A triathlon on my own terms: having a crack at 70.3 solo
October 18, 2019
Writing confidently is my curse...! Eight hours after I published my post about entering the taper period and feeling completely ready for Hever Castle 70.3 I was tethered to the bathroom being quite ill. It lasted the best part of a week and it was not pretty. I couldn't keep much down and what I could was entirely beige and lacking in fibre. I started to improve by Wednesday and was feeling more confident about being able to make it to Hever and that very night I got more sick again. It was pretty devastating. The next day I spent in tears on the phone to various members of my family, most notably my dad who put his foot down and told me that I absolutely could not do the triathlon in this state. It felt harsh but I needed to hear it. He was right.
Fast forward a week and a half. I was feeling better, the residual tiredness from being sick had passed. I wanted to give it another go. Paul and I looked at the weather and the logistics and decided it was going to be Friday or Saturday. Friday it poured with rain so Saturday it was.
The swim! 1950m at Hathersage lido
We got on the second train of the day out to Hathersage with swimming things and bike kit in hand. It was a gorgeous cool morning and I was shocked to see that the lido was.... busy! Of two unmarked 25m lanes (no fast/medium/slow) both were buzzing. This was going to be stressful but I had to get it done. I miscounted, I had to switch lanes in the last 50m, I was much slower than I would have liked. But I completed it and Paul, who had been for a run whilst I was swimming, was waiting for me when I got out. After a very lengthy transition it was time to head out on the bike. I'd planned to do a loop I knew 3.5 times and head home to make the ride up to 88km.
The bike! 73.99km 1451m elevation (woops)
The start of the bike ride was stunning - mist still lying over the fields around Hathersage and Grindleford took my breath away. 5km into the ride though and I could already feel a heaviness in my legs. Uh oh. Not a good sign. Regardless I felt full of pep on loop 1. Loop 2 was a slightly different story. The sun came out and burned off the mist, and the huge climb out of Grindleford was starting to get to me. I was also aware I wasn't eating as much as I should but was finding it hard to force food down. Onto loop 3 and my attitude had gone from 'Let's do this!' to 'Let's get through this.'. As I finished that 300m elevation 10km long climb (just as leg-busting as it sounds) out of Grindleford for the third time I decided that next time I genuinely might not be able to get myself back out of the valley. Without the pressure of being in a race, and doing this only for myself, I cycled myself to within view of Stanage Edge and turned around for home. I wasn't too happy coming home into T2 but after some coca cola and toast I could drag myself back out again. Paul said he'd meet me in Endcliffe Park in an hour and do some of the run with me.
The run! 13.3km of grind
The plan was to do a loop of Mount Pleasant Park, head to Endcliffe Park and do four 4km loops and head back home. Multiple loop runs are not my idea of fun but I'd tried to design a route with the least climbing possible and that's quite a challenge in Sheffield!
It was slow going and I was way behind time when I rounded the corner back into Encliffe Park at the end of loop 1 and saw Paul. We had a chat, I ate a bit of food and we set off. I'd been moving for almost 6 hours by this point and was delighted to have some company. Sometimes Paul and I struggle to run together - our paces don't match up very well and I often end up overextending myself trying to keep up with what feels very easy for him. As you can imagine this can have sticky consequences. This time however, he was just what I needed. We completed loop 2 together and I decided to call it a day. He hopped on his bike and accompanied my run back home.
Finish! 60ish miles overall rather than 70.3
Although I didn't complete the original intended distance, I am incredibly proud of myself for getting out there and giving it a go. More than that, I am proud of myself for being genuinely content with my decisions to cut the bike and run short. This kind of acceptance and understanding of myself is a huge new development. Paul called it 'athletic maturity' and that's a phrase I really really like. Unfortunately it's not an attitude I can replicate in every area of my life... yet!
Turning disappointment into triumph
That week when I had to cancel an event that I had prepared for 6 months for was incredibly hard and those of you that follow me on social media will know I was quite emotional and hard on myself about that decision. Recovering from that emotionally and physically was difficult, and deciding to give things a go on my own was also very challenging.
Could I do it? Was I capable? Was this sensible?
A year or so ago, running a marathon still felt like a failure. Now it's 2019 and I finished Lucy's 60.0(ish) with a huge sense of power and pride in my mental and physical capabilities. If that's not progress, I don't know what is.