I think you can tell from the smile on my face that I’m happy to be back racing.
The last six months have been a little frustrating, to say the least, dealing with that tricky Achilles injury. So as as soon as it started to heal I just wanted to get back involved and Blenheim Palace seemed like the perfect place to reintroduce myself to racing. Bright and early on saturday morning we arrived, excited to be there.
There was such a relaxed atmosphere around the venue and in fact with the scale of the event and the whole family feel I’d describe it as more of a triathlon festival than a race. There were over 5000 people taking part over the weekend and as huge numbers of these were competing for the first time there was a truly celebratory atmosphere around the beautiful surroundings of Blenheim Palace. The organisers did a brilliant job of creating an event that worked for both competitors and supporters. The race course was set up in such a way that supporters got plenty of chances to see their racers and cheer them on plus there were lots of other things going on for all the family and the choice and quality of food on sale were outstanding. For anyone reading this who fancies trying a triathlon in future I would thoroughly recommend Blenheim Palace. It really is a great celebration of the sport.
I’ve only been back running for a month and so far its all just been easy or steady miles so I was very conscious of setting a realistic goal for the race at Blenheim Palace. I just wanted to enjoy the occasion and particularly enjoy the sensation of running again. I did want to post a good swim and show that all the pool time is delivering results but other than that was not concerned about putting any pressure on myself about overall times and splits.
Before the start I was really relaxed. News that the water temperature was 19.5 degrees settled me down further and I knew I wouldn’t need an extra swim cap to keep warm. As I head down the pontoon to enter the water I normally have a moment of dread, a “why am I doing this?” thought, but on this occasion it didn’t happen. I was so looking forward to it.
We lined up between the buoys, the hooter sounded and we were off. I went off as hard as I could, smashing out as fast a cadence as I can muster and managed to get myself a good place in the water. I don’t remember anyone coming over the top of me nor me having to navigate my way around others. It was a really clean swim. I probably spent too much of the outward leg on my own on the right of the field out of trouble but as we rounded the buoy to turn for home I found a few feet to latch onto and practiced the art of swimming in the slipstream. This felt good and gave me a boost of confidence to try more of it in future races. I made a good exit from the water and was pleased to get straight into my running up the hill towards the palace courtyard where transition was based. This swim-bike transition is probably as long and tough as it gets so I was encouraged with how easily I dealt with the hill.
However I didn’t quite deal with the switch to the bike so well. The first few hundred metres were fine and then as I hit the first little incline my legs simply had nothing. I was really struggling and felt like I went deep into the red. I knocked the gears down the block and tried to spin my way to the top but my heart rate was going crazy. It took most of the first lap to settle down but then each lap of three got quicker and I was able to spend more time relaxed in the aero position. With so many people on the race course at the same time Blenheim is a course where care needs to be taken and so I didn’t allow myself to drop into my own little bubble. I was on high alert at all times. 33 mins later I was hopping off the bike and heading back into transition. Bike racked, socks on, shoes on, helmet off, time for running. Everything felt like autopilot. That’s good. Just then my concentration was broken by the misguided thought that I was heading the wrong way. I kept running but looked around to check. At that moment I must have stepped into one of the uneven sections of the carpeted area within transition and tripped over. It was a proper comedy fall. Heads over heels I went, landing heavily, a bit dazed but other than bruised pride there was no damage done. And in fact I was heading in the right direction afterall. “I hope no one noticed” is what I thinking as I left the main transition area.
Once out onto the road I soon settled down, found a comfortable rhythm, relaxed and enjoyed the simple pleasure of running. It felt so good to be doing it again. Nice short steps, high turnover, relaxed shoulders and hands, running felt natural again. Two laps of the course soon went by and even the long drag back up to the Palace from the pond was tackled easily. I was now in the finish shoot and crossing the line, tired and exhilarated. Everything felt good. It was job done and time to enjoy a cold Erdinger Alkoholfrei.
The race had gone pretty much to plan. Without the comedy fall it would have been almost perfect! I’d achieved my PB in the water ( 13:24 swim), I’d had a solid bike leg ( in fact I was 43rd fastest out of 4132) and I’d run relaxed and pain free. Much to my surprise I’ve now seen the results and discover that I was 2nd in my AG and 66th overall.
More reasons to smile.