This Girl Can Tri…

I’m walking towards the swim start. My wet suit is round my waist just waiting for the final zip to be done up. 

My heart is racing. My head is too. “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I can’t.”

The tears are rolling down my face in sheer terror and self doubt. 

And there’s the start line. 

My phone buzzes. A tweet. 


Deep breath. Ok. One step at a time. 

Wet suit on. Cap and goggles on. 

“Excuse me, can you zip me in please”

“SARAH”

I look up. And there they are. My friends. Waving and smiling. 


“Right ladies – big smile for the camera!”


“Ok. Can you swim to the start line please”

A klaxon

And I’m away….

How did I get there?

After 8 months of injury, I get the all clear. After lots of people telling me I should try a triathlon because I swim, cycle and run, I find out Liverpool Tri is a closed road bike Tri (quite rare and after a couple of falls off the bike I’m very nervy!) I sign up in a whirlwind of ‘wahoo I’m not injured anymore!’

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the long time out injured results in a recovery injury. 

Fast forward 3 months and I’m running. Biking a bit – still wobbly and slowly. And loving the open water swimming – even managing a placing at an event. 

Two weeks before the event, I get an email asking if I’d like to be a ‘This Girl Can’ ambassador as I’m taking part in the female only wave they’re sponsoring. (In case You’ve not heard of this, it’s a UK based campaign using real women to encourage women to get active in any way that makes them happy, regardless of ability). I think ‘why not?’ And say yes!

I’m selected and invited to attend a briefing the day before at registration to answer my questions about the event as a beginner. I’m also given a Tech t-shirt to wear if I’d like. 

The briefing did lots to settle my nerves. Phew!


Chris was with me as he’d offered his services as a Tri-maker for the Sunday, and I took the organisers advice to rack my bike up and have a look round transition. And take some daft pictures too. 


I got home and checked my kit. (We’ll gloss over the forgotten run kit bag and only one insole packed!)


The next morning, Chris left at stupid o’clock to go and man transition and do some impressive pointing. 


I followed shortly afterwards. My wave was starting at 12:15, but transition was closing at 8:30. So I decided to go in, get set up and go and watch the different bits of the event – particularly swim exit. As transition was inside, to minimise the slippy floor problem of thousands of dripping swimmers, the rules were that your wetsuit had to be off and bagged before entering the hall. In the briefing on Saturday this led to one lady declaring ‘I’m glad you said that, I wasn’t planning on wearing anything under my wetsuit!’  


I bumped into the lovely Leeny off Twitter (we always find each other at races in Liverpool!) and also caught sight of Jason Bradbury filming for Channel 4 (highlights on Saturday 27th 7am – autographs available at Walsall parkrun from 9am for a small fee). 


I spent most of the morning at the finish line, cheering and enjoying the atmosphere. Chatting with other supporters and bumping into to Tour of Merseyside and Twitter friends. 

At 11:30, I got into the bottom half of my wetsuit. And the panic arrived. By now, Glover should have been there (my awesome friend who was coming to cheer me on and, I hoped, calm me down!). I messaged him, and he was running late, so I began my walk to swim start, in a mental mess. 

But as you know from the intro, he made it as did my Shabbasister Lozza (best surprise ever!) and I got into the water, knowing no matter what, I wasn’t alone. 

The swim began. I deliberately started at the back as I’m not used to mass starts, and gradually just found my pace, and a rhythm and swam. Occasionally a jelly fish bobbed by, and I could see coloured swim caps all around me. 

Before I knew it, I was out the water and bagging my wetsuit. And then into transition. 


It was slippy, so I walked it, and thanks to Chris, super marshal, he cleared the path and snapped me coming through. 

Transition. Remember. Helmet on first. Then number. Then every thing else. Eat. Drink. Go. 

Out on the bike. And the overtaking began. 10k of ‘zooooooom’ as the fast boys over took. And the fast girls. And the slow boys. And the slow girls. And the granny with the shopping basket. 

But there were my cheering squad! 


Now. Let’s do that again. 

But not quite. 

Whereas on the first lap I was surrounded by overtaking and people going back the other way, now there were no other cyclists in sight. 

I pass a marshal point. The radio buzzes. “Can you check if this cyclist is last please?”  

A motorbike engine revs. “I’ll ride behind in case I need to sweep her up.”

No. Please no. Please tell me I’m not going to get cut off. Please tell me I’m not going to get asked to remove myself from the course – because the elites are about to come through and it’ll be dangerous for me to carry on. No. No. No. 

Here come the tears. 

And then he was gone. I carried on. And I’m not sure how. 

My confidence, shaky to begin with was gone. 

I can’t do this. 

I’m going to stop. 

What will I tell the children though? 

It’s one thing to to be asked to stop because I could be putting myself or other riders at risk. It’s another to quit. 

Do I want my daughter and son to think that if things get difficult that the right thing to do is give up?

Or do I want them to know that they can do anything they want if they work hard and believe things are possible?

Ok. I can do this. My goal was to finish. 

At the turn around point I can see at least 2 riders behind me, so I get a grip. No sign of the sweeper. Let’s do this!

Back into the city and there are my biggest fans again. 


Back into transition. Remember, rack bike before you take the helmet off. There’s Chris. “Ok?” “Knackered, but yes.”

Drink

“SARAH!” “What?” “Turn your number round!” Oops. Swish and I’m off. 

Or am I?

My legs feel like led. I’m pretty sure my feet aren’t coming off the floor. 

Just keep moving. It’s only 5k. Just a parkrun and that’s it. You’re done. 

“GO ON TUCKSHOP!” 

My cheerleaders working hard again. Although I might have sworn at them. (Sorry!)


The run route is quite nice, weaving in and out of the waterfront. Although, by now, pedestrians are drifting across the route as its deserted apart from me. I might have shouted at some of them.

Mile 2. Legs are feeling better. I have a laugh with the people on the drinks station and keep plodding on. 

The elites are now out on the bike, I run past two riders being treated on the floor – nothing serious, but a bit of blood and they’d obviously got too close to each other. 

Mile 3. The elite youth are starting to lap me on the run route. They are utterly amazing to watch. It was a privelege to be overtaken by kids out there being the best they can be.

Legs feeling even better (looking back afterwards, mile 3 was my fastest mile and I negative split the whole run!)

And there was the finish. 

And there was Glover and Lozza screaming and cheering me home. 


And as I cross the line, I hear my name over the loud speaker, and the MC talking about me and This Girl Can. And all I can think is:

“I did it. I did it. I’m done.”

And I was across the line and a volunteer puts her arm round me and congratulates me and I burst into tears. 

I get my medal, and make my way outside. 

A figure runs towards me. 

My son. Hugging me sobbing, garbling something about me going to the Olympics and how proud he was, and refusing to let me go. And there was my mum, dad and daughter all hugging me and smiling. 

My parents and children had made it in time to see me finish. And I was so glad it toughed it out. 


I found Chris and Glover and Lozza (eventually!) and we went off to celebrate and cool off 

Will I do anther Tri? 

Right now, I doubt it. My bike needs more work than I think I can commit to, or want to at the moment. I’ll continue to commute to work and ride for pleasure, but the pressure of a bike event isn’t for me. 

Also – people who do Olympic, half iron and full iron triathlons – I salute you and am in awe of what you do – you are incredible. 

Swimming has always been part of my life and running is where my heart lies. 

I think I’ll look into aquathon (splash and dashes) and I’ll always love road racing and open water events. 

I could not be prouder of what I achieved and I’m happy with my over all result. 

Someone has to come last, and on this occasion it was me. But I did not quit.

If you take anything from my story – it’s this: 

This Girl Can. 

And This Girl Did. 

And That Girl over there? 

You can too. 


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When the kids are away…

Me and Chris go for a swim at the same time instead of playing child care tag!

My first swim since ‘lurgy gate’. Decided it was just about steady and stretch out. 

It was instantly obvious this wasn’t going to be my finest hour. 

So I went with my ‘just 10 more’ strategy. 

And got crosser and crosser that I wasn’t enjoying swimming at all. 

After 40 lengths I pulled myself together and went back to 20 lengths in a set. 

Still wasn’t having any fun but the lengths were ticking down. 

When I was running regularly and biking, swimming was my go to place to stretch out, recover and drift away. 

Until my routine gets back to that place, it’s now another thing I feel I ‘HAVE’ to do and I’m not allowed to swim breastroke until my hip gets the all clear so I’m finding it dull, as I’ve got no variety of stroke. 

Still it’s 2km done and I do feel stretched  out and fresher. 

  

Easy like Sunday morning…

Today’s kilometre was in the pool – 1.5km swim. 

I was feeling a little achy after yesterday’s run experiment – nothing bad, just normal post exercise aches – a good feeling!

So I went with the only goal of trying to glide through the water – long, slow, languid; and just to enjoy stretching out in the water. 

Mission accomplished. Bar the last 250m sprint – I’d misread the session time as finishing at 12:30 – it was 12pm!

All done. All still good!

  

I put my blue shoes on…

Thursday is Aquafit day. 

The sexy blue shoe covers go on. 

  
I get changed and anticipate the lesson. Hard work but I know what I’m doing. Bring. It. On. 

  
Ha!! I know nothing!!

The instructor has brought along some new moves!

In the cardio – hopping on one leg, while swinging the other forward and back. 

Yeah. You try it on land. 

Now try it in water!

In the strength section she’s decided it’s leg day. 

Dumbells aside. Grab a noodle. 

Hook it under your foot. Let the noodle float your knee to the surface and push down to the floor. 

After 8. This is easy. 

After 16. Ok. This is NOT easy.

After 32. Please. Let us swap legs!

Nope. Now small fast pulses.

All the while the noodle is nudging me in the back. Make your own jokes there. 

Just when I thought my leg was going to drop off ‘change legs!’

I like it when the instructors change stuff – stops me getting cocky and complacent. 

And also makes a change for it not to be my shoulders on fire after class!

Day 21 of my kilometre a day complete!

  

Push it!!

Tonight finds me back in the pool. 

Last time I swam I was feeling a little disheartened and in a rut with my swimming so had decided to shake up my next session. 

Shake it up I did! 

Rather than worry about distance I decided to concentrate on effort. 

 

Let’s do this!!

 
So the vague plan was 100m warm up, then sets of 100m with 25m on/off efforts. 

So I check out the lanes. 

Breast strokers  in both fast lanes, and the slow lane. Medium lane empty. Conscious I’d be stop/starting I picked the empty lane. 

About to hit go on the watch and *splash* another swimmer actually fell into the lane next to me, smiled at me embarrassed, and pushed off doing breast stroke. 

Aaaarrrrggghhh!!

So I ducked out to the main part of the pool and got going. 

The sprints flew by. I’d done a kilometre without noticing the time – although I definitely noticed the effort!

I cooled down with 500m steady – stretched out and headed home. 

I’d love to know what my watch picked up in the session as I REALLY pushed myself – lost the ability to bilateral breath after 500m! Unfortunately Garmin Connect is refusing to sync properly so I’ll have to wait!

But 1.5km swim done and feeling good. I think!

  

Funky floats and shoes!

Today is all about the Aquafit. 

45 mins of cardio and strength in the pool with the funky floats. 

  
The hardest part of these floats is keeping hold of them – the fingers soon cramp up!

But I love this class – and I know I’m extremely lucky that I can work from home and have the flexibility to get to it. 

Plus I have the sexy overshoes to wear – and I’ve been known to get all the way home with them on!

  
Biggest problem is the need for fooooooood afterwards! And it seems for me the only way is eggs!

  

Do I have to??

That’s how I felt after work tonight about going swimming. 

And thought about coming home, having tea then going to the 8:30 session. As my friend said ‘you’re kidding yourself. You’ll get home and then won’t go out again.’ 

And she’s right. 

So I dragged myself through the rush hour traffic to the pool. 

I’d eaten better today so knew I wouldn’t be dying but still felt hard work tonight. 

I did 20 lengths (600m in this pool as its a 30m pool) and decided to revert back to ‘just 10 more…’

I pretty much sulked my way through 1800m of my swim. The someone got in the lane with me. 

And he was a smidgeon quicker than me. So my last ’10 more’ became all about ‘DO NOT GET LAPPED!’

And I didn’t. 

 

Apparently I have a quiff now. Quiffs are cool.

 
I decided to compare my last few swims just to see if I really am struggling the way I feel I am. 

Looking at my pace per 100m over the last few swims I’m varying between 2:24 and 2:28 per 100m so I think it’s in my head as it often is. 

So I decided. If it feels tough it’s because I’m getting complacent with it. So I’m going to have a little think about how I can shake up my swimming! 

Day 12 done!