A weekend at the Palace

Florence on her weekend at the Blenheim Triathlon

Some fierce competition, seamless organisation and a truly stunning venue set us up for a spectacular day of racing at Blenheim Triathlon.

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Standing on the bank overlooking the lake shortly after midday, waiting for my wave to start, I felt a little like I was being steam-cooked in my wetsuit and was struggling to contain my jealousy of those who had the foresight to bring water into the pre-race briefing. Still, at least it meant I was gagging to get into the water for the start of the race.

As soon as the horn blasted, two leading groups emerged on each side of the line-up, having adopted different tactics on the racing line. Pushing out hard from the start to stay amongst the strong swimmers, I soon found a steady, long rhythm and enjoyed the cool water after the sweaty anticipation on the bank.

Feeling relaxed, my main goal was to find some feet, preferably attached to someone swimming slightly quicker than me and going in a straight line towards the buoy. To my delight, three girls lined themselves up perfectly in front of me, offering me three bodies to draft off as they thrashed it out ahead. Enjoying the ride, I stayed relaxed and concentrated on sticking to their toes, visualising my exit from the water as I drew closer to the swim finish.

Clambering up the bank and out of the lake, the familiar head rush and wobbly legs, as a marshall helped me find my wetsuit zip. Now for the 400m hill climb to transition that I had been warned of. My three pace-makers from the swim clearly decided to conserve energy on the hill, so I quickly passed them as I picked my way up through the woods in my half-removed wetsuit, coming first into transition.

A less-than-elegant T1, but I made it onto the bike and no one breathing down my neck (…yet). The course was pretty varied and some hairy moments trying to overtake ladies with baskets and slogan T-shirts on tight bends. The hills kept it interesting and I was feeling strong as I took one after another of the super-sprinters from the wave before, with no one catching me.

Until…I heard her before I saw her…my nemesis chasing me down. She slipped past me shortly before the end of the final lap, before I had even had time to register her presence.

That began the chase as I followed her into transition, not helped by some unlucky marshall who had chosen my racking spot to loiter in to watch the race (he may have caught the sharp end of my tongue). On with the running shoes – she was a little leisurely with hers – surely I can catch her?

The run was humid and undulating as I tracked her like a hunter, edging closer and then dropping back as I lost focus momentarily, wishing I had done more brick training. My legs felt heavy and I wasn’t catching her quick enough. I had left it too late. In the final 500m I put in a last surge and gained a few metres, but it wasn’t enough.

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Crossing the line, the frustration at being pipped to the post soon melted away. Happy with my time and satisfied that I couldn’t have given any more, I realised it is much more fun when you have someone to chase, even if you don’t quite get them. There is a lot to be learned from coming second – in this case that my bike-to-run legs need some practice before London.”