The morning after the day before … well I don’t feel as bad as anticipated. That’s a positive start.
So how did we get here? It’s not all about the race day more over the journey that got us there.
July 2022 – Ryan suggests to the team a great idea that we should flood the Cotswold 113 event with as many club members as we can for as many of us to do the middle distance event. For some of us this was our first, me included, whereas some were returning seasoned pros.
Our group chat was set up on WhatsApp and spirits were high as people, one by one, signed on the dotted line and committed to training. The old adage of fail to prepare and you should prepare to fail sat in the back of the mind.
Every now and again items would appear in the group chat about tips and suggestions on kit, training and anything else we could think of.
January came and the training plans started proper, building in fitness levels already in the bag in following training plans.
As with all sports there were and are ups and downs throughout the whole process, including injury setbacks and at times the general thoughts of “what the hell am I doing?” “Why am I doing this?” And for someone like me, “will I even make it?”
We are lucky we have an incredible inclusive and caring club, nothing is to small for anyone and people will where they can move heaven and earth to help and accommodate each and everyone. This went along way to getting us all to where we did on yesterday, 4th June 2023.
Events started popping up in the calendar, and every event that I entered was to act as part of my training plan for the bigger event.
The build up to race day came starting with our own club event and we got it out the way and then focused on the end game , the 113.
Friendly messages of encouragement were exchanged between us all, messages of thanks and luck passed from each and everyone of us.
The day before a small contingent headed to the race venue to make sure we could get prime spot on the finish line with the club marquee. This was to act as a HQ for supporting members who had set out their intentions early to be there for competitors. With glorious sunshine, a great picturesque setting, it was time to get the mindset ready for what was set to be an epic day.
Sunday morning 0300… awake . Alarm time 0400 … a sleepless night worrying about everything the race was going to throw at me, coupled with nausea most of the day before, it was about going through that race day routines … breakfast, a final kit check and get the car loaded and before I knew it, it was time to go and collect Katie K before heading down to the Cotswold water park.
We had arrived, there was no going back… this. was. it.
The car park was filling up quick and followed by Jon M into the car park, we unloaded and made our way to transition. Straight away TTG kit was spotted in the way of Katie W and Luke (not Luke actually, not a single item of club stash on display until racing started). We didn’t even have to walk 100m before another TTGer in the form of Hannah B was spotted. Spirits were high and although nervous , we laughed and joked as we made our way to transition. Into the water park and into the racking area.
Registering together meant racking together and slowly but surely one by one, all 19 of the TTG contingent were in transition. We spoke to each other, made jokes and generally tried to keep one another calm. Some made last attempts at the porta potties even with the large queues.
06:30 transition closure, and it was staring to get real…
What was great was Gordy was there, taking photos and smiling being his usual loud friendly self. A few quiet words in my ear certainly helped. It was nice to have an experienced head there that was not only there for the craic, but also to critique the hell out of us and support us all the same.
It was overcast and cloudy on the weather front, with a slight chill in the air, but there was steam coming off the water, something to look forward to if nothing else than to warm up. General chit chat before was how cold it was going to be on the bike out of the water initially but I thought I would just risk it, knowing how little time it takes for me to start cooking when I’m moving….
Our start time was approaching and we were all huddled under our marquee and I just needed to get in the water … my one crystal clear thought and memory of these last remaining minutes, before my impending pain and doom was seeing Pete B casually walking up towards the marquee , with a big beaming smile and me looking at him as if to say “What the….? “ There’s plenty of time left “ he says as I’m there , hi-viz yellow hat, goggles and wetsuit on ready to get in the water and he is still dressed casually wandering around race HQ…
That aside, in I went, promptly followed by a number of other team mates.
The decision to just do a continuous rolling start for all athletes put pay to any more waiting and before I knew it, I had found my swimming buddy , switched my head off and just starting going. I felt happy, having put away the 1500m on the 51fiver two weeks previous. I say that but then “my switched off” head then reactivated . About 100m from the first left turn about 300m into the swim, I could feel something brewing. I lost my rhythm and felt my self starting to panic. I had not gone off too quick and I had felt good but something just happened to make this feeling come. Probably a mixture of not even having reached the first turning bouy and seeing the others a LONG WAY AWAY it just allowed the doubt to set in. I may come across as confident at times, but believe you me, I spend more time doubting and critiquing my own ability than you can imagine. I felt myself looking for the safety team , and they too were a long way from me, and I desperately did not want to use them if possible, so I called out to Katie K, my trusted and helpful swimming buddy , unnecessarily breaking her effortless rhythm, who promptly stopped and checked on and reassured me. For one reason or another that was it, the panic went and I settled into an alternating rhythm of freestyle and breaststroke. The sun started to poke through the clouds and we continued on our way.
The water was lovely and warm and clear but every turn made me think “How much longer can this go on for?”
The final buoy was turned and then it was a head for the finish… cue shouty Dave, encouraging each and every athlete towards the swim finish. It’s nearly time I thought.
One final push and getting out of the water together with my swimming buddy , we made our way into T1.
I purposely took my time, bit of nutrition, suncream, bike kit on and then made my way onto the bike course. This is where I felt the most pressure… I’d done my worst discipline and was time to start making my money back. No power meters on my TT bike meant that I was going for HR targeting.
I settled into the bike course and tried to keep in my numbers.
Whilst potholes were marked , what you couldn’t account for was over taking other riders (or being overtaken) and avoiding them , interspersed with the shadow from the now rising sun making the holes and divots harder to see. A two-lap course on mainly flat roads. The first lap was great with little breeze or traffic , and seeing other TTGers on the course , often shouting words of encouragement as they zoomed past the other way . What was worrying to see at stages was some of the bikes that passed me were soon roadside getting technical assistance from the mobile mechanics with punctures, mainly those with disk wheels . On the approach to the aid station road as I have now called it, I caught Chris P and exchanged some jovialities with him… Marshalls up ahead at the junction wanted us to slow which I did, I couldn’t see anything so when I could see the right was clear, started to apply the power down, only to see a tractor and trailer on the left coming the other way and grabbed the breaks, sliding the back end out slightly but staying up right, Squeaky bum time, but made me realise the marshalls know what they are doing, listen to them! What made me laugh was Chris then shouting “ Don’t worry Ade, I think you’d have won that battle anyway” I don’t know whether to take that a compliment or not, but it made me chuckle.
The second lap, well that was a different story. Starting to think about having to get off the bike to run, increased wind and traffic conditions.
The first worry was just before going onto the A419/A417 turnaround and going into second half of the course , I think by the Meysey Hampton village area a very slick looking fast moving bike passed me whilst I was pushing 23/24 mph , and promptly after a few seconds had to anchor in his breaks and avoid a car that, without looking, decided it wanted to pull out of a parking space and perform a U turn in the road, and then decided to stop mid manoeuvre leaving the cyclist with the option of over the bonnet or into the backend of the car… thankfully the open junction and some quick thinking by the cyclist meant he could get round unscathed , but a definite heart in the mouth moment… unfortunately this was not the last time this happened.
Slowly catching more TTGers and speaking as we progressed. I saw Ryan appear on the horizon and I tried to use him as a carrot dangling in front of me. I could see him moving around on the bike a lot and he appeared to be in a bit of discomfort. I thought something wasn’t right and was thinking, if something is wrong with him, what is going to happen to me? I was worried enough to ask him if he was ok and he said his back was hurting but told me to carry on and get it done.
Another heart in the mouth moment came when I saw an Ambulance on a bend, blues lit up and a Marshall waving flags. My instant thought was “please don’t be one of our team” (I know I wasn’t alone in this thought and whilst I didn’t want anyone to get hurt racing, I really didn’t want it to be one of our team) and I dropped my speed and carefully navigated past. Instinctively I wanted to help, but I’m no paramedic, and there were plenty of them around the athlete on the floor. it was unfortunately the only Passion fit athlete that was on the course who looked like he was in a bit of pain, and I spent a good few minutes afterwards hoping he wasn’t too seriously hurt.
The rest of the ride was fairly non descriptive, other than some indecision by motorists who didn’t know whether to overtake cyclists and invariably had queues of bikes behind them waiting to pass them in turn. Personally, I felt that I had nailed on my fuelling and hydration, more over the salt tabs intake so thought that I was ready to run.
Approached T2 and got off the bike to a great round of support from our supporting crew , and surprisingly legs felt fine , made it to my racking spot and donned my trainers, hat and sunglasses… all I could hear was Charlie telling me to stop spraying mist on my face and get on with it – it was suncream, and I think I vaguely recall grunting this back at her, (sorry Charlie) … which made me chuckle , then only the small task of 13.2 miles to go. I decided it was best to break it into laps so it didn’t seem as daunting…. Start slow and build into it.
A little shout from Gordy at the exit of T2 (and left hanging for the third, possibly fourth time of the day, Sorry G) and off I went, start slow and build, start slow and build … start slow and bang – CRAMP. I then started to doubt myself -What had I done wrong? Maybe it’s all in my head, I can’t be suffering like this, this quickly into the run. I passed the children’s beach and heard “Daddy” and could see both of my boys happily playing and waving in the water… a small distraction for what was about to come.
I pushed on round the top lake and down the path, feeling like I would go quicker backwards than forwards and I managed to keep going to the first aid station. HR felt good, pace was abysmal, but I was moving. I kept telling myself it will pass. I got out onto the road and it hit me proper, both legs locked out with cramp front and back. I had to walk and and then stop to stretch. I honestly thought I couldn’t make it. I saw Gav at this point who was running strong the other way who then stopped and asked “What can I do?” My reply “Don’t worry about me, get your own race done!” said in the nicest possible way. Honestly that was really amazing but I didn’t want to be the reason someone else’s race was ruined. (Thanks Gav)
I thought to myself, (with the thought of Ryan and Gordy in my ear saying it too ) “DBS and get it done, by any means possible” so make it to the next aid station and then reevaluate… I made it to aid station 2 and put away more water after smashing more salt tabs and tried to eat some crisps, well they came back quicker than they went away , so I knocked them on the head and just drank more water. Walk/March and then run was the order for the next 9 miles.
End of lap 1 just by t2 exit Jon M sprung past me like a gazelle, barely troubled it seemed whilst I felt like I was running through tar, or more like the wounded gazelle that was waiting to be captured by the lions.
I could feel the emotions getting the better of me each time family came into view and had to hold it together when I passed them for the second time. I went to some lonely places in my head as more and more runners passed me in varying locations. I just kept repeating “get it done” in my head. At some point I remember passing supporting people thinking “How do they all know my name? Who have I not waved to or acknowledged that I know?” And then it dawned on me that my name was on my number and everyone was getting the same treatment. This was amazing, families who were enjoying their Sunday at the water park just casually cheering people on, even at points handing out fried chicken to runners I was told. It also good to recognise what racing for that period of time does to your head.
At some point I heard a friendly voice behind me of Chris P who jogged up to me, next to me and then away from me through the second aid station. He told me just to keep trundling and off he disappeared. Whilst it may not seem it to others, that to me was again an inspiration to keep pushing.
I made it to every aid station, pouring water over me and drinking a cup as I did so… and then passed the finishing straight for the last time knowing ONE MORE LAP to go…the support at the finishing straight was immense from our contingent… and was much needed, out in the last lap, Jon C and John H and I was then joined by Hannah B , who told me of her ordeal, worrying about Hannah B made me realise that although I was suffering, I was not going through what she was going through, again a huge inspiration to not give up. At this point, there was no going back. We stayed together for a short time before again I had to walk again, but then I found some more in the legs and thought less than a park run to go….
I caught up with Chris P again and we trundled together to the next aid station and for some reason I thought it’s now or never and said to Chris to come with me… I don’t know what came over me at this point, but I knew it was nearly done. I felt like I was moving well despite the cramp. I poked at my watch to check my pace and HR and it had died, I was mortified. Maybe this was the realisation that I am maybe too reliant on tech to help guide me… but moreover, how was it going to load to Strava? If it ain’t on Strava it doesn’t count – right?
I put that aside and could hear the announcer as I moved towards the final bit of wood to turn towards the lake… GET IT DONE… towards the final aid station and I could see a Marshall holding out water. Now was not the time to stop and drink… so I just said , throw them over me … he looked at me as if to say – “Are you sure?” but didn’t wait for a reply and then flung it in my face and chest. Just make it to the finish I thought to myself !
The finish line was in sight – the pain was mounting… It was a case of getting over the line.
Before I knew it, I got there, I got it done… I did it….. and then promptly dropped to me knees neglecting my youngest who had fallen over 10 feet from the line is a desperate bid to finish with me .
Albeit briefly, I cried as the emotions just left me , and I was greeted by cheers from the team, and big smiles from Gav and Pete B who stood around me and offered to help me away… suddenly stopping did me no favours, however, getting moving again I felt confident to walk unaided, but am ever grateful to them for being there just in case.
This was a middle distance but this was my Everest. Reflection on where I have come from makes me all the more appreciative of it and whilst disappointed with the running aspect, I did not give up and got there. I thought I had a target of sub 6 in my head and was disappointed not to get there… but this was my first .
I said never again… I probably still think that, but 12 months ago I said I’ll only do one to say I’ve done it… and look where that got me.
Ultimately, I feel proud to be part of such a great club, one that has supported me in my journey which is only really just getting started. Well done to everyone who did take part and clearly smashed their race and showed true grit and determination. Thanks to those that come and supported and made the day all the more special.
Click on the video links below to see the photos and videos of the day in motion; from start to finish.
Credit to Charlie Barnard, Club Secretary, for collating video and imagery for the videos. All of the videos are on our Facebook and Instagram page.