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Sarah Lakeland – Blithfield Standard Tri

race report 29/07/18

Last year I saw such huge improvements in my sprint distance times I looked to the next challenge and decided I’d go longer so a standard distance race it was. At that point it was quite a challenge for me to contemplate as I wasn’t regularly running much further than 6-7km and I was only really doing 1hr or so on the bike. Swimming is my strength so I wasn’t concerned about that as I have quite a bit of open water experience and long-ish swims are right up my alley.  My problem was that I wasn’t prepared to just get round the course, I wanted to finish the race feeling I’d done the best I could in the situation I was in. I’d love to be one of those people who don’t put pressure on themselves and are happy with whatever happens but I know myself well enough and I knew I wouldn’t be on the start line if I didn’t try my best. I’m not under any illusion that I am amazing but for me there is no challenge if I don’t put pressure on myself and then why bother!

So I pretty much did as I was told, I had weekly personal training sessions with Steve and a programme for in between. Every week when Steve uploaded my training onto TrainingPeaks, Andy and I would sit down write it all on the family planner that I found in Wilko’s for all those other stationary obsessed out there (we sound way more organised than we really are!!!) Once the training was in the planner we worked out who would train when, who would collect each child and how the dog fitted into it all. Once that was sorted it was just a case of following the weeks plan. Mostly it worked, Andy is training for Lanzarote 70.3 so some weekends were hectic with 6 or 7 hours of training to manage between us in one day but we did it. My smuggest moment was returning home after a 2hr 30min ride by 08.30 am just as Andy was walking up the street to school and nursery with the kids. That day I was winning at life!

Given that we have had the longest spell of hot dry weather in my memory, it never entered my head that I would be facing anything other than hot sunny conditions. I bought a visor as a full baseball cap made my head too hot, I worried about sun burn as I am the palest skinned person you will meet. Then the weekend of the race the forecast was awful, 100% chance of rain from 2am to 3pm on race day and 20mph winds with gusts up to 40mph. WHAT! This is not how its supposed to be, I’ve trained for this, I only ever imagined nice weather and I was absolutely not prepared for this!

We stayed the night before in a hotel and as I put the kids to bed I sent Andy out to find a supermarket to buy an umbrella as he had to wrangle a 5 and 3yr old for the duration and we were not prepared for wet weather. That night I kind of considered that the conditions may impact on the safety of the race but all I could do was wait til the race brief and see how the weather really was.

The next morning I felt pretty good, it was very windy and wet as forecasted and we arrived at the venue to find the field for parking and the field that transition was in had recently had sheep in and there was more poo on the dried out grass than I have ever seen before and coupled with the rain it made for squelchy under foot conditions. Wonderful I thought sarcastically, “yacky” the kids shouted. All registered and racked I got my wetsuit on as it was the best way to keep warm and waited for the race brief. My hands were blue, it was freezing in the rain and wind. Apparently they were struggling with the bouys drifting so the swim was likely to be longer and soon enough we could get in the reservoir to warm up and warm up I did! The water was warmer that the air temp and very welcome indeed. The wind was whipping up waves and the sky was grey, the visibility wasn’t great and I could just make out the next bouy.

Despite all this I relaxed into the swim and had a great swim, I hardly saw another swimmer and had an uneventful swim. It was tough as there was a long stretch into the wind and it felt like the waves were pushing me backwards but being a bilateral breather was a real advantage as was the endless pool sessions as it was just like swimming against the motor. I got out the water and a Marshall shouted “it’s a woman” then he said as I went past “you’ve had a good swim” I looked at my watch and the time was 5 mins over what I was expecting but there were most of the bikes in transition still so it can’t have been that bad. I assumed the conditions affected some more than me. I later found out I was the 4th women out of the water and 18th out the water overall.

I got off on my bike after squelching the sheep poo between my toes and even though the rain was stinging my face and the wind was strong I felt good. It was a 2 lap course and the first lap flew by and I overtook a couple of women so I felt it was going well, I was overtaken by a lot of men but I expected that. I looked at the distance on my watch at one point and I only had 10km left and I felt good still and I thought “bloody hell Sarah! You’ve nearly done this!” I wasn’t surprised I could do it but I was surprised that I was loving it and I hadn’t had a single negative thought once. The rain was pouring and the wind was blowing but it felt like the sun was shining on me at that moment, I absolutely felt on top of the world. I had a phrase stuck in my head “concentrate on smooth pedalling” from Steve’s watt bike sessions on TrainingPeaks so I did and before I knew it I was running. I’d recently got new trainers and they felt like slippers, I was loving  life! Everything was amazing, I congratulated every runner I saw on the 2 lap about and back course and they smiled back and high fived me the next time I saw them. Waves from the reservoir were blowing over the dam wall and it was still raining. My 3 piece support crew all dressed in OTCF tops cheered me on from the wound down car window and I felt so sorry for Andy as spectating at triathlons is my specialty and I know it’s not easy to occupy two small children so in the weather conditions I really felt sorry for him but he was armed with snacks and YouTube.

In the last 2km I realised that I was on the home straight and there were plenty of competitors still heading out on the last lap so I was doing too badly! I picked up the pace for the last 2km and  crossed the finish line smiling and was greeted by my damp family. The marshals and organisers did amazing in the circumstances as the weather was appalling.

I’d done it and only 1 min slower than I hoped but given the conditions I wasn’t bothered by that. I’d had the time of my life and I enthusiastically text Steve to say I liked the standard distance more than sprint distance so you guessed it I’m doing another in a month! Be careful people don’t mention anything to Steve Clark that you don’t really want to do, 1 hour with Steve and you believe you can do all sorts of things. The truth is you can do them, you just have to believe in yourself as much as he does. Thanks Steve x

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