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  • Writer's pictureEmily Red

EPIC Windermere Triathlon Race Review

I'm finally a triathlete 🏊🏻‍♀️🚵🏻‍♀️🏃🏻‍♀️

After training for more than a year, I took on the mighty middle distance race Epicman Windermere. This is half an ironman distance with a 1.9 km open water swim in Lake Windermere, followed by a 56 mile ride around the gorgeous lake district, followed by a half marathon trail run.

The training I've been doing for the past year has been in prep for my Ironman race on 4th July, so doing half that distance should be fine, right? I felt confident that I could pull this off, and I was really excited to be doing an event, because it's been such a long time since I pulled on my racing shoes.

I travelled up the day before so I could register and rack my bike... only you weren't allowed into transition until the morning. Lesson number 1 - registration is not the same as transition. No problem, so I head over to my B&B and sort out all my race kit and prep my nutrition. I didn't have a very good night sleep at all, but it's not surprising, and I didn't let it bother me. I've done much more on much less sleep (thanks fire service).

In the morning I woke up early and headed to the race. I put the wheels on my bike and met a colleague from work who's also doing the race (not that it matters, but it's always so much nicer having at least one person you know at an event). It's a long walk to the transition area over wet grass, gravel and slate. I worried I'd damaged my bike before I even started (grass got stuck where it shouldn't) , but it was fine. I had a massive fire service bag with everything in it that I might need, and I notice everyone else has tiny bags. I assumed there would be a bag drop, but there wasn't. Lesson number 2 - take only what you will actually use, not nice to haves. Luckily, the bike next to me didn't turn up, so I left my big bag in that space.

I set up my transition, pulled on my wetsuit and ate some pre-race nutrition. Then waited to be called to start. I was super happy the weather was nice, but I was still concerned about the water temperature. They said it was 14 degrees, but when I got in it just felt cold. It was a rolling start, so I didn't need to worry about people kicking me in the head or anything, and I was the second to last person into the water anyway. I dealt with the cold water shock fine, but my hands felt cold instantly. I knew this swim was going to be a challenge. Being the last one in the lake meant I had a canoeist by my side for the first half of the swim. This was comforting, and allowed me to slowly get into my groove. I definitely had a moment where I didn't want to be there, and I had a word with myself not to quit before I even started.

When I swim in the pool I breathe bilaterally, but in open water I just can't do this. I think I must tense up muscles I don't need to, which requires more oxygen, so I need to breathe more. But that's fine, because I've been practising this in my training. I'm comfortable breathing to either side, so which ever feels good at the time I'll breathe to that side (based on where the sun is, how far away the shore is, using another swimmer as a reference point etc). So I'm breathing to my right for a while, because its comfortable and the buoys are on my right, but my left arm starts aching, so I switch to breathing on my left for a bit. But all of a sudden I feel dizzy. Eep. This is not nice. I've felt sick in the water before (when I swam 3.8 km in the pool last week, I came out feeling incredibly nauseous, but this was different). My mind starts to drift... is dizziness a sign of hypothermia?... NO!

Stop that brain, stop finding ways out of this situation. You are entered into this race and you're going to bloody finish it. So I switch back to breathing on my right and I feel better, I'd sooner have a sore arm for a bit than dizziness leading to panic. The canoeist is there anyway, so I'm all good. I overcame this initial set back and cracked on. I then overtook two other swimmers which gave me a tiny boost. There was supposed to be 8 buoys to swim around, but there were definitely more. This was very confusing, and annoying. But I eventually make it back to edge of the water, where I spent about 5 mins trying to actually exit the lake. Rocks everywhere, and the moment I stood up, I just fell over, again and again. I actually felt drunk. Head spinning, no footing, it wasn't pleasant. When they previously asked what my estimated swim time would be, I said an hour, and I did the swim in exactly an hour.

Transition 1 went ok I felt. I definitely wasn't rushing. I don't think I could have rushed. No feeling in my hands, head all spinning. I got wetsuit off, got everything on I needed, and had some race nutrition. Done, let's get on the bike. I felt a bit wobbly at first, but I just got going. The weather was so nice, I wasn't cold or anything, which was lovely. The ride went really well I thought, I enjoyed all of it, and despite taking over 4 hours, it went super quick. The route consisted of a leg out to the loops, two loops, then a leg back. There were some really nice roads to ride down, and with the TT bike I felt like I was going a million miles an hour at some points. As soon as I got to the loops I was lapped straight away. The number 11 passed me and shouted encouragement, and it made me all emotional. These amazing athletes taking their time to be nice to the fun runners like me. The leading lady number 13 passed a little while later and again shouted encouragement. So nice ❤️. The hills were killer. Some were really long, and some were really steep. I've been doing a lot of hills for Ironman, but they are all either not as long or not as steep, so in a way it was nice to have some variety. I managed to get a speed PB too, I clocked 40 mph on one of the really long downhills. Mega.

The second time round the loop was good too, knowing what to expect and when, really helps. The only downside to the ride was the ache in my shoulders and neck. My body has clearly not adjusted to long rides yet. My race nutrition consisted of Nutella sandwiches cut into four, and I successfully ate these every half an hour. My hydration was SIS tablets. I only stopped once on the bike leg, and that was to refill my hydration system on the bike. What with it being so sunny, I made sure to drink plenty of water, but I don't think I gauged this very well, because I needed the toilet pretty much the whole ride. And when I got off the bike it was actually painful.

Transition 2 went ok. I took off everything I needed and put on everything I needed, too. The only thing I forgot was to have a mouthful of nutrition before setting off, but they gave out nutrition on the run section anyway, so I wasn't worried about that. The toilets were on the run route, but you had to do 1.5 miles before you could access them. So those first 1.5 miles were not pleasant. As soon as I emptied my bladder I felt so much better. I'm certain I didn't drink as much as I just let out 🤷🏻‍♀. The route was lovely, just my kind of running. Through woods, over roots and rocks, trail, grass, up and down. Really fun.

The course was four laps, and one by one I counted them down. The route gradually got less and less busy, but I liked that. The marshals along the way were very supportive and friendly, but I missed not having a Mudd Queen at every turn wishing me well. It's definitely the slowest I've run in a while. I'm used to starting running fresh, and after a few hours having to dig deep just to keep moving, but this was like starting out running feeling like I've already run a marathon before hand. Bizarre. Still, I was impressed at how much I did keep running. I walked up a lot of the up-hills, but I ran up a lot of the up-hills too, which, when I'm tired, is not like me. So that was a nice boost. I finished strong, and for my last lap I got that final lap motivation, and made it my quickest.

Most people had gone when I finished, but there were still a few out there, and there were still a few supporters giving encouragement. It was a great event, and well run. I feel like I'm a little bit closer towards my Ironman goal now, I've learned lessons (lesson number three is to lube the back of my neck not just the sides, and also under my arm pits, ouch), and I've got actual experience of doing a long triathlon race now. i know how it feels coming out of the swim onto the bike (wobbly), and I'll continue my bike/hill training so when 4th July comes, I've got the best shot at it. How do I feel about Ironman now? I don't know. I'm still convinced I won't make the bike cut off, and the swim will destroy me if the water is that cold, but I've given it a good old go, and I've enjoyed training for it this past year regardless.

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Jun 01, 2021

Getting out the water, yeah that's fun :) at some events pre covid, they had people who grab your arms and lift you out...seriously you'd rather they didn't :) how the pros spring up and start running to their bike I have no idea.

I have to get off the bike to pee? Why?

But, above all, a massive well done. I wouldn't have liked a half distance to be my first triathlon.

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