Laid in bed, unable to get to sleep after a couple of hours attempting to settle the baby, I got to thinking about the firsts that made up Sunday. It seems I’m not too old (yet) to be attempting a few firsts… although it’s become blindingly obvious it’s going to be flipping hard work!
First up was ‘Human Soup’ (aka swimming)… I have always been quite a strong swimmer, in that I could swim all day long, I’ve just never been quick. I have a pathological hatred of getting water up my nose which makes me swim like I don’t want to get my hair wet. However, in the interests of this first Tri session, I really needed to get over this.
Stood on the side of the pool at 8am Sunday morning in a slightly too tight swimsuit (well prepared I had collected it from the shop at 7pm the night before and had no choice but to wear it as my holiday cozzies were really not going to made the grade), I was terrified. And apparently I looked it as it was mentioned by more than a couple of people. To be fair this probably wasn’t a surprise given I’m more used to swimming in the baby pool with the girls these days!
Opting for the novices ‘slow’ lane I joined three chaps and another lady in what turned out to be more than a little like the naughty corner at school! First up, both us blonde females swam our first length, stopped, forgot we were in the deep end and tried to stand up. This pretty much set the tone for an hour of giggling in between the five of us having varying degrees of success with the drills set by the coach. Nobody drowned so I’d say, all things considered, it was a successful session.
Forty five minutes in and I suddenly realised there were no steps to get out of the pool…. Cue 15 minutes of underlying panic that my triceps wouldn’t be strong enough for me to be able to haul myself out of the pool.
After a swim test to establish our swim handicap (I lost count so failed on this), we finished the session with a length of backstroke (it turns out I’m fairly quick at this) and one of breast stroke. Finally, a couple of decent lengths where I wasn’t in fear of drowning!
At this point I should say, hats off to Coach Steve. He had four lanes of massively differing ability yet managed to control the session, make sure everyone learnt something from it and that we had a bit of fun too! However, I could not stop myself laughing out loud every time he referred to ‘us’ as Triathlete’s… Seriously, whatever else I may be, I am never going to be any kind of athlete!
Next up was my first attempt at the Southern Cross Country League race at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. My only experience of cross country until now was Endure24, or trotting through woods and across fields at Manor Farm…. It turns out that the SXCL is cross country on a totally different level.
I felt OK at the start. But I wasn’t expecting to be speedy, just a nice gentle plod….just as well.
About half a mile out, the route went around a corner and……. UP! Now, when I say UP, I mean, pretty much vertically! After Saturday’s rain it was incredibly slippy underfoot and combined with the gradient, it was obvious to my clumsy self that my best option was to walk up. To be honest, I very much doubt I would have been any quicker had I attempted to run anyway.
My sense of relief when I reached the top was relatively short lived as I quickly realised that Jim hadn’t been joking when he said once you’d gone up…. You went up, then up again… and up some more!
Par for the course I couldn’t keep up with Emma who I’d hoped to run with… and then couldn’t keep up with several other Hedgies who caught and passed me. My legs stopped feeling like they belonged to me and I wondered if I’d even get to the finish. But then came the last mile and a bit, blissfully flat and even a good long stretch of downhill. After all the ups, this felt like I was flying! I’d found the whole run really difficult to get into a comfortable pace and stride but now I was in the zone. Granted I couldn’t look too far ahead as the hills had been replaced by treacherous hidden tree roots waiting to sabotage me but at least I now felt like I was actually making decent progress.
Heading down the hill towards the finish was fabulous. I attempted to get past a lady from another club (yellow t-shirt but can’t remember which club) who I’d been swapping place with most of the way round. She was stronger on the hill climbs than me but I’d caught her on the flat / downhill sections. Fair play to her, she really pushed and we had a good fight to the end.. She beat me and in all fairness with her strength uphill she deserved to!
And so, there it was, my first cross country run done, 4.93 miles in a whisker under 54 minutes. As usual, as soon as I finished I realised how much I’d actually enjoyed it and, with some trepidation, I’d even whisper that I’m looking forward to the next one.
Thinking back over the day, running after a swim is jolly hard work. But I’ve got a long way to go before I try a Tri. The combination of the disciplines and the different ways they test your muscles, cardio and endurance are like nothing I’ve experienced before. The closest I have ever been was completing a duathlon which, perhaps with the benefit of rose tinted hind-sight specs, didn’t feel half as tough as running after a swim. But then again, the Tri is unlikely to be such a challenging cross country course so I should probably keep that in mind!
PS. This morning (Monday) finds me with ridiculously achy shoulders, even lifting the hairdryer was a challenge…. Think I’d best add some weight training to my regime or this swimming malarkey is really going to become a problem!