I bagged my spot at Windsor triathlon last minute thanks to Instagram pal @tryingtotri who was giving a spot away. After Dorney Lake I had been planning to race again soon to blast away the demons (something I tried to do to redeem Paris marathon last year but sprained my ankle before I could) and I had a list of local races I could get to. Windsor was not one of them, but when life hands you that kind of opportunity, you grab it with both hands!
Racking (putting your bike in the transition area) was on the Saturday this time meaning that I needed to get to Windsor early afternoon to register and leave Connie for the night. Following an amusing journey of far too many triathletes trying to get on the same train from Paddington, Connie was finally safely set up and I blew her a kiss goodbye.
'Love you, Connie.' I whispered. 'I'll see you tomorrow.'
The atmosphere was completely different this time. I chatted to people along the way, in particular another Lucy, one member of @10IronWomen who are all doing Barcelona Ironman together in Autumn. I saw the next day on social media that she'd come off her bike and heroically carried on. Super badassery but I hope it wasn't a serious fall!
Pro tip #1 Bring the right wetsuit
That evening I decided to head to a section of the Jubilee River near my airbnb to get in my wetsuit and have a dip to soothe any pre-Open Water swim nerves. First off, even having mapped it and knowing I would need to walk at least 2 miles, I wore flip flops. I wore flip flops on what was basically a country walk.
I ended up walking 4.5-5 miles round trip IN FLIP FLOPS THE DAY BEFORE A RACE. Nice one. Secondly, when I finally found an appropriate dipping spot, I opened my wetsuit bag, pulled out the wetsuit and...
It had red bits. Mine didn't have red bits. It was Aquasphere branded, mine is 2XU. Ah. I realised. It was my boyfriend's.
I called him in a developing panic to update him on this turn of events. We decided I would see how it fit, do some swimming in it and if it's no good we still had time to meet up at Paddington to do a handover - NOT what I wanted to spend my pre-race evening doing.
I managed to zip it up, windmill my arms a bit and calm down. I got in the water, did a few strokes and burst into the kind of laughter that follows almost-tears-of-panic. It was fine! It was all going to be fine! I poddled up and down and got out again. It was going to be OK. On the walk back to my airbnb I called Paul and we shared stories of stupid things our pre-race brain has done (there was the time he turned up to Race The Train without any running kit) whilst I tried to edge down the side of a fast country lane without a pavement in flip flops (my current example of pre-race brain).
Race morning: a gentle jog along the m4
By some extraordinarily happy accident there was a couple in the same airbnb driving over to the race in the morning (you won't believe this but she was also called Lucy). She was starting later than me but heading down early so I got in the car with them at 5.15am and off we set. All was going well until the m4 bridge crossing the river - standstill. A long line of cars trying to do the same thing as us, about 10 minutes from the race village as the crow flies but easily 30 in a traffic jam. A woman in the queue ahead of us got out of the car and started walking down the side of the road. It was the only encouragement I needed. I thanked Lucy and Jamie and popped out onto the side of the motorway with my unnecessarily enormous bag. I chuckled to myself as I jogged along the motorway. You can only laugh really.
Swim 750m: AND WHAT A SWIM IT WAS
This time, I was in the total opposite of the ETU wave at Dorney Lake. I was in completely non-competitive Mates wave. This suited me perfectly. People were friendly and not all intimidating. Phew. It was a good 10 minute walk from transition to swim start so once I'd laid out my kit and covered it in excessive talcum powder, I wandered over to the swim start, ducking into a bush for a pee (those portaloo queues man... not worth it). It was shaping up to be a beautiful morning and we slipped into the river at around 6.10am. The sprint swim took us down stream for about 650m to a turnaround for the final push upstream to get out of the water for 100m(ish). This time I heeded Coach Bright's advice. I hung over to the left, middle of the pack, and I waited once the start gun had gone. I got going in my own time. I should have stayed way over to the left to get around everyone, but I didn't realise I'd be coming up past a lot of swimmers so nearly got squished a few times. The swim was nothing short of glorious. By just over halfway I was so far up the field that I was almost swimming on my own, the water around me was calm, it was an amazing experience. I came out of the water 7th in my wave and beaming. The run from the swim into transition felt LONG but not as long as from transition to the bike mount line. BLOODY HELL. According to my Garmin it was 850m of dashing around from getting out of the water to getting on the bike. That's a lot of dashing when you're doing a sprint triathlon!
Bike 20(ish)km: Cows and Castles (ok one castle)
Coach Bright had warned me the bike would be busy and boy was he right! I had four sprint waves in front of me, all moving at varying speeds, so a lot of maneuvering and 'On your right!' to shout as I pedaled along whilst checking for any whizzy bikes coming up behind me at speed. Every bike that overtook me I admired. I never thought I'd say that, I've always been a bit sniffy about super bikes and their lycra-clad humans. Oh how things have changed. I liked the whizzy bikes. They looked fun.
The bike was one loop with plenty of opportunities to get in the drops once we were out of town. In my last two triathlons I have been a bit cautious on the bike. I have pushed, but always left a fair amount in reserve for the run. I decided to go balls to the wall for this one. I started hard and kept pushing. I made a very weird last minute decision to take food on the bike and at some point had a bite of it. I haven't done this on a sprint distance before, I know I don't need to, I don't know why I did it. This would come to haunt me in the run...
The best moment on the bike by far was coming along a road with fields of cows on both sides, the sun coming through the clouds and Windsor Castle looming up ahead. Gorgeous.
As we got back into town, I clicked down a gear or two and let my legs spin to get the blood flowing again. I dismounted with caution and headed back into transition.
Run 5km: Bravery on the bike comes back to bite me
The run was two not very inspiring narrow, cobbled loops with an incline in the middle that I was not keen on. I started the run feeling fine and started to slowly reel people in. As I entered the Long Walk a stitch that had been developing became unbearable. I knew I would have to stop. I pulled off to the side, stretched and regained control of my breathing. As is always the case, once my breathing was calmed, I was back in shape and ready to go. Off I went again.
Lap 2 - I inevitably started to flag. I was willing to accept the tiredness because I was so proud of my swim and bike. I started to feel nauseous, I slowed down, the feeling passed. As I neared the finishing straight the nausea mounted and I knew I was going to be sick. This used to happen a lot in running - as soon as I knew the finish was nearby I felt incredibly sick and often was. It doesn't happen in running races anymore but my brain hasn't caught up with triathlon yet. I expected the usual bit of dry heaving and maybe some watery vomit. I was wrong. My peanut butter breakfast sandwich and that bite of flapjack from the bike leg came out to say hello again. I started running again and got a big cheer from the crowd who'd just watched my spectacular vom on the side of the course. To my utter delight all of this was captured by the finish line camera. What more could a girl ask for?
Through the finish line and the only way I can describe how I felt is High As A Kite. Adrenaline, joy, pride, excitement, pure energy COURSED through me. I wouldn't be surprised if my pupils were like saucers. A few cups of water and I went on a cool down jog along the river, encouraging the Olympic Distance swimmers who had so much further than us to swim up stream - it looked like incredibly hard work.
After a bit of faffing I made my way back to the train station and home to London where I promptly ordered a pizza and got into bed. The early start and big effort had really taken it out of me and I was ready for multiple naps and Bojack Horseman bingeing.
An enourmous thank you to Hannah for the race spot, I cannot thank you enough.
As always a huge thank you to George for being an incredibly supportive coach who is always sensitive to my needs.