Bowood was a race which reminded me so much of why I love this sport. The venue was beautiful, the weather was sunny, the race was mostly comfortable and the people were lovely.
Bowood was a lower category race for me to ensure that all my race techniques are prepared for up and coming higher category races like Liverpool. I used my mantra of ‘never be satisfied’ to push me on during the race where motivation was low.
My mum, dad and I all piled into the car around 8:30am in the morning and headed off for Bowood. On the journey down I mentally prepared myself for the race, talking over key points with my parents, as I munched down my pre-race food of jam sandwiches and a banana to fuel me for the race.
We arrived, registered, familiarised ourselves with the course and I went off to set up transition. I set up transition as usual, bike on the rack, helmet on my aero bars and run shoes next to my bike. After a few run throughs of the transition, to make certain it would go smoothly, I headed for a warm up.
I did my usual warm up of a few dynamic stretches and run drills before adding in a few high intensity short sharp strides to ‘wake up’ my leg muscles. Once I was finished with this I made myself down the hill to the water’s edge to slip into my wetsuit and listen to the race briefing.
When I arrived down at the water’s edge, I put my Huub wetsuit on with the help of my parents, using plastic bags to help slip my arms and feet in. I then rubbed baby oil all over the outside of my wetsuit on my legs and arms. I noticed behind me a few ladies watching intently what I was doing and a few seconds later one of them asked me what was the baby oil for. Often the most common way I learn new tricks for triathlons is by watching and asking others, so I was happy to pass on the knowledge like many have done for me. The baby oil helps when other competitors grab your legs and arms, intentionally or not, but because of the oil, they are unable to get a grip.
We were allowed a few minutes in the water to acclimatize to the warmish water before we were lined up and set off. I had tactically placed myself directly in front of the first swim buoy however towards the side of the pack for less damage. Just before the starting horn blasted I started my watch and prepared myself for a battering. I kicked my feet and pulled myself through the water as fast as I could, to avoid the mad scramble they often call the ‘washing machine effect’, however I was nicely surprised to experience no bodily contact what so ever. A few meters after the start I realised I was leading, which came as a surprise to me due to the strong looking men within the mixed wave start. I reached the first buoy still in front, constantly waiting for someone to cruise gently past me, so I used this apprehension to push myself faster and faster. Whilst kicking my legs, I created a splash, which hit my hands a few times, which convinced me that there was a competitor close on my tail, no it was just me. Blonde moment or what! The canoe boat led me through the maze of buoys, which made sighting rather difficult, especially as he weaved around a lot. I climbed out of the swim with a good lead on my competitors and braced myself for the 400 m hill climb up to transition.
I unzipped my Huub wetsuit and pulled of my swim hat, which surprised most spectators who had been sure that the leader of the swim was a man, not a 16-year-old girl. I ploughed up the hill with my wetsuit half way down, getting hotter and hotter as the midday sun beat down on my back. Dad ran alongside me, cheering me on before he stopped halfway, as the hill proved too much of a challenge for him!
I reached transition and swiftly pulled my wetsuit off before reaching for my helmet, which was not there! A friend of mine dropped out of his Blenheim race in transition as he lost so much time looking for a misplaced helmet. Lesson learnt is not to panic and sometimes expect the unexpected in transition. I scanned the surrounding area and saw it on the floor besides my bike. Such a relief as I know you can lose a race by seconds lost in transition
The 21 km bike course consisted of 7 laps, which took place around the grounds. The course was rather undulating and this was not helped by the surprisingly strong winds. The first few laps were congested due to the competitors from the previous wave finishing the bike course. Towards the end of each lap I would turn a corner to ascend up a small incline, however each time I was faced by what seemed to be a wall of wind. I was standing out of my saddle, pushing hard on my pedals, but felt as though I was going nowhere fast. At least I could hear my other competitors grunt and moan as we cycled face first into this relentless wind. I managed not to be overtaken by any other female competitor, which gave me a strong psychological advantage when it came to the run.
In transition I found my shoes quickly and running out I passed the water station, where I promptly threw a cup of water over myself to cool down and was out onto the run course.
The run course was mainly downhill on the first half, which meant it was mainly uphill for the second half. With the thought of competitors chasing me down and my mantra of ‘never be satisfied’, I pushed myself hard throughout the run. I used the downhill to my advantage to gain momentum before reaching the windy uphill section, which took me past the beautiful waterfall and along a small island overlooking the lake, where I could see another wave of competitors out on the swim. The sun was out so I was thankful to pass the water station again before heading for my last lap of the run. As I passed some competitors I got encouragement and congratulations, which gave me more motivation to run faster. Running up the final hill felt like an eternity, the sun was hot and the hill was steep but as I got to the top I knew it wasn’t far to the finish. With the finish in sight I veered off towards the finish line and crossed over the mat with a smile on my face.
My parents and I waited a while before the awards ceremony, where I was happy to find out that I had won overall female out of Saturday and Sunday races. I was the first fastest lady and came 11th out of 140 competitors male and female. I was particularly proud of the swim and feel that due to recent hard efforts in my swim training it gave me a lead physically and mentally for the rest of the race. I was also chuffed to have such a strong feeling race, especially after a hard week of training. I had to admire one of the competitors, (she had finished in a good position), who in true sportsmanship, admitted to not finishing the run lap completely by accident, it goes to show what a friendly and honest sport triathlon is.
I had an amazing day at Bowood, but one downside, don’t forget sun cream like I did, it didn’t feel too hot but man I got some cracking sun burn lines from my trisuit!
Again a huge thank you to my dedicated coach who always gives me the best advice and encouragement and, every now and then, puts up with my moaning!