OK, this is an epic report, so here's a summary:
★ Brighton & Hove Triathlon is amazingly well-organised, and they give you a lot of numbers to wear!
★ I had to wear all my clothes under my wetsuit - like James Bond!
★ To train for a triathlon you have to practice dressing, undressing, swim-bike, bike-run, running barefoot on pebbles/cold grass/ice/fire, functioning while dizzy, getting on a bike while still looking cool, riding said bike extremely fast, counting, and swallowing pride
★ Swimming in the sea with a large group of very competitive women is fun, if mildly dangerous
★ Cycling soaking wet after a hectic swim in the sea is almost ridiculously lovely
★ I'm a runner
★ I did an 8 week triathlon training plan off the internets, and some courses run by local groups. I had a lot of fun training, and am very pleased with the progress I made
★ There's a recipe too!
I jumped on my bike (read: Carted the bike down four flights of stairs, pushed it across the busy Kingsway, then gingerly joined the cycle path) and rode over to Hove Lawns to register. My word did they give us a lot of numbers! The woman on the desk strapped a numbered yellow band onto my left wrist - this was the one that crucially would get me past security and into the transition/bike-racking enclosure. I also got (along with a t-shirt and a swimming cap) an envelope full of a plethora of numbers: One sticker to go on my bike, THREE for my helmet, a TEMPORARY TATTOO number for my upper left arm, and finally the familiar one I usually safety-pin to my front. But this time it was going on a number belt, to allow me to wear it under my wetsuit, on my back for the bike ride, and on my front for the run! After spending about an hour (exaggeration) sticking the numbers on my helmet and bike, I got to the bike racks and left my machine there to meditate overnight. Rain was forecast for later, so I festooned my handlebars with a bin bag in the hope of preserving my groovy new handlebar tape. And it sure did rain! Poor bikey. The tape was fine though
The next day I didn't have to get up at all early, because my wave didn't start until 11:20 - how cool is that? I'd been stressing about the weather all week, as the winds howled, and the sea regressed into giant, furious white horses. But on the day of the race it was all sweet sunshine, a slight breeze, and a completely flat sea. Phew! I got into my shorts, t-shirt, and race number, with wetsuit over all of that (yes, I had rehearsed this!), and wandered over to the Lawns in plently of time to watch some of the earlier waves, so I could get an idea of what to do After a bit of that, I went back into the transition area to lay out my towel, helmet, sunglasses, shoes (no socks), and cap for the run. I also put a little jar of vaseline, and my home-made energy bite* in my helmet, and put my water bottle on my bike. I met my nearest neighbours, who all seemed to be first-timers too.
Off we went to be briefed by a jolly, if slightly scary woman. It was all women together (and it was the Sprint tri by the way), wearing somewhat fluorescent pink caps, and we were going to swim 750 metres (that's just 30 lengths of an ordinary pool), round 4 enormous red buoys, but only after we'd walked barefoot across the PEBBLE beach! Ouch!! A woman said to me "Is it just me, or does this really hurt?" After a quick dip in the water to acclimatise (v. important), and another short briefing at the shore (which I couldn't actually hear much of), with a toot of a horn we were off! I was actually the last person to enter the sea My husband was there (although I failed to spot him), with the GoPro, so I have video evidence. I overtook a lot of people though, and I have to say it was BEDLAM in there! I was barged into a fair bit, but at least I didn't get kicked in the face three times, as my bike-rack neighbour was (I saw her again after the race, and then when I saw the results later blow it if she wasn't next to me there too!). The breast-stroke swimmers were the worst, it's difficult to see where people's legs are in the sea because it's so murky, and those breast-strokers legs are unpredictable! The other bad thing was getting stuck by both of the buoys we had to turn at; next time I'll give them a wide berth. But overall I was ecstatic with my swim - I enjoyed it, I didn't need to stop for a rest, I front-crawled all the way, and best of all my goggles didn't leak! I'd hoped for under 20 minutes, and it was 18:03 so I am chuffed I lost time at the start, too - I must practice running into the sea! I did, however, have a problem with dizziness when I got out, a woman behind me asked me if I was alright! Despite this it was a lot easier to get out than it was to get in, there were helpers to hold us up, and a carpet over most of the beach. I staggered up the steps, across the prom, ran back into the transition area (gawd that grass was cold!). Then, I basically fell over next to my bike It was OK, I sat down for a few seconds, and I got a bit muddled, so my first transition was slow, but it doesn't matter. The main thing was I had my energy bite, and a drink; and I got my helmet on and fastened before I touched the bike (otherwise is punishable by death!).
I decided I was steady enough for cycling, and actually managed to run pretty fast with the bike, overtaking someone in the process (score!). I got onto the bike in a highly inelegant fashion, and off I went. I tried to chase a woman whose number was 666 (the Beast!), but she was too quick for me. I did managed to stick with a woman in an orange t-shirt (keeping at least 7 metres behind her, to avoid being electrocuted by the marshals, honestly the triathlon has so many rules! We were also not allowed to crawl during the run leg, if you can believe it!) all the way, though. The bike ride was pretty peaceful, just up and down the Kingsway, flat, and I didn't encounter much bunching. Fun! I love cycling after swimming, it's the best feeling. Got overtaken by a lot of Men (a different species in the triathlon!), and quite a few women. Saw husband and GoPro at the end of Lap 2 (we were responsible for counting our laps, and I had four stickers on my handlebar to fold over at the end of each). I pushed the pace at first, and debated sprinting for the last lap, but decided to save my energy. The bike leg was 20K, four laps of the course, and was perfectly enjoyable. I did wonder whether it might get a bit tedious if one were doing the Olympic distance (40K, 8 laps), but my husband said well, you'd just go faster! So there I thought I could do it in around 50 minutes, so was pretty pleased with my 47:51 - although it turned out to be rather slow compared with most so there's room for improvement there
I let Orange T-Shirt finish first ( ), hopped off my bike, and - ooh! legs! - hobbled back to my spot in transition. This was a much quicker affair, hang up bike, swap hats, blow nose, off I go. Round the bikes, out of the gate, onto the promenade for the run, passing Orange T-Shirt (score!). My legs relaxed, and I was running! The sun felt warm, and my sunglasses steamed up a bit, but I felt good. I remember thinking wow, I can't believe this is the end! It's been an intense 8 weeks I had a drink of "electrolyte" at the first turn, which wedged some air in my pipe somewhere around my chest. Uncomfortable, but it didn't last long. The run leg was 5K, or two laps of the course - just up and down the prom, my usual stomping ground. I ran past quite a few people, and got overtaken by several Men I guess it makes sense that running is my stronger point - I'd hoped for 30 minutes and got 27:19, which I'm very happy with. I've been bragging away on social media, but as it turned out, I was nearly last in my age group, which disappointed me quite a lot - although I think that at least half of those women are seriously bad-ass! I think I know where I need to improve, so maybe next year I'll be a bad-ass too
I didn't sprint for the finish as I didn't want to spoil things by getting pukey (I could feel nausea approaching), so I just floated over the finish line and picked up my lovely medal with a big grin. This was the most wonderful experience; the training was fun, and the event was marvellously well organised. Highly recommended!
I did an 8 week training plan by Hal Higdon, which I found online. I modified it quite a bit, to fit in with my week and to incorporate extra swimming and cycling (I thought the plan seemed a bit run-heavy). I never know about the quality of these plans, I just like to have something reasonable-looking to follow The plan was pretty intensive by my standards, with only one full day off each week, and it was a lot of fun! I also did a couple of training sessions with the local Brighton Tri Club (I'm not a member, they let anyone come if they pay), and also a one day intensive sea-swimming course with the Brighton Swimming School Pool2Pier people. I'm particularly pleased with the way my swimming has come on in the past couple of months.
There are couple of reasons I made these. First, although I wouldn't normally think I'd need food during a race of less than two hours, with the wave not starting til 11:20 it would be getting on for lunch time before I finished, so I thought I'd be hungry The other thing is that I have almost finished my box of Gu gels, and I don't really want to replace it - gels are expensive and, frankly, not very nice! So I've had a go at making my own snacky-snacks to have with me during a marathon, and here's what I did...
Recipe (makes 4):
Porridge oats 39g (heaped tablespoon)
Cocoa powder 19g (really heaping tablespoon!)
Set honey 65g (enormously heaped tablespoon, plus a bit extra!!)
Desiccated coconut 14g (heaped tablespoon)
Water (about 2 tablespoons, plus a few extra drops)
★ Mix oats and cocoa powder together in a bowl. Add honey and work it in as much as poss. Add water bit by bit to make a firm paste.
★ Divide paste into 4 equal parts and roll into balls.
★ Coat balls liberally in coconut - if they don't seem sticky enough to hold the coconut drop a little extra water on them before coating.
★ Wrap in cling film individually and refrigerate overnight before eating. Store in fridge.
I was aiming to use only ingredients I have around, and to measure in spoonfuls, hence the rather odd weights! Also, I was trying to get close to the macros of my Gu gels (32g weight, 23g carb, 100 kcal). These are theoretically 34g weight, 20g carb (0.8g of which is fibre), 131 kcal - although the last batch weighed only about 32g each, so the macros will have been rather less too They have a slightly cakeish texture, quite dry so they need to be chased down with a bit of water (I have to do that with my gels anyway), but not crumbly which is good. They are very chocolately, and I find them quite moreish actually... but I should add that at 4cm in diameter they are more like "Energy Two-Bites" The recipe is for four because, for me, that's about the right amount of food for a marathon. If I make a larger batch I'll only be picking at them all day...
...I do realise I've been overthinking this