A fabulous Finnish finish
If you had told me 3 years ago that I would be on the start line of the European Long Distance Triathlon Championships wearing a GBR tri-suit I would have told you that you may have overdosed on performance enhancing but brain befuddling "supplements". But there I was, feeling something of an imposter, amongst Europe's finest age group and pro athletes, pondering quite how deep the "deep water" start was going to be and if someone was suddenly going to let me know my selection was an unfortunate clerical oversight.
When I was offered a place on the team in February (you get a "Congratulations you have been selected e-mail") I looked up the weather in Tampere, Finland, where the race was to be held. -20c by day didn't look great and the 160cm of ice on the lake seemed to suggest skating drills should replace swimming ones.
Luckily there was no ice to break as the starter ordered us into the water. Whilst the balmy water temperature (19.6c) was comforting, the thought of a 4km out and back swim was rather scary to a landlubber like myself. When the team GBR race recce took place the team manager pointed out into the far distance beyond the horizon line.. "and somewhere out there is the turn buoy". Luckily my customary swim start tactics left me with plenty of feet (well all of them actually) to follow. I managed to find some kind of rhythm and sensed I was heading in the right kind of direction. This was confirmed as the leading age group ladies caught up and swam over the top of me.
Whilst the woman on top wearing rubber water play fantasy may be some people's idea of fun I didn't take too well to this assault. My survival instincts must have kicked in and I swallowed several gallons of Finland's finest lake water to act as ballast and enable me to remain submerged whilst the girls tap danced on my head.
I must have swum round the buoy at some stage as I could see the footbridge near the Olympic Stadium HQ where transition was. With great relief I hauled myself unglamorously out of the water happy to be alive and not experiencing the dreaded cramps that have reduced me to tears in the past. I was further uplifted by the cheers of support from team Wintergold (Daisy, Daniel, Alice and her parents had all come out too).
The bike leg was a confusing 6 lap effort that included lots of well marshalled roads, a section of motorway and a scalextric style cross over where you went from being on the left side of the road to the right with on-coming riders doing the opposite.
I was making quite good progress but couldn't push too hard or drink as my stomach was complaining about the small pond ingested during my encounter with the fast ladies. By lap 3 this pond was trying to make a bid for freedom sometimes up, sometimes down and sometimes both. Not wanting to break the strict ETU rules on revealing various bits of anatomy and not wanting to soil my new trisuit I skidded (no, not that kind of skid) to a halt outside the stadium. "Where's the loo?" I shouted at the congregated mass of spectators and officials. Various shrugs and looks of confusion suggested that my lack of Finnish ("missa on vessa", if you ever need to know) and coherency made me look rather
I decided to head into the stadium and search the myriad of corridors for the room I was increasingly desperate to locate. The combination of shiny floors and cycling cleats is not good. Add in a dose of panic and the dramatic backflip with double twist was inevitable. Picking myself from the floor I spied the facilities required and some 7 minutes later I emerged from the stygian gloom to remount my bike several kilos lighter. The next 3 laps were more comfortable in spite of the rising wind and the continuing game of Russian roulette at Scalextric corner.
Going into T2 it was lovely to hear "Go Daddy go" as the Wintergold cheerleaders made their presence heard. A leisurely transition (not forgetting a handful of chocolate éclairs for comfort and energy) and it was off on the scenic 4 lap lakeside run. It was quickly apparent that I had forgotten to pack my running legs so I settled into a 7'50 mile plod and cheered the other GBR athletes as we crossed paths (but not in the Scalextric manner of the bike course thankfully). The pro athletes were simply amazing and were already approaching the last of their 20 miles at a pace I could only dream of.
Every lap the family fan club gave me a boost as I tried to keep the numbers of people passing me level with the numbers of people I passed. A helpful Finnish age grouper swapped an éclair for details of the (totally unmarked and off course) loos. The slightly lighter load meant I picked up to a heady 7'49 mile pace and rewarded his kindness by overtaking him with a mile to go.
It was a really special to finish (and not in last place as I had feared) in an Olympic stadium in front of your own family.
A lovely holiday followed where I could spend some quality time with them and not my wetsuit. The lakes and sea were fabulous as were the Spy Museum and the Viking Feast. A better post race celebration would have been hard to find.
So for any of you dreaming of wearing GBR on your front I say keep on trying and keep on training - eventually you will be so old that you will get there!
4k swim, 125k bike, 20.5k run
Drinks - 900ml High 5 and 3000ml lake water
Food - 3 High 5 gels and 4 eclairs
Fans - 5
Blisters - 0
3 key sessions a week for 18 weeks
Time 6.53.01 (1.09 swim, 2.00 T1, 3.13 bike, 1.30 T2, 2.28 run)
6th in age group
2nd Brit over 45 (would have been first without unfortunate loo incident)
61st overall including pros and all age groups
Number of medals I would have won in other age groups = Bronze 25-29, Gold under 20, Silver 50-54, Gold 55-59 (if only I were older or younger!)
Author: Loz Wintergold