From a Run to a Crawl #4

The morning of the Windrush Aquathlon 2019 – Photo courtesy of Rory Kemper (race director)

So the big day finally arrived and I was really nervous. Mainly because I knew I hadn’t done enough training over the last few months but also because everyone else looked so professional and seemed to know exactly what do do. I have never entered an event that required thinking about how to lay out trainers, towels etc in exactly the right position to make a quicker transition from the pool to the run. What a strange new experience!

My West Norwood Therapies colleague, Erika, and I had agreed to opt for the GoTri version of the event which involved a 300m swim and a 2.5km run rather than the longer 500m swim and a 5km run as we thought this was a more realistic distance to complete for us beginners.

At 09.00 I was the first person (being the slowest) over the chip timer mat and into the pool. Slipping in too quickly and sinking into the deep end I swallowed a few mouthfuls of water and choked. Immediately the panic set in and I couldn’t breathe. I had intended to swim front crawl for as long as possible but after this rather unexpected spluttering start I couldn’t get my breathing under control and had to resort to the familiar weak breaststroke of the past. At about 25m having pulled myself together enough to breathe and move my arms and legs simultaneously (oh, that’s called swimming, right?) one of my fellow swimmers speedily overtook me with a flambo(u)yant front crawl which only heralded the beginning of the following pattern of all the other GoTri competitors (bar one – thank you and would you like to train with me in the future?) steadily overtaking me. The nightmare inducing memories of taking my gold lifesavers badge aged 11 came flooding back recalling struggling to finish the obligatory 40 lengths (or was it 20 but just felt like 40?) coming in last by a length and thinking I was going to be told I was too slow to get my badge…feeling all my class mates pitying eyes on me….the humiliation rising…my cheeks going redder and redder… wake up! Anyway, lets move on from that…

So after the sixth and final length it was up the ladder (a tough feat in itself…) a brisk walk (no running) out of the lido and a run up (permitted) to the transition area to throw on my shorts, top and trainers (no nudity). Thank you Nick Flower for the talcum powder in the trainers tip.. and off up the hill towards the tennis courts for the loop around Brockwell Park. I couldn’t understand why I found the run so hard when Erika and I had managed it fairly comfortably the week before. This time my breathing was shallow and I felt so heavy in the legs. Only after the race did a wise Windrusher point out that of course it’s harder when you’ve just been swimming. Which is what makes it an interesting event! Duh.

The park was looking particularly beautiful and thank you Junior Park Runners for running happily alongside me for a few metres inspiring me to keep going. How could I not get to the finish if these tiny little 8 year olds could happily charge up hills with smiles on their faces? I finally made it back to the lido and up to the finish with my heart pounding in my chest. Done.

At work this week several Windrushers asked me “so did you enjoy it?” That’s a difficult question. I am pleased that I did it as it was touch and go over the last year as to whether I would or not but I am annoyed with myself for not putting in the training and for not conquering the front crawl. But as this my first and only PB with a bit more training surely I can beat it next year? I think I’ll head off for a swim and think about it.

I want to thank everyone who organised and volunteered at the fantastic Windrush Aquathlon on Sunday. For the encouragement from the marshals and the friendliness of the competitors. I also want to thank Erika Zetterval for keeping her agreement to me and to herself despite having her doubts over the last few months. Thank you to Lauren O Sullivan for massaging solo this year and a big Thank you to Becky Goodwin for all her hard work trying to teach me the front crawl (I promise I won’t let you down next year) and to all my lovely clients for their advice and words of encouragement. THANK YOU!

Erika and I post race

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