Life is a marathon not a sprint, generally. Well, today it was a sprint. A sprint triathlon to be precise.

The Woodhall Spa Sprint triathlon – my first – was the culmination of about 4 weeks of preparation, and it has in fact been crucial to my sanity through Operation Threadbare. How? Well, the training has provided me with an outlet for my frustrations at not being able to shop, as well as kept me busy. Plus I’ve had great fun buying new kit legitimately (although some of my readers thought I was stretching the rules a little at the tri-suit).

I’d chosen an early June sprint triathlon aimed at novices. The weather was supposed to be sunny. It was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend. Doesn’t the Queen order in good weather for stuff like this? Apparently not.

Sunday dawned wet, cold and miserable. With a 5:30 alarm call, and a slight diversion through a ford – which would set the tone of a very waterlogged day – we arrived at Jubilee Park in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, excited. It was with some trepidation that we stood in the queue for registration in the ever-pouring rain, thinking about the prospect of having to strip out of all our waterproofs to brave the outdoor pool, and then spend an hour and a half in the downpour. But we did not let that dampen our spirits.

In all honesty, my day was immediately brightened as we collected our numbers under cover of the tent, where, at the far end, I spied a pile of race t-shirts. Really nice technical running t-shirts. I love sports events that give you clothes. Who needs a medal?! And yes, it cost me £40 to enter. But for the experience, and a t-shirt – did I mention the t-shirt? – pretty good value for money.

And for those people who read my blog for the Operation Threadbare, I must now apologise, because I’m now about to go completely off topic and talk about the triathlon itself, because I’m still on such an adrenaline high, that I wanted to write it all down and record the experience somewhere.

So what of the race experience itself?

The Swim. 400m.
I had been dreading the swim as I’ve never been a good swimmer. I panic in the water – this is the girl who will never put her face in the water, so will only swim breast stroke, and won’t go in the sea because waves scare her and she can’t touch the bottom; who once spent a two week sailing holiday terrified the boat would tip up; who actually has a RYA Level 2 sailing qualification but is scared of water; who once had a panic attack in a Maldivian lagoon as a current swept her away briefly; yet who has tried to learn to swim properly with coaching, and even enjoys open water swimming with the local Lincoln triathletes, despite the fact a lot of them stop to ask if she’s ok as she flounders in the middle of the lake. I can swim. I’m just not very good at it. It’s this that has stopped me from entering a triathlon before – for fear of looking stupid rather than failure. But I’ve got over that now. Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon was originally designed with novices in mind, and, as I lined up at poolside, chatting with other people due to start, I realised I wasn’t alone in my irrational fears. Many people I spoke to were most nervous about the swim, their technique, their speed … So I relaxed into it.

The Bike. 24km.
Climbing out of the pool I ripped my hat off, picked up my shoes, and ran barefooted and dripping wet through to the grassed transition area, which was completely waterlogged. Don’t laugh, but this was my favourite bit of the whole triathlon. At this point, I felt like superwoman; like a real triathlete, imagining I was Helen Jenkins or Chrissie Wellington. I felt invincible. Adrenaline is truly awesome stuff. Dried my feet, pulled on socks and shoes, and then immediately wondered why I’d bothered as the waterlogged ground soaked through my running shoes, put on running top, bike helmet and cycling gloves, then off I went. Oh good grief. Mounting the bike and starting to pedal into a higher gear, my legs felt drained of all energy. I’d never tried a swim to cycle before, and wasn’t expecting that sensation. The roads were also wet, and as I turned into headwind, the rain battered my bare arms and legs – thus began the next hour of a long and lonely bike ride. I soon got into my rhythm; it was a flattish course, but it did have a few tight bends. However I did manage to overtake a few cyclists (a few also overtook me).

The Run. 5km.
Dismounting my bike to come into transition 2 and trying to run with it was a huge mistake that nearly ended with me flat on my face. Never do that. Especially when there are lots of public spectators. So I walked into the transition area, holding my bike, racked it, took off my helmet and gloves – with some difficulty, since my hands (and my feet) were like blocks of ice after an hour’s riding – then ran. My thighs burned. This is apparently normal. I took it easy, until I got into a rhythm again, then sped up, incentivised by the rain which was still falling, and getting heavier by the minute. With 200 metres to go until the finish line, I could hear another runner chasing me down. No chance I was letting someone beat me. With a quick glance over my shoulder, I sprinted to the finish line, arms in the air.

My first triathlon. And I was jubilant. Not to mention I had a new t-shirt…