Stupid Brain…

A bit of background… Last year (2023) I entered the Tri Team Glos race in May on a borrowed bike and with very little experience in swimming or road biking. In fact a whole length of the pool was quite a daunting prospect. However, the race was a triumph for me, due to the fact that i finished it, the support of the TTG members on the course was brilliant, the fantastic  organisation and the course itself.

So I’m hooked, I entered two more races in 2023 both of which I completed. The last one I competed in was in Lydney called ‘The Last Tri’ I did the ‘sprint’ version.

Of course full of ‘vim’ & ‘Vigour’ I got home from that race and immediately entered the following seasons ‘The First Tri’

Not only that… I entered the ‘Olympic’ distance (twice as far in all disciplines) because I was still ‘all hyped up’

Fast forward to Jan 2024 and I start to ‘train (for Triathlon) properly’ I’ve entered 6 races (so far) in 2024 and The First Tri is the ‘The First Tri’ 🙂

Early 2024 I raced in the Tewkesbury Aquathon Series of three races and saw some improvement in my swimming, this has seen me managing to speed up from 13mins for 400mtrs to 9:30 for 400mtrs.

However, The First Tri is a 750mtrs swim and is a ‘race’. To be honest (last years) Lydney Tri series was a bit of a ‘bun fight’ in the pool with 4 swimmers setting off at the same time in each lane. This totally threw me to the point that I panicked in the swim and was quite upset by what I thought was unprofessional organisation. I was wrong of course.

Now I have regular swim coaching sessions with all our Team members in the lanes together I understand a little more what it’s all about. Club coach Charlie has emphasised many times that we should be getting used to the crowded lanes as this is how races are. Of course everyone is courteous and forgiving and it works very well.

April 2024 rears it’s very wet, very windy and very cold head.

“Flipping Heck I’ve got a race at the end of the month”
“I can’t do it”
“It’s too far”
“I’m a silly old fool and what the hell am I thinking”
“The swims too far”
“The bike ride is too hilly”
“The run is too long”
“The bloody railway bridge is there and I have to run over it 4 times”
“The swim is a bun fight”
“I’ll be last”

Time flies and I enter the week of the race, Yes, I’ve trained with long runs, long swims, hilly and long bike rides but I’m still the same ‘silly old fool’ who should know better.

The weather forecast for Sunday is absolutely awful.

Sleepless nights are now on the agenda, waking up early, worrying and doubts.

No-one else from the TTG has entered, I’ll be on my own…

Then I hear that Yvonne has entered. I have only met her briefly at parkrun a couple of times and she is nice and friendly. This gives me a sense of ’support’ to know that at least I’ll have someone to say “hi” to when i arrive.

On the day I’m up at 5am worrying that I did not manage to get the bike route downloaded onto my Garmin.

“I’ll get lost”
“The route signs are crap”
“Why am I doing this

Kit checked for the umpteenth time, It’s raining hard, it’s cold. I’ve got my  ’Toe Warmers’ ‘Arm warmers’ three layers of clothes plus all the usual Triathlon gear. I have snacks, protein, a drink, my watch is charged my Di2 is charged my tyres are pumped and the bike is in good shape… I’m off.

I arrive, luckily for me I did the Last Tri in 2023 so i know the set up here. Sign in is very easy.  I meet Yvonne and her husband, we chat, she is confident and friendly and a seasoned Triathlete and we chat about other stuff such as her wonderful artwork. 

I park my bike, it’s cold, it’s raining. My kit is in plastic bags. One for bike and one for run. I go to change into the tri suit. There are so many fit, younger people here, I feel like a sausage stuffed into its skin. Oh well I’m here now. I watch wave 1 and wave 2 of the swim, these are the quick ones! They are good, my confidence takes another dip.

We are called in for Wave 3 Yvonne is in my wave but in lane 1 and I’m n lane 2. I chat with the 3 other swimmers in my lane and decide I will go last and I discuss with them to touch toes and I’ll be happy to let them pass. I jump in, it’s the deep end, I didn’t know that, I drink half the pool and splutter – it’s going GREAT!

We are off, I even manage to start my watch.

“I’m OK, I can swim”
“Remember what Charlie says”

Remember, high elbow, catch and pull, railway track arms, slow down to go faster, don’t panic swim, breath… Damn you brain… I’m panicking, three others in the lane catch me up and pass, they are friendly and courteous, I’ve counted 16 lengths, 400 gone, over half way. I’m no longer puffed out, I’m relaxing, 20 lengths done, I’m swimming quite nicely now, slow, but quite nicely. Two swimmers in my lane overtake again and have now finished, I’m glad. 6 lengths to go, then 4 to go, the last swimmer in my lane gets out. I’m on my own in the lane. I’m slow, but I’m feeling OK and swimming quite nicely. I look around and I’m the very last in my wave in the whole pool, the pool is empty except me and everyone is watching.

“Swim nice Gary, at least swim nice”

I’m bonked on the head by the lane monitor (I ask her to do this) last two laps to go

“Swim nice Gary”

I finish. The swim timer shout my time. I’m last in my wave but I’ve PB’d the 750mtr. I’m super chuffed and not disappointed to be last. I did exactly what I needed to do.

I meet Yvonne as we transition to the bikes, We pose for a great photo by her hubby and we’re off to bikes.

Transition is very calm for me, I’m not rushing. I put on my new TTG cap and my helmet, also arm warmers, toe warmers, two more layers, gloves, I turn on the Garmin stuff my pockets with snacks and I take a drink… Lesson learned from last year!!!

Adey would be proud – I look like a proper TTG Triathlete. I have all the gear and a little idea.

Unbelievable, it has stopped raining, Thank You!

I’m off, I feel good, 1 mile in… it’s flat, 2 miles in it’s hilly. 5 miles in, it’s really hilly, 10 miles in, it’s hillier than before, I’m OK, I’m catching people easily, two people out of my swim lane are caught, 3, 4 and 5 more bikes are caught, I’m comfortable, Of course it’s hard but I’ve been out biking with Jon, Gavin and Gordon now!!! These are ‘barely hills’ lol

Mile 14 comes and I know from route checking that the worst  hills are now over, I’m comfortable. I eat and drink and feel like I’m doing it ‘proper’. Another ‘kick’ of a hill and then a mile of downhill which takes me under 2 minutes, 3 miles to go. The route signs have been perfect all the way. I’m cruising and thinking about the run.

“Take it steady Gary, you still have a 10k to run”

Last mile comes and a roundabout, did I go the correct way? I look around and slightly panicking for the first time on the bike and then see a bike, I catch him up and ask if he’s in the ‘Olympic’ he is, I’m going the right way. I’m smiling and relaxing into the leisure centre. Straight into transition.

 Have a drink, arm warmers off, one layer off, running shoes on and I’m straight out running. I’m steady, I’ve run for years but running off a bike is different.

“Run steady Gary”
“Remember the coaching”
“Look like a pro”
“Don’t over stride”
“Stand upright”

I’m very comfortable and not pushing. I want to run it all. Last year i had to walk some of it and it was only ONE lap… this year it’s two.

“Don’t push too hard, run it all Gary”

Over that bloody railway bridge round the parkrun course, through the village, back to parkrun and over that bloody railway bridge. Through the park, there will be a drink station… there is, but no-one manning it, no drink (I’m not gonna stop and pour one) back out onto he road, lap one completed.

I feel good, not fast, but good, I’m still counting my cadence (if you are gonna get coaching – then use it). No one has overtaken me on the run and only one on the bike, I’m feeling that i can run it all. Back to the railway bridge, I joke with the marshal that I’m glad I only have to see her once more. I’m still counting my cadence, parkrun again, village again and I’m overtaken by two runners. That spurs me on

“Come on Gary, no more being overtaken”

Over the railway bridge, I pass the drink station, it’s manned, sod it, I’m nearly home. I push for the last 500 meters or so, I feel really good now, I could keep on running. I know that means I didn’t put enough effort in, but it also means that i enjoyed it. I’ll take that and I push into the leisure centre car park and see the finish line. 

Arms aloft I win ‘my’ race. I’ve beaten that stupid brain which kept telling me I couldn’t do it and I’m a silly old fool and I should give up this nonsense.

I wait for Yvonne we have a hug and a photo, she went well. I get a coffee and come back outside to cheer on the other finishers, hardly anyone does this at all.

 A fellow competitor comes over to me and says how great the TTG crew is for being so totally inclusive and cheering everyone on, whatever their capability. She is coming to compete in our own TTG race in May,

I’m proud to wear my club gear when we are thought of so highly by other triathletes. Of course I was even prouder that my name was called to win my age category (even if i was the only one in it and was the oldest competitor in the race)