Bala 70.3 June 2017
I was persuaded, a few months ago, to enter another 70.3. The first one I did was last years in Whitchurch. And I kind of enjoyed it. Oh how different this one was!!
In the weeks leading up to Bala I was trying to work on my swimming (my weakest discipline by far). I had started early morning lessons in the pool in addition to swimming in Capernwray Quarry at least once a week. I finally saw some improvements both to my time/technique and my ‘feel for the water’. Basically I was more comfortable and not in panic mode!
I was still really nervous as there were quite a few from my Tri club racing, and they were all fast! Anyway, I cycled, swam and ran regularly as I always do and was just aiming to get through the cut off times rather than racing against anyone. I’m not competitive like that.
I got to Bala on Friday evening, went for a ride and run on the course on Saturday. Registered. Went to look at the lake. Saw some waves and decided not to venture in, hoping the waves and wind would die down by the following day. They didn’t!
On race day I had my breakfast (Marmite on toast) and nervously collected my kit and little road bike for transition. On arrival at the transition area I was greeted by a very arrogant helper who complained about my bike not having ends on the bar tape and me not wearing my helmet (to walk through a gate!). I was eventually let into transition but by this time she had rattled me and I was on the verge of going back out and not even starting the race. The wind was whipping up and it was pouring down. I kept glancing anxiously at the lake.
A couple of fellow competitors had had the same treatment and encouraged me to stay. So I did. I was doing some deep breathing to relax myself before getting into the water. There were a few fellow COLTs getting into wetsuits and we were having a nervous laugh. A few months ago I saw a TV program on stress and they had a method of turning stress into excitement. You just say ‘I am excited’! And it does work!
I felt very calm getting into the water. Until…the waves hit me. The gun went off and everyone started swimming. I held back for a few moments for the rush to subside and for the water to become calmer. It didn’t! I tried normal front crawl, and just kept swallowing the waves and then got sea sick. ‘Don’t panic, I will just breast stroke the whole way’. That didn’t work either as I kept getting hit in the face by constant waves. There was no gap between them to catch your breath. I felt myself starting to panic (“I am excited” did not work at this point!!). I looked at the buoy which seemed miles away and I wasn’t actually getting anywhere. The canoe man came and asked if myself and two other women were OK as we were really far back by then. I wanted to stay in and try for a bit longer but once one of the women got pulled out of the water into the rescue speed boat I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it. I was hurled over the edge of the speed boat, along with the two other ladies and driven back to shore (only about 200m away!)
So, we did the walk of shame, the men were still waiting in the water to set off as we climbed out of the boat. Some of the spectators asked if we were OK (Thanks Kev!) and congratulated us for attempting it. I was almost being sick at that point as I had swallowed so much water. I swore a bit and felt horrible. The organiser asked us if we wanted to still complete the bike and run. We all brightened up a bit and said we did. Unfortunately a different rude arrogant woman in transition (where do they get these people from!?) then told her friend that we shouldn’t be allowed to continue, shouted at us for standing in the wrong place (even though the organiser had told us to stand there). We were getting really cold by then as we were wet and standing for about 25 mins. I did consider just leaving but then we were told we could go and they would put a massive number for our swim time so it wouldn’t mess up the results and we would be at the bottom.
As I was clipping into my pedals to start the bike leg, the rude women then said to us “Don’t get in the way of the athletes”. I told her to stop speaking to us like that and cycled off, fuming! Clearly cycling 56 miles and then running a half marathon doesn’t make us athletes. As if we didn’t feel bad enough already. One of the women who had got out of the swim with me later told me she didn’t do the run either after hearing her say that.
My head dropped a bit at this point as I was on the bike in strong wind and rain and knowing I would be a DNF but I just didn’t want to waste the event. I wanted to do as much of it as I could so I carried on. I had to stop mid bike for a pee as I had drunk so much of the lake. I was in a one piece tri suit so basically had to strip off behind a small tree to pee. Anyway, I carried on, turned and rode back to transition. The road was busy and a lot of people came past me on TT bikes. I was pootling along as quick as I could on my road bike and trying not to be blown off. I finished the bike in 3.33.
So back to transition. No sign of grumps at the gates so had a quick chat with Beccy whilst putting our running shoes on and off I went. At last I thought! The bit I like!! Set off after seeing my sisters waving at me and headed out.
As always, my legs were wobbly to start with especially as the first bit of run was on wobbly grass. Once we were on road they felt better. The run was undulating for the first few miles then hilly up to a turn point. I was just enjoying myself for the first time that day when pop, my calf went. That was my good calf too! I took some painkillers and hobbled on. I was not giving up on the run as well as the swim! At the turn point the lovely marshals asked if I needed a lift back. I decided to keep going and run/walk back down. I finished the run in 1.55 which I was pleased with considering my calf.
So, would I do this event again? No. I didn’t enjoy it. Sport is meant to be fun, and accessible for all. I felt it was too elitist, not for beginners or people on road bikes like me. I felt like I didn’t fit in. There were so many rules and regulations I was scared to breathe for fear of being DQ’d. One of the rules was to not be rude to marshals, not that I ever would. But it seemed quite fine for two of them to be rude to us! Most of the marshals and competitors were lovely though, I have to say. The run route was very friendly with people encouraging each other. But, I actually don’t feel like I want to do any more triathlons. That may change, but not for the moment. My swimming just isn’t up to it. After all, it was only by entering my first triathlon 3 years ago that I learned to swim. And I’m not the most confident cyclist either!
I don’t feel too disappointed by Bala because I gave it a shot. If I hadn’t even tried then I would have beaten myself up for ages but I know I couldn’t have finished that swim.
I am really looking forward to a 50 mile ultra in October and who knows after that. I love running. Its much more me, and it open to everyone of all speeds and abilities 🙂