Crossing that Line for the Very First Time

author : didds
comments : 0

Cotswold super sprint - UK. Lots of bodies colliding, I swam half over someone, got kicked by some bloody breaststroker, and as a mob we poured towards the first buoy.

At 6.30 off we set, en famille, to my first triathlon. I hadn't slept overly well – it was a slightly broken night between 2130 Saturday and 0415 Sunday, but I had no problems. I awoke at 0415 and couldn't get back to sleep... so at 0445 I opted for the "break the routine" approach and got up, posted a couple of messages here, then went back to bed at 0500. I was now cold and didn't really sleep again, though I did have a sort of deep day-dream about an accident on the way to the tri where somebody ran my bike over and smashed it to oblivion, leaving me bikeless for the tri....only to have the driver to go the expo stands and buy me a replacement bike!

I had baked beans on white toast for breakfast (trying to stay light and low fiber-ish), and my children (bless them) were up and ready with no fuss. There was a slight hiccup en route as we somehow ended up going the wrong way (!), and some quick mental arithmetic suddenly left me pushing time to rack my bike!

Fortunately, at the venue, parking was easy and not too far from transition. Joe (eldest son) and I shot off with my bike and transition box (IKEA bag upgraded to plastic box).

I hadn't really any nerves about the actual disciplines, but struggled with the infrastructure, including getting into transition with bike and helmet and box on my own (of course). I found my slot OK (numbered), racked my bike, and set up transition, but I was running out of time to get out before the first wave went.

Then I needed a pee as the clock ticked down, and a few edgy minutes were spent waiting for the portaloos. Back with Joe and my box (I had to take it out of transition) I got my wetsuit and timing chip on (I'd worn my trisuit to the venue as I knew there were extremely limited—if any—changing facilities). I grabbed my cap and goggles and had 20 minutes before my wave...it illustrated to me just how tight time can get even though I had planned for something like 100 minutes for arrival and prep.

Family (and box!) went down to the swim start where we watched the next two waves go out. Our super sprint wave was the last one. I gave a last thumbs-up to Tracey, Joe, George, and Lottie, and we got called to the front. The briefing seemed interminable and I was wondering if I'd actually get to acclimatize with the water if the marshal didn't hurry up, but we got a couple of minutes in the end. Though not much of a warmup, it did get water in the suit and allow for a few strokes.

Then the 1 minute call came. I plumped for the middle of the pack mainly because I have found I quite enjoy the washing machine! I guess I didn't play front row rugby for 30+ years not to get some warped kick out of close quarters combat!

Then ... all the waiting, all the hopes were history... the bell went, the watch went on, and I hit the water.

WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO!!!! Arms, legs, blue hats, wetsuits, and, bizarrely, one bloke in a pair of beach shorts and nothing else (well, hat - no goggles or wetsuit!)... mayhem! It was marvelous, wonderful mayhem. Lots of bodies colliding, I swam half over someone, got kicked by some bloody breaststroker, and as a mob we poured towards the first buoy also marked by a dinghy. I was stuck behind a breaststroker, and as soon as I found some clear water, some other breaststroker would drift in front of me. So I went back to the right into clear water just in time for the original breaststroker to alter course in front of me again, so I thought, “Bugger this,” and swam straight over his arm and torso to get clear.

I could see what was coming up at the dinghy/buoy and the pack slowed up and fannied around, so I chose a wider route in some space and turned nicely around the throng. The second line of the swim was less hassle as (I suspect) we crawlers dropped the breaststrokers. I was to the right in some clear water and made good progress to the second turn where the same tactics saw me clear for home. I tucked in beside another swimmer and drafted all the way into the bank where a steep bankside exit was aided by crew giving everyone a helping hand up. The marshals were really great - lost of positive cheer and somebody shouting "well done - you're a third of the way there already!"

The run into T1 was 50 meters or so, and as I cleared the bank my family were all waving and cheering like mad, as were loads of other spectators. I went slippy and slidey into T1 to find the bike. Rather fortunately, I was in the row nearest the lake and Joe had counted the fencing panels to my bike, so I counted them off aloud ... right to the bike. Marvelous!

I had my usual fight with the wetsuit until it was off, then I put my socks and shoes on. Then it was race belt on, specs on, helmet on, and off with the bike. I was a bit slow taking off the wetsuit, but in fact had a smooth transition. We went out of T1 by a separate entrance, family cheering again, and a long 150 meter or so run to the mount zone.

I'd been confident that the swim would go OK, but the bike is still my weakest leg (though that is damning it with faint praise for my swim and run, which really aren't that much better!).

It was onto the bike, toes in (I haven't got cycle shoes and pedals yet), and off I went. A quick glance at the watch showed my elapsed time as 13 minutes or so, which given the long runs in and out of transition, I was pleased with. I got into a good cadence as I spun up in the inner ring. Lots of people passed me, and I passed a couple myself. Eventually feeling in a rhythm, I noticed the bike computer reading 25 kph - miraculous!!! So it was up onto the outer ring, drop a cassette gear, and I was off and running well at 30 kph or so. I was very pleased. I was still being passed, but also passing a few. I saw a girl with a tee-shirt that said "Come on Lisa," so as I passed her I had to shout, "Come on Lisa," and was rewarded with a gorgeous smile!

I turned north into the wind into a three or four mile uphill drag, but my cadence was good and my speed was OK, though eventually I had to drop to the inner ring to keep the spinning up. I was feeling very good and really enjoying the bike leg as I passed the Royal Gloucestershire regimental HQ... and a bloke on a MTB mashed past me. That shocked me into action. I'd lost focus and was going through the motions as I enjoyed the ride. So I moved to the upper ring and blew away the next half a mile. I went through some semi industrial areas until the final run back to the lake, the wind was slightly behind me and I could almost smell T2. I was flying now, down over the drops, pedaling strongly in the outer ring and small cog. I went 40 kph for much of it as I pulled back several more, and then suddenly it was the dismount zone. A quick glance at the watch showed under the hour total so far. My goal of under 75 minutes was definitely on!

I was off the bike, through the gate, and the family was there cheering me on. I ran back to T2 and they ran alongside the other side of the wire. I had time to gush something like "great bike leg - just great" then slippy slidey over the mat into T2. I now realized Joe hadn't counted off the fence panels on this side, but it wasn't a problem. I racked my bike, took off the glasses and helmet and ... err... is that it? I couldn't believe it was so smooth and that I hadn't forgotten anything... but it was all fine. We were double numbered so there was not even a race belt flip to worry about.

It was onto the final leg... out into the narrow congested run path as various sprint distance guys came through on their lap two. I got in behind the "British Army" to the first corner - where he left me for dust once he could pass the bloke in front of him! My legs were feeling OK, but my adductors weren't happy...I still pedal at 10 to 2, and it places strain on them, especially when I start to drive the bike on. I was not too bad though, and in no way a show stopper. That all said I had no pace in the legs, but was happy to just move on, move on, move on. I passed one woman who looked like she was struggling a bit, passed the volleyball court, passed a big guy walking. I definitely felt a bit low on fuel now (I'd hydrated well on the bike and took a beaker of water at the aid station just previously). Note to self - need more fuel from somewhere next time. Along the far side of the lake I was passed by a woman who quipped, "You just overtook me on the bike, come on!"

By the third corner I was feeling good. I passed a woman. "Nearly there," I said. "I've another lap to go yet," she laughed. On the final corner turn I knew exactly how much to do - about 400 meters. I could hear the dogs barking in the kennels nearby, and could now hear the PA system. I passed the swimming cabins into the last 100 meters, through a big puddle (just for the joy of it), into the slightly wooded area.

I could hear George shouting, "Come on Dad, come on Dad," then I saw him with a great big smile on his face. I shouted back "I love you Georgie, I love you Georgie, I love you Georgie " as the occasion built on me and I burst past him almost sprinting. My legs were feeling so strong. There was no adductor pain; the endorphins and adrenalin were doing their job. I shot past the rest of my family without seeing them, but heard Tracey shouting "Go on Ian, go on Ian." The finish chute was just yards ahead and I could feel the huge smile on my face as I veered into it pushing hard all the way to the line. Arms high and with big grin, I ran through the gate with the PA telling everyone that number 538 was finished - Ian Diddams. All a blur, bodies, shouting...

I'd thought beforehand finishing was all... under 1:30 nice, under 1:15 ecstatic.

My final time was 1:10:51.

I swam, I biked, I ran. I raced well, I raced hard.

Then my chip was off and I exited into the arms of my wife, and a wonderful feeling of arrival...

So happy. SO HAPPPY.

I AM A TRIATHLETE!!!!!!

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date: October 7, 2008

didds