I’ve been thinking about trying a triathlon for a while now so when my friend Kat suggested giving and Aquathlon a go, I said yes immediately. Was there any better way to ease my way into the world of multi sport than with my two favourite activities? I signed up there and then.
Stirling Triathlon club were the hosts of this event and it took part at the National Swimming academy up at Stirling University, which was where I went to Uni (all 13 years ago now!) and I am always more than happy to revisit the campus. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and once registered (which took a bit longer for Kat as someone else had been given her number!!) we pottered about, had a look at the transition area (a first for me!), set our shoes and towels and then went for a tea and a flapjack as we still had tons of time to kill before our heat.
The event consisted of a 750m (30 length) swim and a 5k run. I hadn’t swam competitively since I was 16 and even though I’m in the pool every day teaching, I can’t remember the last time I timed myself swimming! On entering the race you had to submit your time for 750m so the lanes could be seeded in order of fastest to slowest. This was my first big mistake. I had a total guess at a time and then the following week went and completed the distance in training at about 75% effort and was about a minute and a half faster than the time I’d submitted. By now it was too late to say to the organisers as they’d already sent out an email with lane order, so I’d just have to see how it went on the day….
Kat and I were in the same heat in lanes next to each other, so when it was time to start, we gave each other a final thumbs up and off we went… for all of about 20m before I swam straight into the feet of the person in front. Now, I know it’s my fault for putting in the wrong time, but there is meant to be lane etiquette of moving aside if the person behind you catches up. I’m guessing the Ultra running rule of “don’t be a dick” does not comply with triathletes. A few taps later and I still wasn’t allowed by, so I gave a gentle ankle grab to be a bit less subtle… but still no budging. I tried not to get frustrated as after all, this was my fault for being in the wrong lane… but come on!!! Soon enough the 30 lengths were over, I hauled myself out the pool and ran out the fire door of the pool and across the grass and red carpet down to transition. Again something totally new for me and I felt a bit lost! I had decided to bring my trail shoes as they already have lace locks on them and are easy to slip on, but it didn’t help that I ran straight past them! Eventually I found them, quickly dried my feet, shoved on my socks and shoes and picked up my race belt with attached number and I was back out in all of 35 seconds…. not bad!! The run route was 2 loops of the uni campus which went across the sports field, up a very sharp hill (which I remember stumbling up and down in my uni days!), round the back of the industrial estate, back down the hill and round half the running track before heading across the grass fields and back to the pool. It was a great route but running after swimming is a weird experience – I couldn’t reset my legs and running while soaking is HARD! I have a new found respect for anyone who does an ironman – you are total legends and one day I hope to be part of your crew!
I gave it my all on the last loop and flew across the finish line with my arms in the air and a huge grin on my face. I was given a goody bag (containing milk and water) and a lovely medal. I went across to get my time printed out and wait for Kat to finish and she also flew across the line with her arms in the air and the biggest smile – quite the come back for having had such an awful year post injury!! We were both elated with our times and once we were changed we headed to the pub to celebrate with wine and amazing food.
I’m definitely going to try another aquathlon and see how I get on with a better swim. Considering how shattered I was, I was still only 30 seconds off my 5k pb so thats also a bonus! Next time however, I will NOT go to CX works and metfit the day before a race. My calves and bum were KILLING me!!! One day I’d love to do a full triathlon, but I need to buy a road bike first. Or a nice person could just buy me one???
Medal : Yes, same design as last year but ever so slightly bigger and shinier!
I’m a little late in publishing this race report because for some reason the post race buzz wasn’t there this year, which disappoints me as it’s the first time it has ever happened after a race! After enjoying last years race so much I was really looking forward to giving the Loch Ness Marathon another go. I had pulled out of the Clyde Stride after thinking I wouldn’t be able to get my mileage up after my long holidays sailing around the Baltic, and also Jemma had talked me into it. On Saturday afternoon I drove up to Inverness, met up with Jemma at our B&B, headed into town for lunch and then over to Bught Park to get registered and have a nosey around the expo.
After quite a huge lunch neither of us fancied going out for dinner, so we bought some bits and bobs from Tesco and hunkered down in our B&B to watch some DVDs and stuff our faces with munchies. A couple of weepy films later, I sorted my race kit, had everything that I’d need in the morning laid out ready so I wasn’t crashing around the room when Jemma was still asleep and then drifted off into a rather uncomfortable sleep (note to self – remember my own pillow next time I go away as the one I had felt like it was made out of cardboard!).
Silly o’clock came and my alarm managed to buzz about once before I threw myself on it to shut it up. I had the usual pre race breakfast of porridge, coffee, banana and electrolyte drink and packed another banana and a flapjack to take with me for the bus journey. I was ready to go by 7am so I said my goodbyes to Jemma and headed off over to Bught park to meet my brother-in-law Stuart and get on one of the many coaches which were to transport us all the way down to the other end of Loch Ness for our race start. The organisation of the transport was once again perfect and bang on 7:30am the coaches started moving. I sat down next to a guy and soon realised I’d seen him at practically every race I had run that year and we got chatting about our plans and challenges for the following year. His challenge for this year was to run 100 races and this was about race number 75 – I thought I’d done loads! (I forgot to introduce myself at the time, but I later found out his name was Daniel and he also has a blog at medaljunkie)
The buses arrived at the start area which is just after Fort Augustus on the South West end of the Loch. We got off our buses and trudged towards the start line where thousands of other runners were mingling/queuing for the toilets/warming up and by chance met up with Anne and Scott from my running club. It wasn’t as cold at the start this year but there was a brief shower of rain while we were waiting to get going. I was feeling a bit nervous but more than anything I was just ready to run. I love the idea of everyone arriving together and then running the full distance back along the Loch side, but being dropped off in the middle of no where at 8:50am and the race not starting until 10am was a bit extreme. I could have had another half an hour in bed!!
Finally, at about 9:55am the crowds started surging towards the start line. It seemed busier than last year and everyone was raring to go! I’d decided to start at around the 4 hour marker and just see how my race went, but I didn’t have any other plan than to start running and 26.2 miles later, stop running and lie down. After about a minute of walking, I crossed the start mat, hit the start button my watch, passed the pipe band that was playing for us and started the first few miles of descent while trying to maintain a comfortable and steady pace. No such luck! I got caught up the crowds, was close to tripping over the feet in front of me as people set off at a slower pace and in trying to get round them I had to run along the grass verge on the side of the road. I’m not meaning to moan at all, but in races this big it just seems silly when people set off in lines of 5 or 6 and take over the entire width of the road when there are thousands of other people barreling down the hill behind them. It’s the second race for me this year where I’ve nearly been taken out by someone stopping dead in front of me with no room to get round them within the first mile of a race! Anyway, small rant over….
The first few miles flew by. The descent along with the large crowds and cheers from supporters and runners around me made it easy and enjoyable. By 5 miles I’d realised it was going to be a long and lonely race running by myself, so out came my ipod and I hit shuffle to get me going. Then I realised than a few of the albums I had tried to put on the previous day weren’t there, so I was stuck with the same tunes I’d had for my last few events! Onward we plodded, through the ups and downs of the first few miles and after what seemed like no time at all, Loch Ness came in to view over the next hill. I’d got into a nice comfortable pace but when I looked at my watch at half way I realised I’d got there in 1:52:xx…. way too fast and I was already starting to regret it. At my last marathon I’d developed a blister which had suddenly burst at around 25 miles and now at only 14 miles in I was starting to feel my shoes rubbing on both feet – one on the same toe as last time and the other foot on the outside of my big toe. Not good when I was still so far away from the finish line! I suddenly started to panic and wondered what I would do if one burst now. Would I be able to continue? Would I have to drop or walk the rest of the way back? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I could feel my feet rubbing but I think (thankfully) it was just me being paranoid as nothing ever got any worse. By 17 miles I was still feeling OK but starting to tense up my shoulders which was giving me a sore neck. I decided that at the next water stop I’d walk through and have a proper drink and then see how I felt before the hill at Dores. By the time I got to hill my negativity had taken over.
I couldn’t pick up the pace after walking through the water station and the pain in my feet was really starting to get me down. As soon as I clocked the hill I knew I wasn’t going to manage to run up it so I thought I might as well pull my pace right back and just get to the top before trying to figure out how I was going to run the last 7 miles or so. While walking up the hill all I could think about was how much I desperately wanted a can of coke – if there had been a shop anywhere near by I would have been in there without hesitation! I now realised that I had not fueled properly at all for this race so no wonder I was feeling awful! My dinner the night before had consisted of a small bowl of noodles, some nachos and about 3 cups of tea and now I was feeling unbelievably hungry but also a bit queasy. I usually run with a bottle of powerade and also a sachet of high five 2:1 fructose powder to add to a bottle of water later on in the race, but after too quick a start I had guzzled my powerade by 10 miles and the zero highs tablet I had with me just wasn’t hitting the spot quite like the other stuff did. By the time I had finished that bottle at around 20 miles, plain water just wasn’t enough and I started the feel awful. The fuel stations were handing out cups of Osmo hydration but having never tried this, I wasn’t about to grab a cup this far into a race just in case it had negative consequences! Once over the top of the hill I got my legs going again and kept a steady pace along the road back into Inverness. Just like last year the crowds started to grow as soon as you entered the outskirts of the town and all the way down to the river the streets were lined with people cheering us on. This lifted my spirits a bit and I pushed along through the final few miles.
As I rounded the final bend at the bridge and turned to run back along the other side of the river back to Bught Park, I heard my name being yelled and some huge cheers and I saw Jemma and Rachel and some others cheering from the pub! I gave them a half-hearted smile and a feeble thumbs up and plodded my way along to the finish line. I heard my name being called out over the P.A system just before I finished but I was so drained I couldn’t even muster a smile for my finishing picture.
I was given my medal by a lovely cheery woman and then I went to collect my goody bag, t-shirt and so many treats but nothing that would quite satisfy this sugar craving I had. I plodded back along the road and fell into a chair in the pub beside Jemma and Rachel and was presented a bottle of coke which instantly inhaled! I wasn’t disappointed with my time at all but more my performance and how easily I sunk into a negative mind state during the run. I’ve learned that 4 races in 4 weeks (including 2 marathons and 2 10ks and both a marathon and 10k PB as well!) is far too much if I want to perform well on the day.
Soon enough it was time to say my goodbyes and head back down the road before my legs got too stiff. As good a race as it is, I think Nessie and I have spent enough time searching for each other for a while and next year I’ll hopefully be on to something bigger and better! Not to say I’ll never return though – I do love a Loch Ness medal!!