Hever Olympic Distance Race Report – 27 September 2015 by Caroline

I decided to enter this event after a few other club members said they had entered various different distances. I had wanted to do an Olympic distance and it was nicely at the end of the season so thought it would be good to finish the year with it.

It was quite expensive but the lure of competing at such scenic surroundings seemed to justify the expensive. Saying that I do think they need to justify that expense but more about that at the end.

So…down to the nitty gritty. Slept alright and left here at 6.10am. Really pleased we left so much time as the drive down was a dream and we got there after about 1 hour 25 minutes. Unfortunately we were then driving round following the random signs before joining the epic queue to get into the event. Marshalls were around to explain that the event was delayed by 30 minutes so not to worry. We were in later waves so it wasn’t a problem for us but we saw lots of people getting out of cars and legging it to the event – not the most of stress free of starts I would imagine.

We parked in the muddy field and then walked the 10 or so minutes to registration stopping off at the (no queues but slightly stinky) toilets. Registration was easy…show your mobile phone with the text that they had sent and pick up all your stuff including free goodies. We then had time to sort out bits and bobs and watch some of the Gauntlet people including Guy going off on their bike leg. Guy warned us that the water was cold which made me nervous!

Into transition and plenty of space to rack up with all your other wave members. I made sure I knew where my bike was and which row to run down as the entry from swim was at the opposite end. I am really pleased I did this as I had no problem finding my bike (also helped that everyone else had gone by then!!). We heard that the waves were running 15 minutes late and that anyone still trying to park could go into a later wave if needed. I was alright as my wave was still quiet but I know later waves got very busy due to the extra people which wasn’t ideal.

I then went off to the swim area (wasn’t really obvious which way to get there..more signs would of helped). The lake looked amazing and it was good waiting with other people from your wave and having a nervous chat. It was nice knowing as well that they had all put similar times to me so I didn’t feel too intimidated although some looked really fit and I felt a bit of a fraud. I think I was one of the only people doing their first Olympic distance when we did a show of hands at the race briefing which threw me a bit.

Race brief was good and I was able to hear the details for once. Into the water and it was cold but no colder than my last Box End swim the other week. 2 minutes count down and then we were off. Immediately had a splutter moment as I had no nose clip on (last Box End swim I did I wore one as I end up sneezing like a loon if I don’t). I reminded myself that I can swim with no nose clip and settled into a rhythm. It was weird not being able to even see your hand as it entered into the water but I luckily don’t get freaked out by stuff like that. I was near the back but I knew I wasn’t last and that there were a fair few people behind which was reassuring.

We swam up the lake and then turned towards the river which was weird as I swear I wasn’t moving forward at all for a few minutes like I was trapped in a weird vortex where the lake water was hitting the river water. The other noticeable difference was the drop in temperature in the water..I have never swum in such cold water…yes even colder than Jesus Green wink emoticon It was grim and I was worried about cramping up but kept going and did kind of enjoy swimming in the river. I had plenty of space but I can imagine that it would be tough if the wave was busier. According to my watch, I actually swum 1500M in my quickest ever time but I must have been very wonkey as ended up swimming quite a bit further.

Finally turned out of the river and towards the exit. I was glad to be dragged out and then staggeredd UP A HILL (WHY!…MEANIES!!) towards transition. Tried to run but turned into a fast walk through the mud. Found bike and transition went well for once despite feeling cold.

Exit transition which was hair raising due to the mud. Woman in front mounted her bike and promptly went into the barriers so I held on for dear life until it turned into a normal road.

I had analysised the route obsessively and knew where the hills were but I think I was so knackered from the swim that I didn’t quite make the most of the downhills or flat pieces. I found it disconcerting having bright sunlight and then into shady areas and not being able to make out the road surface which frankly wasn’t very good. Thankfully I have done a lot of hill work so coped on all the up hill bits but people still flew by me…how do they do that up hill?! Saw a fair few people off their bikes working on mechanical issues or walking back. I was quite surprised how many there were but of course it was a big event with the Gauntlet at the same time. I have so much respect for people doing the half ironman…people on the bike looked shattered and later on the run they were suffering as well.

Anyway, back to the ride…it was uneventful although I felt queezy for a lot of the time (I suspect I didn’t digest any of the food I took on) and I was grateful to finish…held on for dear life going into transition due to the poor road surface and pushed bike to the rack.

Then just a small (!) run to do. I knew this was going to be hard as I haven’t done enough brick sessions and the route was everything I am crap at – off road, hills and the temperature was rising. First hill hits you straight away…not evil and could normally manage but I just couldn’t do it and power walked as much as I could up. Made myself run at the top and I think the next bit was alright…felt uncomfortable when not in the shade but I was fine when the route went downhill ..I had my trail shoes on which I was thankful for as it was very muddy in parts. I felt a bit grumpy at “members of the public” who were daring to walk on the paths that we were running on like they were out for a lovely day out (how dare they!!). Get out the way ramblers as well with your ruck sacks and walking sticks!! Ahem…anyway…the first lap was a struggle mentally and physically with lots of walking. I cheered up though as passing the manic supporters who were amazing….one American woman was shouting out every ones numbers and giving so much encouragement. Other competitors were good to chat to (moan about the hills) and were very encouraging when I was walking: “come on…don’t walk now..save it for the hill round the corner!!” and “Come on…you have more in you..you can do it” – could of hugged those men). Up a stupid ramp bridge over to start the second lap and I knew I would be alright. I have mixed feelings about events with laps but found it helped yesterday. I think I managed to run a bit more on lap 2 but still walked the hills. Best moment was heading towards the last bit where they say “next lap turn right…finishers carry on” and I said “I’m going straight on!!” with a big smile and the supporters cheered me as I must have looked relieved.

Then the finishing straight…. the commentator called out a few names and then mine and I smiled..time to milk this I thought…arms aloft and ran down the last section celebrating and the whole crowd cheered (they like a show off!). And that was it…I’d done it!! Checked watch…blimey..under the cut off (genuinely thought I wasn’t going to hit it). Tons of food on offer so ate a bit and then sat down. Lucie stormed in shortly afterwards and we went off to the arena which was packed full of people but I didn’t look round at all or eat as I was trying not to throw up – everyone kept asking if I was alright so I assume I looked crap. I think burning off 2000+ calories and only having sport beans/jelly beans didn’t really agree with me and I only felt better when I got home and managed pizza.

So…would I do an Olympic distance again…yes…definitely but not yet. Just need to improve my swimming so I have more energy for the rest of it. Will I do Hever…no! Don’t get me wrong, the weather was a blessing, the surroundings were amazing and the support was great. I just think it has got a bit too big… it’s gone from 1000 to 7000 entries and it showed. Car parking was a pain (I read some people gave up and went home). Also too busy on the bike route with competitors and traffic and the issues with mud in general were due to the amount of people taking part. I felt it was poor that they charge for spectators and my medal didn’t show what distance I did – sounds a bit petty but I would of liked it to show Olympic distance as they do so many different distances there but the medal is a generic one. I shouldn’t of done it as first Olympic distance…the route wasn’t really my cup of tea on reflection and it being such a big event was over whelming but I need to sort out those issues myself – a lot of triathlon runs are partly off road so I need to get over it!

Thanks to friends and family who had faith I could do it…here’s to a winter of training and emerging from a crap swimmer to an average one!

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