I don’t think any title for any of my posts has ever been as apt. The Windsor Triathlon over the weekend IS this title – the smell of wetsuits and falling into hedges. If you follow this blog you know this was something I was very apprehensive about – I wasn’t doing the full triathlon but the Sprint Relay with Sister and Friend but only having the cycling leg to take on didn’t make this any less daunting. I wasn’t a cyclist, didn’t own a bike, and my legs might as well have been made out of jelly. But we all signed up anyway and I got to training. Like with all things at first time moved really slowly then it came all at once.
And like with all things my period decided to show up at the worst possible time. I prayed it would start earlier in the week and when that started to become less and less of a possibility I switched tactics and started to pray it would come after I finished cycling. An hour after would have been lovely but I would have taken a minute after. A second. Of course that didn’t happen and since I am not a TV advert period lady, I don’t find being on my period the best time to jump out of a plane or ride a bike for 27 kilometres. We drove to Windsor the day before because our wave was at crack-of-dawn o’clock and I could actually pinpoint the moment it started. Cue the pain, blood, and painkillers (that’ll be the title of another post one day). We were at dinner enjoying a lovely Italian meal when I realised that cycling was going to be the least of my problems; I absolutely refused to leave a bloody seat behind when I tagged Sister in the transition. (Did I leave a stain? I know you are all agog with curiosity…read on my friends, read on.)
We had to be in Windsor on the Saturday in order to register, collect the bike, and rack it. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS RAKING ALLOWED ON SUNDAY. As someone who had no idea what racking meant this terrified the crap out of me. What is racking? If I didn’t rack the bike would I get to race? What is racking? What would happen? What is racking? It turns out racking is nothing more than putting your bike in the transition area in the right way. Of course to get into the transition area I had to wear my helmet. Before I could touch the bike I had to wear my helmet, and I had to keep that helmet on until after I re-racked the bike after having cycled. As this was another worry I didn’t want on my shoulders I kept the helmet on the whole event. All day. All of the pictures have me with a helmet on because it was just easier and that way I wouldn’t be able to lose it (something I would probably do).
Saturday was also the day for Friend to swap her wetsuit and try the new one on. Getting one of these things on is possibly the hardest and most hilarious thing I have ever helped anyone do. And yes, I can tell you all that the smell of rubber gets everywhere and likes to linger. Once the laughter had subsided and we’d had dinner, we all had an early night. I was asleep by 9.15 but because the room was so hot we left the window open and I can tell you all that the citizens of Windsor are awake far too long and are far too loud.
The alarm went at 4.15 (in the morning) and it felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. We dressed, ate some dry cereal, and started walking. The hotel was just over a five minute walk to where the shindig was happening so it was easy for us to get there. The start of the swim was 10 minutes away from where I needed to be so after wishing Friend all the luck in the world, Sister found the best vantage point while I went into the transition area (helmet on) and stood by the bike.
Pretty soon swimmers started to arrive. Most of them were not in a team so most of them started to strip out of their wetsuit and into the cycling outfits. This was fascinating. Most of them were wearing the right gear underneath, and many of them had a precise way of getting ready. Some of them were also very good looking and very undressed. It was distracting in the best way possible. When Friend arrived I would love to say I hopped onto the bike but you aren’t allowed to cycle in the transition area and instead have to run with your bike to the mounting area (really called that) which was about 300 meters away. So I ran with the bike, and I mounted. I started to pedal hard and fast. I was flying, I could do this, this bike was my bitch!
About 20 seconds after I started to ride I flew straight into a hedge, like a comedian doing it for laughs. Bike and I crashed into some topiary and I lay there for a second before springing up. I had to get back on the bike. I had to get this done. A man asked me if I was ok (I was). He then asked me if the bike was ok (it was). And that was it. I knew I was going to fall and I was very happy that I had got it over with. Nothing truly bad happened and I survived.
After that it was all about going as fast as I can for as long as I can. I cycled and cycled and thought at so many points I wouldn’t be able to continue. There was an elevation of 115 meters and I felt every single one of those meters. There were two climbs where it was all about the sheer will and determination. They were only bearable because the downhills were so glorious. There was one where water was streaming out of my eyes and snot streaming out of my nose: I was flying and I used that momentum to keep me going for as long as possible. I had no idea how far I’d done (I had hired a free Garmin for the event but had forgotten to switch it on (I know, I know)) but as we were cycling on the motorway I eventually came to a sign for Windsor Town Centre. I was close! The end was in sight! I could do this! I could do this!
I crashed again. Less than 20 seconds away from the finish I crashed again. There was an Event Marshal right there asking me what in the world happened? He asked if I wanted to walk to the end. Walk?! WALK? No. I was on that bike again for the last moment before having to dismount and run with the bike into the transition area where Sister was waiting for me. Once I had racked and passed the timing chip to her, she was on her way, running the last 5km and bringing us to the end of the triathlon. Once I’d checked the status of the bike seat (blood free, woohoo!) I walked out of the transition zone helmet still on, in a slight daze and found Friend just outside. She and I found the best place to cheer Sister on before she crossed the finish line.
In total we finished with a time of 02:06:24 which I was really happy about on Sunday. I was on a high. Today I am not so happy. If I hadn’t fallen twice and had just been a little faster we could have finished under 2 hours. And that would have been amazing. But this is with hindsight and at the time I was cycling as hard as I could. If I ever chose to do it again I will make sure I don’t make the same mistake(s).
I loved being part of the 25th anniversary of the Windsor Triathlon. I loved being part of a team and doing something really out of my comfort zone. Human Race Events, th organisers of the Triathlon were friendly and informative and huge applause to them for making sure everything went smoothly. However not everything was perfect and I have two criticisms:
- The shirts. Seriously Human Race Events if you charge me the same as a man then I expect the shirt I am given to actually fit me the way they actually fit men. If you are going to give me a man’s size and man’s cut then I want money off for being a woman. Just have a look at the pictures. I was in the smallest size and looked like a child dressing up
- One of the sponsors Zipvit were handing out protein bars at the end of the race. By this point we are all starving and have been awake for hours being very physical. Having a woman yelling ONE ONLY WE HAVE A LOT OF FINISHERS TODAY made me want to grab 14 and run away. How was it a surprise to you that you would have a lot of finishers? Did you magically hope that less people would finish so you would have enough product? I wanted two not ten and being yelled at to PUT IT DOWN wasn’t all that fun. In comparison VitaCoco were more than happy for me to have two of their coconut waters.
Thankfully that was it. Everything else about Sunday the 14th of June 2014 was epic.