Having a ‘triathlete’ husband encouraged me to dip my toe in the world of three discipline events last year and I completed three sprint events in 2017 (one of which involved an open water swim and a couple of small hills on the bike).
As a relatively strong, if steady, swimmer and having a few running miles under my belt, I borrowed said hubby’s ‘winter’ bike and gave it a go. Having not cycled on a road bike since my old ‘racer’ when I was at school, this proved to be the most challenging for me. Well this and the feeling of running like Bambi after the cycle.
Living in Clitheroe and watching our local triathlon for the last three years (from the top of Jeffrey Hill…more to be said about this later), I decided that this would be my first tri of 2018 and signed up as soon as the entries were open, thinking my tri buddy would do the same! She didn’t!
Training plan written and binned due to a sprained ankle and weeks of horrible weather for cycling. I decided four weeks before the event that I’d better get on the bike as hadn’t ridden since September. My second training ride involved a ride up the dreaded Jeffrey Hill (over Longridge Fell) where a walk/cycle game plan was implemented! Even managed a few ‘brick’ training sessions (involving bike and run).
The big day loomed and I was getting more and more nervous. A generous friend lent me her bike – I decided against cleats and clip-in shoes (my Mother’s Day present) as these would be far too dangerous for novice me – my husband signed up and they changed the bike route! No longer Jeffrey Hill (yeah) but Birdy Brow instead (boo). With no time to ride it, I decided not to even drive it.
Morning of the tri (after consuming enough calories the day before for a small country) and the children were dispatched to my mum’s before they had even woken up properly. A nice leisurely cycle to the start and setting up in transition.
For those who have not ventured into this type of event, there is more to think about than in my maths A-Level! Registration, helmet checked, stickers on bike, bike racked, trainers for running, trainers to run from the pool to transition (as it’s a mud fest), socks, talc, swim cap, goggles, tri-suit (wearing that), bike helmet, buff, cycling top, nutrition, drink for the bike, drink for transition, running watch, tri belt and number, warm clothes for afterwards and of course my Trawden vest for the run.
My swim was at 9:27 (this is based on your predictive swim time) and luckily I was in a lane with just one other swimmer. A lad of about 25! He set off first and me 15 seconds behind him. Set of at what I thought was a leisurely front crawl…my husband said I went off like a rocket! Around 400m later I had overtaken and lapped the poor young chap and was second out of the pool in my wave. Got out of the pool to a big cheer from the family and dashed out to transition. Combined swim and jog time of 9 min 30 secs.
Transition one for me is a challenge. I really don’t seem to know where to start, even when I have it mapped out. Two people came out of the pool after me and set of cycling well before me. After a couple of minutes’ faffing, I was running out of transition with my bike and ready to start the cycle.
The bike route is lovely. I’m very lucky to live in Clitheroe so know the local roads relatively well. From the swimming pool, it’s a gentle climb up towards Bashall Eaves taking in the first section of the Ribble Valley 10K. I had already decided to keep in an easy gear and not push it too hard as I’m not a confident cyclist and previously exhausted myself on this section.
The wind was behind me and the route seemed easier than previously. Up past Browsholme Hall and finally some lovely downhill. I went for it more than usual as I can be a bit nervous if I go too fast! The road surface leaves a lot to be desired in certain sections but these were well marked and I knew what to expect. A few came past me but not as many as I expected and soon I was heading through Chaigley towards the dreaded climb. At around 10 miles, there’s a steep downhill and then a sharp right turn to the bottom of Birdy Brow. This is a climb of over a mile where the gradient gets steeper and steeper the further you get!
The first section is a nasty steep climb but I just about manged it. I was breathing like never before and weaving from side to side all over the road. A quick sip of my drink and off again, slightly more gently initially but this soon changed. I cycled up as far as I could and then got off to push! One cyclist came past me and another then shouted “You’re walking faster than I’m cycling!” Bit further up and I was back on the bike, only to dismount again when the climb rounded Kemple End and ramped up again.
At this stage, Garry Wilkinson, local fell runner and Clayton legend cycled down shouting encouragement. He also warned me that a friend was at the top of the climb. Nothing for it but to get back on and I managed to stay on until the top! My friend cheered me on and I was suddenly free-wheeling downhill! I even went past someone!
Left turn past Stoneyhurst College and then the final few miles back into Clitheroe. I was feeling like a warrior, I had conquered the bike and loved it! It was 17.5 very undulating miles in around 1 hour 30 mins (very slow for some but not bad for me). The official bike time includes both transitions.
I was overwhelmed by the cheers of friends and family (and the local tri club even though I’m no longer a member) and felt quite emotional as I entered transition two. Out on the run…I can do this…I know the route and it’s only 5 miles! The first mile was a killer, legs wouldn’t work, calf was screaming, breathing all over the place, there’s a short sharp hill and it nearly did me in. I also quickly realised that I’d put my elastic tri laces on too tight! Not changing them now though!
Everything settled down as I managed a steady 10 min/mile pace into Waddington and up towards Bashall Barn. This is the part where you see more of the other competitors. There was a lovely friendly atmosphere with even the really competitive runners shouting encouragement to me and others. Saw the bloke form my swim and was surprised how close I’d managed to stick to him on the bike.
It’s an out and back run with some definite ups and downs. The turning point marshal was a sight for sore eyes! 2.4 miles left to go! I really started to struggle at around 3.5 miles but managed to plod on. Lots of local encouragement and my family were waiting with just half a mile to go. Back over the river, up a slight hill (seemed more like Everest) and back into the field for the finish line. 4.8 miles in 49 mins. Was happy with that. Cuddles all round, hot tea, a packet of crisps and waited for Mark (the husband) to finish.
So overall, I wasn’t last but only 14 people finished behind me. There were only 231 finishers and I was 217th but I really wouldn’t have minded if I was the slowest. I’m not particularly fit, I’m certainly not fast but I’m proud to have completed.
This is a great event, well organised and friendly. If anyone has the slightest interest in having a go at a triathlon, do it! If I can, anyone can! I’m planning a standard distance open water tri later in the year and possibly a half Ironman distance next year. I’ll be back for Clitheroe again though and Jeffrey Hill will be mine!