The first thing I did on arrival, and by far the most important thing, was locate the toilets. When exiting the portaloos I felt rather smug as I noticed the long queue that had now formed, that I had managed to avoid by being on the toilet ball!
Race Pack collected, it was time to familiarise myself with the course and start working on that nervous energy by picking out all the fast swimmers I'd recently competed with at open water swimming events throughout the year.
Due to C-19, this Aquathlon was my first since Eastbourne (a year ago) so although I knew I was swim and run fit I hadn't actually put them together in a race environment for a while. I’m not sure my visualisation counts or the dreams where I’m Olympic Aquathlon Champion (no it’s not an Olympic event unfortunately).
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Wetsuit pulled up to the waist I entered the transition area and located a good spot, next to a sign, for my shoes and race belt. As it turns out this was also the place that the British triathlon official decided to place himself while officiating the race - but I wouldn't find that out till later when I had to politely ask him to move so I could speedily put on my shoes.
With five minutes to spare before the race briefing I downed my energy drink and started to notice that most people had their race belt around their waist already (ready to be hidden inside their wet suit during the swim). I made a last-minute decision to fetch my race belt from the transition area and placed it round my waist to match the other competitors - like I said it had been a year since my last Aquathlon and I was feeling a little rusty. I then realised no one else had both race numbers pinned to their belt (we were given 2?) After swiftly removing the second unnecessary race number I made my way to transition area, for the third time, for the pre-race briefing.
30 seconds to go, we stood side-by-side with our toes touching the water. 20 seconds to go, we nervously edged millimetres forward. 10 seconds to go. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. We ran and dived into the sea. The previously pancake flat ocean was now filled with arms legs and ferocious splashing.
My fast start is not something I am known for. My strength is my stamina and my ability to maintain a consistent fast-ish pace throughout the whole swim - the longer the better. This being only 750m was going to be an interesting test for me.
The swim route was an out and back around three buoys, against the current to begin with, coming back with the current behind us.
At the turning point I was probably somewhere in the middle of the mass of arms and legs but I started to work my way through the field and exited the water in 14th place.
I had a speedy transition managing to make up another three places. 11th.
The run route was two 2.2km laps of the prom - with a 300 meter lead in and lead off. I started to work my way further through the field, digging deep. It always feels like you aren't running very fast after you've swam even when you are. I chose not to wear a watch, as advised by my coach, because we feel I don't gain any benefits from doing so. So I had no idea how fast I was running my one job was to concentrate on catching, and going past each competitor one by one. The last kilometre I really had to grit my teeth against the pain.
Throughout the race marshals kept asking me to show my race number I assumed at the time this was because it had slipped around to the side. I'm yet to find a race belt that stays put. As I later discovered though (from my race photos) I actually had my race number on back to front.
The final 300m I was praying I would make it across the line before I threw up or collapsed.
Luckily I did, although I did spend five minutes rolling around on the floor just past the finish line. A kind marshal retrieved my race chip for me from around my ankle - I'm not sure I'd of remembered to return it otherwise.
At this point I still didn't know my finish position. I was just super happy to have finished. My position was confirmed to me by my family, and double checked by another competitors mother on her iPad, once I had managed to pick myself back up. 7th Woman across the line, and most importantly 1st place 35-39 year old, making me National Aquathlon Champion 35-39 for 2021.
It's been a challenging couple of years but this really was a dream come true.
Next race is the world Aquathlon Championships in Spain next month. I'm excited already.
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