Yesterday I competed in my first half ironman (middle distance triathlon) at Graham Water in Cambridgeshire. Before yesterday I had never raced further than 10km (running race), so the half marathon at the end was a bit of a step up to say the least. The total distance of a half ironman is a 1.9km swim, 91km bike and 21km run. The triathlons I am used to doing are a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and a 10km run.
The weather turned out to be much nicer than the torrential downpours of the day before. The sun came out although it was rather windy. Just before the race start, the organisers announced the swim was going to be shortened to one lap rather than two (making it 950m instead of 1900m) because the water was too cold. This suited me as it remains my weakest discipline of the three, but was also frustrating because I need to practice swimming at that distance in a competitive environment. The weather from the day before had stirred up the lake so it was like swimming in green soup. I didn’t realise until I had finished that there were 700 competitors in the water at the same time. This explained why I had to fight my way round the swim, I kept getting boxed in as there was very little space.
The bike was described as a fast course if the conditions were favourable. It definitely was not a fast course as there were plenty of hills and seriously bad head winds. The scenery was lovely and in the most part the road surfaces were great (fellow cyclists will understand the importance of a nice smooth road surface – avoids a very sore bottom!). The route was a series of out and backs, so every hill I went down I knew I would have to go back up it. It was also tough being out on your own for so long – I had to stop myself thinking about what I wanted to eat!
After what seemed like an eternity I arrived back at transition. I was welcomed by an almighty cheer and I thought I heard someone shout first lady! Well I knew that wasn’t right as there was definitely at least one other in front of me. It was a lovely reception though!
Onto the run. This was a two lap route out along the dam wall and then back around the reservoir along trail routes (not flat) with lots of weekend walkers and cyclists. This proved rather tricky on the second loop when all competitors were out on the route along with cars at some points! The first lap was tough, running after being on the bike for so long was a shock and the headwind along the dam was horrible. By the second lap I managed to relax a bit more into it. The best thing about the laps was being able to run past my family twice on each lap who had come to watch. Replacing the grimace with a smile always helps to keep me going!
It was definitely a relief to cross the finishing line. My times were 00:14:22 swim, 02:42:32 bike, 01:29:42 run, making a total time of 04:28:09. I was delighted to win my age group and come second overall to a Dutch elite athlete. It was made extra special by John from AlphaWoolfe who presented my prize to me as he was a race sponsor.
Going into the race I had no expectations as it was a new challenge. Now I have a benchmark, I am looking forward to working on it! I have the Staffordshire 70.3k event next, which is my first Ironman branded event, which I am sure will be a totally different experience.
Thank you to my sponsors for making this possible.