Grafman middle distance triathlon was the first triathlon on my calendar for 2016 in the lead up to Ironman Wales in September. It didn’t quite go to plan (does it ever?!), but I still managed to make a 13 minute PB off last years Rubicon which I was happy with.
Learning off last years mistakes and horrific blister experience, I went against my last-minute packing nature and packed all my kit in advance. I even made sure I had two pairs of socks JUST in case they went missing somewhere in transit.
There were 3 of us from Mersey Tri competing at Grafman and we all drove down to Cambridge the day before in what was horrific weather. I actually think it was the heaviest rain I have ever seen in 6 years of living in the UK – complete with freezing temperatures and a nasty wind. It wasn’t looking good for Sundays race being particularly enjoyable. However, Sunday arrived perfectly still with the sun shining, no wind and blue blue skies. A perfect day for racing, but also a good opportunity to end up dehydrated. Yet another lesson learnt – Prepare for the unexpected!
The swim start was well set up where you could enter a section based on your predicted swim time so that the faster swimmers could go up front and the slower ones at the back without fear of being whacked on the head too much. The course was about 900 metres per lap with only 2 buoys so it was a bit tough sighting at times. There was the usual people occasionally grabbing you or trying to swim over your legs and I took in a good few mouthfuls of lake water which didn’t go down too well! The Australian exit was good in theory, but not so good in practice. I’m pretty sure there were a lot of people skipping the exit and just turning around in the water!
Swim over I ran into T1 and it was a quick wetsuit off, helmet, number and shoes on, run out with the bike and jump on at the mount line. You always feel slightly disorientated at this point and the first few minutes of the cycle are spent trying to get your bearings being in a vertical position after swimming horizontally.
Before long I was well on my way in the 90km bike ride which was supposedly flat but still had a few good hills in it. I maxed at 64km an hour down one of them which was fun!! The open roads are always a challenge for a non-drafting race because sometimes there is just no where to go and it can take a while for riders to space out.
Having swallowed a lot of lake water, I really struggled to eat on the bike on this race which is a rare thing for me. I could drink alright, but any kind of food or gel was not sitting well. The temperature meant that I drank through all of my fluids before getting to the first hydration station which meant that I ended up being dehydrated throughout the bike and then leading onto the run. However, despite this I still managed to keep a good pace and even matched the 50 mile TT pace I did the weekend before!
Since running Liverpool Half Marathon in March I’ve done barely any running training while trying to resolve a knee issue which was the result of tight hamstrings. So I knew my run was never going to be fantastic. It was a struggle from the beginning! Definitely a mental battle to just keep going putting one foot in front of the other. A combination of dehydration, lack of food on the bike and a sore foot meant that my pace continued to slip throughout the run, but I was still faster than last year even though it seemed like EVERYONE was overtaking me!
It’s easy to look back and see everything you did wrong in a race, but at the end of the day I’m happy with my achievement, proud to have finished and proud of my body’s strength to get me through to the finish line in one piece!
Next stop Cotswolds middle distance – after racing a 100 mile, 25 mile and 10 mile TT in the weeks before!