Friday evening 2 days before the Great North Swim, I received a text to say the event had been cancelled due to high winds and bad weather. Luckily I was going to blag the camping and although I had packed and swam and swam and swam I didn’t loose any other pennies on the cancellation. I was still disappointed of course, especially when you gear yourself up and eat all the food in the house for the previous 7 days.
So it was time to look for something else. Cue Manvers, Triathlon or Quadrathlon. I stupidly decided to sign up Saturday evening for the Quadrathlon having never Kayaked before (unless you count many years ago as a kid or a little tiny bit in New Zealand 15 years ago). I didn’t know what to expect. To add to the dynamics the bike section was on the Trans Pennine Trail which can be a bit muddy and rocky. I only had a road bike with very slick tyres. But hey give it a go whats the worse that can happen.
Quadrathlon – when three sports are just not enough
So Sunday arrived and I had my ‘stuff’. No tri suit just a running ‘vest’ with build in bra and some lycra shorts, it would have to do. Wet suit was fine, goggles were fine and caps were fine. Running shoes were ok though this would be the furthest I would have ran properly in about 6 months despite being only 5km so I was not expecting any miracles.
After the presentations for the kids, it was our time to venture into this quadrathlon. After the very extensive briefing about all the courses (x2 laps of swimming =800 metres, an almost out and back bike = 15km, 5 large laps of Kayaking apparently 4000 metres, and a 5km run). How exciting.
Don’t drown, don’t crash, don’t cry, don’t walk
So let the swim begin. We all entered the water to acclimate, the water was a little cold, but I did my usual letting some water into my wetsuit, and blowing bubbles, splashing my face and neck and moving my arms in a front crawl motion.
After a group photo of us all waving we were off. It was the usual arm fight to start with, people kicking left right and centre, up and down and round and round. I composed myself and tried to get some space but people were all around me and I was in the midst of it. Within a few minutes I got my breath and powered on round the first buoy. My goggles were steaming up already but I didn’t want to clear them due to swimmers so close to me. I need to get a better line to the first buoys and get used to this argy-bargy of a mass start in swimming.
Just keep swimming
The next buoy was easier to spot though I went off course a bit due to the goggle fogging. I tried to clean them but next minute someone was on top of me, that was not working, so I escaped and stretched out to power round the third buoy and back to the start. I got into my rhythm finally and began to settle in nicely. I found my own space and spotted some feet just a few feet infront of me, so I caught up the feet and began drafting, that was better…. let someone else do the hard work. A little stop now to clean the goggles made my swim even more fluid. I stayed with the person in front, you never know if they are male or female in the water, not that it matters. Round the left of the buoy to finish off we went, and out of the water into the transit area. I was one of the first out of the water.
I faffed with my wetsuit and was soon out of transition onto my bike but I forgot my helmet – beginners mistake! I ran back into transit to grab my helmet which took me off track a bit, then jumped on my bike and off I went. There were some places where my bike wouldn’t jump the curb so I was really good and got off my bike a number of times for the curbs and the horsey gate things. Onto the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) I cycled, as fast as my little legs would take me. The girl behind overtook me at one point, I politely let her go as she had much more stable types on than my very thin road ones with no grip. They certainly didnt grip on the mud, this is where I probably didn’t have the advantage.
I am doing this for me
A couple of road crossings required looking left and right and left again, slowing down at all times. The girl in front was making up such good time, she was out of my sight a lot. Around 8km was the turning around point and back the way I came. By this time other cyclists were coming up shouting out words of encouragement. This was really good fun. Some of the pathway was now tarmac and was much easier to cycle on. I was probably at an advantage with the tarmac.
At the main road junction despite the lovely marshals halting a car, the car decided not to stop, I slammed on my brakes luckily didnt go over on my bike and carried on.
3/4 of the way back the cycle path turned off back to Manvers Lake. This was more off road and a little bumpy. I managed to stay on my bike over the bridge. Then there was a ‘stray dog’ wandering about which nearly got caught up in my wheel.
Pedal it Out!
Back round the lake I zoomed on feeling quite good, not knowing what the next hour or so was going to bring.
Back in transition there were only one or two in the water, I grabbed my kayak, and my buoyancy aid which I couldn’t even zip up and in the water I went. The other girl had zoomed off in real style with a very long Kayak (a professional kayak). Mine was like a tin bath with a wooden spoon, well that’s how it felt! I first went round in 3 circles and couldn’t get the hang of it at all. I was unable to keep in a straight line at all. The water marshal came up to me and gave me a few little hints to try and keep the boat straight looking at the nose of it. I was struggling so much and hadn’t even got to the first buoy. ‘I can’t do this’ I whined like a little kid. Kayaks began to pass me as I struggled even more. Winds got up and I began to go round in circles again and more kayaks passed me, the nice long ones, they looked oh so slick as I looked like a yellow spiral making pretty patterns in the water.
I’d not even made 3/4 of a lap and I am sure I got lapped by the girl who got into the water at the same time as I did. This was so so hard, I began to question how I would do 5 laps of this. But I would persevere.
Stupid hurts – I know!
I wasn’t using my knees, and on my second lap I was given the advice to use my knees and asked if my feet were on the board at the front. My back began to hurt which normally it hurts in a bike up hill. I couldn’t do this, I really couldn’t do it. I began to swear really loud and look enviously at everyone else who made it look so easy, sliding through the water like melted butter seeping into a jacket potato – food, don’t think of food, just get this silly yellow thing round the lake. Lap three – more swearing and more moaning, I was nearly crying in frustration, I really couldn’t do this. More boats passed me and even more boats whizzed past elegantly, slick and smoothly. I was going backwards at times, uncoordinated. Frustration is definitely paddling in a kayak. I lost all my sense of competition in my head and started laughing at myself feeling like the entire world had passed me.
Go Kayaking they said, It will be fun they said
More f’ing and blinding at my silly boat as I persevered the fourth lap, and onto my final lap, how I did it I do not know. Even people with similar boats as me were passing me now. I was helpless, frustrated and aching in the head more than the body. But I would not give up.
Finally after what felt like hours out on the water, I got out grumpy and topped up with frustration. Maybe I expected it to be slightly easier, I am not sure, maybe I expected to move, but I am sure I moved backwards more than forwards – but put it behind you and go and run!
Went Kayaking, didn’t die
Onto the run, I threw my trainers on and grabbed my spare top as I was now cold and shivering and ran out of transition.
I overtook one guy almost straight away, as I followed the path same as the bike route. The sun was now coming out again as I ran around the tracks. The run felt comfortable, although I was breathing heavily and working at the run I wasn’t over doing it either. I caught up and over took another guy and went on my merry way. I was feeling alive finally and had put that disaster kayak well behind me as the souls of my feet allowed me to run.
Run for a good cause – yourself
Back around the lake I ran, with people cheering me on it felt good to run and be part of this great event, right to the finish with a big hug from the organisers and a nice medal around my neck.
All done in around 2 hours 15 minutes. I wasn’t last either despite my appalling crazy Kayaking section.
I am just not one of those quadrathlon people