Cotswold Classic Middle Distance Triathlon – 11th July 2021 by Sophie King
3.30am alarm to eat porridge before heading to Lake 32 for a 6am swim start. We ended up pretty rushed and in all the chaos of parking, registering and setting up transition, we hadn’t noticed the fog that had descended on the lake. We heard the first announcement that there would be a 20 minute delay. The water safety team had to be able to see the other side of the lake clearly for 10 minutes before they would allow the swim to proceed. Looking out at the water, you really could not see a thing! The bright buoys we had been sighting earlier in the week were completely lost in the fog. It would have been carnage to send 1000 athletes out into the white. Unfortunately that meant delay after delay until eventually they made the difficult decision to cancel the swim. Meanwhile all the waiting around meant I was hungry (not ideal) but we only had gels as an option and we didn’t know when we might suddenly have to start. Then 7.30 we were told to get ready for a duathlon. We charged to transition, chucked off our wetsuits and headed to the mount line with our bikes. It went from 0 to 100 and suddenly the race had begun!…
The bike was a bit crazy due to the cancelled swim. Without the swim and with the 90 minute delay, I knew the roads were going to be busy with cyclists. I was in the first wave and set off first female, near the front. I managed to overtake a few guys straightaway and wondered if I was getting over excited too soon. However, I managed to maintain my position near the front. I ended up cycling behind two guys that were stronger than me so I kept to my planned watts and kept them in my sights. However, my bike handling skills on lap 1 left something to be desired. I really didn’t want to crash so I took the corners/U turns/turnarounds probably a bit too carefully because I then ended up solo for the rest of lap 1. Lap 2 of the bike and the roads were only getting busier. There were huge groups of cyclists and areas where the roads were way too busy. Unfortunately, I also cycled past a couple of bad accidents. I hope whoever ended up in the ambulances recover quickly!!!! I was overtaken by a handful of men over the 2 lap course but no ladies. At the turnaround points, I could see that there were no females near me or catching up so I had a sense that I was doing well. I ended up finding a group of riders that were a similar ability to me. I tried my best to keep a 12 metre draft zone behind but every time I tried to ride off the front, I would be overtaken. I decided to just keep racing my race, try to keep the correct distance and focus on my watts. On the second lap my bike handling skills improved and I was much braver taking the corners. The bike couldn’t really be going better for me. I was pleased to see Rich smashing it too up in the very front packs of the race. I felt really strong and honestly wanted to keep going rather than get off and run. I sensed the bike had gone well but I was thrilled to find out I had the fastest female bike split of the day.
HOWEVER…disaster struck…approaching the dismount line, I started to slow down and swung my leg over ready to jump off. It all happened so fast that I have no idea what happened but next thing I was face planting the road and my bike flung to my right, tools over the road. What a plonker to crash during a flying dismount (practised hundreds of times). I really wish I had video footage to analyse what went wrong but I suspect I just approached too fast or lost my balance somehow.
My feet were covered in blood and scrapes, my big toenail had been ripped off and I had grazed knees but I wasn’t about to stop. The marshals began to make a fuss but I said I was fine (definitely in shock), I picked up the tools, grabbed my bike and continued to transition.Results later show a quick transition but my memory is a bit of a blur. I know that I pulled my socks over my bloodied feet and wasn’t really aware of any pain yet. I remember deciding it was just damage to the skin and no serious injuries like a twist, sprain or break. Since I was in first place, I decided to at least attempt the run.
I started the run and began to question what to do. The blood from my feet had already soaked through my socks and white Nike Vaporflys (RIP). I ran the first 7km lap still slightly in shock from the crash. My heart rate was through the roof. From the start, I wasn’t able to hit the pace I have been consistently hitting in training. I felt adrenaline pumping through me and was trying to run quickly whilst contemplating I may need to stop and end my race. I saw my parents who were so excited I was in first place but had no idea I had crashed at the dismount line. I tried to tell them as I went past and told them that I needed to stop to see a paramedic. I didn’t want to ravage my feet and be off training for weeks. However, I also knew that I was in a really good position and the podium was in my sights. It was a constant dilemma. My feet began to throb and the pain was starting to make me feel dizzy. I could feel blood in my socks and raw flesh rubbing on raw flesh between my toes. On lap 2, I was in increasing pain and my run had turned to hobble. I decided to stop and let a paramedic look at my feet. He strapped them as best he could and I continued on my way. At the stage I knew the podium was slipping from my grasp at the running pace I was able to maintain. So now I was just deciding whether to prove my grit and determination to cross the finish line or throw in the towel and concede that today just wasn’t my day. I wondered what coach would advise! However, I didn’t want to spoil his race or let on what had happened so when I passed him on course, I just blew him a kiss. By the time I reached lap 3, I needed to stop for another paramedic. Some of the plasters had come off and my wounds were rubbing again. This second stop felt like the nail in my coffin as a number of female athletes now ran past at speed. I continued and, at every passing kilometre, I questioned whether to give up. However, with my parents there to cheer, I wanted to cross the finish line for them. I passed my parents again and told them I would continue to the end. I chatted to and greeted other runners to try and distract myself from the pain. With 5km left, I knew I could make it. I was really disappointed with my time but not surprised. My running has gone from strength to strength in training so this had been my first opportunity to showcase my hard work. It hadn’t gone to plan – from a cancelled swim, to bike crash, to paramedic stops on the run. However, I weirdly enjoyed the experience and feel like I have a lot of positives to take from it. During the darkest moments on the run, I questioned whether I even want to continue down this triathlon path. Possibly only hours after the race, I was considering attempting my first full Ironman next year. 😂 That’s triathlon for you!!!
For those interested – my 90km bike split was 2:19:15, 38.4kph average speed and 202 watts NP.
I am a huge fan of my Team Purpose tri suits and wouldn’t race in anything else! This is my second race in a row where I have achieved fastest female bike split so big shout out to EZdisc for their amazing disc covers. My nutrition plan went really well during the race and I stuck to all my own Xendurance products. The berry and citrus gels and Fuel-5 carb drinks are everything I need to get to the finish line. A big thanks to my Neuff tri family for all their support.