Soooooo because I am a really stupid person, straight after my first foray into the world of triathlon at Thames Turbo at the end of May, I had a bit of a ‘two days post race haze of euphoria’ which lead to me deciding that joining the rest of the Chasers at Hever (being used as our Club Champs race) was a sensible idea (and not only just doing another, but jumping up to the Olympic distance from a ‘sprint but with a short swim which is good because I really hate swimming’) and I, er, signed up.
And then realised about two days later what I had actually done. Yeah, so 1500m is a lot for someone who is not a fan of swimming. And puts off swimming. And spends 30 minutes on the phone trying to convince people to tell me that it is OK for me not to go swimming and have a night off from ALL the swimming I do…(you know who you are)
So, without further ado – here is my Hever Castle Triathlon race review! (10/10 for rhyming)
OK so rewind. My parents came to stay at my flat Saturday night and we indulged in a good pre-race meal of PIZZA and cookies and an England loss (mwahahahaha). I am obviously a model daughter for cooking them such an exotic meal. I then got all my stuff together. It was a lot of stuff.
I woke up at 6.15, had half a banana and started panic mode. Panic mode did not stop for a while. We picked up fellow Chaser Diana who was doing the run leg of the Gauntlet (middle distance) relay and then trusted Google maps to get us there safely. Which it did.
However, the queues for the car parks were INSANE. Due to the recent rain, they were, let’s say, a little soggy, meaning that chaos was caused with stuck cars, sliding cars, stressed triathletes etcetera etcetera. To be fair, Castle Triathlon did a good job of delaying waves, as well as sending mass texts to do so, but this was an additional panic I did NOT NEED. We did an emergency ‘put bike together in middle of road’ and I cycled down to registration, leaving my mum and Diana bringing my stuff and my dad in charge of the car. Got into transition, chucked my stuff around, half put my wetsuit on, didn’t really pay attention to where I was racked because I was stressed about time (more on this later), found out that the water was apparently quite cold….hot footed it down to the swim start for a little Chaser wave. We all had matching green hats. Very fetching.
The pre-race briefing was fairly comprehensive. I was mainly thinking about swimming rather than listening but paid just about enough attention to work out where to go when swimming. IT WAS BLOODY FREEZING. Considering this was my 3rd time ever open water, let’s just say I wasn’t prepared. Gemma B, you are a lifesaver in keeping me calm. The first 400m were a personal nightmare. You basically swim down the lake to the ‘Japanese Teahouse’ and then go round and pick up the river – which is lovely when you get there. When you eventually get there.
The lake part was a ‘head out of the water front crawl-breastroke-panic why am I so bad at swimming -OMG it’s too cold I can’t put my face in it am I going to survive’ type moment. However, there was a bit of an epiphany as we took the left into the river. I had FINALLY acclimatised. However, not so much so that I could breathe every 3 strokes. I went for every 2, then switching sides every so often. It was quite nice and rhythmic really. The river part felt a bit like I was at a water park! Still cold though…Focus for the swim was ‘keep going and don’t drown’ and I have to say, I think I achieved this. Nor did I get kicked too much (basically be really slow at swimming and stay at the back and you avoid this problem entirely)
So, something interesting happening at the time whilst I was attempting to non-drown. Basically, the ideal time to introduce your boyfriend to your parents is at a triathlon. Especially if, because the parking is so bad, you have to just send them each others’ numbers and hope that they find each other. They then have to spent nearly 3 hours together making small talk and discussing how competitive you are. I apologise to everyone involved.
This then means thought that you have THREE PEOPLE cheering at you and thinking how fricking weird you look in a wetsuit and swimming hat. Some lovely people from Speedo were on hand to pull you up the ramp out of the water and suddenly I realised I had survived! I didn’t realise that running post-swim would feel so weird. It did. It was also a bit muddy/slippy. Swim done. 34.52. Did not expect to get below 35. Good start Katie…
Into transition. Found my nice shiny new bike. In, out, run in some mud, try and get on your bike, struggle with the new pedals (luckily successfully attached), and GO. Starts off a bit cyclo-cross esque which I quite enjoyed. You get out of the estate onto the road fairly quickly after jumping a few speed bumps.
I recce’d the route a few weeks ago so knew what to expect i.e. a hill as soon as you get going. The good thing about being fairly useless at swimming is that you get to overtake lots of people on the bike. Which is fun. Until you realise some of them are doing the middle distance which makes them at least 5x more hardcore. t’s two laps, undulating (!) but with a few lovely lovely downhills that you can really push on as long as you don’t get stuck behind people! Markings were good, marshalls very active – the roads aren’t closed so you still have to really have your wits about you, but great marshalling at the junctions and use of cones to slow down both traffic and cyclists otherwise I can imagine it would get a bit mental. It basically loops you through some lovely Kent villages and countryside.
A mix of people using tri bars and not and I’m glad I didn’t chance it as I just don’t have the experience or confidence to use them on this sort of course yet. It’s probably not the easiest of Olympic courses but I will admit I have been fairly (very!) lax with my bike training recently (by that I mean like, have done practically none) so I wasn’t expecting miracles so a 1.23.09 was quite nice (aim was sub 1.25)
The run was grim. I like running. And it was horrible. Apparently this was good as it means I had a good bike. But I was not a fan. There was too much up, some slippy mud, a bit more up (I’m exaggerating). But yes, it was off-road and undulating. Two laps. And whoever put in a really steep and short hill at 4.5k is my LEAST FAVOURITE PERSON EVER.
At the end of the first lap, you take a right and RUN OVER A BRIDGE (again, whoever decided this, I love you as much as I love the hill includer) and go round again. Shouty parents, boyfriend and Chaser support popped up at various points which helped. The first k or so feels pretty uphill on a gravel track, until picking up grass and mud and some lovely downhill stretches before looping round some of the lake and more of the Castle grounds.
I came round the corner on the second lap and remembered the uphill bit again. I might have power-walked it with my hands on my knees (looks weird but a technique that overtook a few people…sneaky) and then picked up again at the top where it is only like 400m to finish and that is down a hill.
Run came in at 45.56 but I don’t think it felt that quick. Not complaining! All done in a smidgen under 2.50 which isn’t bad for a first attempt. 260th out of nearly 1000. And it was a gorgeous setting with lots of things to keep spectators occupied and a whole host of different distances, including children’s triathlons and multiple relay options.
So yeah, that was the end! We had a picnic. I drank a Coke (apparently this helps with killing pondwater bugs – more on that in a second) but I wasn’t really hungry for proper food apart from err cake. So I had cake.
I was forced onto the podium for photos (you should see the ones taken before this) We then wandered back to the car park and managed to get out pretty swiftly (there were however, several cars looking more than a little stuck in the mud….) and headed home. Where I sat down in front of the TV to watch the rugby and ordered from Meat and Shake. This was possibly one of the best parts of the day.
On a not so great note, this was the last thing I could really eat for a while. THE COKE DID NOT WORK. I don’t think the lake water agreed with me. I felt nauseous for a couple of days and couldn’t train or eat properly (save for like, a bagel eventually) which, if you know me, is crazy (lots has to be wrong for me not to eat). I don’t appear to be the only one suffering either as there have been lots of stories flying round the club…however OH WELL, I AM ALIVE. Not going to lie, this did not really add to my ‘reasons to love swimming’.
Let’s just finish this by saying I have not yet drawn a line under my short triathlon career (I can feel people rolling their eyes at this)