Blenheim Palace Triathlon was always my ‘A’ Race this year. It had been the one I’d decided on as being my first triathlon pretty much as soon as I’d seen it on TV in 2014.
Having signed up at the end of last year the glaringly obvious elephant in the room was the fact that I couldn’t swim. Roll forward to January this year and my friend Heather, who is a member of Carlisle Tri-Club, offered to join me at the local pool. Having got in the pool, and had a panic attack, it was evident that a long road was ahead.
Helping hands from other members of Carlisle Tri-club and DH Runners was invaluable on the journey but I felt like I was getting bogged down in technique a lot and, two months in to training, I still hadn’t gotten anywhere near the distance I needed to be at.
My feeling was that I needed to get the distance in and work on technique later. Once I’d gotten my head around that I felt a lot better about the whole process.
Overall the cycling was going ok. I was going back and forth to work, which is an 8 mile round trip, every day and on most occasions I was taking the long way back to add a couple of extra miles in. I was comfortably doing around 50 miles a week on the bike so I was happy enough with that. The running was going ok too. Having trained for half marathons and marathons at the start of the year I was in fairly good shape running wise. With a month to go I was comfortably doing the swim distance of 400m and occasionally chucking in an extra 200m as well and I’d done an open water swim which had gone ok as well. Things were going ok compared to where I was at the start of the whole process.
So I arrived at race weekend in pretty decent shape all in all.
I mentioned doing a triathlon to my mate Rob a long while ago and he decided that he wanted to join me so here we were on a Friday evening, with Rob’s partner Marie, getting sorted for the long 4hr ride down to Woodstock.
I’d booked myself in to a place called The Glove House which was about 200m from the entrance to Blenheim Palace. The location of the B and B was the selling point to me. Price wise it was probably a little out of my usual budget but having checked other B and B’s and hotels in the area there wasn’t much in it to be honest.
Having arrived just after 9:30pm I was amazed at how accommodating the owners were. They took my bike in and stored it for me, despite Rob staying in another hotel 3 miles away they took his bike too, they supplied me with milk and offered to make me a coffee despite there being coffee making facilities in the room and set my wifi on my phone up to sync with theirs. I really just wanted to get my feet up so I gratefully accepted the milk, which arrived in a thermos flask…neat touch, and thanked them for their hospitality.
The room was amazing. In one room was the bed and in the other room was a day bed with the tv and a bath and then a shower and toilet en-suite. It was well worth the money paid and it was only a shame that I wasn’t staying for longer to appreciate it.
Having had a fairly ok sleep I awoke to prepare myself for the morning of exertion ahead. At breakfast, which was amazing, I was joined by a couple who were taking part in the weekend warrior at the triathlon. Essentially they would complete one sprint triathlon and then join the next available wave and carry on until the end of the day. They reckoned that over the weekend they would complete around 8 sprint triathlons. And here was me worrying about one little super-sprint.
Rob arrived around 7:30 and we grabbed our bikes and headed off to the Palace to get registered and to rack our bikes.
I’d remembered all the little rules about wearing your bike helmet while you were in control of your bike so as we entered the transition area I made sure our bike helmets were on and our handlebar plugs were in place. Literally as soon as we entered transition both our bike helmets and handlebar plugs were checked so it was a good thing I’d been a bit OCD about reading all the rules.
Having racked our bikes we had an hour to get prepared before our wave was off. At the time we thought this was ages but the time flew in and, with twenty minutes to go, we still weren’t in our wetsuits. Having been hurried up by a marshal we got sorted and were told to run to the start of the swim as we were late…bugger.
As it was, the whole being late thing was a blessing as it meant that we didn’t really have time to think about what was about to happen with the swim. We were given a race brief and then told to get in the water and a minute later we were underway.
The safety guys in kayaks advised us to come between the buoys (which set me off giggling, grow up Steve).
We’d started near the back which we thought was a good idea to stay out of the way of the faster swimmers and the mass group that were aiming for a decent time. My quickest time over 400m so far was 18 minutes so I had no idea what to expect. What I didn’t expect was that I would get halfway and my swimming cap would pop off…bugger. I spent about two minutes treading water trying to get it back on before turning myself around and going again. By this point I was dead last but there was still a group of eight in the distance that I could catch if I got my swim on.
Turning the buoy for the last 150 metres and I’d caught up with the group and started to overtake them. Rob was slightly in the distance about 75 metres away so I probably wasn’t going to catch up with him at this point but I could still catch up with a couple of guys within my reach which I did and then exited towards transition in what I thought was a fairly decent time overall. I found out later that it was a swim of 15:16 which I was very happy with. Considering I’d had a swimming cap issue it could’ve been an even better time so that’s something to work towards for next time.
A long run up to transition and it was time to get ready for the bike portion of the triathlon. The bike leg was a 13.2km cycle over two laps of the palace grounds. I reconvened with Rob at this point and we were sorted and ready to go together at this point but as I headed out of transition and was about to mount the bike my cup fell out of its holder…bugger. Having handed it to a marshal I was on my way again and Rob was long gone.
There were a few elites on the course at this point and there were warning shouts of “On your right” or “coming through”. My absolute favourite though was the guy who shouted “Coming up your rear” (I know, grow up Steve).
I was fairly handy on the bike and was happily overtaking a fair few people and, having took lap one a little more cautiously, I took lap two with a bit more fervour now that I knew the route. All in all I was happy with my bike time of 31:25. I came to rack my bike to find that someone had kindly taken my spot, I assume this kind of thing happens a lot. Never mind, I found a gap and got my bike in.
The run wasn’t too bad and with it being a distance of 3.1km it was more or less over as soon as it started. I finished the run in a time of 14:45 which is nearly on pace for what I would do that distance for anyway.
I hadn’t finished that far behind Rob and it was nice to see afterwards that, considering we’d both started right at the back in the swim, we ended up finishing in the middle pack which wasn’t bad all things considering.
Having treated myself to a Blenheim Palace Triathlon hoodie it was time to think ahead to the next lot of triathlons that I had bookmarked. With the Carlisle Tri-Club Triathlon on the 2nd August and the London Triathlon on 8th August I was looking to improve on times and confidence.
Blenheim was everything I expected, and hoped, it would be. Well organised and in a lovely setting I was chuffed to bits that it was where I’d chosen to do my first triathlon… as the old saying goes you never forget your first and I certainly wouldn’t.
Thanks must go to Heather for dragging me through swimming training as well as Dave and Morag for their useful advice in regards to the swimming.
Fundraising for Cure Rett continues at Just Giving at this link.
And as mentioned in my last post raffle prizes are still coming in for the Cure Rett Fundraising Night on July 18th at Morton Manor in Carlisle. The event will be from 7pm and will include a raffle, pie and pea supper and a disco. Tickets are £5 and are available now. The raffle prizes that have been amassed are amazing so it’s worth popping down to be in with a chance of winning some of the prizes on hand. You can find more info on that here.
Upcoming is the Appleby 10k on June 28th and The Regents Park 10k on July 26th. As well as the fact that my Dublin Marathon training begins this Monday it’s set to be a busy few months again.