Blenheim – part one: in the water

Can you see me?

Look at the clock.  It was five minutes until we’d hear the horn blast, and at that particular moment I was asking out loud: “what the fuck am I doing?”

Some of the girls near me chuckled, empathizing with the irate ramblings of a nervous novice.  How I got there was a blur.  I’d arrived at Blenheim with plenty of time to spare.  Racked up my bike, laid out my trainers and towel, poured talcum powder into my socks.  Spent a restless hour waiting by the lake with my wetsuit slung over my arm.  I listened to the safety briefing for three preceeding waves, made polite conversation with more experienced triathletes, probing them for last words of advice.  I was feeling quite faint.  The air was heavy, I’d not stomached my breakfast all that well, and I sipped regularly at my bottle of warm water and blackcurrant flavoured rehydration salts.  It was hot.  Into the late 20s and I wasn’t going to put my wetsuit on until the very last moment.

After wave 10 was released into the water I began the painstaking process of wriggling into the neoprene suit, shamelessly laughing at myself, uncaring of the inquisitive glares of a picnicking family next to me.  When wave 11 was called, it was with a steady pace that I descended the hill.  The gothic music blasting from the transition speakers, foreboding…menacing.  There was no turning back.

Bright pink swim cap, ohhhh – a souvenir, I thought.  “Do you work for Oxfam?” someone asked me as she approached me with a broad smile.  I’m not sure how she recognised me in the guise of an elephant seal, but it was a wonderful distraction.  We all felt light-headed and struggled with being slowly cooked in our rubber suits.  But, it made our procession to the lake much less daunting and with great relief  I plonked myself into the water.  I began to search for a place.  230 in my wave.  I was going to the back, left-hand side.  I bid good luck to my competitors and with one last look up to the palace, the horn sounded and my triathlon began.

The swim itself was brilliant.  I felt strong and focused, and if it wasn’t for a particularly aggressive girl who kept crashing into me I think I would have said it was perfectly comfortable.  Before long I was at the buoy and turning left back into shore.  I could see the blue ramp ahead of me and with a glance behind I was encouraged by how many girls were still swimming.  I had progressed through the group in good time and veered into the centre of the pack.

Three men stood on the ramp and lifted us out one-by-one, wishing us the best, and I think I smiled and said thank you as they unzzipped me.  The bamboo mat felt coarse underfoot, and the incline was surprisingly steep and long.  I was breathless, but urged on by the cheers of a crowd.  I was entering the transition zone, searching for row k.  I had been warned about the confusion of finding your bike amidst the thousands and had rather cleverly placed a Bahamian flag on the seat of my bike.

Or, so I thought.  My wetsuit was undone to my waist, arms flapping about, goggles and cap tucked into the sleeve.  Once, twice, three times I scoured row K unable to spot the trademark yellow, turquoise and black.  Finally I found it, fallen to the floor.  I sighed, knowing that I had lost valuable minutes, and began to prepare for the next leg of the race.

Swim: 16 minutes; transition 1: 7 minutes.  I’d like to point out that having investigated average T1 times I was remarkably slow.

So, how did the bike ride go?  I’ll save that for next time.

Bye for now,

Lau xx


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