Well they say no pain no gain right? It turns out the additional adrenalin you get when you hurtle yourself off a bike also results in making rather interesting decisions, despite the pain.
So, last week I did Thonon Triathlon (olympic distance) in the most stunning setting on Lac Leman. Other than absurd traffic getting there, race morning was rather uneventful. It was a hot day at 30C, but nothing I hadn’t dealt with before.
We (the girls) lined up in the water to do the double loop swim course in the lake, with the boys going off 5 minutes after us. We could see lots of fish in the clear blue waters below us. Pretty peaceful.
The horn went and we paddled off. I found my stroke and water after we’d rounded the second boy, taking the lead early on. Out of the first loop, and onto the second, with a lot of very loud cheering during the ‘Sortie Australienne’.
The second loop was less than calm. I caught up with the slower men and was continuously fighting the washing machine. I played it safe on the outside where I could, but it was impossible to stay out of it around the buoys where I was pushed under several times.
It was a relief to get out of the brawl, and out onto a bike after a (relatively) smooth transition.
The bike course was a dream. Well, it should have been. The first 25 km was pretty much all uphill, going up the road that leads you to Col de Feu, one of the tough local climbs. The last 15 km was all downhill on reasonably technical descent at the top. I took it slow here as I am quite wary of my bike handling skills on a TT bike.
When the road began to flatten out, perhaps I took it less slow. It was open roads and I felt as though a car was putting pressure on me from behind. I rode fast into a corner, didn’t see that the outside was covered in gravel.
My wheels slid out from beneath me.
I hit the ground. Quite hard. I had been doing 40km/h.
I screamed. Quite loudly. I’m surprised my parents waiting for my return in Thonon didn’t hear.
A couple of cyclists who had been coming up the hill jumped off their bikes and came to help me. I looked down at my hands and passed out from the shock. My palms were both completely grated. I was notified that someone had called the ambulance.
I got up and after attempting to wash myself off with some water from a very kind cyclist, I looked over the bike. The chain had come off, but after getting it back on with two fingers, I hopped back on and shakily rode back down to Thonon. I couldn’t really use my breaks due to my hands being shredded, so I was constrained to going pretty slowly this time.
I rode into transition exceptionally slowly. Apparently I’d managed to up the lead in the first half of the race to create a buffer for this kind of stupid incident.
As I went into transition, mum saw my state and asked if there was anything that I needed – I took this as a sign to carry on. Just as I was putting my running shoes on, the second girl came into transition.
No time to waste.
I got running. I had a pretty good idea of the pace I wanted to be running, so I looked at my Garmin to check I wasn’t doing a typical triathlete thing of starting out to fast (yes, most of us seem to be incapable of holding back). It was smashed. R.I.P Garmin.
So I went on feel, conscious that I was not in the strongest state, aware of a lot of spectators looking at my red raw shoulder in horror.
As leading woman, I was accompanied by a marshall on a mountain bike, who was an absolute star. Just having someone there watching me in case I re-fainted was reassuring. According to the marshall, I apparently kept ‘une cadence parfaite’. I was running in time to Let It Go from Frozen. Seemed pretty apt.
But adrenalin carried me through. At turn around point, I saw that my lead on second had, despite everything, grown. It was hot and unshaded, but the frequent water stations and marshall I was following kept me strong.
Coming into the finish area, the commentator was going wild over the mic. I crossed the line and was so relieved. I had, despite my foolishness in falling, managed to finish. And win.
I was hurried into the red-cross tent, where Gerard and his team cleaned me up in time to make it to the remise-des-prix.
I guess your body is capable of doing a lot more than you realise. We are adapted to survival in more ways than you realise, and racing is just one of occasions on which we let our primitive instincts shine through.
But even when you don’t think it’s possible, you might just surprise yourself. Don’t stop when it hurts. Stop when you’ve finished. Nothing worth doing is going to be pain-free.
A big thank you to Mum and Dad, for putting up with me and my shenanigans. To coach Jurgen for getting me strong enough both physically and mentally. To all the Geneva Tri Club crew cheering and supporting over the course – and congrats to them all as well for incredible racing. To Jiakina Customised and BV Sport Singapore for kitting me out – thankfully the tri-suit withstood the road rash better than me.
Also to all the organisers, volunteers and marshalls of Thonon triathlon. A truly stunning event, superbly organised and one to do if you like a good climb. Just make sure you know how to descend as well…