As I write this I still think I am mildly traumatised by Sundays event. My legs still feel slightly heavy and my stomach is still very tender.
As it was my first ever Middle distance triathlon I learnt so much. This learning brought with it some negative and some positive points that will guide me for the next and biggest triathlon of my life; a full Ironman! This middle distance triathlon defiantly tested me and pushed me to my absolute limit. Incredibly my muscles and my fitness felt great, my stomach on the other hand had a whole other bunch of ideas.
This middle distance triathlon took in some beautiful parts of the New Forest, a 1.9km Swim in Ellingham water ski lake. An added 2km run to transition number one, then a 90km double loop bike course around the New forest which was utterly stunning, undulating and riddled with obstacles such as donkeys, pigs, stubborn horses (plus their riders) and cattle grids, then a 22km double loop run.
Triathlons are all very new to me, each aspect I find daunting and overwhelming. This event had quite small numbers comparatively to other events. All of the participants were pretty serious triathletes, I felt out of my depth. This nervous tension can make me pretty grumpy and dispondant; this feeling started on the Saturday. My whole weekend was taken up with the triathlon, registration is the day prior to the event and also compulsory race briefings are the day prior also. I kind of resented this whole process. The organisers that came to do the race briefing were enthusiastic and funny and obviously work hard to get the event up and running. They did however want to be treated like royalty, I felt that they wanted a fanfare as they paraded into the briefing room. The briefing was amusing at times and the organisers try to give athletes as much information as possible to make us feel at ease. For me it did the complete opposite, I knew I would not remember all of the twists and turns on the bike, where the gravel was, what the sign posts were meant to be saying. I was then reassured that there will be a marshal situated at every turn and for every section that may be confusing. Grrrrr....then why overload me with information. Sorry rant over.
After the briefing I headed back home to double check kit, eat and rest before getting up at 4am to head back to the start. I am mainly nervous of the swim. Open water swimming is not in my comfort zone, but I have trained hard in the last few months and had hoped I wouldn't be the very last person to get out of the water. The lake was actually quite warm, I got myself in a good position at the start and had a great swim. I was out of the water in under 45mins which I was super chuffed about. Then to take the wetsuit off as quickly as possible, throw some trainers and run 2km to the bike transition. (That 2km run doesn't get taken off the half marathon at the end...Mean).
I was so relieved to get on my bike, I had recced the bike course, knew it was beautiful and relatively fast. I went for it. I was going at a very speedy pace and hoped to finish the bike in about 3hours. Sadly at about 45km my stomach started to cramp. I tried to change position, drink more, then drink less, eat more, then eat less. Stretch my back out, wiggle around as much as I could whilst still trying to move forward. The cramps and pain became excruciating, I did not even know if I would make it to the end of the bike. The thought of then having to run a half marathon seemed to be completely out of my reach. Crying for the last 10miles of the bike was a huge downer and one of the lowest moments on all of these events so far. Seeing the transition was both incredible and daunting as I knew this would be the time to make a decision.
Getting off the bike felt fine everywhere, my legs were not wobbly and everything felt strong. I then went to stand up straight, the pains in my stomach made me cry out. Will was so worried about me, trying to give me encouragement and reassurance. I laid down on the floor for what felt like forever, not knowing if I could even get my trainers on. Some of the people around me had decided to call it a day after the bike section as they were not feeling great. This was not that helpful. I managed to get my trainers on. Head to the loo, cried again but gave myself a stern talking to. Reminding myself why I am doing this, what charity I am doing it for and to battle through just like people with poor mental health do every day. I just had to try to run, if I didn't finish the run at least I tried as hard as I could. A quick hug from the husband and off I shuffled and believe me it felt like a shuffle. Each step put a sharp pain in my stomach.
After approximately 5mins there was a massive hill to run up. I decided to walk. The whole run course was much hillier than I expected it to be. This potentially could have been my only blessing with the tummy issues as each hill I just power walked giving my middle a little bit of time to rest and settle. I kept on running the painful miles, the marshals were great giving the best encouragement and the double loop course meant that all of the athletes gave each other encouragement also. On the second lap of the run I saw Will, he had come to keep me company, this was amazing as I am not sure I would have managed the last 7miles without him talking to me.
I have never been so happy to see the end of an event. I crossed the finish line with more tears, in a complete dazed that I had managed to finish the triathlon and also really proud of my mind that I could battle through so hard. I was also really chuffed with how the rest of my body felt. I felt fit and strong (just not my tummy). A finish time of 6hours 45minutes was not what I wanted but it wasn't the time that mattered it was the fact that I finished I should be proud of.
On reflection and decisions with my coach @ironmatemark we believe the trail mix and natural foods I eat whilst training and in longer slower paced ultra races are not suitable for when I am really pushing myself hard. I hope that my stomach never feels like that again.
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