Back in January, I set my self a set of crazy ambitious goals for 2017. Some have fallen by the wayside (no drinking, ha!), others I ticked off (hello Guinness World Record!), but most have sat there waiting for their time to come. The toughest ones are the speed goals, none of which I had achieved in the past seven months, not for lack of trying.
But on Sunday, all that changed! At the London Triathlon I succeeded in smashing my goal of a sub-2:45 Olympic distance tri, breaking all of my expectations to come home in 2:37:45. It was one of those days where everything fell into place, and I gave the race everything I had. I knew this would be my one and only shot this year to achieve that goal, and didn’t want to waste the opportunity.
I’ve been consistently working on this leg of the tri, and knew it would go well. I was in a women’s wave for the first time, and that created a markedly nicer atmosphere in the water while waiting for the start. Instead of the typical race-face-focus-time attitude I’ve seen in mixed races, the ladies were all chatting with one another and apologising if they accidentally kicked someone whilst treading water. Such a nice change!
When I first started open water swimming I was advised to stay further back in the start group to avoid being swum-over or getting caught up in flailing limbs. I’ve grown much more confident in my swimming though (and tend to be the person swimming over slower people), so this time positioned myself towards the front of the group. Of course, the first thing that happened was I got kicked in the cheek (not hard!) but that barely phased me – we were off!
Started off strong and fast, I could feel the effort making my arms ache. After a few hundred metres though I settled into pace more comfortably. Thankfully this time I didn’t have any goggle issues, and didn’t break my stroke for the entire swim. On the way out to the far buoys on both ends of the loop it did start to feel far, but I could also tell I was going well. Struggled to get out of my wetsuit at the end, but then noticed that I had finished the swim in ~28min (actual: 28:30). Super duper happy with that – now time for the pesky bike ride.
My wave started at 7:20am, which meant that I was on the bike and heading out to Westminster before 8am. Now remember: London doesn’t wake up until 11am on a Sunday (at least!), so the was absolutely no-one along the course cheering, other than a few lonely cold volunteers. After making the turn at the Houses of Parliament and heading back along Embankment a lady passed me and said “where’s the music?”, referencing the entertainment we had been promised along the route. I shot back “where’s the fun??” – which was exactly what this ride was missing. It was miserable, windy, and I would have loved an extra layer on top of my sleeveless tri-suit.
Coming back towards the ExCel centre to close off the first of our 1.5 laps (one big one, one little one) I suddenly got a second wind. This was partially due to a lot of riders joining the course, the temperatures finally rising a few degrees, and the fact that I was now cycling along the same course I had covered four laps on last year – I knew every turn. I had been pretty down about my speed and times on the bike (GPS issues) despite knowing I was pushing hard, but I started to realise that maybe I would be able to knock out a sub-1:20 cycle after all.
I’ve been dreaming about that sub-1:20 cycle since I got my results from the London Triathlon last year, where I managed a surprise 1:24 (having expected to ride 1:45). With just my little 0.5 lap to go, I knew it would be possible. Push, push, push, eat a gel to prepare for the run, up the last ramp and BOOM – 1:18:39! No matter what happened from here on out I had achieved something I wanted, but damn it I was going to work hard on the run too, this was my chance.
In tech, the term ‘flow’ gets thrown around a lot, to describe the state you enter when writing code where time floats by and nothing exists except you and the problem you are solving. I also like to use it to describe those runs where you are moving effortlessly, floating along at speed. This was one of those runs. I have no idea where it came from, but I found myself easily overtaking everyone in front as I raced along. It was magical.
I had made a new friend earlier in the day in Katy, who had happened to rack her bike opposite mine and as it turns out lives in Battersea, not far from our new place in Clapham. She was half a lap in front of me on the run when I got out on the course, and so every few kilometres we would pass each other again and high-five or give each other words of encouragement. I was succeeding to close the gap on her with every lap, and had there been a few more I might have made it. She ended up finishing in 2:35, having cycled a 1:05 which is an absolutely cracking time.
Sye had come along to support for the run section and was waiting inside the ExCel centre where we had to run a lot of up-and-backs to make up the distance. It was great to see him and be able to vocalise the realisations I had started to come to: I was going to make it! Coming into the 3rd lap I realised that I still had ~22mins to complete the loop and make 2:45, and more than likely I would even break 2:40. My brain and body kicked into a new gear and I picked up speed from nowhere. Before I knew it I was passing Sye again with only 200m to the red carpet and finish line. Elation, glory, the goal was mine!!!
We sometimes pick arbitrary nice round numbers as goals because they look good on paper. So sure, I set 2:45 as my goal because it divides nicely into the hour, but beyond that it was enough of a step-up from last years 2:52:16 to make me work hard on improving my swim and bike legs. There has been a lot of training over the past three months to get to that result, I am so proud of myself for achieving it. I can’t wait to see those other goals fall too!
What’s your crazy ambitious goal?