A pair of socks in place of the podium. 

You know the drill, it’s early, I get stressed and bar a few minor meltdowns and scrapes along the way, I arrive on time.  All this happened, (of course it did, it always does!) but I can’t be arsed to write it, so if you are not versed in my pre race shenanigans, please revert to my previous post and omit the pyjamas (that’s never going to happen twice) and as for the dry robe, (aka the pinnacle of uber cool Triathlon wear), well, that was only unveiled after the race for this event.

Trentham Lake

So we are racked and ready to go, I’ve saved you 10 minutes of drama already.  I say we, that’s my son in law and I, (or son in law to be, but I’ve referred to him as my son in law to be even before he officially was, but now he is, so it’s even more appropriate a title, which quite frankly was thoughtful on his part when he proposed), we do a couple of events together every year and I think it’s become a competition to out do each other with an entry that includes god awful early starts, awful swim locations and boring bike routes. We’d already knocked off Cardiff which was wet, murky and whilst rapid on the bike, it wasn’t exactly exciting.  I was wasn’t convinced the dullness factor could be beaten, but seemingly the City of Stoke on Trent Triathlon was absolutely a contender here.

Heading into the swim


I’d kind of thought that finally getting a top 10 place at Wirral was probably a good end to a year of triathlon which had been a bit up and down. I was dead chuffed with that race and thought really I should have finished on a high. The week leading up to this triathlon I had a little aquathalon event at Chester on the Monday evening, in which I did decent swim and run times, but felt really tired and the tiredness didn’t really shift as the week progressed. Naturally, the 11 mile run midweek and the 40 mile bike ride the evening before the race weren’t part of my better planning, but, when is it ever where I’m concerned.

I digress. The run up to the event furnished us with an email advising of a change in swim course. Needless to say we weren’t impressed….

Brad to Joni (unimpressed #1)

Joni to Brad – Unimpressed #2



Swim Start

I’ll just cut to the chase and get straight on to the day.  The temperature wasn’t 15 degrees, as promised -,it turned out to be a bit (edit: lot) colder, and mores the pity I didn’t forget my wetsuit. The men were slung in the water at 7:30am, YES, you have totally read that correctly the RACE started at 7:30am, I mean, what the fuck is that even about? Not that it mattered as I’d been up since 4am so my brain thought it was flipping lunchtime anyway. I got 15 minutes grace and started at 7:45, but since I’d joined Brad down to the waters edge (which was fucking miles away from transition – I’ll come back to this) I got a bonus 15 minutes stood in mud freezing my ass off.

We got in, via some floating pontoon, which was a trauma in itself. I considered momentarily reliving my dive from my fateful Australian exit at the Aquathalon on Monday but then remembered how bad it was so chose to slip in unnoticed. I’d been advised that there was terrapins in the lake. I couldn’t decide if they were better or worse than the threat of weaverfish two weeks previously and just decided I needed to be in denial on the matter of turtle based swimming partners.  

Swim exit


Was fucking freezing. Really cold. Not that I had anytime to consider that though as my warm up swim was approx 300m to the start buoy. I stuck my head in the water and swam.  I can hand on heart say it’s the first time that I’ve ever put my head underwater and been met with total black.  I couldn’t even see my hands. That threw me a bit but to be fair it was soon forgotten about when I became acquainted to what the email regarding the weed cutting actually meant in reality. 

The email I quote, advised the following: ‘the weed cutters have now been in the lake to cut all the necessary weed for the designated swim area’ 

What they didn’t follow this up with was something along the lines of ‘but don’t worry we can’t be arsed to clear them out so we might not have bothered’ 

It was weed overload. I might have well as been swimming through a hedge, or a forest or, well, a lake with weeds in that hadn’t been cut. Proper rubbish I’m telling you! Take a stroke, haul shit loads of weeds out the way like a human swimming snowplough, take a breath, get a load of weed in your mouth, kick your legs, get a load of weed in your feet…….. seriously, it was proper vile.  Then, to add insult to injury you had to swim the same area 4 times (presumably cause the reed cutter guy had to go on his lunch and couldn’t be arsed to do the rest of the lake) so it got progressively more shitted up, darker (if this is possible) and smellier. I conceded that on the terrapin front, they’d at least be long gone, if they had any sense.

Brad exiting the swim


Rolled out of the lake on the dogdy pontoon wobbled along there for 200 yards and then found my trainers and managed to get them on to run half a mile to the bike in mud. I didn’t remember signing up to the extra half a mile running.

When I’m running (in my wetsuit) trying not to fall (in the mud) to my bike, all of a sudden some dude pops up next to me with a hand held go pro and asks me how I’m feeling. ‘Awful’ I replied, while pulling the left over weeds out my my hair, wondering what the hell he was doing getting under my feet in what was catergorically a mud bath. I shook him off (cause I was so rapid ~ or he found someone more approachable to bother who knows) and found my bike and got onto the next stage of the mornings ‘fun’.

Down to transition


Bike

I’m not going to write much about this, cripes this course was BORING. 4 laps up and down a dual carriageway which wasn’t hilly but certainly wasn’t flat. Bitch of headwind one way, tail wind the other. Got a decent average and went harder than previously which at the time felt ok, however I paid for it on the run, on reflection I think.  It was raining and I got cold.  It was pretty depressing all in all. Would have quite liked to have done a bit of draughting but it wasn’t allowed, and I naturally played by the rules. Did rather hope for a puncture on lap three but it wasn’t forthcoming so I cracked on and soon enough was skating back to transition over the mud. Not the most exciting 1 hour and 11 minutes of my life it’s fair to say but the fastest on a bike leg to date. Nearly 21 mph.

On the bike


Trying to run

I’ve been quite pleased with my last 3 triathlon runs they’ve been better than expected, I didn’t really have any expectations about this race, it was just something we’d sort of entered on a whim since it’s where Brad lives, so sort of why not? 

More evidence as if it was needed the course was actually cross country


When I got off the bike I was really cold. All the triathlons this year I’ve really tried to work down my transition times as they are, well to be blunt, total crap. Overall they’ve improved, but today after taking my bike shoes off and standing in the cold wet grass and mud I decided I couldn’t take anymore and reached for my socks. Dried off my muddy feet put my socks on and pulled my shoes on.  I can’t say I felt loads better but I decided it was preferable to running with cold wet muddy feet. It was about a minute I shouldn’t have wasted but I decided warmth over time prevailed on this occasion.

On the run


I tugged my tri belt around to the front and caught sight of the worn patch on my left butt cheek as I did. I scolded myself for missing the order for my new club tri suit earlier this year and reminded myself it needed to go in the bin when I got this godforsaken taken 10k out the way and pronto. 

Whilst setting back off up the muddy incline I’d come down earlier from the swim, I was furiously trying to calculate the price per triathlon that the suit had actually cost (at great expense shipped from the US) when that bloody pest with the go pro raised his ugly head again. Running next to me this time UP hill. What did he want this time I wondered, luckily he didn’t ask me how I was feeling this time as I think it would have been definitely enunciated with the word ‘fuck’. 

Settled into the run lakeside overtook one runner and started praying it was flat. Funnily enough my first ever race was at Trentham gardens when I did a race for life about 12 years ago, and then again when I picked up running again 4 years ago. I had a recollection of there bieng a few nasty kicks and hoped that my memories weren’t too accurate – this run was feeling really tough.  I was definitely hanging on today over running well.

The course stretched ahead and I could see the course climbing to the left. Was contemplating walking up a sharp nasty climb ahead when,  as I turn up towards it I see Brad coming up behind me on lap two. Cursing him I run (well attempt to) up the hill and hope I get to the top in one piece when simultaneously some new fucker with a go pro turns up next to me again. Seriously what the fuck is the deal with all these camera? I’m now critically aware that my running is basically shit, he’s (go pro man) on the somewhat worn side of the tri suit and my breathing is so bad it only resembles bad sex noises. Not what I was wanting if I’m honest.

Struggling on the run and cameras


Somehow I got to the top, go pro dude went, I gasped a couple of words to Brad and made my way to the 1:5 mile turnaround. You’d think it couldn’t get worse than this, but then a bike comes alongside me, (yes with a flipping big camera this time) and asks ‘are you running the Olympic?’ I manage to somehow reply ‘yes why can I change down?’ (I was seriously thinking finishing at 5k was the way to go as I was seriously fucked). They didn’t appreciate my humour, which annoyed me slightly, I mean, it wasn’t hilarious granted but I thought under the conditions it was pretty quick witted, all things considered.

‘You’re 3rd’ he says to me. THIRD??? Fuck, I’ve never been third, and all of a sudden my poor tired legs were desperately trying to (and failing) to run uphill faster, whilst my brain in a mortified state was processing the state of affairs presenting itself to me……


I was third (THIRD!!!!!),  I was on an out and back and was critically aware of clearly faster runners (at least 5) coming behind me, I was on camera for some broadcast somewhere, I’d got no makeup on, I was pretty sure I looked beyond fucked, I definitely had a runny nose and messy hair,  my tri suit was see though and I was running like, well, it was barely running and the breathing noises, it didn’t even bear thinking about. Total humiliation. Even when I end up doing well I manage to screw it up good and proper.

I struggled round the second lap, was begrudgingly grateful to the go pro dude on the hill whom without I’d definitely have walked the second time around, threw a cup of water over me in attempt to drink and run and only manged to loose one place on the run before I finished. I finished 4th.  Second again in my age group and about a minute behind 3rd in the end. She was a better runner than me no doubt about that but the minute wasted putting my socks on will forever haunt me! I don’t even remember my feet bieng that warm in the end.

Finished


Still, despite my extreme disappointment I finished for the first time in the top five, and I’ll finish the triathlon season with that on a high. I sincerely hope that my 4th position relagates me out any coverage on Chanel 4 and that I’m spared further humiliation than I’ve already endured. 

That’s another year of triathlon, the suits retired forever and I am for 2017. It was sort of fun.

Next, the winter is coming, and I’m thinking I’ll be amazing at cyclocross, well, relatively.

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