Sunday 21st May 2023 – Water temp 17*  Weather Sunny

Sunday saw an early start for 3 members travelling down to the familiar and favourite lake at the Cotswold water Park, Lake 32 for the 51Fiver Standard distance triathlon. Adey , Katie K and Andy J were the competitors, with Ryan heading down as the support crew.  A 0500 hours depart from home for all down to the site to allow registration and racking before a 0700 wave 2 start for Adey and Katie and a 0730 wave 3 start for Andy.

To set the scene, the water park was buzzing with Athletes, some who were enjoying the atmosphere, the venue and the weather, chilling out making small talk with other competitors, and others who were going through what appeared to be their pre-race routines.

The standard pre-race motivational music was playing loudly building spirits which was drowned out as soon as you stepped into transition and came face to face with Shouty Dave (If you know, you know.)

Wave 1 was called to the front and promptly despatched into the water and sent on their way. Cometh the hour…

I have made no secret about my fears and issues with open water, to the point that I’m pretty much sure its starting to annoy people (I’m sorry). From my point of view though, whilst waiting for the all clear to get in the water for the acclimatisation dip, I withdrew myself from the chat, and watched as wave 1 turned the first buoy.  I don’t know why, but my blood ran cold and I instantly felt fear and the overwhelming urge to walk away. Was it the distance? The open water? In all honesty, I have no idea. I was very lucky to have both Katie and Ryan as calming influences and the announcer opened the water to Wave 2. I knew it was now or never. I took to the water, dipped under and then swam 10-15m out before turning about getting some confidence with each stroke. I did this 2/3 times.  The water was nothing short of perfect for the conditions. Katie was a little more reserved and stood at the water’s edge, happy to prepare from there.

 The call came out to form up in the starter’s funnel and those who wanted the “mass water start” were in, counted down and sent on their way. Opting for the individual start, Myself and Katie, who had kindly agreed to be my chaperone for the swim course, waited patiently to be given the nod. A quick change of swim hats for me to make me more identifiable to the safety crew seemed to settle the nerves a little more, If nothing else than to act as a placebo. The line was lifted and we were ushered into the water and off we went.  A clockwise 1500 m circuit of the lake awaited. Crystal clear water and competitors just doing their own thing. Regular shoulder checks and glances across to Katie ensured that all appeared to be going to plan. The sun was lifting in the sky and the water was gleaming. Plenty of safety crews in the water by the usual means of canoes, paddle boards and boats, which looked largely unused throughout by competitors, even more reason for me to want to avoid them. We eventually made it to the final turn and then headed for the swim exit. Cue Shouty Dave. Even with my ear plugs in and the splashing of water, Dave’s motivational shout ran out across the water. One last push and I touched down on dry land and was out. I had done it. Got it done. I think I even broke a smile, I turned to look for Katie who was just getting out the water herself.

30 minutes to complete the course. I was amazed by this even more so because of how I felt at the start and have felt previously. This has gone a long way to building my confidence and hopefully improving my relationship with the open water.  Don’t think of the distance as a whole, but break it down to buoys and before you know it, its over.

 We made our way to T1 and a fist bump to Ryan, who was stood next to the entry to transition, was welcomed . We both went into change and collect our bikes.

Out onto the road, and narrowly avoiding a slip on the mount line, I was off on the bike and did not see Katie until the finish line.

The bike course was for the most, a flat course with some rolling bumps , well marshalled and well marked out. A single loop of 40 Km or 24 odd miles whichever way you look at it, this course was to put into practice a race pace and strategy for the 113. Being comfortable on the bike, which only the hours of training could provide, but doing it post swim at a near race pace. I had said to Ryan I was looking for a 1 hr 15 m split for the bike working on 15 min per 5 mile segment or in effect average speed of 20 mph.  Completion time – 1 hr 12/13 (depending on the device used) and an average power output of 261 w for the ride. I was happy with the ride. What I did learn however, that my fuelling strategy may need to be tweaked slightly, even more so with the weather conditions. Today was warming up, and if the weather forecast for the 4th June is anything to go by, it will be the same if not warmer still. Having not tackled this distance before, it was somewhat of an unknown entity but a chance to put the months of previous training to use. It has provided a helpful little insight into what is to come on the 113.

Into T2, greeted by supporters who didn’t know you from Adam but did not waver their support and cheered you on by what ever they could identify you with. (Similarly on the run where plenty of shouts of “Come on Glos” rang in my ears – something I’m more accustomed to hearing at Kingsholm)

A mixture of heat and exertion saw the onset of cramp in my left quad in T2, but taking my time and not rushing felt like the transition was seamless and then it was out onto the run course.

A 10km loop that was marked out well with signage and marshalls alike. The sun by this time was high in the sky and it was warming up. Exposed on the roads with little tree cover or shade, as I ran through the country lanes. Some little inclines, but again this was more about regulating my heart rate and keeping consistent with the pacing strategy. This was the first race I had done without at least one bottle to sip from, knowing that there was an aid station around the 5km mark. A brief stop around 4-5km to stretch out the cramp that was still lingering in the left leg I pushed onto the water station and took on 2/3 cups of water whilst covering my head with at least 1-2 cups. I had maintained around 150-155bpm at around 09:10-09:15 min mile pace and whilst I was playing games in my own head, felt relatively comfortable, even more so when the kms 8 and 9 passed. I could feel my pace pick up slightly at this point and back into the water park.

I caught a glimpse of the team colours running out as I was running in past the exit from T2 and threw a high 5, only to realise later that it was another TTGer who had entered, Rod Gravette, who I can only assume is a former member still proudly wearing club colours. I didn’t expect to see him and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting the high 5 reception I gave him. Round onto the finishing straight and cue Shouty Dave again with his motivational screams at every athlete, helping them make it to the line. There were plenty of supporters lining the finish funnel and as is what is fast becoming a tradition at event now, both of my boys then took the finish funnel to run over the line with me. Reuben, my eldest, gassed off and had his heart set on getting to the line first and I was happy to see him go, whilst little Douglas moved as his little legs would carry him beside me. I cross the line with a 55 min 10 k time, totalling 2 hr 44 for the race. For a first time at the standard distance and using it as an expensive brick session, I was more than happy.

Katie was next home with an overall time of 3 hrs 3 mins, not long followed behind by Andy with a time of 2 hrs 48 , who had gone off in the wave behind us half an hour later.

One thing I will remark on, which is away from the race itself is looking onto the members group chat and seeing how involved everyone gets, following, sharing photos and throwing support our way. Now I do this myself when people are racing but have never experienced it myself. It is a great feeling to sit down afterwards and read through it all and makes it all even more worth it. The support, camaraderie and family atmosphere in this club is amazing, and is one of the reasons why it is a great club to be a part of.

In all it was a great day out. From start to finish it was well run, well organised and well supported. Every athlete supporting each other as they crossed paths and the noise and crowd at the end welcoming everyone home was such a boost to finish on. Highly recommended for all abilities to take part.