Monday, 26 May 2014

Challenge 5 - Aberfeldy Sprint Triathlon

Yesterday, Sunday the 25th of May 2014, I took part in my first ever Triathlon, which as I've written about before was a huge achievement for me for a couple of reasons. The main reason that it was such an achievement is because at the beginning of this year I could barely swim. It was also a pretty impressive achievement in another respect because yesterday I strutted about in public in a Triathlon suit and this previously would have probably resulted in my suffering a full blown panic attack at the dreadful thought. Oh also, it's a pretty impressive achievement because anyone who read about my experience of duathlon probably didn't hold much hope that I would manage to cross the finish line yesterday. However, I managed to take some of my own advice and so am now a bona fide athlete.

I took part in a sprint Triathlon so the distances were 750m swim, 20k bike ride and a 5k run. I was confident enough about the bike and run but was absolutely dreading the swim and then coming out of the pool dripping wet, to get on my bike for an hour. Of course, in my typical style, it was only about two weeks ago that I realised that this would be the case. I was operating under the illusion that I'd come out of the pool, go into the changing rooms to dry off and change into dry clothes, perhaps even blow dry my hair and then everyone would line up for the start of the bike race. One of my work colleagues broke the dreadful news to me that this would indeed not be the case. Since then, I've been having recurrent nightmares about this aspect of the challenge.

The thing is, I really hate being cold and go to extreme lengths to avoid it ever happening. For example I wear a heavyweight parka for eleven months out of the year, switching it for a slightly lighter weight parka in July (weather dependent of course). I'm also the type of person who never goes without tights and wears two pairs of pants if I'm wearing a skirt just incase I get 'a chill'. So getting out of a pool soaking wet and spending the next hour and a half outside while sodden didn't really appeal to my natural desire to keep warm at all costs. Of course, despite my constant prayers, wishes and crossed fingers for sunshine, I woke up on Sunday to the sound of rain bouncing against the window.

The Triathlon started at 10am so we had to leave Dundee at 8am in order to get there in time so it was an early start to the day. I was bloody miserable and was grumping at my family who had kindly given up their Sunday to stand in a rainy car park while I fulfilled this task. I prepared my transition area sadly, laying out my jacket, shoes and towel for when I came out of the pool. I hadn't even finished laying everything out and it was already wet because of the rain. I felt like crying.

Then before I had time to change my mind I was easing myself into the swimming pool. As swimming is the weakest aspect of the Triathlon for me, I'd been working fairly hard to practice this but I still had never managed in training to get to thirty lengths without feeling like my lungs might explode or my arms might fall off. For some reason though, in the heat of the competition, I was powering through the swim. I was the fastest one in my lane which felt great and I started to get a little bit of adrenaline going. I lost count of how many lengths I'd done but soon I was getting batted on the head with a float to signal that the next length was my last and that it was almost time to get out and face the dreaded cold.

I dragged myself out of the pool and started to run outside, stopping only briefly to chuck my goggles and nose clip at a random woman in the crowd who I thought was my Mum. She looked nothing like my Mum but I never let that get in the way. I ran down the little blue carpet and then down to my bike where I grabbed the towel and gave my bare arms and legs a quick rub to get rid of the excess water. Then I tried to pull on my clothes over my Triathlon suit. Just a quick FYI for anyone thinking of doing a Triathlon. THIS IS THE HARDEST PART! It took me three minutes to pull clothes on and most of that was spent trying to get my socks on my slightly damp feet and they kept ending up squint. I was so enraged by the process of getting dressed that I forgot all about how cold it was.

Then I was off on the cycle which was a gorgeous route. If anyone is keen on cycling I'd definitely recommend a venture up to Aberfeldy. Also, because I'd practiced the route beforehand I knew what to expect so even when the really steep hills kicked in I didn't stop because I knew that once I reached the top it was an easy(ish) ride down to the finish line. I cycled in to the transition area and tried to park my bike pretty unsuccessfully as it kept falling over so it took me a good minute to get through that transition which was a bit annoying.

I jogged out to the run and was instantly faced with an incredibly steep hill. I hadn't done any hill training during the past few months. Perhaps I enjoy being underprepared for things. Anyhow, I walked up the first part of the hill and then once the incline became more gradual I picked up the pace. It was uphill for 2.5k and at the turning point the views over Aberfeldy were incredible. Then on the way back it was all downhill, which you would think would be good but it's a lot more jarring running downhill and I developed a really bad stitch. It started to get really bad at the 4k mark but I was determined not to stop. I just ran along shouting 'ouch' and 'oh ya f......' quite a lot. I had to slow down quite a bit and about 100 yards from the finish line the pain pulled me up and I bent over double yelling with the pain. Two runners ran past me at this point and looked slightly baffled by the weird girl shouting to herself. One shouted 'keep going' at me which I thought was thoroughly helpful advice.

I managed to pull myself together and ran the last 100 yards to cross the finish line where I promptly collapsed on the bench in an exhausted heap. I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 3 minutes which was around the time I was expecting.

I changed into some dry clothes and we went to get some lunch at The Inn on the Tay which was gorgeous. I sat down in the restaurant only to start shivering uncontrollably and my lips and hands started to go white. Once the adrenaline had gone I think my body started to realise how cold it was. Nothing that a wee cup of tea and some scran didn't solve though.

Overall, it was a great day and I'm immensely proud of myself for pushing myself to learn a new skill and for looking hypothermia in the face and laughing. If you think that this deserves a wee donation please, please donate to either Stroke Association or Sick Kids Friends Foundation by following the links.

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