Yesterday I did the Aviemore Triathlon (the Short Fast Durty, because it was described as non-technical and I am not very good at technical mountain biking!). I entered it ages ago and more or less forgot about it (indeed, I forgot to book accommodation until fairly recently, which meant that we ended up in Nethy Bridge – which was probably the best place given that there turned out to be a Harley Davidson rally in Aviemore itself!). So after the disappointment of Castle Howard I was looking forward to a short, fun race during which I didn’t particularly need to worry about mid-race nutrition and that I knew that (barring total disaster) I would definitely be able to finish.
I had a slight incident the afternoon before when, after registering, I decided to ride the only remotely technical bit of my race route, which was the bike track at Badaguish. All of it was fine, except for the one jump. I have never learned how to do jumps on a mountain bike, but I’d seen a guy roll off it earlier and was worried that it might be a compulsory bit of the course (it wasn’t). So I attempted to roll off it. I had my weight too far forward, and as soon as the front wheel touched down I felt myself pitching forward – so to stop myself going clean over the handlebars I put my feet down. The downside of this was that I then got my calves attacked by my aggressively spiky Nukeproof pedals. Cue much bleeding! Two nice ladies who were also checking out the course came to see if I was ok (after disbelievingly asking me, “You didn’t just try to roll off that, did you?”). They even checked up on me at the start of the race the next day!
The morning of the race dawned pretty bright and warm. While I waited for the race to start Chris took my bag back to the car from the start and then went off on his own mini-adventure to cycle up the hill to the Caingorm ski centre (did I mention he’s a bit of a hill climbing monster?).
A slightly awkward and ungainly wade into lovely (but cold) Loch Morlich and we were off! All the open water swimming I’d done recently paid off – I felt confident enough to start reasonably near the front and didn’t mind getting crowded at the start. To be fair, it was a fairly well-behaved swim start and I didn’t get hit or pushed at all. I ended up breathing on one side, which I usually end up doing in races – I’m not sure if this is because I’m working hard or because of the cold, but I almost always breathe bilaterally the rest of the time, even in open water training!
When I rounded the first buoy I could see there were a lot of people behind me, and I exited the water in 13 minutes – my fastest sprint swim time so far (although my Garmin data suggests the swim was a good 100m short of the stated 750m distance, which would easily account for being 2 minutes faster than normal!). No faffing in T1, and my new, bright yellow mountain bike was easy to locate, then I was off on the bike route.
The bike course was easy, inasmuch as it was not remotely technical. There were some nice sweeping tracks where my new cornering skills (learnt at a Bike Club training session) came in handy, but no rocks, roots or other nasty surprises. Oh, apart from a bridge that was nothing more than a few logs laid over a ditch containing a stream – that was a case of slinging the bike over my shoulder and gingerly walking over it! There was one long, steep climb that I didn’t even try to ride all of – given a clear run at it I could probably have ridden it, but all the people in front of me were pushing and I certainly wouldn’t have been any faster riding it. I only got overtaken by one lady on the bike and was starting to feel that I was doing quite well. The course suited me – no really technical bits, but with the steep climb you had to be fit (even pushing!).
T2 was super quick – I was already wearing my running shoes so I just ditched my helmet and glasses and ran on. The run was great – a combination of boggy, mossy, technical running through the forest, and wide open tracks where I could really get some speed up. The turnaround came all too quickly (in fact, the course was well short of the stated 6km) and I had overtaken one lady and only seen two ahead of me – and I didn’t know if they were in my race or the long course Championship.
Once I had finished there was a nail-biting wait, during which I switched between optimism that I might be on the podium and foolishness for even thinking anything so daft! When the announcer got to my category, he announced third…then second…I turned to my friend next to me and said, “I must have been further back than I thought.”
Then he read my name out! First senior female! My first podium in a triathlon, and first place at that!
As it turned out, I was also second woman overall – one of the women I saw ahead of me in the run must have been one of the leaders of the Championship race.
I’m not going to dwell on the fact that all the good mountain bikers (who would rightly have thrashed me) were in the Chamipnship race. I raced hard, and took my first triathlon win. I am absolutely thrilled.
Kudos to Durty Events for another great race – I’ve done several of their events now and they are always well-organised and fun. I’ll definitely be back for more of this cross triathlon lark!