It was a last minute decision to enter into a triathlon in Norway but after my team fell apart for Toughest 24hr I had nothing else planned and was intrigued as to how I would fare. The race was of a sprint distance; this meant a chilly 750m sea swim followed by a 20km road cycle and a 5km run.
As some may remember from my last triathlon experience, swimming is something of an achilles heel for me. In fact, I suck pretty bad. Still, I wasn’t going to let this stop me, or the fact my wetsuit was hanging 500km away in my home town of Bergen. This would be my first ever true open water sea swim and I was going in armed only with a pair of shorts, swim cap and goggles!
Lining up alongside the rest of the elite heat it was clear I was the somewhat of an odd one out. Mixed in amongst the other 58 competitors who all resembled seals clad in there thick, warm, floaty neoprene I looked like the lost seagull chick who had stumbled amongst them. To make matters worse one look down into the water revealed a host of jelly fish waiting to greet us. Whilst the seals took some warm up swims, I barely dipped my feet into the chilly water waiting until the last minute to make my grand entrance and start the race, or for me ‘get the stupid swim over with’.
Finally, making the jump into the water I could barely tread water whilst trying to catch my breath. Finally breathing nearly normally it was time to start and before I knew it a gun was fired and everyone else was off. I was almost immediately fighting for last position and embarrassingly enough could barely muster the speed to get around some of the diehard breast strokers – not a good start. A saving grace were that the jelly fish seemed to be hovering a meter below the surface; this meant as I swam my hands came close to grazing the top of some of them but they were for the best part out of harms way.
Round the first boy and we were as far out as we were going to get. This was when a little voice in the back of my head started to whisper nastily about the cold. I could feel it becoming slightly harder to keep my arms pumping. Images of me grasping onto a safety kayaker, unable to continue, started to run through my head. Even though I was still fine, previous exposure to the cold has left me weak to the thought of it. It also didn’t help that I was still in next to last place…not good times.
Around a second boy and we were nearing the end of what had felt like a cross-channel swim, shallower water also meant a few welcome degrees warmer. Climbing out using a ladder I was finally done and the race could begin. It was later revealed that I had exited the water in 56th place out of the 58 competitors…I clearly had some catching up to do.
And so onto my trusty steed: borrowed from Henriette’s father, the bike was probably faster than my own but not quite the TT bikes of some other competitors. Still, with only a 20km bike course which included 350m of ascent I doubt it would make too much difference. Most of the climb was within the first 3km not giving me much time to recover after my near drowning swim but I was still overtaking people and managed to catch something like 25 people over the 33minutes I was on the bike.
Coming back in to drop off the bike it was now my time. Having no idea where I was in the race or who I was overtaking (as the run course was lapped) I settled into as hard a pace as I thought I could sustain and put my head down to get it done. My run timed turned out to be a minute quicker than the winners over the 5km and earned me another 15 or so places giving me a final position of 14th. The true saving grace though was this effort was just good enough to put me ahead of the leading lady! Knowing exactly what I would have to do in order to become a triathlete I know turn to an entirely different kettle of fish in the form of Dolomites skyrace!