so I can say I TRIed
so I can say I TRIed

London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report

charlieeliseby charlieeliseDec 29th 2012
This is what I have been working for all season. Building up to a charity place in the world's biggest triathlon. After training for a short sprint tri last year then taking three months off with only some cycle commuting, I went back to the gym in November and started training to get my fitness back before entering four events for 2012.

Of course, I chose the longest race. I had thought for a long time it was 1.5km swim, 90km cycle and 10km run but closer to the date I noticed it said 80km cycle. I'm not one to argue too much with this especially as I had thought it would be easier to put on an 80 rather than 90 course - just send the nutters (me) round the Olympic distance twice! My place was through Shine - a Peterborough based charity helping families cope and care for people with spina bifida and provide education to prevent the condition - plus raising awareness about it and the associated hydrocephalus. I'd been approached on Twitter to join their 'team' and it was great to be part of it.

Anyway the day. It dawned - or rather it hadn't by the time I was supposed to be in the water. 6.30am is an early start, even when you only live a few miles away. Got there with just enough time to organise myself, spend the time I wanted adjusting suit and even popping to the loo at what I thought was the last minute.

We were all there in this massive event space with no windows but painfully aware it wasn't light yet. The overcast morning and forecast rain had made sunrise a bit late, frankly. They held us for 15 minute to wait for Mr Sunshine.

I did feel nervous but not outrageously so. I had really enjoyed my Great London Swim in Victoria Docks and was feeling good and relaxed (unlike Bristol). I did want it over and I was dreading the idea of not enjoying the swim. I had been warned London's swim is horrendous and I was not relishing getting kicked in the face or swum over, even though I know I can hold my own. I was one of about 30 women in the wave. All the others (over 150 - supposed to be 350ish altogether) were men.

With no official warm up I got into the water. Sitting down on the edge first before deciding that this was it and I should probably get it over with. I flooded my suit, kicked about and positioned on the left. I drifted to the front and chatted to some guys and a canoeist. Being tough. (Well. I am tough!) I did some 'race starts' to warm up and generally made myself some room. It's an easy course to understand so bouys on your right - which meant I had further to swim on the left but better that than than a black eye. However if you think I'm going to the back to thrash my way up (as advised by many) you can think again.

We started and I thought to myself: "Is this really the way to start my Sunday?" After my brain got the better of my body we agreed that yes, yes it was. I was overtaken a bit at the beginning as usual. I tried and failed to draft off people. They were either too slow or to annoying for one reason or another. I broke away and chased the chase group. 1500m felt a long way. Once I warmed up (as usual about 600m in) I felt wonderfully comfortable. I had a good pace going. I took it easy. I concentrated on making every pull count. I felt so relaxed with the water supporting me and the temperature seemed so perfect, I felt as if I was in bed (yeah, I'm really odd, I know). But really, that was what I was thinking. It was great.
London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report
I ended up with a group of my own. I got boxed in a bit. I smacked someone on the foot. I tailed them round the last turns. I couldn't see the end. But I did get there and I kicked like hell in the last 200m to try to get some blood to my legs - I didn't want to feel as disorientated as I did in Bristol. I came out and walked up the slope, taking it easy to take care of my dizziness. It wasn't too bad. I ran along, taking off my suit. The boys were there to greet me and told me I was 6th woman out of the water. I struggled to get my suit over my timing chip - how I always forget that I don't know. I shoved it all in a bag (provided) and was screamed at by my friend Sarah who was waiting for her wave at 7.30am.

Time to find Hecate. Right at the end. I spotted the old red and green towel my mum gave me straightaway on the floor. I noticed the guys around me hadn't come in yet. So I knew I was probably doing ok. Helmet, orange specs, shoes, gloves, all on. Shine vest on. Race belt on. Jogged to bike out and probably rather awkwardly got on. Good for me though, at least I didn't require a mounting block. Did not appreciate the slope onto the course which curved around and was very juddery. Not good for dizziness. I thought I was going to come off for sure but I clung on and hoped a lot. It paid off.

Once on the road I mentally ran through the laps. First lap I decided to do what I could and get to know the course. As a small amount of it is my journey to work I had some key potholes memorised, but having said that, without traffic everything was easier and there's less hanging about on the left. I actually enjoyed it. I loved speeding through the tunnel, and overtaking people on the flyover. I even managed to eat on the go.
London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report
On the second lap I was feeling really good. I went as hard as I could. At the beginning of the third lap I was flying. I overtook a women's wave including Hannah, who narrowly beat me at Lakeside and I shouted some tips to an Aussie girl who was trying to catch her friend.

The wind was getting stronger and by halfway through the last lap I was getting tired and was pretty ready to put down the bike. I was doing a great time though. Last year I'd hoped to be averaging 30km/h during races (faster people, please don't laugh, this is progress for me) but with my crash and lack of confidence I'd struggled to get above 25 in training.

But during the race I pushed to stay above 30 as much as possible, and to go as fast as I could when it was easy. Go hard when it's easy, and be tough when it's hard. I didn't quite make 30 but the 29.2kmph average I managed was closer than I'd dared to hope.

The squeaky pedal Hecate developed was a source of amusement and irritation, and my knee although sometimes annoying largely behaved. I just remembered the other day as well, that unlikely as it might seem, I was at one point signing Lady GaGa's 'Hair' during some downhill sections... you can never guarantee what music will pop into your head during races, and how you will react...

Coming back in I was dreading the slope but the mashal seemed so relaxed about me coming up ('Welcome back!' rather than "SLOW DOWN! BE CAREFUL!" on the way out, which, thinking about it, was the thing which most freaked me out) I managed it with minor wobbles only. Off bike and into trainers. Feet completely numb. Aside from the wind it had started to spot with rain and I knew I'd been lucky - like I'd predicted, I started early enough to only run in the wet.
London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report
Grabbed my cap to keep the worst of the weather off my face and drank some Powerade. Finished the bottle on the first lap but I wasn't feeling great. Once the feeling returned to my feet it was easier but my left leg was proving painful. My right knee had been hurting but wasn't so bad on the run, thanks to The Running School's training. I concentrated on my left leg to get it engaged with my brain and picking up correctly, but the usual mental grind of being overtaken by everyone and their granny was tough. I could see from the video they send you afterwards that my left leg was causing me pain and I had a stitch for a while. Getting halfway I was ready to stop, but as I kept plodding I realised I was over halfway and somehow persuaded myself to hold on. Hannah caught me again on the run. I had nothing to give to race her and she pulled away from me, fresh from 'only' 40km on the bike.

Fortunately at the same time I started picking off the elderly and infirm (overtook almost three people by my reckoning, not including people walking but yes counting limping) and my left leg gave up moaning. Thank goodness. By this point I was on the last lap and very much looking forward to finishing. I also realised I was going to finish. This spurred me on and I felt pain free as I did the last lap, although the slight hill up to the centre and indoors was a killer. I'd emptied myself on the bike but it was totally worth it - I knew I was somewhere around the 4.30 mark rather than the 5 hours I'd said previously.

I came around the bend, not quite a sprint finish, but I had had it. I stopped, grabbed a towel and a medal and felt - pain. My legs were very, very unhappy with me. As I headed towards the crowds of people I didn't feel emotional (I did at Bristol) or sick (yet) or anything else... just pain. Wanted to sit down but no place to do it. Then a man in a Shine jersey (Tom) approached me. Despite my brain working very slowly I think I managed to hold a relatively normal conversation and pose for a picture. My special grippy hairband had disappeared somewhere along the way and I had run with my long hair trailing behind me, gently curling in the rain where it wasn't covered by the hat.

The photos from the end show I was very happy to finish, but there's little trace of the immediate pain. I stretched and tried to relieve it but it was hard - it took two days for stairs to cease being a challenge. At least I knew I'd given it my all!

One of the best things about the London Tri is that your timings get delivered almost instantly. By SMS, to your phone. So shortly afterwards my phone said this:

Swim 00:28:31
Bike: 02:49:39
Run: 01:05:26
Total: 04:33:22
Congratulations form the Virgin Active London Triathlon!

Did I enjoy it? Well - I've already entered the standard distance for 2013. What more can I say? A great event - thanks to all the organisers.
London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report
I'm also really grateful to everyone who sponsored me. Altogether, along with my work's 'fundraising match' contribution we gave Shine £1,101. Awesome!

Most of all, huge thanks for everyone cheering in the rain - I had amazing support during the race from friends and the Shine crew - and the photography by Tim gave me a whole set of sweaty memories! Thank you so much, can I book you for next year?!

I'd urge any triathlete to join me on the course for 2013. See you there!

And this is what happened afterwards:
London Triathlon 2012 - Race Report
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