A huge congratulations to Eric last weekend for his first and by no means last open water triathlon! Below is Eric’s version of events
Are you ever too old to start, anything?
The answer for me is no.
At 62 in 3 weeks time I have just completed my first open water Tri-Athlon in the New Forest and what a day.
Just over 2 years ago I arranged to meet with Fran at Purbeck Sports Centre for her to check out my swimming. I had arranged, for some strange reason, to enter the Osprey Sprint. I had done this because I was celebrating my 60th year by doing things I had never done before, like riding a bike and running.
She suggested I jump in the pool do a few lengths and then she would have a chat on how I might be able to improve things.
I suggested she went to the other end and see if I could make it. The fact was I had entered the water the previous week and suddenly realised I could not swim any sense. On arriving at the other end of the pool I could see this look of concern on her face. This seemed to turn to panic when I told her I had a week to improve my technique!! The fact was I have never enjoyed swimming and the last time I was in a pool was to paddle about to get cool when on holiday.
I completed the swim in the Osprey Sprint which was 12 lengths in 17 minutes!! I walked half of it, held onto the side and spent a lot of time resting. I came first in my age group because I was the only one over 60!
Two and half years later I was stood on the side of Ellingham Lake at 6.45 on a Sunday morning waiting to swim 400 metres in open water. No walking, no hanging on and not much opportunity to rest. To say I was nervous is being polite.
Earlier that week I had bought a wetsuit, nothing like leaving everything to the last minute, and it was only the Thursday when I went to try it out at Weymouth for the first time. At least it fit.
Having had a virtually sleepless night I was shivering with a combination of cold and nerves as the time to get in the water arrived. The race brief seemed to go on forever, but I did find out that it was going to be a mass start once we were all in the water and had lined up.
As I entered thank goodness I had a wetsuit on. Who said the water temperature was 15 degrees. It was freezing. It was at this point I realised that Ade’s comment, ‘you’ll never drown in a wetsuit’ was probably true. As we lined up, I along with the rest of field bobbed up and down waiting for the starter to get organised and get us under way. As I looked around I got the distinct feeling I was not the only one full of trepidation.
As we got underway I felt a little more comforted that I could see the girls legs in front of me rather than just a complete murk. I was a bit surprised to realise she was doing the breast stroke. Wow, what a bit of luck, within 2 minutes of starting I had completed an overtaking manoeuvre and I knew there were a few behind me already. My confidence was rising and I was even beginning to feel warmer. The problem was I now realised at water level it is a bit of a job to know where you were going. Keeping half an eye on those in front and occasionally seeing the first buoy which was the first turn I tried to concentrate on just going at my own pace and not being panicked. Breath out gently, keep head in the correct position. Push back towards the back of the pool. Swing the arm, get the catch right. All the things I had been taught over and over were going through my mind.
Before I knew where I was I had reached the first buoy and the first turn. I did not know how far I had gone but I was still going and not the slightest bit fazed. By the time I reached the second buoy I had taken on a bit of water, but it seemed to taste alright. As I came round the second turn I had a bit of a problem. The swimmers in front of me had, or at least seemed to have, pushed on a bit, so there suddenly seemed no one to follow and we were now swimming into the sun, which by now was glorious. I caught the odd glimpse of them but could not see the pontoon. I knew I was swimming all over the place because of where the sun was coming towards me. One second in front and then to one side. I felt I was swimming like a seal popping my head clean out of the water to look around.
As I slipped towards dry dock, much like a tanker would, I tried to stand up before it was shallow enough. Should have waited until my hands touched the ground like I had been told. I launched myself towards the slip way and staggered out of the water. My God I had done it and I could have probably gone further.
I slipped and slithered my way out of the water about as gracefully as a 100 kilo ballerina.
I had only practiced taking the wetsuit off once and at my first attempt it all happened in seconds. No need to practice I had decided, wrong. Now I was in a race I was all fingers and thumbs. I have seen a video since, it was like seeing something on YOU TUBE the main thing was I kept saying to myself was I DID IT.
Then horror of all horrors, where has my timing chip gone. I had lost it. It was proof of the swim, who would believe me. Despite my best efforts I could not find it and I lost a lot of time trying to locate it. I had to keep going but had to ensure the organisers knew at all points that I was still in the race.
The rest of the race was to some degree all academic. I had completed one of my greatest challenges to swim a distance without being able to just stop and have a rest. I was now on a high.
I powered around the 33k bike course in what I believe was probably a pretty good time. The run, which was not flat but more like a cross country course up hill and downhill caused me to walk a couple of times, which is the worst thing I think you can do. But by now I was knackered.
As I crossed the line I was on a massive high and knew that I had cracked the swimming which meant I could seriously start to consider whether an Ironman was a possibility??
The final result was that I was placed 33 out of 56 starters with 3 no finishers. It took me 2:15:54.
‘If only’ then started. I know the next time I will be better.
Oh by the way. I was the oldest in the race.
Silly Old Fool.
The Old Fossil.