Helen’s race report – Southport Standard Triathlon – May 16th 2021

After dropping my doggies off for a sleep over at the most amazing kennels run by a good friend near by and wiping a tear from my eye as they trotted off without me and not a care in the world or even a look back, I then turned my attention to my kit for tomorrow. I laid out my kit as if in transition to ensure I had all my kit and ran through in my mind what I would need as I imagined myself at the swim start, at T1 and T2. After ripping the house apart looking for tri-glide and talc, then discovering my heart rate monitor was out of battery… A trip to the supermarket was in aid, having returned from said super market with batteries, I then couldn’t find one of the those micro screwdrivers that you find in a Christmas cracker and hide in the ‘messy draw’ for the next 10 years. After knocking up the neighbours who were looking rather confused at my request for a ‘micro screw driver’ it was back down town to try to find such an implement to buy.. Fortunately the wonderful gents at PC World had the screwdriver needed and changed my batteries free of charge… result! 

Next mission… install speed fill hydration system… as I was opening the box, and began attaching this to my bike and cutting the straw down to size I suddenly remembered the old saying of never try anything new on race day… humm what’s the worse that could happen. Oh yes better try on a few tri-suits and see which one I can actually fit in and not look like a certain mascot for a tyre manufacturer… hummm this one fits ok…. as I pull the tag off with my teeth I note this the second new thing I will be using on race day….. Shit! Coach Richard would kick my arse if he knew… on well nevermind!!      

Although a well seasoned triathlete I haven’t actually raced since my heartbreaking DNF at Ironman Wales 2018… a number of significant life changes later including the exit of a toxic/abusive relationship, new job, COVID and relocating to the other side of the country all had its part to play in my step back from the sport. But with a lot of help from the 2 men in my life, Coach Richard and Mike my long suffering beloved they both help to keep me on track and pushing forward, and in turn help me to get a little bit on the old me back. She’s in there somewhere…!

The day started at 4:30 with coffee in bed while taking a moment to regret my life choices before awaking my beloved and chief cheerleader with a waft of caffeine it was time to panic/pack the car!!  Once finally away, Mike in the driving seat while I attempt to choke down some coffee and porridge… Bluurrggh! At the event I merrily made my way over to registration and was feeling very happy to be there. While racking my bike and kit in transition I spotted Sophie and we compared notes on race recce, transition lay out and best route through transition etc… after wishing each other luck I then spotted Richard running through transition looking super focused! Next was back to the car for second breakfast and to watch some of the mens bike course before lining up to start the swim. 

After being pleasantly surprised that I could fit into my wetsuit the ladies race was called to line up… while sharing stories with the other ladies in the queue including that this was my first lake swim of the year for me and watching the emotion drain from the faces followed by a ‘well good luck anyway’, I thought how hard could it be.. it might be a bit nippy but its all mind over matter.. it will all be fine…. Ha ha ha! Making my way down the shoot into the water, well my god that was F*&%ing cold, it took my breath away… while looking round myself trying to not panic, I noticed all the other ladies that are managing to just jump in and swim! How are they doing that? Are they not human?! After a few failed attempts to put my head in and swim, I stood up (yes it was that shallow, though I dread to think what I was actually standing in!) and proceeded to breaststroke for a few mins, eventually managing to process into a front crawl.. and few coughs and splutters later I was away! Albeit alone as the pack had long since left me but we moving in the right direction.. after mentally bashing myself for the reason why we this and there must be other ways to have fun which don’t involve attempting to swim in a frozen duck pond clad in neoprene, I was soon at the end and searching for the exit which was located after a little help from some friendly kayakers! Thank god that was over… out of the water and running through the half a kilometre tarmac transition with freezing bare feet was certainly character building… Get me on that bike!

Wobbling my way to the mount line and then proceeded to wobble forwards on my TT bike… now my TT bike and I have not had the best start to our relationship before Coach Richard had dragged me out kicking and screaming on it a couple of weekends before. I had only ridden the bike a few times outside as the TT position frighten the hell out of me! Having got up to speed I began enjoying my ride and watching the speed on my computer I’m in amazement and loving my ride and feeling on top of the world! Starting to focus on the race in hand, and thinking right need to get as much fuel in during the bike to set me up for my run I begin trying to stuff the straw to my speedfil bottle in my gob.. shit! It won’t reach…. after some yanking about I managed to unthread it from one of the cable ties on the stem to give me enough straw to reach my face! note to self never try anything new on race day! So then i begin taking down my water/carb mix and merrily push on!  By 33 km I started feeling some stomach cramps and found I was struggling to put down the same speeds as I had previously. Maybe I have overdone my fuelling a little…. Maybe I need a wee or a good fart.. but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to find out which! My Saddle was also causing me some issues combined with the new trisuit not fitting as well as it could have resulting in some serious chaffing in areas i will only leave to ones imagination… I push through and finally the end is in sight.

After running through the 500m transition in bike shoes, I was grateful I had taken the time to note some land marks to help me find my spot in transition. Dump bike, shoes off, helmet off, trainers on and handfuls of gels stuffed in my pockets… I was off!  50 meters later my gels fell out on my pockets so I had to stop and pick them which really put me off my stride. bloody tri suit! never try anything new on race day…..

2k in to the run and I find myself running alongside another lady, we seemed to be matching each other well and struck up a conversation. We stayed together and continued our chat including many important subjects such as why we tri… I promise Richard, I was completely focused on the race….. until I spotted a very cute Vizula pup which did distract me to miss a turning briefly.. oops. Having my new friend to distracted me from my ages and groans and kept my spirits high and motivated. We crossed the finish together and we are both really pleased with our pace and times, having exchanged facebook details the next mission was to find Mike in the crowds to issues him with his well earned sweaty, smelly, sticky hug which he accepted with all the dignity one would expect from an ex military man!

All in all, a fabulous return to racing, although not a competitive or record breaking time ( I’m built for comfort not speed). It was undoubtedly a performance I am really proud of and am so looking to my next event.