In the words of my wonderful mum, "Sport can be about winning and losing, the excuses, the what ifs and if onlys. But sometimes it is about accepting your current limitations and with a mixture of positive thinking, grit, and determination still achieving a result to be really proud of."
Six weeks ago, I badly sprained my ankle and having previously suffered with a similar injury I knew how long the recovery times can be. I had pretty much ruled myself out of any further races this season, including Brighton and Hove Triathlon, which frustratingly had been my A-race post Pontevedra World Duathlon Champs in April - to finally give ETU Triathlon Champs qualification a go.
However, me being fairly competitive (okay, I am very competitive), I was determined to recover as quickly but as safely as I could. Working with a physio through work, I gradually built up my strength, going from non-weight bearing to mild strength exercises over a few weeks; plus a lot of icing, elevating and rest!
Within 5 weeks, to my absolute surprise, I was able to swim, cycle (without cleats) and do short, slow runs on soft surfaces such as on grass or the running track. I had missed the deferral/refund date for Brighton, so with the support of my physio, we thought I could possibly give it a go if I was really careful. It is a multi-lap course, so I had the option to easily pull out at any point if I began to feel the slightest bit of pain or discomfort. The worst thing would be to make it worse and prolong my recovery time.
Aside from the horrendous M25 traffic on the way there and back, it was such a great weekend. We were extremely lucky to have beautiful weather and little Ellie, chief supporter, loved her first splash in the sea! Me and my mum traveled down to Brighton on Saturday as registration and bike racking had to be done the day before, which meant we could wander around, soak up the glorious sunshine, and generally have a relaxed pre-race day. Relaxing that is, until I stupidly decided to try and put on my race tattoo without taking the plastic backing off, resulting in it just sticking to the plastic and not my arm.. But clever mum to the rescue who used a hairdryer to reattach the number to some cardboard and then reapply to my arm - genius!
Come race day itself, I had a pretty relaxed morning with a start time of 11:15am meaning a lie in, which is usually unheard of in the triathlon race world! Frustratingly, the sea was pancake flat first thing in the morning when we initially got to the start to watch the sprint race. But by the time my wave was due to start, it had become fairly choppy, but at least nowhere near as bad as at Redcar last month!
Following a hug with fellow competitors, and a 3,2,1 we were off...
The initial few hundred metres to the first buoy, I have to say, were not enjoyable at all. I got kicked in the face and had to rearrange my goggles having got a load of seawater in my eyes. Once it had all calmed down, I managed to get into a rhythm and relax. By the final buoy all I could think about was drinking some water as my throat was so dry from the salt water. I definitely prefer lake swims that is for sure!
Surviving the swim, I then ran up the beach into transition and onto bike leg.
It was my first time in cleats since my ankle incident as I knew I could rely on a flying dismount, so I was hopeful to try and push for a decent bike time. At Brighton, the bike course is an 8 lap out-and-back flat course on closed roads, so it was fast but I have to admit I did get bored. The tactic to keep myself occupied was singing baby shark to myself... it got me to the end anyway! Overall, my power was down by about 10%, but considering my time off training due to injury, I was fairly pleased with that and my bike split was actually faster than the Age Group winner!
The run was the bit I was most worried about. I hadn't run further than 2km on tarmac or 7km on a track surface post-injury. All of which were pain-free, but it was still an unknown as to whether my ankle would be okay over this distance.
As it was 4 laps, I knew I could easily stop if it did become at all painful, so I set off at an easy pace and adopted the run-walk strategy (I did 4 minutes running, 1 minute walking), to be mindful not to set myself back with any additional stress to the injury. Baby shark returned and the laps were slowly ticked off, all the way to the finish line!
Never in a million years did I think I would be racing at Brighton, but the human body is a wonderful thing. It was possibly my slowest ever 10k, maybe even slower than a turtle in peanut butter, but I couldn't be any happier that I got to race and finish, which is the most amazing feeling having initially thought I would be sitting this one out only a few weeks ago.
The time did not matter on this occasion - for once it was the taking part, enjoyment and finishing that mattered! And I did just that!
A big thank you to my amazing mum who acted as top supporter, dog looker-after, taxi driver and general awesome helper over the weekend!
About the author: Helene Wright is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.