1.9km swim, 90km bike, 22km run
This was a big event for me and coming only one week after the crazy long duathlon was going to be a tough day out. One that nearly ended badly…but didn’t 🙂
So, I booked this event ages ago with my friend Declan. We are both doing IM Maastricht in July and thought this would be a good training race. I did a similar thing the year I did IM Zurich. The middle distance is half the distance of an Ironman.
The event was held at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest, a stunning location and one that we were very fortunate to race in. The Beaulieu Estate and even the river we swam in are owned by Lord Montague. But RaceNewForest – the organisers seem to have a good relationship with the Estate as they hold quite a few events here.
Heidi came with me again, as Ian was off in Italy doing a cycle race with his buddies. Although it’s only a couple of hours away, the 6am start on the Sunday meant registration and race briefing were taking place on the Saturday afternoon so we would have to stay over in a hotel. In fact I booked two nights so we didn’t have to drive home straight after the race – another mini break for me a Heidi 🙂
We met up with Declan and his wife Annemarie at the race briefing. It was the perfect afternoon for it – warm sunshine and a beautiful setting. We all sat on the grass while the event director gave us the low down on what to expect the following day. He told us the water was 16C which is pretty good for May but that it might be cold on the bike and we should take time to put on a layer or two. It’s very easy to dash out of the water and onto your bike without realising how cold it is. 90km is a long way to be cold. He wanted us to all enjoy the race and keep fit and healthy for our racing season ahead.
Sunday – Race Day
After fairly good night’s sleep, our hotel although lovely and in a great location was right next to a railway station, we got up at 4am. I felt quite lively and Heidi although sleepy was in good spirits. It was only 5 miles to the race start and the drive was stunning. The sun was coming up, there was a gentle mist which made it look even more pretty and then of course there were the animals – which are the main highlight of coming to the New Forest. We saw a small herd of deer skip across the road, we saw donkeys wandering down the middle of the road, big cows and baby calves just on the edge of the road and of course the lovely New Forest ponies everywhere. Delightful.
We got there just before 5am and I went off to rack my bike and set up my transition area. Bike shoes, socks, helmet, jersey, race belt, food for my ride and trainers for my run. At 5.45 I got into my wetsuit. Did I mention how cold it was…4C brrr. I left putting my wetsuit on until the last minute. The race was actually delayed 15 minutes, not so much for the swim (the water was relatively warm) but so that the temperature would have risen a bit for our bike ride.
At 6.15am the first wave set off with their red hats on and then five minutes later it was the second wave with yellow hats on. I was in the second wave. The water was fine and calm although it was quite misty. I enjoy the swim bit as it’s my favourite discipline and the one I’m best at, Declan was slightly more apprehensive as 1, his wetsuit was pretty near falling apart and 2, he hadn’t actually been in the water since IM Zurich…. nearly TWO YEARS ago!!!! No pool swimming, no open water swimming…possibly a bath or two – he was fine though 🙂
I started swimming. We had to do two laps – up one side of a row of boats turn round, back the other side…and repeat. There was quite a bit of jostling around at the beginning and the usual getting bashed in the head, but I don’t really mind all that as I feel confident in the water. All was going well until….
I saw a yellow hat next to me start to turn by a big orange buoy and I could see people swimming the other side. It was hard to see clearly but I assumed this was the turn around point so I turned. But suddenly I seemed to be amongst red hats. Uh oh! I kept swimming trying to figure out what was happening. I couldn’t turn around as I was surrounded by about fifty swimmers and there were boats to my right. I carried on. By the time I completed the second lap I realised that I must have turned slightly too early on the first lap. I had no choice but to just get to end. This would probably mean a DQ (disqualification).
I was obviously a bit upset. I ran out of the water where I saw Heidi and then into transition. I made the decision that if I was to be DQ’d I might as well still do the bike ride and have a nice day out.
I didn’t want this to ruin my day so I figured out quickly what I would do and then put it to the back of my mind. I would finish the bike, find the race referee, explain what had happened and then DNF (did not finish). Shortly into the bike I heard “Go Paula Green” it was Declan. As he rode past I explained what had happened and that I was ok. I know he was worried about me, but really I was fine. Not saying anything and pretending I had just done a speedy swim would have made me feel much worse.
The bike course was beautiful and I’m so pleased I did it – pretty flat, not much wind and lots and lots of ponies, cattle and donkeys to keep me amused. The marshals were wonderful and very encouraging. I was keeping up a good speed. I had been worried before the race about not meeting the cut offs but even if I had completed the whole swim I would have been fine. This was a bit upsetting, but I had come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn’t be running and actually I think I enjoyed the bike more because of this. No pressure – enjoy the moment. These things happen.
After just over three and half hours I was back at transition, I saw Annemarie standing by the timing mat cheering then I saw my sister Adi and brother-in- law Antony (they had driven from Somerset that morning to catch me on the run), Heidi was with them and they were waving pompoms and ringing cowbells. Adi could see from my face that all was not well and she looked concerned.
Fortunately I saw the race referee straight away and I even remembered her name from the race briefing 🙂 I called her and she came over to me. “I mucked up the swim” I said. She seemed to know that something had happened although she didn’t know that I was the swimmer – we all look the same in the water! She asked if I was in a yellow hat – yep that was me. Then, to my surprise she said it was ok, I could continue with my race. I wouldn’t get an official time for the swim but most importantly I wouldn’t be disqualified. She said that she was pleased that I had let her know. I found out later from other racers that I wasn’t the only one with problems in the swim and lots of people had difficulty working out the course – this made me feel little better. I asked the referee if would still get a medal – YES!! – Hurrah! I was not running 22km without getting my medal lol!
So within the space of a few minutes I went from thinking my race was over to getting my head round a 22km run. I was so grateful for them being so reasonable. I had only gained about seven minutes and lets face it I wasn’t going to be winning any prizes, I was definitely bringing up the rear.
So the run began – two 7 mile laps. It was pretty hot by now but I didn’t find it as hard as the runs on the duathlon last week. My legs felt reasonably good, and I was just so happy to be given the chance to run and complete the race. I ran the first lap quite well, there was walking, but I kept it to a minimum. Most of the lap was on country lanes, but the last couple of miles was through woodland and on trails – very pretty.
I got a big cheer at the end of the first lap from my family and Annemarie as it went back through Buckler’s Hard. There were also lots of people here outside a pub clapping and me up the hill ready to start lap two. Lap two was much harder. I had now been racing for nearly six hours and was tired. I was also mainly on my own as most people were finishing. There were still a few people out there and everyone was very friendly, the marshals clapped and cheered us along and I even had people shouting out of their cars and from their gardens. I quite enjoyed myself despite things starting to hurt. My favourite bit was coming round a corner and seeing twenty (I counted them) ponies in the road. I wish I’d had a camera with me – it was a lovely sight.
The final mile was tough, I was starting to fade. I took a gel because I felt like I hadn’t eaten quite enough but then realised I needed some water, which I didn’t have. However, at this point some walkers were near me and asked me how I was getting on and what I was doing. They seemed impressed 🙂 and also gave me some water – thank you!
The last bit of the run comes back along the river and back up a gravel hill, past the pub and the crowds to the finish. Declan, who had finished ages ago was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill and walked with me round the corner. It was so good to see him. Then I heard, before I saw them, my sister and Heidi – wildly waving the pink pompoms and ringing the cow bells. GO PAULA GREEN!!!! Annemarie was there too “Come on Paula!” the crowd were trying to encourage me to run up the hill, but I didn’t have much left in me. I waited until I could see the finish before I ran the last 100m or so over the line….and got my medal.
So happy to have finished another event.
Back at the hotel I had a well earned shower and then met up with Adi and Antony for a well earned prosecco (my race day treat). Later in the evening Heidi and I had dinner with Annemarie and Declan and chatted about the fabulous day we had.
23 Events done!