The sky was that halfway stage between darkness and daylight as I left that morning, the birds singing to welcome a new day.
I arrived in Keswick at about 7 a.m., and slotted into a parking space more-or-less opposite Tricia and Tim, who had arrived moments before. We assembled the various things you need for triathlon and headed over to registration through the early morning bustle of a mountain festival site beginning the day, people looking either uncertain or very athletic.
At the transition area we had our helmets checked then walked through the wet grass to find our bike racking slots. It was chilly but not too chilly, but as we then waited for the race briefing it started to rain. I borrowed a rain jacket from Tricia and Tim for a few moments then after the briefing headed off for that all-so-important last minute toilet break.
Watching the first waves entering and leaving the water, you could see it wasn’t easy: the long dry spell meant the water level was low and the rocks and weed were making it tricky. As I started the swim I worried that I was going to hate the swim so much that I’d end up bailing out: fortunately one of the kayakers who was looking out for us all told me I’d be in about 2m of water after a few moments, and then I was able to start doing front crawl – so much easier than breast stroke – and my breathing calmed down and I even overtook a couple of people.
Getting out I trailed bits of weed with me, which had entagled themselves in my race number (97), and I ran/jogged up into the transition area. There was Tricia, putting on her cycling top and getting ready to go. I grabbed my helmet, put on my shoes and socks, Tim took a photo, and then taking my bike I was off. Within minutes a smile was on my face: I felt as if I was peddling smoothly and steadily, and slowly I began to overtake a handful of people.
The ride climbed up and along the side of Catbells via Portinscale (I got overtaken by 2 people going up the zigzags – I overtook them both again later, although one then overtook me on the run) before dropping down through Grange, at the southern end of Derwentwater. As I went through Grange a red squirrel dived into the hedge just ahead of me: possibly the highlight of the race for me!
Fortunately there still wasn’t too much traffic on the roads, so overtaking coming back into Keswick wasn’t a problem. I jogged back into transition with my bike and then headed out on the run. This was the bit I’d alway used to worry about when I first did triathlon many years ago, but I also knew that my running has improved tremendously over the past couple of years. Despite breathing fairly heavily I managed to keep up a steady pace and again overtook a handful of people. The run went up through Cockshott Woods, along the path which hides behind the wall going along the road (I could see cyclists coming towards me on the other side of the wall – one guy who had been in my swim wave shouted something at me and I waved back) until turning back to come along the gravelly lake short path.
A short section on road past Theatre by the Lake and I was back on the grass of Crow Park and heading up a small hill to the finish line. Tricia’s husband Tim was waiting there and told me I’d crossed the line at about 10 to 10. I’m not entirely sure what time my swim started – it was due to start about 8.30 but I think it would have been more like 8.15 or 8.20 – but I’m looking forward to seeing the official results when they are posted.
A few minutes later and Penny turned up, and at about 10.30 we jogged back along the running route to see if we could see Tricia. There she was, just coming past Theatre by the Lake, so we ran back alongside her and cheered her over the finishing line.
My enthusiasm for triathlon – sprint distance, at least – has been completely re-ignited. Penny and I drove to Bassenthwaite to meet up with Anne and Laura for a swim – where the sun even came out – and I was chatty; I was buzzing for the rest of the day. I love feeling fit and healthy and strong and days like this just make me want to do more, and to get fitter – I still have an ambition to do a standard distance triathlon and actually manage to run the entire 10km run, instead of walking bits. So I’m already looking at races for next year…