A day in the lakes
For the past few weeks, I've had this thought lurking at the back of my head, telling me I better get down to Loch Lomond for some open water training. But it's just been so cold and so rainy. And, honestly, I'd just rather be riding my bike. So I've ignored the open water training and was feeling more than a little bit nervous in the run up to 'A Day in the Lakes' tri. Memories of my last half-ironman distance tri were reminding me just how horrific the swim can be. At 4am, lying in my tent and listening to the wind howling, I was pretty confident I was in for another nasty one.
Morning, and despite the dark clouds and wind, I'm dancing a little jig round the carpark. They've shortened the swim - it's too choppy!! Sent Neil a text telling him that, although it was going to be a filthy swim, at least it would only be 15min of misery rather than 40. Ha! I wish. Turns out I was in the water for 28minutes. I couldn't see any of the marker buoys for the giant waves but every now and then I'd spot another orange cap bobbing around and would try to follow them. I spotted at least two people getting rescued by kayaks and Kay actually had one of the safety boats come up and tell her she was swimming entirely the wrong direction. Even people who looked like fantastic swimmers were getting disorientated and resorting to breast stroke so they could at least see where they were going. Eventually, I stumbled out the water, happy to still be alive and get to the real part of triathlon.
I'd been feeling quite sick during the night. Told myself it was probably pre-race nerves, even though I've never felt sick like that before any race. I could probably have done with paying more attention to that. A choppy sea-sickness inducing swim didn't help but I was aware I hadn't had much breakfast and needed to eat. I managed a mouthful of cereal bar but even that felt like too much. I decided to leave eating til later in the race but even drinking proved difficult over the next few hours. Minus the stomach pains, I was feeling strong going up the Kirkstone pass. Almost 10 people overtook me at the start of the climb but I'd passed them all by the end, just where it gets steepest. I think the gearing on my bike helps and just the fact that I'm willing to be patient and keep on working til the end. The descent was great but a little bit scary on one of the corners where the road surface was damaged and my wheels skidded. Luckily I managed to stay on the bike, it could have all gone horribly wrong.
Further on in the course, I was feeling pleased I'd managed to eat some jellybeans but noticed my knee was starting to hurt. I'd been aware of slight knee issues over the past few weeks and had been trying to stretch and rest as much as possible. I'd also had the seatpost off my bike so I'm not sure whether it was slightly at the wrong height. Either way, by the last hour of the bike ride, both stomach and knee were causing me so much pain I had decided not to do the run. Just get through the bike then let myself recover.
It's really rare for me to give up during a race. I'm not saying I'm really tough but, in the same way as I don't get vertigo because it never occurs to me to look down, I don't give up because it never occurs to me that it's an option. Coming into transition after the bike, the cheers from the spectators carried me onwards and I somehow found myself swapping cycling shoes for trainers, stuffing more jellybeans in my back pocket and setting out on the run. Along the road and up the hill, more people, more cheering.
Then suddenly I stopped, stood still and thought. I could do the race, I could drag my sick, dehydrated body round a brutal 2.5hr fell run and risk damaging my knee for the next few months. And get sunburnt and sicker. And who would benefit from that? I've done other races. What is the reason I race for anyway? I'm not sure I really know. Suddenly it was all much simpler and happier. I turned around, walked back to transition and watched the leading runners come in. I had a massage then watched some more as people finished their own journeys, some of them eeking out a sprint finish, others being supported by friends and family over the line. I still don't really know why I race but I think it's something to do with that shared experience. So, even without finishing, it was still a lovely race to finish with.
And, given how sick I was when I got home, I'm guessing my pre-race nerves were something closer to food poisoning. Doing the run could probably have landed me in hospital on a drip. So lets be glad I managed to be sensible for once!!