One of my biggest worries about my first tri was the weather. I'm a very inexperienced and fearful cyclist, so the last thing I wanted to deal with was cycling on wet roads. Luckily, it turned out to be a beautifully sunny day! Almost too sunny...
The sprint tri had a very civilized start time of 11:45, but since it was my first and I didn't know what to expect, we left the house at 9:00 to leave plenty of time. By the time we arrived at 9:30 some of the other races were in full swing, and I could see cyclists and runners out on the course. No wait to register, just collected my race packet and had my number written on the side of my arm and leg. I also picked up my goodie back which included a bottle of Gatorade.
After running to the loo (I'd been hydrating to prepare for the heat) I headed into the transition area. With other races in progress, it was busy and crowded with bikes and lots of kit. I finally found a spot to rack my bike and lay out my stuff. Lots more to think about and prepare for compared to my usual running races, but pretty soon it was time to get into my wetsuit and head over to the swim start.
The announcer had been talking about the swim since we arrived. The current was a lot stronger than expected and racers had really struggled during the earlier swims. I chatted with someone who did the fun race--he said at one point it felt like he wasn't moving at all and in the end everyone decided to get out of the water before the gate! To account for this during our race, they actually shortened the swim course for the sprint by pulling the buoys a little closer to shore.
I was a little worried about swimming against such a strong current but didn't have too long to think about it. Even though they pushed the start back to 12:00--so there would be less traffic on the cycle course with the Olympic distance racers--suddenly they were counting down to the start. GO!
I had positioned myself near the back so I wouldn't have to worry as much about getting kicked or run over. I quickly let water into my suit and was fine after the initial shock of salty sea water. It was crowded and choppy until we hit the first buoy but then everyone spread out a bit. There was actually lots of room for the rest of the swim. Swimming with the current, I felt like I hit the first buoy pretty quickly but it was definitely slower heading back to the gate. I tried to look around every few strokes to make sure I was going in the right direction, but sometimes I couldn't see anything so just followed the people around me.
I got out of the water with help from volunteers so the tide couldn't pull me back. I didn't feel tired but felt slightly disoriented so I walked slowly uphill to the transition area. The pebbles really hurt my feel so I was amazed as people nimbly flew past. When I got to transition just took my time, getting my wetsuit off, getting my race numbers, shorts and shoes on. Finally, helmet on....bike off the rack, and on to the cycle course!
As I was heading for the cycle start I heard someone shout, "Go DimRun!" I was so happy to see @lilbeeloo67 cheering for me! I was very anxious about the cycle so her big hug made me feel lots better! A big thank you to Lesley! I carefully mounted my bike and waited for the traffic to clear, and then I was off.
I'm a terrible, fearful cyclist and my lack of training did not help. I had to go 6 times around the out-and-back course which I did slowly and cautiously! I stayed to the left the whole time and while the road was closed, it was still scary to have so many cyclists speed by! Plus I had to watch out for pedestrians crossing the street, which worried me. What if I couldn't stop fast enough?! There was a tight turn at each end and I was anxious each time, but I made it through them without too much trouble. By my 5th lap there weren't many other cyclists on the course, and for the 6th I really thought I was the only one left. It made me feel stressed to know I was close to being last, and it didn't help when one of the organizers (clearing up cones) asked me how many laps I had left. But finally I was done with the bike and I headed back to transition.
I quickly racked my bike, took my helmet off and grabbed my water bottle. By then I was pretty hot but I still had the run left--5K on an out-and-back course that I needed to run twice. I didn't feel bad on the bike but as I started to run my legs felt like lead. We had to run on the promenade where there were lots of people around, but it didn't matter too much since I was shuffling along anyway. There weren't very many runners left by then so I felt a little lonely, so I was especially grateful to the lovely old lady who clapped and encouraged me every time I stumbled by.
At the end of my last lap I turned toward the finish line and happily crossed with my arms in the air. Slowly but surely....I had finished my first sprint tri in a time of 2 hours, 26 seconds. Considering my patchy training, cycling fear, and heat, I was a happy girl.
Overall, I thought this was a great triathlon for a first-timer. Well-organized, friendly, and not too crowded. Small enough that they announced everyone's name as they crossed the line, which I thought was a nice, personal touch. A water station at the start of the run course which you passed each time you went around, and lots of Gatorade at the end which was welcomed on a hot day. Some people might not like the multiple laps on an out-and-back course for both the cycle and run, but it didn't really bother me.
A well-organized triathlon with a range of distances to suit everyone. Sea swim great for open water experience, and nice closed course for the bike leg. On the UK Triathlon 'Fun2Tri' list. Recommended, and will probably try to do this one again next year. One to avoid if you don't like multiple lap courses.
Stats in 2012:
Date: 18 August
Race distances: Fun, Super Sprint, Sprint, Olympic and Relay
Entry Fee: £50 for the sprint (included a free cotton t-shirt, but I think this is because I signed up early)
Number of sprint triathletes: 262
No timing chip (racers tracked manually)
Free swim cap (to wear during the race) + goodie bag (with Gatorade, oats and a mint)
Medals for every finisher