On Sunday 14th August I took part in the Diamond Triathlon at Dorney Lake, one of many triathlons organised by Human Races. The sprint distance event I took part in involved a 750m swim, 21.2km bike and 5km run. For a newbie triathlete like myself, you couldn’t wish for a better venue than Dorney Lake. The lake is clean and calm to swim in; the cycle course is smooth, flat and fast (for most…); and the run is lined with spectators cheering you to the finish line. The event centres around the start and finish lines, with both the bike and run laps passing through this area, making it ideal for spectators and creating an electric atmosphere.
Like other Human Races events I’ve taken part in, it was incredibly well organised so it seems I didn’t need to arrive 2 hours before my event (nerves got the better of me, sorry Mark!) The number and chip collection was very straightforward, as was the transition area where there were lots of friendly marshals on hand to point you in the right direction.
HOW DID IT GO?
Standing on the start line of the Diamond Triathlon I felt more nervous than I’ve ever felt at the beginning of an event. I’ve never felt physically sick from nerves, but I felt like I couldn’t stomach any food and was worried I wouldn’t make it to the start line. My fears were mostly centred around the swim, which from the banks of Dorney River looked very long and daunting. After watching Jess ace the swim at her triathlon last year (she’s always been a much stronger swimmer than me) my main aim for this event was to swim the whole distance in front crawl. I didn’t have any goals for the bike or run, so was really hoping that my months of swimming prep would serve me well outside the comforts of the pool. If this was all I achieved, then I’d be happy.
THE SWIM: 750m, 19min
Deciding to rent a wetsuit is hands-down the best money I’ve ever spent. For my last triathlon I just wore a trisuit as it was a hot day, so thought I’d do the same for this one. However, the night before the event I got myself into a bit of a panic, deciding that I NEEDED a wetsuit or otherwise I’d DEFINITELY drown and never make it. I’m so happy that I did as when I stepped into the water I could’ve literally cried from relief and hugged the wetsuit gods, because it felt like I was wearing an enormous inflatable rubber ring. Floating was no effort at all and I felt so much more secure in the water. As long as I could keep my arms and legs moving I knew I’d be ok. I placed myself at the back of the pack as I didn’t want to get caught between other people’s flailing arms and legs, chatted to a few other newbies, and when the gun went off I started swimming at a steady pace.
It took a while for me to find my rhythm and the first 400m seemed to go on forever. But once I was on the home straight I felt more confident and picked up a little more speed – I was so relieved when I could finally clamber out of the water and was happy that I had achieved my one goal for the day. Apart from some issues with sighting (I zig-zagged my way around the course) the swim went so much better than I’d expected and I was pleased to see that I came out around the middle of the group. I left the water a happy girl!
TRANSITION 1 – DISASTER!
The transition started pretty well – my wetsuit came off easily and I was quick getting on my helmet and shoes. I got my bike and off I ran thinking it was all going pretty well… until I realised I’d accidentally taken off my ankle timing chip with my wetsuit. Cue, panicked run back to my transition spot and mad rummage around my wetsuit for said chip. Nearly 5 minutes after I got out the water I finally got on my bike… possibly the slowest transition ever?
THE BIKE: 2.1.2km, 50 mins
The sprint distance cycle involves 4 laps of Dorney Lake along a gloriously flat and smooth track. Basically, the dream cycle for a nervy cyclist like myself. Without a scary descent in sight, I was looking forward to the cycle and knew that I could make it round in one piece. I should point out that I’m notoriously slow on the bike (and I mean reaaaaaally slow) as I just don’t seem to have any oomph and get taken over by literally everybody. Granted, I’ve not dedicated much time to my cycling training this year due to illness and then procrastination, but I think in a strange way this might have worked in my favour. I knew I would be one of the slowest there and it really didn’t bother me – I could just enjoy the ride without any time pressure. Probably not the mindset of most triathletes, but it worked for me. I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any time records so was happy to go at my own steady pace.
I started off relatively speedily and was feeling confident until I looked down at my handlebars and I got that horrible sinking feeling. Somehow, my left brake handle had been knocked 45 degrees inwards whilst in transition and I’d only just noticed. From leaving my bike in perfect condition it now looked incredibly precarious and damaged which upset and unnerved me. I’m not the best on bike mechanics, so of course I started thinking the worst and was worried that the brakes might either dis-engage or lock resulting in me flying over the handlebars. I reminded myself that very little braking is needed around Dorney Lake and tried to put my worries to the back of my mind. I managed this pretty well but it did make the cycle a little uneasy as I didn’t want to put any pressure on the brake handle. Regardless, I still enjoyed the cycle, even if it was even slower than my usual snail’s pace!
After the event I took my bike to the on-site bike mechanics who said it must have been knocked off the transition bar with some force. I was disappointed that someone had been so careless with my bike and then not reported the damage to a marshal, as I don’t think it would have gone unnoticed. Seeing as I’d still enjoyed the bike section and got round in one piece I didn’t mind too much, it’s just a shame as I’m cautious and slow at the best of times so this didn’t help. In the end I got round in 50 minutes so was pretty pleased with that.
Much smoother this time, thank goodness. A few glugs of a disgusting sports drink (cherry bakewell flavour – what was I thinking?) and I was on my way.
THE RUN: 5k, 25 mins
OUCH! Straight off the bike and my legs felt like jelly, but a strange jelly made out immovable cement. But move they had to do, so off I ran doing a strange hobble-run. The feeling soon became normal and although I was tired by this point, I wasn’t exhausted and knew the end wasn’t far off. Running is my strength so I was determined to try and keep a good pace and claw back some of the time I’d lost on the bike and in transition.
The crowd was great at cheering us all on and looking at the face’s of the other runners I knew they were all feeling as achy as I was. I felt like I was going at a snail’s pace the whole way round despite my efforts, so I was really happy to see that I finished the run in 25 minutes!
In total I finished in 1 hour 43 mins which I was happy with. After having to take 4-6 weeks off when I was ill, I really hadn’t done much prep so I was just so happy to make it round and enjoy the event. I’ll definitely be back for another Human Races event next year!
ARE YOU NEW TO TRIATHLON?
DO YOU KNOW ANY TRIATHLONS THAT ARE GOOD FOR BEGINNERS?