Race Report by Holly Kelleher
8 months of training nearly 6 days a week saw me in Essex this weekend for my first ‘half Iron’ distance Triathlon. A mere 363 days after I acquired my first bike as a grown up, and just over a year since I agreed to join Castle Tri just to look after their money! This was only my fourth Tri, having a Go Tri, Sprint and Standard under my belt. I had an 8 hour time limit but the cut offs for the swim and run were a mere 10 minutes under my training performance so the pressure was on.
My race prep had a few blips. We were camping and I hadn’t had the best night’s kip. I was also a couple of days into a nasty cold/throat virus and felt quite poorly. My swim was to be fuelled on coffee and bacon sarnies (a well thought out fat/protein/carb kickstart) and the day’s first disaster was that our stove had run out of gas. Cue Mr K going on a mission to find me some breakfast and me trying to get ready for a full day of competing while also looking after 2 small children in a Marina! I managed to arrive on time but without my cold/flu tablets for Transition, and my Vaseline for the swim – but so far so good.
The swim was in a river – as it opened into the sea. It was salty, tidal and rough. At 10:45 I set off on my first lap, swimming face into waves, in a mass start. Despite having a fair bit of Open Water under my belt this season, it was scary. In the first 100m I started to taste adrenaline, my heart started to race and I started to hyperventilate. If you are ever going to have a panic attack, don’t do it in a choppy river while people are swimming over you. I honestly thought I was going to have to give up, and unknown to me a few people did at this stage. I got round the first lap convinced I’d missed my time window, and just as I turned for my second I got caught by the tide and ended up under one of the swim markers! Picture evidence provided. Lap 2 was slightly better but the salt water I’d inhaled on lap 1 decided to come up and I managed to puke twice before landing on shore.
The first person I saw was Seamus who was shouting my cut off times at me as miraculously I’d come in on time with a couple of people behind me. This is when I realised I’d forgot to adjust my chin strap so my helmet remained at a quirky angle for the next 3 hours and 45 minutes and I hadn’t adjusted my Tri belt since Seamus used it so I had to tie it in a granny knot.
Onto the bike which should have been the disaster as I’m an awful cyclist. However I fell in love with my bike on Sunday. I’d got rid of my cleats against all the advice I’d been given and managed to gain another 3 places on the road, and perfected the ‘snot rocket’. The roads were fast and the setting was beautiful. However I still felt sick as a dog, and did I mention it was SCORCHING?! I knew I had to fuel constantly on the 56 mile route, I had a mix of chocolate caffeine protein bars and nuts which had melted beautifully creating a disgusting paste I had to keep scooping up, and I knew I had to drink at least 2 litres of fluid. I kept my wits and fuelled every 3 miles to let the nausea pass. I brought my cycle in 30 minutes before we (team K) predicted and my legs felt good.
My fuelling discipline on the bike left me hydrated and ready for a 4 lap 12 mile trail run. It was slow and steady and ridiculously hot, but I’m an experienced runner now and managed to complete the bit that saw another 11 competitors drop out.
I finished in 07:11:37.75. Placed 87 out of 91 finishers, 10th in my category of Senior Female and 15th out of 16 women. And one of only 82% of people that got on the start line who was able to finish the distance.
It was hard, and I have been left so ruined that anyone suggesting I do the full distance can stick their suggestion (at least for now). But what I hoped I’ve proved is that anyone can do it if they set their mind to it and are willing to put in the work. I’m not a great swimmer/cyclist/runner, but I didn’t need to be. And yes I would do it again, but not that one. I never want to see that river again!