My alarm rang at 4:40am on Sunday 24th June as I had a very early start to drive to the picturesque village of Marlow in Buckinghamshire for the Marlow Classic Olympic Triathlon. The race is a 1500m swim in the Thames, 40km cycle along open roads past Henley towards Nettlebed and back, then a trail/pavement 2-lap 10km run.
Thankfully I was rather awake and had a hassle free drive around the M25 and up the M40. On arrival at 6:20am I was alarmed to see a packed transition area and a huddle of swim hats receiving their race brief! Panic over… this was thankfully the Middle Distance Triathletes who were starting at 6:30am!
Once registered and numbered up I took my bike and gear into a very packed and unfortunately unorganised and un-marshalled transition area. There were bikes hung with what looked like the athletes worldly belongings laid out beside them, unfortunately taking up huge amounts of racking space. As there were no one other than volunteers around the area athletes had to just ‘find somewhere’ suitable to rack! Luckily I found a spot at the end of one of the racks right near the bike out section!
Once racked and everything set up, I went and met my mum who had made the journey from Whitchurch in Hampshire to watch me. Thankfully this meant someone to watch my stuff when I warmed up. I always warm up like I am a track athlete still…10-15 minute run then some drills/strides depending on how I am feeling…and numerous trips to the good old portaloos!
The race briefing was at 7:30am so while listening I got myself into my wetsuit and ready to race, had a lovely good luck slobbery kiss from Harley (my mum's Boxer dog) and off I went to enter the water ready to start at 7:45am.
The swim start in any triathlon is always ‘fun’, when you add a mixed race to the equation it’s even more ‘entertaining’! After getting kicked, swum over and punched in the mouth a fair few times I seemed to find my own space and rhythm and felt like I had a solid swim.
Entering transition, I found my bike nice and easy and within a minute I was ready to start to run to the mount line. At this race there is a grass run of approximately 200m then a car park full of gravel before you reach the mount line. Due to this I opted to run in my cycle shoes to avoid any nasty injuries stepping on stones!
I was off on my bike and hit the first hill that drags up to the main road feeling good. The bike has been going well this year so I was hoping for another decent outing this time. The course is quite ‘lumpy’ and has a few hillier drags to contend with. The roads were open so there was lots of other traffic to deal with too, which can sometimes be an issue.
Coming back towards transition I could see I was on for a decent time so pushed all the way to the mount line. Running into transition I could hear my mum shouting for me and telling me she thought I was doing quite well! Spectators have always said it’s really hard to see exactly what position you are in especially when there are lots of different races and a multiple lap course.
The run was quite tough due to the hard ground down the trails and the numerous families out enjoying their Sunday mornings! After the first lap of 5k I had passed one other female athlete and numerous men, so I just kept trying to push on. It was a very hot day and the run course was very sheltered so I started to feel the heat on the second lap.
As soon as I hit the last downhill section, I knew I had less than 800m to go so I gritted my teeth and attempted to at least keep the pace! Coming into the finish, again my inner track athlete always comes out and I always attempt a sprint finish and this was no exception! Crossing the line I was so happy to just finish and get a drink of water that I didn’t realise my finish position until I got my results printed off!
2nd female overall and a lovely little trophy for my efforts!
This was my last triathlon for a few weeks as I wanted to get a few weeks of training in before the European Age Group Triathlon Championships in Tartu, Estonia in late July.
About the author: Louise Douglass is a Team GB Age Group Triathlete and Sundried ambassador.