speedy swim of 6:22, however in transition Fred lost his bike but after a scurry around up and down the racking he found it again and he was out onto the circuit with a respectable time of 12:38. Fred’s hardest discipline next, the run. Following a knee operation he had been advised by his doctor not to run the full mile, but like most if not all men did he listen?? Of course not and he finished in 12:39.
By this time the competitors who had been taking the event serious had their fourth person either finishing or not far off while we had slipped from approximately midpack to the last couple of teams. So, next in our team was Julie England who swam like a shark was chasing her and finished in 8:38. A swift transition to her bike and off she went into the head winds and completed the bike course in 13:10.
Back in the team waiting area and I was all wetsuited up and in the extreme weekend heat raring to enter the water just to be able to cool down. Looking around it very quickly became apparent that tactically some teams had left their strongest team member until last. I would love to be able to say that this is the course we had decided upon but (a) Ollie had picked the team at random and (b) this was so obviously a lie. So down to the last two teams and the other competitor waiting was more nervous about seeing her daughter who was their team’s third leg than actually the fact that she had this triathlon to complete in front of her.
Then there was only one lonely me, the apprehension and nerves kicked in. Not because I was worried about being last but I really didn’t want any attention. Being a Triathlon WAG I knew that obviously the first finisher gets clapped and cheered but the main sympathy (sorry encouragement) and cheering is saved for the last triathlon victim. Cue the tears and panicking, I even asked Phil Binch if it was really worth me racing as I wasn’t really up against anyone but his answer was the obvious, of course it’s worth it and just enjoy it.
Over the tannoy I hear that Julie is 200m away and the at this point the lovely girls who have been helping competitors into the water suddenly stripped their wetsuits off and announced that they would swim with me so that I wasn’t alone in the water. This was amazing news, but everyone would still know which one I was, I was the idiot in the yellow swim hat. 3.2.1 the team band is handed to me from Julie and all eyes are on me now due to the constant mention over the microphone that the last person is about to enter the water.
I could lie at this point and say that I was going to be fast and that everyone in the Grandstand would be in awe of my swimming ability but regrettably breast stroke was the best I could offer the crowd and fairly slow at that. It took until the first buoy to settle myself and calm down, the kayak posse escorting me were so supportive and even offered to surround me so that the commentator could see and announce whereabouts I was. My biggest fear and totally irrational is sand, I can just about tolerate dry sand, but URGH!!! Wet sand makes me shiver even while writing this. During open water practice I have been wearing some swim boots, but even at my slow pace they balloon with water and make even a three legged turtle faster than me, so I was being brave and went swim boot free but approaching dry land again and the sand issue was moving towards the front of my thoughts. Luckily I hit the mats before anymore tears had time to appear.
So into T1 and I thought what’s the point of rushing and casually sauntered to my lonely bike. I’d borrowed a wetsuit and the zip was dodgy, but after a few tugs and wiggles my arms were free but my legs refused to release. ‘Look referee, a UFO!! Someone help her’ I heard over the microphone. NO WAY!!!! this was my race and I wasn’t having anyone helping me. The smiling and friendly marshal slowly retreated as he saw the stubbornness on my face and Phil Binch got told off for talking to me and distracting me, he was actually offering words of encouragement and again telling me to just enjoy myself.
Helmet on, race number on, bike taken off the bars and I’m running towards the mount line. More support from the Grandstand and Marshalls and I’m on my bike and pedalling towards my motorbike escort. ‘Go on, I’ll race you’ I shout ‘I’ll give you a head start’ was his reply.
Just before the first bend was an enormous florescent sign warning SLOW DOWN, SHARP BEND. Only a cycle coach could miss them, no names or person I’m referring to (Mr Cannings), so all I’ve got to do is not fall off. At the speed I was doing it was almost virtually impossible anyhow, then onto the back straight the winds are behind me and I start to fly, well maybe not fly but I did increase in speed. Then disaster, a duck decided to play chicken with me. Sat in the middle of the pathway, opposite the Grandstand, this duck refuses to move and I think please don’t make me fall off on a straight in front of everyone. The duck looks at me, I look at it… then at the very last minute it waddles to the side and I’m victorious but more importantly still on my bike. Into T2.
I quickly racked my bike but was chased up the transition area by a British Triathlon person reminding me to keep the straps of my helmet done up next time. HAHA, next time. At the end of the transition area was Shona shouting words of encouragement and off I went. My main aim was to run the majority, if not all the mile but this was just too much of an ask and embarrassingly I had to walk most of it. I reached the turn point, took a cup of water, glanced across the water at the Grandstand and thought almost there now.
Coming round the boathouse and along the back of the buildings I could see Freddie and Suzie stood with Tony, all screaming for me to hurry up. ‘Run with me kids’ I shout to which the marshal says that unfortunately they aren’t allowed. What’s the worse they can do, we are already in last place, is it really worth them disqualifying me I ask? Like he really had a choice he radioed to the referee who agreed that the kids could cross the finish with me. So with a child either side we enter the home straight and I can hear everyone cheering, but above everyone else is the voices of the Squadders that’s how noisy our club is.
A huge smile and I’ve actually done it, I’d finished.