It’s Saturday 10th June 2017 10.20am as I jump into Lake Fuglsang in Herning, Denmark. I swim out to the start line alongside fiercely determined women from all over Europe as we first battle for the best start position for the Triathlon European Championships.
All the spectators can see is a bunch of bobbing heads in goggles and bright yellow swim caps but under the water are entangled limbs, legs and arms kicking the other as we tread water waiting nervously for the klaxon.
All my hours of training have come down to this, I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m telling myself I’ve got this whilst also neurotically reminding myself that Pedro (my bike) is 4 rows along, 3/4’s of the way up, first bag is 2 up, 2 in, no idea about the 2nd bag, I’ve forgotten – shit! I’ll just have to worry about that when I get there!
10.25am – The klaxon sounds. I put my head down and start my 70.3 mile race trying not to get kicked in the face. Despite the aquatic battle field, I love swimming and this is probably my favourite part, it’s also a lake swim rather than the sea so it’s a lot calmer and I can focus on my technique, my breath and keeping a tight line around the buoys.
I turn the final corner and head for the ramp into transition. A little tug at the neck of my wetsuit letting some water in so its easier to get off and then relief as my sea legs still work and I’m back on dry land, finding my bag and heading into the tent. Now for the cycle…. My least favourite!
I find Pedro amongst the bikes and then attempt to run in my cleats whilst pushing him to the mount line – I never seem to make this look graceful but with my helmet and goggle marks, even the most gazelle like of sprints isn’t really going to help me out now!!
60km and about 2hrs into the bike part of my race and all I feel is frustration! Three times now I’ve cycled uphill expecting a descent the other side, expecting a chance to stop pedalling just for a minute and enjoy a quick recovery but three times I’ve been slapped in the face by a relentless headwind that forces me to keep pushing hard on the pedals. I feel angry at the wind and I feel angry at myself for not learning to use my aerobars in time for race day! I make a promise to myself that when I get home, it’s the first thing I’m going to practise!
As the frustration and anger rises i’m aware that mentally this just isn’t helpful and so I start to think about my options and realise I only have one; stop feeling sorry for myself and get to the finish line.
Things are only as bad as you tell yourself they are right?! So I can sit here moaning about the things that I can’t change or I can focus on the fact that I only have 30km left on the bike, I’m still on track for a PB and I’m currently in the middle of a race representing team GB which is a huge honour.
In the moments that challenge us, it’s always easier to focus on the negative. It’s why we’re more likely to send a complaint email to a company/restaurant rather than a positive one. The problem is is that our reoccurring thoughts soon become our beliefs and our beliefs define the way we handle situations in everyday life. It’s impossible to live a positive life if you only focus on the negatives. Switch.It.Up!
In the moments that challenge us, understand that there lies an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to get a little stronger.
Just the small change in perspective allows me to push on for another hour until I hit transition, switch my cleats for trainers and head out on the last part of the triathlon, 21.1km run. It’s hot and my legs aren’t really working anymore. I start to question if I can keep going for much longer but with a stronger mindset, that thought dissipates fairly quickly and I keep moving forward, albeit with as much speed as a tortoise……whose missing a leg BUT forward is forward.
4 laps and I gradually count them down, collecting a wrist band each lap like I’m at the worst concert EVER. I’m using the water stations as mini mental stepping stones in the relentless run taking a water to pour over my head and body each time. The more aid stations I hit, the more I look like I’ve wet myself as I drench my tri-suit in a desperate attempt to keep cool. I take a cup with cola in it and try to drink it as I run but spill most of it down myself until i’m just a sticky, hot, hobbling mess…… can’t wait to get the photos back!!
And then there it is, the finish line!! It’s crazy that no matter how tired I am there’s always something left for a sprint finish so I pick up my leg speed and finish as strong as I can! I’m literally sprinting like there’s a 90% sale on at Asics but it feels good and helps me come in at a time of 5:37:22 – A PB by 17minutes!
It’s done, it’s over! I pick up my medal and in the quickest of seconds I forget all about the wind, the pain, the moments of wanting to give up and all I can think of are the moments where a fellow team GB-er or spectator cheered me on, gave me some encouragement right when I needed it and I know exactly why I have so much love for the sport and even more so, the triathlon community!
I look back at the race and I think about the pride of putting on my Tri suit, representing GREAT Britain, a nation that has recently, more than ever, shown resilience, defiance, strength in the face of adversity and a compassion and support network like no other. It’s no wonder why these athletes around me come back year on year. The pain will pass and what is left is a true sense of accomplishment, friendship and joy. THAT’s why we Tri. x