St Neots Standard Triathlon – World Championship Qualifier (Heather)

Anyone who has seen me at the start of a triathlon (or any race for that matter) will know that I’m always a bag of nerves. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was my first race, each and every time. Well not today, today I was pretty chilled. I’m not sure why? It’s not as if I’d trained for it. Allie gave me the summer off after IM Switzerland. OK, I’ve done lots of ‘coffee and cake’ or better still ‘lunch and beers’ cycling in Spain, but nothing that would be recognised as race training. Maybe that’s it, I had no expectations and nothing to prove.

When I entered the race I’d thought, ‘Oooh, a 9:10am start, how civilised’. But By mid week it was obvious that it was going to be a hot one and for once I would have liked the earlier start. Stood on the banks of the River Ouse in blazing sunshine at 8am I was very jealous of the Aqua-bikers who started over an hour before me. Being an ‘old bird’, I was in the last wave (FV45+).

I thought that being surrounded by similarly aged ladies the swim would be relatively calm and polite but I hadn’t banked on the added aggression that comes with a World Championship qualifier. I was punched and kicked for the first ~200m, perhaps my fault for being overly conservative and positioning myself at the back but once I found some clear water nearer the bank I had a pretty good swim to the turn around. At this point the buoys directed us back towards the right and the centre of the river. One ‘lady’ who had ‘fallen off’ the front pack and I was trying to pass on kept veering off course as I was trying to pass her. She clearly objected and decided to boot me in the face. Most of the buffeting you get in the swim is purely accidental, people just trying to find their own space. This was very definitely deliberate, totally unnecessary and very unladylike! The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful but it felt long. It wasn’t but that’s what you get for swimming, maybe once a week all summer.

Out of the water and into T1, there were, to my surprise, lots of bikes still in transition, can’t have been that bad a swim!

T1 was slow. I didn’t make tea but you could be forgiven for thinking I had. A good four or five ladies came and went while I faffed with who knows what? But eventually I made it out onto the bike.

Now I felt at home. Now I was in my happy place and I started picking off other athletes. I was conscious that it was already really quiet hot so I maybe didn’t hammer the bike as hard as I normally would, but also my gears weren’t behaving themselves properly. Serves me right, I hadn’t checked the bike over since Switzerland which I paid for good and proper on the first proper hill. Only short but steep enough for me to go hunting for the easiest gear and throwing the chain straight off almost having me off too. After that, I avoided the bigger cogs, just in case. Once back on the bike I continued to pick people off and returned to transition in front of the majority of ladies in my wave and a good number of men in the wave in front.

T2 was quicker, not speedy but I don’t think anyone overtook me in T2.

As I went out onto the run Paul, a fellow Triforce member, overtook me pretty much straight away. I tried to stay with him for a bit but he was too strong and with a baking hot 10k ahead of me I let him go. (Like I had any choice 😂). Two ladies in my wave also overtook me pretty quickly on the first lap but I was already running at a pace I felt was only possibly sustainable for the next K. Although in the end my run was pretty consistently paced albeit with quite noticeably slower sections where there was no shade. It was 3k to the first water station and they have to be some of the longest Ks I’ve ever run but bumping into Jess, also from Triforce, helped lift the spirits. A chat with Richard (more Triforce, can you tell the race was part of our race series yet?). On the second lap helped the Ks tick passed much quicker than expected. Just after the last water station a lady from my wave came steaming past me like I was standing still (turns out she wasn’t in my age group but the one below but OMG was she shifting!) I didn’t know where I was in the rankings and even if I had, there was nothing I could have done about it and with about a K to go the lady who eventually won my age group came past. If I’d known who she was I still don’t think I’d have been able to stay with her, she took 30s out of me in the last km and nearly 5 mins overall. But finishing second in my age group, in a race where half the competitors were hoping to qualify for the World Championships, I’ll take that!

The best bit, they poured a bucket of water over me at the finish line and let us back in the river to cool off. That river was much nicer the second time around (but getting out again was more difficult 😂) The thing that surprised me the most was how completely and utterly exhausted I was Sunday afternoon. Heat exhaustion is a real thing apparently 🤷‍♀️

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