Sink or Swim!

An almost perfect training triathlon

I’ve already done quite a few events this year. I have enjoyed them all hugely even though some have not gone to plan.

During these events I have made mistakes; going off too quickly in new trainers at the London Marathon and stepping on a tree root breaking my toes at the EnduRun24 are the 2 that standout. Although wearing new trainers for the London Marathon does not fit the category of ‘mistake’ it was just downright foolish!

Then, a chance to put everything I had learned into practise. An opportunity to build on what had previously worked and to ditch everything that hadn’t. The idea was that by doing all of that I should have a perfect event.

The Newcastle Triathlon had a great build up. The thought of swimming in the Tyne with a backdrop of famous bridges then cycling and running on the closed roads of my favourite city had me very excited.

Unfortunately, at least this year, it wasn’t to be as the venue had changed to Woodhorn Colliery. Something to do with the Port of Tyne Authority withdrawing permission for the swim. Shame.

Woodhorn it was then and, to be fair, as a venue it is perfect for triathlons. It already hosts other events and I’m sure will continue to do so. A cool clear lake is on the edge of a spacious transition/start/finish area. There are loads of open, flat roads and the path around the lake makes for a brilliant run course.

I kept it to myself exactly how nervous I was about this event going into it. I harboured fearful doubts that I may not finish it. My leg still hadn’t recovered from injury and I hadn’t put in the swim training that I should have done. In actual fact, I had never done an open water swim in a lake under competition conditions. I was told that the water would be less buoyant and the reeds were very long. Without the experience of swimming in a lake at speed and with other arms and legs flailing all over the place I had visions of not making it round. To top it off when I saw the swim course mapped out with buoys it looked very long, especially as it was 2 laps.

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I walked nervously into the water and felt my feet sink into the sludge, I had to tread water and wait, along with all of the other competitors, for the start horn to sound. I took a moment to focus. I knew the distance wasn’t a problem. I was comfortable swimming over a mile in training even if I hadn’t done it lately. I told myself that if I could quickly find a rhythm and stay out of the crowd that I may be able to finish. I was also conscious that I had to pace myself as there was a lot of cycling and running to do afterwards.

The swim turned out to be fantastic. I really enjoyed it after I had settled into a relaxed pace. I managed to pass a fair few people and I finished with plenty of energy feeling that I could have gone a touch faster. I didn’t notice a buoyancy issue, I reckon my Blueseventy Helix wetsuit had a lot to do with that. And the reeds, although annoying, didn’t distract me. I used a new swim technique which I had tried a couple of times beforehand. Over a long distance it really seemed to work. I managed the swim in 28 mins 13 secs which is a very promising pace that I’m over the moon with.

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A poor transition of over 2 minutes set me up for the 43k bike ride. 2 laps of fairly flat Northumberland roads taking us out to Widdrington and then down through Cresswell along the coast back to Woodhorn. The course felt quite quick overall. There were a couple of very shallow inclines and 1 short hill all of which uncovered my leg injury. Although this didn’t effect me directly (I sprinted the hills) I did ease off at times knowing I was going to have to finish well on the bike and then get straight into the run. So I allowed myself respite on some of the flats and slopes.

Once finished the 1:30:26 bike I got through transition and out onto the 3 lap run course of just under 10k. Anyone who has run straight off the bike will tell you how strange and awkward it can be. It was evident immediately that the injury was going to prevent me from striding out and it was also evident that I hadn’t trained on the bike enough. I didn’t have the run that I expected despite more than ample training miles. I had to pause twice to stretch out my leg and keep it moving. Injury aside, if I had trained a bit more on the bike I would have had more strength remaining for the run. My 10k was just over an hour. Although a bit slow I would be more than happy with that kind of pace over an ironman distance as it would equate to around 4hrs:20mins for a marathon.

Looking at the results and having had time to reflect I am delighted with the way I paced myself. I felt great during most of the event and once my leg is treated I am sure that my weak areas can be addressed.

What’s more it is performances like this that motivate me to keep pushing ahead and give me masses of confidence in the #7days7irons challenge next year.

Now I’m looking forward to the Great North Run in September and to completing an Iron Distance triathlon before the end of the year.

Thanks for reading as always and keep following, sharing, tweeting, donating and all of the things you do so well to help raise awareness.

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