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For anyone that reads this, they will know I am not a SPRINTER. In fact, I am very far removed from being a sprinter in any way, shape or form.
This is why my coach Rick has said I need to do sprint triathlons. “Forget all the long stuff, you need to get fast!” But endurance is my strong point, I lamely protest, as actually, I don’t really have a strong point, I just know that out of everything, going quickly definitely isn’t my forte. Which, presumably, is precisely why I need to address this problem.

So, interjected into my exciting race schedule of international middle distance and long distance racing in various parts of the world with GBR emblazoned across my tri suit, I have a sprint tri series. Talk about tackling all distances! But billed as “just hard training sessions” by Rick, I accepted this painful reality and turned up at the start line of my first sprint tri in two years.

Thorpe Triathlon series is five sprint races throughout the Summer, which means you can earn points for each race and see how well you do at the series end. It’s set in idyllic surroundings, a peaceful, still lake and flat to rolling Surrey hills, with the excitement of Thorpe Park rollercoaster rides as the rather unique backdrop. However, having woken up at 4.45am, nothing felt particularly idyllic as I set up my bike in transition at 6am, wondering how much I am going to be hurting over the next couple of hours.

This is the thing. By default, I am better at going steadily for longer than harder for shorter. Make sense? Probably not. But I am not so good at pushing myself in terms of intensity. It just seems a bit masochistic (weird statement coming from an Ironman).

Anyway, I jumped into the lake to warm up – officially the only person who bothered, must have looked like a right keeno – and quite contrarily, stood at the race briefing suitably wet and shivering. Then it was back into the lake for a few minutes warm up before the start.

I strategically positioned myself RIGHT at the front, on the front line itself, and set off with a group who I think I pretty much managed to hold pace with throughout (I think there were about 10 of us). I pushed hard, knowing that this swim was a bit of a luxury being only 750m long, focusing on technique the whole time and trying not to let the front pack get away too much.

I exited the water in 13:36 feeling good and was promptly told I was first lady out the water. After struggling to register this quite bizarre knowledge, I was quickly on the bike pushing hard and looking fly (or not) in my aero helmet. I have resisted racing in this on the basis that I am too slow to pull it off, however, I felt that my current level of fitness and performance has warranted a ‘go’ at looking like an aero-idiot!

It was a predominantly flat-ish course but there were a few hills, it being Surrey and all that, and I really felt this in my quads as I was mashing it up them, trying not to sound like an asthmatic (so high was my heart rate). In my mind the whole time was the fact that the bike is probably my weakest discipline, and that the women would be catching me up, so to that end, I thought I’d just go pretty much as hard as I could to prevent that, or even delay that from happening. I knew I was up with the guys and overtook a few, I think I was only overtaken by one guy on the bike so I knew my pacing was pretty decent. I came into T2 after 35:25 on the bike, again being told that I was first lady back, but wondering how much of a hellish struggle the run would be now I’ve virtually killed myself on the swim and bike.

Out on the run and into the mud. Now I knew this would hardly be a PB course as it’s pretty much 95% off-road and we’re not talking smooth off-road, we are talking proper ankle deep mud rutted by vehicles, to make matters worse (basically ankle-breaking territory). I was trying to sustain a good pace as I splashed along, and the guy in front of me actually went right over (I’m pretty sure he’s not the only one).

Again, there was this little demon on my shoulder telling me that the women were catching me, I must push harder so I stay out in front! The second half of the course was out and back so this provided the perfect opportunity to see how far ahead I was and whether I still had this in the bag. I was also told at the turnaround point that I was currently in 11th place overall, to which I responded with some Tourette’s style expletives at the sheer shock of it!

I saw on the way back, before the 1km home straight, that I was probably four minutes or so up on the second lady, so realised I was in a very strong position, but reminded myself that I must not get complacent just in case. Oh, and I was chasing 10th place. ;-)

Running hard (and hyperventilating slightly) towards the finish anyway in search of a decent-ish time, I crossed the line with a 22:49 5k run time (only 59 seconds off my standalone Park Run PB), completing the race in a total of 1:13:49.

I had won.

Oh my god, this can’t actually be happening to me surely!? Not the girl that 18 months ago had come LAST out the water in every single triathlon? Not the girl who had never won anything? Not the girl that does not do short fast racing, or even training sessions, for that matter?

Wow. Just wow.

After it sunk in I reasoned that there weren’t many people in the race, only 40 or 50 or something, and even fewer women. I reasoned that if there were more people, I never would have won. I reasoned that if it had been a bigger international race, for instance, I would probably not even have come in the top half. However, it’s all about who turns up on the day. I know I’m not particularly built for speed, and that I have endless work to do if I ever want to get better. But I still won, I still led on the swim, bike, and run, and even if there weren’t many women, I still came 11th overall including the men. For me, who has only raced two sprint triathlons in my life, and that was two years ago when I couldn’t swim front crawl and swam them both using breast stroke, finishing almost last, I’ll take that.

Thorpe Triathlon, I’ll be back. I’m going to return faster, stronger and more of a winner than ever before.