When I crossed the finish line at The Outlaw in August 2012, I was sore, tired but in love with all things triathlon. I didn’t realize that I’d just finished my last one for almost two years. Due to the death of my Mum I missed my last race of the 2012 season and then my 2013 season was over before it began due to a knee injury. I returned to triathlon racing this past Sunday at the Ribby Hall Sprint and you could say that I came back with a bang!
Ribby Hall is situated in the village of Wrea Green which is in between Preston and Blackpool, a lovely little holiday village complex. The distances for the race were a 400m swim, 10.4 mile bike ride and a 5km run. I was really excited to be racing again after such a long lay off, I wasn’t due to swim until the 9.30am wave but I got to the venue a couple of hours before that to take in the atmosphere, register, support my club mates and chat to my friends. All quite civilized really.
Time moved on and before I knew it I was stood poolside, wearing a COLT trisuit that I’d borrowed for the day, I know you aren’t supposed to test new kit in a race but what the hell, and besides it went well with the new bike shoes that were being used for the first time. There were 3 in the lane in the pool, 16 lengths awaited us. I said I’d be the back marker as the other two both said they were faster than what I was expecting to swim. We were set off at 10 second intervals. I smiled to myself as the official counted me down from 5 seconds. “Here we go again!” With a thrust of my legs I was once again a triathlete.
The swim went really well, and within the first 100m I had tapped the girl in fronts ankles and moved up a place. I think I probably could have pushed harder but I was mindful of what was left to come and besides the guy in front who I was drafting off was maintaining his distance in front of me. To pass him would have been suicidal as I would have wasted energy trying not to get my feet tapped. The official placed the red kick board in the water signalling I had two lengths left to swim. It was over in a flash, My garmin read 8 mins exactly, my fastest ever competitive swim. I felt good inside.
Swim cap off, ear plugs, nose clip and goggles grasped in my hand like a trophy I sprinted barefoot through the crowd across the gravel path, focusing on the Roo awaiting me in transition. “Don’t Be Crap Holgs” came the shout from my COLT teammates who had ridden down to watch. I laughed and put on my helmet, race belt, new shoes and glasses and then started the transition tip-toe. All triathletes know that one, clip-clop, please don’t let me slip on my arse in these cleats in front of everyone. “Holgs your number is on the wrong way round”, I was thankful that Gaz had pointed that out and quickly changed it around as I reached the mount line. I and the Roo were on our way.
The bike course at Ribby is flat and fast and I was looking forward to just hammering it. This was the bit I was most excited about. I love riding the Roo, especially after her recent upgrade, she feels fast and that makes me want to ride better. A mile into the course and we had to make the only right turn of the day. Unfortunately I hit a pothole and suddenly my aerobars took a considerable nose dive. I had to come to a complete stop to pull them back up into position. I’d have to stop later as well to repeat the process. They are carbon bars and they are tightened to the manufacturers guidelines so maybe I need to apply some carbon bonding paste to secure them? Will look into that. So I reckon those two stops cost me at least 30 seconds to a minute.
Heading down towards St Annes I was passing fellow competitors for fun, my legs felt strong and my garmin was showing 24-26mph which for me is good. The miles were flying by and I was loving every second of it, trying to calculate my finishing time. I passed my Pirate mate Razor and shouted encouragement and got some back before turning into a viscous headwind for the last couple of miles. Still I was on for a 27 minute finish. I was buzzing and that’s when it all came crashing down, literally.
On a long straight section with less than a mile to go a car whizzed past me and hit my right foot, I started to speed wobble, they slammed on their brakes and moved into my path. I either hit the car and take my chances with going through the back windscreen or try and avoid it. I chose to try and avoid it, unfortunately there was a high kerb in my way. My front wheel touched it and suddenly I’m airborne. My shoulder and knee took the brunt of my fall as I skidded along the pavement, coming to a stop under a privet hedge. Half in and half out of a poor ladies garden. I lay there worried, there was no pain, yet I could move. Seconds later the pain hit hard and I knew I was alive. I can’t see anything but hedge, but I hear voices and then I’m being pulled to my feet. Questions, I can answer, no idea if I got them right but the people eventually let me get back on my bike after they realize I’m not badly injured. The offending car didn’t stop, which I find criminally inhuman, and unfortunately no one got the Reg number. The Bastard!
I get under way and within minutes I’m back in T2. The bike took me 30 minutes, including the two handlebar stops and the crash.
My shoulder is on fire and my left knee is swollen and screaming at me. I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to run or not. I rack my bike, remove my helmet and shoes and try to get my running shoes on. It hurts to bend down. I’m very wobbly on my left leg as I try to place my right shoe on, it takes several attempts but then I manage to start moving slowly towards the run course. T2 took me almost 3 minutes. Shocking.
Every step hurts but I soon realize that I can run and start to speed up, again I’m passing people for fun. I’m not comfortable but I’m managing. The two laps went by very quickly and before I knew it I was crossing the line. The run had taken me 23.21 giving me an overall finishing time of 1.05.49. I was over the moon, it was my comeback race, I’m a long way off race fitness and had said in the days before hand that I would be happy with anything under 1.20. I’d achieved that despite being hit by a car. Officially I was 92nd out of 265, but I expect to move up a few more places as several people ahead of me recorded world record times on the run ( ie: they only did one lap ). What was also very satisfying was that no other competitor passed me at all during the whole race.
When I stopped that’s when the pain really kicked in, Andy H and his wife Pam met me at the finish. Andy had done fantastic and just a couple of days short of his 60th Birthday and he had won 2nd prize in the Super Vets category. What a star.
I talked to the race organizer Tim, who took me to the paramedics who looked after me for the next three quarters of an hour whilst they cleaned out the gravel and other crap from my wounds. Thankfully I was only experiencing ‘surface-damage’ but the paramedic warned me that I would be sore for several days, she wasn’t wrong.
The injuries mean I can’t train much this week and the first open water swim this coming Monday is a No No as I have open wounds, but I’m here, it could have been a lot worse. I do it all again in 3 weeks at the St Annes sprint, and I can’t wait. It feels amazing to be a triathlete again. As Chumbawumba are so fond of reminding the world with their 90’s anthem, “I get knocked down but I get up again, you are NEVER going to keep me down”
Stay safe everyone 🙂