After months of preparations, race day finally arrives for age-grouper David Pawsey, who has been blogging for us about his preparations for one more shot at Windsor Triathlon (catch up on parts one, two, three and four).
So where did it all go so wrong? Was it being lured into a false sense of security at the beginning of the season where I took 6mins 53secs off last year’s Sevenoaks Tri time and 8mins 29secs off my club’s sprint distance course? Was it succumbing to the double whammy of a sinus infection and a back injury in the final weeks before the main event? Was it my general lack of preparation for the open-water swim? Or was it the psychological blow of losing my sunglasses in the mobile toilet minutes before my wave set off?
As I lowered myself into the Thames I soon realised that a wetsuit isn’t just to keep you warm, it’s to make life easier when swimming against a strong current. And I wasn’t wearing one. A couple of weeks earlier I’d discovered that my wetsuit was never going to fit regardless of how much weight I could lose – it was just too tight and restrictive around the shoulders. And I couldn’t afford to buy a new one.
At the time I wasn’t that bothered as I had done quite a bit of sea swimming on holiday so thought I’d easily cope with the temperature. However I soon realised the current was a different matter. Even holding my start position was proving arduous and I could see why everyone else was sensibly covered in neoprene. The horn sounded and we were off.
This wasn’t my first open-water triathlon (without a wetsuit!) but the scrum was a lot more brutal than anything I’d experienced before. I managed to get a rhythm going but I soon realised that 1500m in the Thames was going to be very different to the 2500m sets I’d been doing in the pool. On top of the currents and being bashed about by my fellow competitors I could barely see where I was going, regardless of whether my face was below or above the water.
Even those wearing wetsuits were struggling with a number of my fellow competitors opting to walk in the more shallow parts of the river. However I was worried that if I adopted that tactic I may not get going again and floundered on. I have to confess I started to consider alerting the kayak marshal that I’d had enough.
The buoy that marked the turning point just wasn’t getting any nearer and I had found myself being caught up in another scrum as the next wave of swimmers surged past me. But then I realised I’d just about made the turning point. As shattered as I felt, I knew that I now had the current at my bidding so literally let myself get taken by the current like a kid at Centerparcs with a minimum amount of swimming.
I clambered out and just about had enough energy to run into transition – the swim had taken me 36mins 49secs.
I pulled on my shoes and helmet, grabbed my bike and was out of transition in 2mins 30secs. Cycling is certainly my strongest discipline so I was aiming to make up some time, the goal was to finish the whole thing in under three hours.
However more technical difficulties – I just couldn’t get my heart rate monitor to work. Like losing my sunglasses, this wasn’t something that could prevent me racing but was affecting me psychologically. I know what sort of effort I can keep up and therefore wanted to know when I was easing off too much but despite continuous fiddling couldn’t get any signal.
I charged on, realising that I needed to complete the bike in around 1hr 20mins if I was going to come in under 3hrs. After much huffing and puffing and cursing my sore back I soon found myself wheeling back into town. I’d completed the cycle section in 1hr 20mins and 15secs.
Running is the aspect of triathlon that I like the least. While I have improved in this discipline I am still incredibly slow. And I have to say that the final section of the Windsor Triathlon was one of the most gruelling things I’ve ever experienced. After a 2min 55secs transition I knew that I had to get round in 57mins. My 10k personal best is just under 55mins and my previous run time in an Olympic distance tri was 1hr 2mins 46secs.
Considering how shattered I felt I knew it was more likely to be nearer the latter time than the former. After one lap of the three lap route I felt like I could no longer go on. How much shame was there in admitting defeat? I’d given it a good crack but it wasn’t to be. But then I knew how annoyed I’d be with myself afterwards for not forcing myself through the pain for another 40 minutes. I struggled on and despite every fibre in my body telling me to stop managed to keep going at a pace that was just above walking.
I staggered in at 3hrs 3mins and 3secs feeling rather disappointed with my effort. However the good news is my sunglasses were handed in to lost property and as I was passed by several elite athletes on the run section you should be able to see me on the TV coverage wheezing away behind Mark Buckingham. Just look out for the big fella in blue.
How did you get on at this year’s Windsor Triathlon? Let us know in the comments below!