What’s your dream birthday scenario? Breakfast in bed and being spoilt all day? Bottomless brunch with friends? Maybe a city break to a trendy European hot spot.
How about waking up at 6am to force a peanut butter and banana sandwich into your face before cycling in the rain to squeeze yourself into neoprene and jumping into the freezing ocean for a swim, cycle a marathon into the wind and up some of Jersey’s biggest hills before running four 2.5k loops of the harbour???
No prizes for guesses which I went for.
Training…or lack of it
If you’ve read anything on here before you’ll know I can run. Not necessarily quickly but I can definitely do it. That means I have a third of a triathlon sorted.
I used to swim to a highish level as a kid before I realised I would have to train in the mornings.
I then got a few lessons from Leigh Chaytor at the local swimming pool who said I wasn’t terrible and with a few tweaks could actually be ok. I swam the 1500m in the pool a couple of times so knew I could make the distance, I’d just have to try it in the sea.
If you’ve never swum in the sea in a triathlon wetsuit on a calm day, do it tomorrow. It’s like flying in water, your body glides effortlessly with barely a kick needed – part of the technique I was hoping to use in the real thing.
Notice I said calm sea? After getting all cocky after a couple of open water swims (OWS), I went out in the smallest of breezes which made the sea feel like a tempest and I struggled to breathe, kick or use my arms. I came out of the water, clinging to the rocks and cursing the moment I ever thought about taming the cruel seas.
And then there is cycling. If running under my own steam, feet touching the ground and mind allowed to roam is my dream, road cycling is my nightmare.
First of all you are clipped into the bike which makes any unexpected stops potential for a painful and embarrassing fall in slow motion. Then, you’re sat on a saddle for multiple hours with only paper-thin cushioning between you and a John Wayne walk. Add in drivers who think overtaking involves trying to play tag with their wingmirror, pedestrians with a mobile phone death wish and chickens in the road (well this is Jersey) and I honestly hate it as much as I love running.
I did a couple of 15 mile rides but didn’t enjoy them. I’d get through the real thing, against my wishes, but I get through. Some of my best bike training was actually cycling to parkrun and being Lead Bike before jumping off and running the course. Brick training with added volunteering. Sweet.
My birthday!! (a.k.a. race day)
After a week of increasing temperatures, Sunday 1 July started with rain and thunder. So much so that there was talk of cancelling the swim due to electrical storms.
Personally I thought the idea of 300 wetsuit-clad athletes being electrocuted and floating around in St Aubins harbour was quite funny but that may have been the nerves talking.
I’d managed to get my timings wrong so had get out of transition sharpish and ended up putting on my wetsuit in the presentation tent with a little help from Tom at 3CI.
And just like that I was traipsing down the steps in my orange swim cap til I was up to my calves in the cold water. I seemed to know half of the figures around me: Graeme from work, Jo from physio, Paul and Dean from parkrun.
It made the waiting more bearable but I still couldn’t wait to get going. Red wave off first, with us a minute later. Starters orders, and my head was plunged underwater with a thousand whirling arms churning up a froth all around me.
Slow and steady might not win the race but it certainly meant that I wouldn’t drown. I kept a constant boring stroke rate, pausing occasionally to avoid feet or buoys in front of me. At one point I got confused that everyone was turning when I thought we still had to go further out but was happy to follow them as it cut a chunk off the distance in my head.
I think I was caught by one of the swimmers who started behind me before being caught in a downpour and then catching up with a red cap. There was a lot of catching going on until the field thinned out and I was among the last to finish.
But I honestly couldn’t care. Climbing out, I felt like a tri-star with people shouting on all sides. Giovanni slapped me on the back and Laura shouted encouragement at me as I headed into T1.
Everything was soaked so was hard to get socks, shoes and helmet on. It was even harder getting my leg over the bike, especially with Vic, Deb, Chris, David, Katie, Jacques and Olivia watching on and cheering (well not Olivia but then she can’t speak yet so it’s fine).
Out onto the usually packed Avenue on my own and I thought I might actually enjoy the bike leg. Until somebody on aerobars flew past and my heart sank. But little by little I got up to speed, keeping in touch with the athletes in front if not catching them.
Until the first hill out of St Aubin where I managed to pull back some time. Only for everyone to shoot off once we got on to the flat. This was to be the story of my cycle.
The wind was in my face in seemingly every direction even after the L’etacq turn, manned by parkrun Matt. Up one more hill, past a guy honking a massive horn (honestly) and back onto the flat of Les Landes.
At this point, I could see the white writing on grey jersey that could only be Graeme in his Fairway kit. True enough, I pulled alongside to chat for a while before he got all aero and took off down a hill. This was to be another theme of my ride.
Five miles later, the same sequence or events. And then on the extended downhill through St Peter’s Valley I was absolutely killing myself to stay in touch. With only a couple of miles to T2, I started pedalling faster, getting my legs ready to run.
In, bike shoes off, trainers on and out of transition in what felt like a flash. This is what I’d been waiting for all day.
I caught Graeme and then just tried to pick off people in front of me, one at a time. I felt like I was running smoothly and within myself, catching people with ease. I even caught up with my CEO Louise, shouting encouragement which fell on dead, in-the-zone ears, and then I realised that she was on the finishing straight heading for a new PB. I was just finishing my first of four laps…
It would have been more upsetting had it not been for seeing some more of the Fairway crew, Alistair, the Finches and the Lechats. I am fairly sure that everyone in Jersey that I knew was either racing, volunteering or cheering.
The course is pretty to look at if not to run. Four laps of hairpin turns made it hard to find a rhythm and it was only made better seeing fellow runners and the ever cheery marshals each time, ticking off lap after lap.
On the last lap, I looked at my watch with two turns to go and realised that I was three minutes inside three hour pace. I could basically walk it in!!
But then I made the final turn to see the big clock above the finish line reading 2:59 and I sprinted as much as I possible could, almost taking out a volunteer collecting timing tags as I did so.
It turns out that because my wave took off a minute later, I still had a couple of minutes to go but my mind panicked and I just bolted without thinking – 2:58:25.
If I’ve forgotten anyone I’m very sorry. The more and more I do these races, the more I realise how much the support of friends and family helps, even if they are not there in person. Knowing that someone is watching your progress on a laptop miles away is a weird, but warming thought.
12 hours into my birthday, I’d completed my second triathlon. Now it was time for the burgers and beer I should’ve been having like a normal person.
There are rumours that I might look into doing an Ironman. By that evening, it felt a long, long way off.