Sunday 5th June marked the 12th annual triathlon at Blenheim Palace. With over 7,000 athletes competing across the weekend, it’s the UK’s second biggest triathlon; and it was my first. On race day I was nothing but excited. After six months, this was the day I’d been building up to since I logged my very first Strava ride on Boxing Day last year. I was also feeling in a relatively confident place with my ITBS having run nearly 30km over the bank holiday weekend with next to no pain and had very much enjoyed a lazy, carb-filled taper. However, with an Olympic distance in the diary at Windsor Tri the following week, I was mindful not to push it too hard and therefore treat the sprint at Blenheim as part of my training. So, after an enormous bowl of zoats and kitted out in my awesome Saddledrunk trisuit, if was finally time to get to the start line.
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.” Muhammad Ali
We were very lucky to have one of the nicest days of the year so far on Sunday. It became very hot towards mid-afternoon, so thankfully my wave was closer lunchtime. But there was not a cloud in the sky – it was idyllic; and very easy to see how Blenheim has become renowned as the UK’s most beautiful triathlon.
After collecting my time chip, we went to rack up in the palace’s prestigious courtyard. I laid out all my kit in transition as practised, then double and triple-checking everything(!) before walking down to the lake. It looked beautiful and much to my surprise, despite hearing reports of ‘crushingly cold’ water from friends who had raced the day before, I was really looking forward to the swim. After having to put my running on hold for six weeks during training, I was now feeling quite comfortable in the open water. The lake was a bareable 14 degrees, so after jumping in I quickly caught my breath and moved to position myself at the far buoy beside the big red duck, which we had figured out would make more or less a straight line to the turning buoy. I remember laughing hearing my Mum’s voice coming over the tannoy amongst a stream of other people’s wishing everyone good luck and then the next thing I knew, the gun went off. The swim was great. My positioning meant I had my own space in the water from the very start and was able to overtake on the outside of the course. Things got a little more chaotic around the turning buoy, but then we were on the home straight. I couldn’t see many orange hats in front of me so I upped my pace, started breathing every second stroke and suddenly found my feet on the pontoon. Then it was the nasty 400m uphill sprint back to transition; something that Blenheim is famous for!
So everything was going better than planned, until T1.
Unbelievably, I had my wetsuit off and my cleets on within less than two minutes of arriving back in the courtyard. Then, the girl next to me in transition ran up and told me she’d heard by back tyre hissing whilst she was racking up her bike. After an exceptionally unlucky 4 punctures at Ride It Windsor earlier this year, I was incredibly paranoid about getting a puncture during the race. To the extent that we’d put sealant in my tyres, bought inflation canisters, foam, the lot. And I had a completely ruined inner tube before I had even got my bike out of transition. It was safe to say I was seeing red. 17 minutes later, with the intent to make up for as much lost time as I possibly could, I crossed the mount line and stormed a very fast 20km on the bike, forgetting everything I had told myself about taking it easy. In favour of power, I made a feeble attempt to stand up in my peddles for the last 50m, then jumped off the bike and made a beeline for my trainers.
After a swift T2, I switched round my race belt, navigated the footbridge and was out for the 5.4km run; two laps of the slightly smaller half of Blenheim’s lovely lake. The route itself was beautiful, a lot more up and down than I had expected and I had settled into a quicker pace then I had expected to start at; the red mist hadn’t quite disappeared after T1. At about 3.5km I started to feel my knee on the downhill and ran on the grass wherever I could. But the spectator support and morale on the track was unbelievable, everyone wanted a high five. One of the organisers with a microphone was even asking everyone what they were going to eat when they finished, to which I instinctively replied milkybar buttons! It was brilliant, I smiled the whole way round. Then, as I turned left towards the home straight, I saw my Dad running down to the line with me and really went for it, crossing the finish at 1:45:52. Without the 17 minute delay in T1, I’d have been extremely chuffed.
But timings aside, it was the best feeling ever.
RECOVERY TIME: 6 DAYS
Five days later and that feeling has been somewhat surpassed by disappointment. Unfortunately, in the endeavour to make up for lost time, I have been forced to admit that I pushed too hard on Sunday and have found myself barely able to walk this week due to patella tendinitis. Having been assured that I won’t do any long-term damage on it if I run, if I can bare the pain of it, I have everything crossed that I am able to finish Windsor Triathlon this weekend and donate the amazing amount of money I’ve raised for Cancer Research UK.
That aside, Blenheim Palace Triathlon was one of the best experiences of my life. It was an absolutely beautiful route, thoroughly well organised and I loved every single second of it. I think it’s safe to say I’ve caught the Triathlon bug.