When I was a child I used to imagine one day I would wake up and suddenly be a teenager and know what I was supposed to do, then again to become an adult. Just like that. However at 25 I still have not experienced this transformation. Similarly jumping up to ETU, ITU and ironman races I thought I would wake up one day and feel like a true triathlete. I woke up last week in Barcelona, for my first ironman 70.3, I could hear the music in the transition area, the sound of nervous and excited voices, and it wasn't even light yet. It was amazing, and I was still in my room, I knew what lay before me, but I still felt like the girl who 4 years ago stood on the start line on her first 10km wondering why people had gels strapped to their belts.
My bags were all packed, the blue, red and white bags, ironman was just so organised and clean as an event, from a special needs teacher's point of view, very autism friendly!! Bike was ready, and I was pretty sure I could remember the row she was on (I have had experiences of running around transitions hopelessly seeking my pink handle bars!!) I wolfed down a slice of toast, food was the last thing I wanted, my stomach was in my mouth.
So all of us were now looking like seals, either in pink or blue hats, and in the pens for the swim. We lined up in speed order, unlike the usual mass-starts; this eased my anxiety at being drowned. I love swimming, I have spent hundreds of hours pacing up and down pools as a teen, but open-water is a whole different experience. The race briefing the day before said the sea would be like a mill-pond; alas the waves rose above me and crashed into the elite start. Panic rose inside me, a sea-swim was a new thing that day and I suddenly decided this race was not for me, could I get away with going back to the hotel and hiding in my bed like a naughty 4 year old??
Diving into the waves I had my initial panic, gulping in water and attempting to find some way of breathing, I eventually got into my stroke, the feeling of waves going up and down felt like some sort of fair-ground ride. Amazing! (If only there was candyfloss too) I was so shocked by the swim, I sighted accurately and over-took many people, I even relaxed and got into a rhythm, coming into the beach I wanted to carry on swimming!!
Running into transition was just surreal, the huge men around me getting their helmets on and wet-suits off quicker than I could blink- my priority was drinking enough to get my mouth feeling less like a desert. I then found my bike...wow two achievements already!! As a typical blonde triathlon is a tricky sport as the opportunities for messing up are abundant!
Getting out onto the bike I had the usual whizz of disc-wheels go past me, as a strong swimmer, I am pretty used to this. But looking around me I was hit by how amazing an experience this was, cameras, mountains, and the heat of the sun - beats a usual day in Peterborough. That feeling stayed with me, up the three horrific mountain climbs, down the winding descents, acid rising in my legs and lungs I still felt happy to be doing what I was, to be healthy again and supported be people around me to do something that makes me feel alive.
So on the run the feeling of being alive left me, and I can honestly say I felt far from happy! Vomit and burning feet scorned me to stop and walk, my stomach was in a complete state of panic, but I was determined to finish. I had visions of the sun going down and me crawling over the line like the woman in the grudge. Talking on liquid at every station and then quickly throwing it up was the pattern I followed, and over the finish line (no crawling) my lungs closed up and vision gave up too. Lying in the medical tent I have never felt so relieved, proud, nauseous but happy!
But I still don't feel like I know how to be an adult or a triathlete. Maybe I should enter another.
Support Abi as she takes on the ITU World triathlon Championships at the standard distance in Mexico on September 18th 2016 via her fund me page: https://www.gofundme.com/Abigoest