Today I lived a dream. 365 days after I promised myself, and the social media world, that I’d take part in the Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon, I flipping well did it.
I awoke at 4am. 45 minutes before my alarm. Feeling *quite* sick. I had to force porridge and a protein shake down at 4.45 and then check and recheck kit. For the 15,000th time. We left the lodge at the Kenmore Club around 5.45 and walked the mile to the start.
Racking was easy. I was way up in the back corner so it wasn’t too cramped or busy. I set everything out, faffed a bit, and then cracked on with peeling myself into my wetsuit.
On the Friday, LiveActive had emailed to advise that, due to lack of Summer and therefore, one FREEZING Loch, the swim would be shortened to 750m. This sent the lads immediately to the BTF rules on swim distances, and they pointed out that actually for 12 degrees, it only needs to be shortened to between 1000-1500m. Anyway. They kept it at 750m in a weird clockwise route which bottlenecked. At 0720, Pink Wave 1 was led to the freezing cold Loch. Which actually wasn’t that bloody bad. I’ve swam in much colder water! I toed the edge and wished the boys good luck, before dousing myself in Loch Tay’s “icy” waters and jumping in.
It’s a treading-water start. Which was tremendous in 12 degrees. The race organiser fired the klaxon and we were off. I tried to go wide to keep away from the carnage, but the kayakers had other ideas and kettled us tight into the buoys. This made it pretty frightening. I was punched, kicked and pushed and then some utter bell-end started full on grabbing my ankles. I have no idea why but one launch backwards of my foot and it stopped. I was out of the skirmish and into the main stretch before long. I will forever remember the scent of two-stroke from the out-board motors zipping about the Loch. I thought a boat must have been very close by at one stage, this made me panic so I took a minute to compose myself and still came out at 14mins. Didn’t even fall over.
Having only really been road-biking since May, this was the scariest part of the entire experience for me. I was worried about the climbs (over 750m of climbing over Schiehallion and back) and I was even more scared of the steep, fast, twisting descents.
Sean and I recce’d the route a few weeks back, so I knew I had the climbs in my legs. Once you reach the bottom of the ‘hill’ (I’d probably prefer to call it a mountain…) it’s 7km of solid, hard climbing. On the way back, you face the same elevation in under 5km. I knew I’d have that to look forward to as well. When we tried the route before, my quads seized on the initial climb. I was so worried this would happen. What ACTUALLY happened was that I fucking nailed the bastard. And over took a lot of people who’d gone out too fast. I took the descents with a little less braking than normal, and allowed a bit of crouched aero-coasting to get some time back. I knew the next bit would be a mental challenge. I then had 30 miles of “gentle undulation”. And I REALLY needed to pee. I tried to pee on stella, but thankfully I got stage fright. I can’t soil my beautiful bike. Happily, they let me nip behind a tent at an aid station so I didn’t have to violate poor, shiny Stella.
I drank and ate according to my plan and felt good. I was averaging 16mph which I knew was fast for me, so on the return round the far side of Loch Rannoch, i dropped down to an easier gear and spun my legs in prep for CLIMB OF DEATH.
Other things to note here:
- TT bikes are very beautiful, but I’m faster up a hill.
- I CAN grab a banana from a feed station and peel it with my teeth
- I CANNOT put a tablet in a water bottle on the move
- I do not enjoy being on my own for long periods of time.
- I LOVE the sound of disc wheels. He caught me up at 24 miles. Shit swimmer.
I took on some Soreen and Electrolyte juice about 10 minutes before CLIMB OF DEATH. What a fucking ace idea. Surprisingly not as fast as the last time I tackled it, but I was overtaking all the way up. And I stayed in my saddle. I did have to grit my teeth, and I’m very sorry to the lovely marshal I managed to ignore when he said “c’mon hen, you love it really…” Who puts drafting marshals on a steep hill climb anyway?!!?!?!?!
I ‘skipped’ up the steep climb and then the slow, winding ascent back up to the junction with the main road. 20km to go. I was going to do this. I WAS DOING THIS.
I may or may not have had a little cry at this point. I’ve worked so damned hard on the bike. In a ridiculously short time. My previously useless legs were kicking serious arse and I was actually loving it.
With 10k to go, and still 3 miles of steep, swooshing descent to go before the seemingly never fucking ending ‘sprint’ back to Feldy for T2, I went for it. No brakes, aero, the lot. I was fucking terrified.
I switched Garmin off at 56 miles but still had 1 to go. That’ll make up for the short swim. I have DEFINITELY covered 70.3 miles today!!!
As I wobbled into T2, I finally saw my family and friends for the first time. I look pretty fresh!
By this point, my arse was in tatters and my neck was getting sore, so I just cracked on with getting ready to… RUN A HALF MARATHON.
Oh fabulous. Just what I want.
Looking Energetic… (It didn’t last)
It started to well. And so steep! They changed the run route to take out the dangerous cross roads and instead opted to take us up what can only be described as Mt Everest. It sucked. So bad. I walked it. And still managed a 5min KM. No idea how. Must’ve rolled down the other side.
In my head, I wanted to run to 10k. I made it to 9km before I visited The Dark Place for the first time. I felt sick, tired and wanted to get to the fucking turn. If you’ve read my Edinburgh Marathon blog, you’ll know my hatred of out-and-back routes… While I LOVED seeing, cheering and getting encouragement from all the other athletes, it was soul destroying not knowing exactly where the turn was. I’d looked on the map and I’d driven it, but it took FUCKING FOREVER to materialise. That and the fact that the “gently undulating” run was actually, in fact, MOUNTAINOUS, made me cry. Quite hard. Until a guy patted me on the back and told me I was nails. That was lovely. Thank you, strange man in tri-suit.
I took on coca-cola at the 10k aid station and immediately perked up. I knew gels wouldn’t work after that, and to be honest they were turning my stomach anyway. So I bashed on and looked for Sean, my bro in law, who I’d forced (not really) to enter this with me. We’d been at each transition just minutes apart so I wanted to see him on the run. Turns out he was just behind me. So the last 11.1km were spent walking the hills and running the flats and downhills with my bro. Perfect.
We reached the last aid station at 12 miles and then I got emotional again. It was so hard. SO HARD. I don’t know how I’ll EVER get to Ironman levels of awesome. That is serious shit. I literally had nothing left.
The most annoying thing about the run is that you have to detour about 50 meters down a hill then back up to make up the distance. I cursed having to do this. I WANTED TO FINISH.
And finish we did. In style.
“let’s hold hands”
*holds Sean’s hand for 4 seconds*
“nah fuck it, RACE YOU”
And there we are.
Split times – DELIGHTED with the bike. That’s 14 mins off my previous effort. The run is only 6 minutes slower than my slowest half marathon. Back when I just ran and ate kebabs.
Sean, Me and Greig, who finished in 5hrs 5mins. Machine.
Every time I set myself a goal, I do so with consideration. I knew I wanted to enter the world of triathlon, and I was determined to do so with some serious nails. Aberfeldy is not for the faint hearted. The climbs are tough. The swim is cold. But my word, it’s just the most beautiful, incredible place to realise this ambition of mine.
How do I feel now? A damned sight less fucked than after the Marathon. Knees are a bit iffy, neck is killing me etc… but I am so so proud. That took serious grit. Especially the half marathon at the end. I dug deep. I had to shout spaghetti ALOT in my head to get round.
When I crossed the line, I heard a voice that sounded VERY like my mum. But her and dad were on holiday! They weren’t coming to see me! We were sad about this!
Except they were HERE!!!!!!!!! I crossed the line, saw them, shouted “MUMMY!!!” and then cried like a child. Standard.
Today, I became a triathlete. The journey only started with Aberfeldy. I have fallen in love with this sport, the people and the journey. One day, I hope to reach full Iron status. But I know after today, that will take serious determination.
I worked my butt off. But it could not have been possible without the support and patience of my friends, family and twitter buddies. Especially @ironpugsley who repeatedly kept me focused, and gave me specific training rides that would prepare me for the climbs. And my coach, Jonathan Pain, who made me eat vegetables and lift heavy things to make me strong and fit.
The most important lesson I have learnt, is that you can do ANYTHING that you want to do. It’s not easy. It’s actually very shit sometimes. And cold and damp and dark. And there’s sometimes tears and tantrums and pain and tiredness like nothing I have ever experienced. But never let that put you off. Nothing is impossible. Not if you want it enough.
I am a lucky, tired, elated girl.
I am a triathlete. #HalfIronBean