Jane Firth finished her first triathlon sponsored by Fund Her Tri UK on 21/05/2023 at Dorney Triathlon.
I was chatting last year with a friend about how I wanted to get fitter but I struggle to motivate myself without an event to look forward to, and I didn’t know what to do. She’d done a super sprint triathlon about a decade ago and said it was loads of fun. So we wondered whether we could do one, together, this year.
Well, I liked the idea of having three sports to train for, since I would be less likely to get bored, so I started training. Around that time, another friend told me about FundHerTri UK and said I should contact them to get my entry paid for. I hadn’t realised how expensive the whole idea was going to be, so the idea of getting some money to cover the entry was a big plus!
Little did I realise that the FundHerTri UK community is so much more than just the race entry fee. The support from the community has been fantastic. I’ve met up with one of the other FHT ladies to practice open water swimming together, I’ve done webinars on nutrition and strength, and had the advice from seasoned triathletes to call on when the race day approached. Not to mention the added benefit of discount codes for triathlon equipment brands and the occasional free goodies that came my way too. Honestly the support was so much more than I ever expected, and it was fantastic to feel part of something, all the way through to race day and beyond.
Race day at Dorney Lake
As for the race day, well, that was INCREDIBLE! I was like an excited puppy all morning, waiting and preparing for my 11:45am start.
I followed as much of the advice as I could remember and set up my transition area as neatly and sensibly as possible. 10 minutes before the start we were called over for the race briefing and we could get into the water with about 6 minutes to go, to get used to the water temperature. It was great to be able to get my face in gradually and blow bubbles, like I’d practiced before, so once they counted down the start I was totally ready to go!
I’d positioned myself towards the back of the pack because I know I’m not fast, and it was great. The water was clear and at the slow end of the race, there was plenty of elbow room. You can even see the rowing lane marker ropes in the water so you don’t have to sight the buoy as often.
In my open water practice swims I’d found the distance doable but tough, but on race day, for some reason, I just managed to gliiiiiide. My swim was the best open water swim I’ve ever managed. I was able to just keep a steady pace the whole way. Next thing I knew I was even overtaking a couple of people!
Then it was time to get out, up the slightly slippery ramp, and get to transition. Was I going to be able to find my bike?
Headwinds on the bike leg
I have watched so many triathlon videos, on GTN, Youtube, and on TV, and seen all these fit young things running from the swim to the bike and I thought “nah, I’ll be too tired, I’ll walk it”…. But did I?
Nope, I ran… well, jogged!
Barefoot over carpet, and tarmac (ouch, ouch, ouch) and grass, all the while grinning like a fool and pulling the top of my wetsuit down. I found my bike! It was pretty easy to find because this long since the start of the race most of the other bikes were already out on the course. Wetsuit off, hat and goggles off.
Dried my face, put on my glasses and my helmet and dried my feet enough to put my socks on. Next it was cycling shoes, eat a gel, put on my race number belt and my camelback and check I haven’t forgotten anything.
I pushed the bike to the mount line alongside two men, just as another man had finished his ride and was coming in to transition for the run! I mounted up, clipped in my shoes and was determined to hit a cadence that would spin me along the flat course as fast as my body could manage.
Oh the headwind! And the crosswind! I swear it felt like a headwind in every direction around the course. But since my target was just to finish it didn’t matter that every few seconds, WHOOOSH, a faster bike would come zooming past. I could hear the rush of air as they approached each time and would even say “whoosh” out loud as they passed, which made me chuckle.
I was even overtaken by a man with a pannier rack on his bike. At least he wasn’t carrying any luggage!
I stayed left and let the faster bikes overtake with plenty of space. I overtook two people on the whole course I think. The course was essentially flat, and for half of it I could see the swimmers for the Olympic distance waves that started after us, which was great to see.
Going for the finish line
Four laps done and I headed back to the transition zone. Dismounted before the line (helpful marshal had a wavy red flag to make sure I didn’t miss the line), and jogged back to my transition area.
I racked my bike first. Helmet, camelback and cycling shoes off next, trainers and cap on. Ate a gel, pick up my water, spin my number belt round to the front and go! Off to the start of the run. Another helpful marshal points me in the right direction and now I have to focus on getting my pacing right. I know from brick sessions that I tend to go off too fast after the bike, so I kept an eye on my watch and adjusted my pace until it was in the zone I know I can hold for 5km.
There weren’t so many competitors left at the slow end of the race. A lot of people have finished, and a lot were on the home stretch, but I could see a man up ahead running with walk breaks and I knew my pace would catch him. I watched his back gradually get closer as my steady pace ate into the gap between us.
By about 2km I was alongside, and with a cheery “Well done! Keep going!” I passed him and carried on up the side of the lake. Another lovely marshal told me when I got to the halfway of the run. Halfway? That’s almost the end! I was determined to run the whole of the rest of the way. No walk breaks.
As I approached the finish, my own mini cheer squad of friends and their kids waved their banners and cheered and it was glorious. The finish line announcer called out my name as I crossed the line “another legend at the finish!” and I was so incredibly happy.
I did it! And I got a medal to prove it.
This may have been my first triathlon but it is definitely not my last. I’ve already signed up to another one in September and I’m planning to do another in July. I am hooked!
Ready to take on your first triathlon? Click here to learn how to apply for sponsorship by Fund Her Tri UK!