On Monday after Ride London 100, I signed up for my second triathlon and first half ironman distance race - Cotswold 70:3. A group of friends were driving there, had a van for the bikes and camping was all arranged. After consulting with my coach Mark Kleanthous, Ironmate - I secured a last minute place and signed up. We decided it would be ideal training for Ironman Wales now 4 weeks away and good fun - I love camping :) 7 days later, I was up at 4:45am, ate breakfast and headed to the start line. Mightily excited to be wearing my new (and first) tri-suit, I stopped to take in the stunning sunrise before slipping into my new wetsuit (kindly leant to me by Mark.)
By 6:20 we were in the water sharing high fives. I placed myself a few lines back from the front pack and planned to practise drafting this time. I normally find it far easier to find my own space and get my head down on the swim, but practising in open water with Mark made me realise how much effort can be saved by drafting so I thought I'd try it. Turns out it works pretty well! I managed to draft for roughly half of it, and could definitely notice the difference. Loved the 1.9kms swim, finishing in 31 minutes.
Transition 1 went well and I headed out on the flat open road on my bike. In the absence of tri-bars I stayed on the drop handlebars for most of the race. If you are looking for a flat half Iron distance event, I couldn't recommend it enough. There's one or or two small hills but the rest is pretty flat. The swim is in a lovely, calm lake and the run is half off and on roads to keep it varied.
I finished the bike section in 2hrs 40 before going into transition 2 and heading out on the run.
My run fitness and ability is not as strong as the swim and bike so I found it tough to run 13 miles in a race environment. I focused on moving, maintaining a rhythm and getting to the finish line.
Finally I had completed my third run lap and was heading to the finish line. I recall a blur of red carpet, crowds, sprint finish, medal and then I couldn't breathe! I think I'd forgotten to breathe in the final few moments of the sprint finish and and struggled to get the air in. A few deep breaths and I was ok, but then came the flood of relief, pain and emotions. I was proud to have finished my first 1/2 Ironman but was also overwhelmed with the mix of emotions I felt. Run time: 1hr 53minutes
Finishing time: 5hrs 6minutes
It was great to congratulate my friends and then slowly assess what had been achieved as I stood in the queue for the post race massage. Felt loads better after that!
I think the mix of emotions comes from having achieved something new, feeling shattered and also thinking that in 4 weeks I have to do twice that with hills and a few other challenges with it being Wales.
It was the best thing I could have done a few weeks before Ironman Wales - a few days recovery last week left me feeling stronger than ever and the feeling of improvement is a great motivation.
I really enjoyed being at the race with friends, sharing the experience and de-briefing afterwards. It's inspiring to see other people you know overtake you on the course - gives me something to aim for!