Sunday, 22 August 2010

London Tri:ed

I've really struggled to write this, in fact I've been avoiding it for days. After missing the London Marathon due to injury, completing the London Triathlon meant the world to me. So to fail at the first hurdle was hard. To be fair I really shouldn't have even made it to the ExCel centre (where the event was being held) at all.

Around 10 days before London I began feeling dizzy and a little nauseous, not enough to say I was ill, but just enough to make me want to sit down more than stand up. I was feeling lethargic as well and my training all but disappeared as a result. When I had a dizzy spell at work I decided it was time to take some time off work and rest. This didn't help so I went to the Doc the following week who said I had a 'respiratory virus', which I think is code for "I don't know what it is, but you don't look so good"... So I started a course of antibiotics and went home where my symptoms got worse. I was exhausted, lost my appetite (yes me!), had a dull ache all down my spine and when my head wasn't hurting it was just cloudy. I tired to give myself little tasks to do each day to make sure I got out of bed like; put the washing on, cook dinner. On the Docs advice, even though I wasn't hungry, I made sure I ate at least one meal each day and tried to keep up with my friends on Twitter if nothing else. After a week in bed I decided I was well (I mean I'd popped loads of those pills, they must be doing something right?) and went down to London on the Saturday to get ready for the London Tri.

Saturday was manic, I had a friend coming over from France to stay with me and watch the Tri and I had to met him at Kings Cross St Pancreas. I jumped on the train to meet him and we drove my bike down to Excel to get a head start in the morning. The atmosphere there was great, we went around the Expo, grabbed a couple of goody bags and I spoke to some of the other competitors. The fact that so many women had my bike, Specialized Dolce 24 2010, was a good conversation starter! I left the Expo and Dolly excited and ready to race the following day!

I spent that night at my Mum's house in Wembley, with my brothers new cat. I went to sleep really late about 01:00 as I just couldn't shut my body down and get into sleep mode. When I finally did get into bed I couldn't drop off as I could hear my brother talking to my cousin in his room. I got them to be quiet and then the little cat sat outside my bedroom door crying and trying to get in! I thought she'd eventually give up, but no, as I checked the time at 03:23, 04:05, and then I got up at 05:00 after having virtually no sleep! Like a trouper though I still headed down to the ExCel determined to get through the challenge.

The first challenge was getting in my wetsuit, which I brought when I was 3kg lighter... Wetsuits are so unforgiving!

Needless to say I squashed myself in and headed down to the water. Everyone else had already headed over to the briefing, there must have been a tannoy announcement or something. Unfortunately I was adjusting my wetsuit in the toilets and must have missed it! Needless to say I had to rush to transition to put my bits down and then run over to the Swim start. Luckily there was another lady in the same predicament and we ran over together. This photo was taken just before I got to the swim; I was still out of breath from running!

Once we got to the water it was straight in and doggy paddle till the horn sounded. It was my first open water swim - big mistake. My own fault as I hadn't been able to make any of the team lake swims and the one time I had tried I ended up driving around for an hour unable to find the lake - doh! I panicked a little, but took a few deep breaths and calmed myself enough to talk a little to the people around me. The water was cold and murky, just as I expected, but I didn't realise how disorientated I would feel by not being able to see through the water. The horn went off and I got started and soon feel behind the other swimmers. I didn't feel at all in control and floundered in the water. A lifeguard came over in a kayak and I told him that I didn't feel confident at all, but wanted to continue. At this point I felt exhausted as if I had finished the race already and I couldn't understand why. I knew I needed to get a rhythm going but I needed to catch my breath also. I grabbed a hold of the kayak for a minute and then started off on my journey.

At first I could only make maybe 150m a time; they gave me my own allocated lifeguard and he stayed close to me while I swam allowing me to rest when needed. I stopped three times to catch my breath, but on the third stop I could see the orange buoy that marked the turning point and decided to swim as far as that, rest then do the run back in one. Only problem was once I got there it wasn't a straight turn around and head back, I had to swim across to another buoy, then turn back! Rather than rest, I decided to keep on and once I reached the other buoy I decided to still keep going. Another wave of swimmers started and I hoped they wouldn't catch up with me and swim over me, but let's be honest it was highly likely! It was too long before I started to see the strong swimmers going past me. I swam out to the left a little and the kayak moved to my right side to put a barrier between me and the other swimmers. Which gave me some relief as only three swimmers came up behind me. The waves created by the swarm of swimmers made it difficult to swim at times, but I kept going as the end was in sight. I kept focussing on the next orange buoy I could see and my lifeguard kept talking to me the whole way through saying motivational things like "keep going", "that's it, you're doing well". I was not however impressed when it told me to start heading towards the buoy, which I thought I was doing, but in fact the buoy I needed to head towards was another few hundred meters ahead! I didn't stop though, I'd come this far and I kept going and eventually turned the corner and arrived back at the dock. 

At the dock there were two female lifeguards there to help you out of the water. They grabbed my hands to help me onto my feet, but when they let go I collapsed and before I knew it I was descended upon by numerous people towelling me dry, ripping my wetsuit from my body and feed me Gatorade. I could hear my friends calling out to me from the sidelines and I tried to keep a smile on my face so they didn't worry too much about me. My whole body felt like jelly and I'd been in the water for 1 hour and 22 minutes! Not good in the Thames! The bad news was I couldn't complete the bike as the roads were due to reopen shortly. To be honest I hadn't got to the point of thinking about the next step, I was just looking to get back to transition! I did still want to keep even though my energy levels were severely lacking!  I was wrapped up in a blanket and walked back to my bike by one of the ladies who had taken care of me on the dock. She kept a hold of all my bits and said to just attempt the run if I wanted to keep going.

In transition I pulled myself together, ate a nutrition bar and decided to give the run a go. I still felt wobbly, but I wanted to try and do what I could. I made my way to the run section and was stopped by another steward who advised me to just do what I could and try to complete at least 5km. The run was four loops of 2.5km and I managed two. I was tired and exhausted and decided not to push myself any further. The crowd was great; lots of people screaming out "Go Ms Sweets!", "Come on Ms Sweets!". I was seriously disappointed to not complete, but I would rather stop running then have to walk parts and there were a few times on my last lap where I really had to force myself to pick up my feet and keep going. All in all I was gutted I didn't make it all the way through, but I did my best and tri:ed!

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