Overall Time: 3:44:43
Several months ago, when I really started to get to know Eilidh, Roz, and Ny, I was convinced to enter Loch Lomon standard distance triathlon under the premise that it would be like a group holiday at a lodge with friends, and a little bit of exercise thrown in. Roz and I were game, and Eilidh wanted to do it as part of her 30 for 30 challenge (and as a training event for her 70.3 next week!). Ny also agreed to come along to support, and soon there was a small group of ladies signed up and allocated a spot at the lodge.
Over the next few months, training began in earnest, but not without a hitch: my running remains unreliable, Eilidh’s foot started acting up and causing problems, and Roz’s run training went out of the window because of how painful she found it (and how much she has started loving the bike). So basically, when it came to running, we were all sort of gimpy. Thankfully, we were all at least making some progress in the other disciplines.
I can honestly say that this is probably the first race that I have ever properly rested for. At least physically. Mentally, I was pretty wiped out. I’d spent Monday to Friday the week before in Paris with 32 teenagers, and although it was a great experience, I could never fully relax or switch off the entire time I was there. Apart from teaching a spin class early on the Monday we left, the only real exercise I did – apart from some walking – was climbing the Eiffel Tower.
Arriving back late on Friday night, I put on a quick wash, then tried to get a few hours of shut eye before I had to get up and pack for Lomon. Trying to remember everything I had forgotten for Turriff was challenging on so little sleep, and I seemingly decided to throw 50% of my sporting paraphernalia into a duffel bag and await my pick up. Because of course I was going to need 8 thermal tops.
Eilidh’s boyfriend had agreed to lend us his van for the weekend, so around lunchtime there were 4 of us loading bikes, wetsuits, cakes, etc. into the back, with plenty of room to spare. We set off shortly after, stopping to pick up our fifth passenger, Aude, in Stonehaven, who was also coming along to support (and keep Ny close company while we were all out racing).
Once we had arrived, we started claiming rooms at the lodge and hauling all of our bags inside. Realizing we had plenty of time before dinner, and seeing the blue skies and sunshine outside, we opted to walk to the pub and enjoy a couple of drinks. A bit merrier, we eventually returned for some chicken curry, Persian rice with saffron, and a rhubarb crumble with custard, which all went down a treat.
I decided to go for a walk along the loch, and Ny came along to keep me company, while everyone else started preparing things for the morning and – apparently – getting an early night, as pretty much everyone was in their room with lights out when we got back. Roz was meant to be sharing with me, but apparently I don’t appeal, so she swapped with Ny and claimed the couch in the living room. I will say, Eilidh deserves a special mention for the accommodation, as sleeping in a bedroom with an actual window and working door was an absolute treat after our Brighton adventure dungeon, and very conducive to quality pre-race prep.
Transition for Lomon opened sometime in the middle of the night, so I was up with the birds on Sunday morning. All of the lodge dwellers who were racing managed to get themselves and their kit to the bike racks and changing tent without incident, and then it was back to the lodge to use toilets that were thankfully less fragrant than the portaloos on offer. Again, top marks for accommodation being a stone’s throw from the transition/finish area. Time was ticking, however, and soon we were all on our way to the lochside for the briefing, and the news that the water temperature was a tropical 10.9 degrees…
After cheering on the middle distance swimmers who started first, the standard swimmers were instructed to get into the loch and swim out to the starting buoys. It. Was. Fresh. Neoprene boots, gloves, and swim caps were compulsory, though if there was anyone willing to go without, I would question their sanity. Eilidh, Roz and I (and some other Fleet Feeters) bobbed about until the countdown, and then we were off. Having the chance to acclimatize definitely helped, as I could get my face in straight away. I absorbed a few kicks and elbows from other swimmers, but after about 5 minutes I had settled into a nice rhythm behind a guy who had very distinctive boots, and very decent sighting abilities. I coasted behind him for the rest of the swim, occasionally having to battle others for my position, and as soon as we were nearing the end of the second lap I overtook him and went for glory!
Except there was obviously more to come. Starting with a half mile jog from the loch exit to transition, which appears to be included in the overall swim time!
After a wholly unremarkable transition struggling out of my wetsuit and then trying to get dry clothes over wet body parts, I felt ready to tackle the bike course. Eilidh and Katherine had cycled it a few weeks back to see what it was like, and the general feedback we received include words like “uppy” and “hills”. Some of the girls in the lodge had even driven the course the day before to scope it out. I prefer a bit of mystery, but I can confirm the course was far from flat. Despite this, I have never felt better on the bike, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I flew down the (few and far between) downhill sections.
Throughout the bike course I tried to avoid looking at my watch as I wanted to go by feel instead. Ignoring something right beneath your nose is hard to do, so I did clock that my average heart rate was 176bpm.
Less than 2 hours after the bike began, I could see the end in sight, and all I could think about was how amazing it felt, and how excited I was to peruse my stats over a cold beer once I had finished. I dismounted, stopped my Garmin, and went about de-layering for the run. I quickly looked down at my watch which was prompting me to pick an option: red x or green tick. As soon as I pressed the green tick I saw that I had just confirmed ‘DISCARD RIDE’. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. This was when my race went sour.
It’s no secret that I have had an unhappy relationship with running for the last 18 months, so it should come as no surprise that the high of my race was on the verge of crashing down. I left T2 deflated after deleting my bike leg, and my heart sank further after about halfway through the 10k when that familiar pain on the outside of my right knee took hold. This is when I started being overtaken. Frequently. Ny had created some comedy motivational signs that did at least provide some light relief throughout the final, trying discipline.
The run route consisted of two separate out and backs, and the end of the first one was poorly marked so I ran a bit too far, stopped, chatted to some guys about whether we had passed the turnaround, and then decided we had before turning around. On the return leg I saw Roz, then Eilidh, who at that point was running and looking strong, though I later found out was suffering with her foot again. When my knee pain started up I adopted a run/walk technique (.1 mile run, .05 walk), and pretty much attempted to keep that up the rest of the way. I had to swap to walk .15, run .05 by the end, but at least I was still moving in the right direction. And at least I was wearing a sports bra!
The second out and back was shorter, but involved going up a hill, then coming back down to finish. Despite my crappy run, despite the fact that I had aborted my bike stats in a fluster of excitement in transition, I was ecstatic as familiar faces came into view, and I crossed the line of my first standard triathlon.
Once I had grabbed some water and grabbed my phone, I joined Ny, Aude, and the rest of the Fleet Feet gang to cheer everyone else on. By the end of the run Eilidh had caught Roz and they were running together looking as glad to be done as I was, Eilidh especially as it’s another thing ticked off her list! Poor Roz was broken though:
When everyone we knew had finished the Standard, we made our way back to the lodge for something to eat. Or in my case, a shower and a nap. The lodge was booked for another night, but some of us had work the next day, so I left my bike in Eilidh’s care, and Ny and I bagged a lift home with Susan.
I’m not really sure where to go from here considering I have made no progress with running. Maybe I am destined to stick to shorter distances from now on or maybe there is something wrong with my knee that hasn’t been picked up yet. Whatever it is, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, even if I’m not cruising the internet for budget flights to European marathon destinations. At least not right now. And I’m starting to be a little bit OK with that.