Hever Castle Triathlon – I DIDN’T DIE

A couple of weeks ago, I completed my first triathlon and I didn’t die! However, I did contract norovirus, so there was a point post-triathlon where death was a real possibility (not really, but it felt like it).

Apart from the norovirus, I enjoyed my first triathlon a lot more than anticipated. The event was well-organised, the staff and marshals were ever so helpful, and the course itself was beautiful. The race commenced with an open-water swim in Hever Castle Lake, transitioning into a veryyyy hilly cycle through the High Weald of Kent, and finishing off with an off-road run.  

Now that I have stopped vomiting my guts out (you’re welcome), here’s a little breakdown about each stage of the race:

Pre-Race

I spent at least half an hour laying out all my equipment and kit – in fact, I spent so long arranging and re-arranging everything that I almost missed the final call for my wave and had to sprint down to the start line!

When it came to T1 (for those new to triathlon, T1 is the first transition from swim to bike) and T2 (the second transition when you switch from biking to running), I thanked organised and obsessive Mell. God bless her soul.

Swim

This is the discipline that I was dreading; up until recently open water swimming has been a big fear of mine.

However, the swim was surprisingly pleasant! I took my time and just enjoyed it, alternating between front crawl and breaststroke. I was slow, but I was steady and controlled, conserving my energy for the bike and run.

Bike

Much to my astonishment, I located my bike quickly and had a pretty smoooooth T1.

This was my first time taking part in a group ride, and my biggest challenge was adhering to the strict rules around drafting. Whilst I have enough self-awareness not to position myself ludicrously close behind someone’s rear wheel, it was unavoidable when taking on some of the sharp, narrow turns. I hope this will get easier as I become more experienced!

Another issue was my reluctance to take my hands (even one hand) off the bars. Although I had a quick drink in T1, I decided to be brave and reach down to my water bottle. I panicked, dropped the bottle immediately, and made the quick decision to carry on cycling rather than stop suddenly and potentially cause a crash.

Although obviously this was the right decision, it did mean that I became uncomfortably dehydrated – any tips on riding no-hands would be much appreciated! I actually did fall off my bike when it came to the dismount, but that’s a story for another time eh.

Despite the mishaps, I loved riding through the High Weald of Kent; it was the strongest I’ve ever felt on the bike, and my best discipline by quite a long shot.

Run

At T2 I ate two clif bloks, contemplated having a swig of somebody else’s water because by this point, I was parched, then decided that would be completely unacceptable so proceeded towards the run with a mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert.

I had been looking forward to the run – this was my time to shine! Conversely, this was my least favourite of the three disciplines, and I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with my time. This was 100% my own fault; the fact that I didn’t partake in any form of brick session (this is a workout that combines swimming, cycling and/or running into a single session) left me feeling unprepared for the imminent heavy legs and general fatigue. Moving forward, I will definitely be incorporating some bike/run brick workouts into my regime!

Post-Race

Overall, I finished in 281st place out of 465, and 86th female out of 199. I think that’s pretty good for my first triathlon, particularly given the standard of the competitors (there were some absolute BEASTS in the first few waves!)

Have I caught the bug? Yes, both metaphorically and literally (thanks norovirus). Whilst I would like to pretend that Hever Castle Triathlon was a bucket-list thing, I enjoyed it far too much not to come back for more.

So, what’s next? I found out yesterday that I got a place in the London Marathon ballot, much to my surprise/horror/excitement/confusion. I would also like to do a couple of Olympic distance triathlons next year, eventually building up to an Ironman 70.3.

EXCITING TIMES. Annnnd I must conclude with a quote from the Queen (Michelle Obama, not Beyoncé. Or the actual Queen):

There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

Three Things I’ve Learned in the lead up to my first Triathlon

In precisely 11 days, I will have (hopefully!) completed my first triathlon.

I haven’t stuck to my training plan; in fact, I haven’t even looked at my training plan. I could potentially regret this when it comes to triathlon day, and in general I would always advocate following a structured training plan.

However, the reason I’m taking part in this triathlon is purely to see whether I enjoy it. I don’t have a goal in mind; therefore, a plan isn’t necessary for me right now. Please don’t mistake my lack of structured plan as a lack of motivation, as that is definitely not the case! This is also not to say that I haven’t but the work in – I have, but in my own disjointed, unscheduled, rather messy way.

So, here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few months…

  1. I don’t dislike cycling (i.e. I really like cycling but don’t want to admit it)

Whilst running will always be my one true love, I am beginning to find an unexpected joy in cycling.

There is something liberating about riding through the spectacular Surrey hills. Running up and down a hill is challenging, but it’s just not as exciting because you will never achieve enough speed – and, unless you run ultramarathons, you will never go as far.

Unlike running, cycling is a low impact sport; it’s easy on the joints and great for building muscle, especially in your quads, glutes and calves. This has been great post fibular fracture, and I have generally felt stronger since incorporating cycling into my workout schedule.

2. The cost of running vs. triathlon

As a sport, running is relatively accessible; compared to triathlon (and pretty much every other sport), you need a lot less equipment.

I have been ever so lucky as I’ve borrowed some key items including my wetsuit, tri-suit and race belt – plus my bike and helmet were hand-me-downs. If I did not have access to these, the cost to train for my first triathlon could easily have been in the thousands!!

This does not even take into the consideration the cost of the triathlon itself, which is (understandably) pricier than any running race I’ve ever participated in. The triathlon that I am taking part in is a large-scale event, taking place in historic grounds. It’s also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it’s no surprise that these events are so expensive to organise and execute. However, it’s still a barrier to entry which I cannot simply disregard.

Whilst there are alternative methods to getting hold of lower cost equipment (e.g. buying second hand or hiring out kit), I would still argue that triathlon is not an accessible sport. I believe that participating in sport should be available to all those who wish to partake, not just those (like me) who are privileged.

3. I am good enough

Although one of my goals for this year was to be kinder to myself, I often let negative thoughts take over.

‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough’; this is an unhelpful internalised message, but unfortunately it’s a thought process that I re-visit time and time again.

I have been experiencing a fair amount of triathlon related imposter syndrome, and whilst training for a triathlon has not miraculously changed my mindset, it has made me re-think the way that I speak to myself.

‘I CAN’.

‘I WILL’.

*Insert other melodramatic goal orientated statement/positive mantra of your choice*

But in all seriousness, two months ago I refused to get on the bike unless someone was riding with me, and the thought of swimming in open water terrified me (it still does, but less so!)

Stop doubting yourself. Take a deep breath. You are good enough. YOU ARE BEYONCE**

**Don’t follow Beyoncé’s ridiculous 22-day diet plan though. Still disappointed in you for promoting this Queen Bee.