So here we are, my final Half an Iron Woman blog post – I’ve done it, challenge completed, money raised, limbs starting to recover, toe nail fallen off…now what? Well first, let me tell you how it went.

It was an early start. 3am, the morning after England’s opening Euro 2016 match. Inevitably very little actual sleep was had, but that didn’t bother me, I was keen to get going and excited to finally see if I could do it. We arrived at 4.30am to a beautiful sunrise over the lake and an eerie calmness. We knew that it was due to rain, but at that time there was no sign of the heavy clouds that were to dump on us in an hour or so.

At least 90% of the other competitors were more serious than me and their kit reflected it. There were a lot of flashy bikes, aero bars and solid wheels..

My tri-club buddy, Jo had entered too, so we headed to transition together armed with waterproof bags and rain covers to protect our kit (kit boxes were not allowed due to space restrictions). If I’m honest, my kit pile was a bit ramshackle and did not shout PRO. I’d guess that at least 90% of the other competitors were more serious than me and their kit reflected it. There were a lot of flashy bikes, aero bars and solid wheels. The most serious I’d got was considering whether to take the mudguards off my Bobbin Albion! Luckily I am rarely intimidated by other people’s kit – we all know it means nothing - right?

 

The Start: 6:10 am, second swim wave

The water was lovely and I swam out to acclimatise. Most people huddled near the shore, but I wanted to stretch out and find my own spot. I’d already decided I would start with breaststroke, stay out of trouble and settle in before swapping to front crawl. I stuck to my plan.

He swam about a third further than me and I swam as tight a course as possible. He was knackered and I was comfortable...

By the second buoy I was relaxed and comfortable, but the bloke next to me was not – he was zigzagging all over the place, this way and that, cutting across me and generally being annoying. I reverted to breaststroke so I could keep an eye on him and ended up swimming the rest of the course like this. He swam about a third further than me and I swam as tight a course as possible. He was knackered and I was comfortable – there’s a lesson to be learned there. Eventually I lost him and emerged at transition 6 minutes ahead of my estimated time of 45 minutes.

I swam in my undies (and wetsuit) and then changed into my favourite cycle gear at transition.

The previous week I’d worn my trisuit for a short ride and found it a tad uncomfortable in the nether regions, so I’d decided against wearing it and instead, I swam in my undies (and wetsuit) and then changed into my favourite cycle gear at transition. This did however mean that I was stood in transition in a soggy crop top and knickers… please god let there be no photos of that circulating on the internet!

 

The Ride: The business end of the event at 56 miles

The rain had arrived in force, but I’d packed a lightweight running jacket that I was really grateful for, others hadn’t and many people looked frozen and pale. Hooray for my mudguards and sturdy tyres too – no punctures and a dry bum – lovely!

Be ready for the rain

The only real downer was my super-soggy bread roll filled with fig jam (aka sports nutrition). I wrestled it from my pocket and shoved the whole thing in my mouth – nice - calories and hydration in one shot!

Sports nutrition can be a challenge for me. I get depleted easily but also can’t stomach much when I’m competing. I’d opted for ‘real’ food: bread rolls with cream cheese and jam, Soreen, Nak’d bars and diluted orange juice and water. It worked brilliantly, but I will need to adapt it to suit heavy rain conditions in future!

It’s said that longer triathlons are as much a mental challenge as anything and it’s true - during the bike ride I felt many niggles, first my left hamstring, then my right knee. The trick was to not let it get to me. Surprisingly it proved to be the dreaded hills that were the remedy, a change of position and increased effort were all it took to get rid of the niggles.

The only other minor issue was not having any idea how I was doing. I didn’t wear a watch, so I had no idea of my speed. This had been a conscious decision, however. Firstly, I don’t have a suitable watch and secondly, I was determined to be lead by how I felt so as not to feel under pressure to do a certain time.

At the end of the ride I was able to retrieve my phone and check the time. I had wanted to be there by 1pm and it was 12.40 meaning I still had at least 2 ½ hours for the half marathon. Hooray - on target!

 

The Run: Survival time

I’d expected it to be tough and it was - mainly because it was muddy and slippery in places, which was a challenge for my tired legs. After about two miles I walked for a bit while I took on some juice, water and food. The effect of this was quite transformational, both body and mind relaxed and when I started jogging again I felt fine. I soon realized that lots of competitors were mixing it up so I decided to adopt this strategy for the whole run. It was brilliant and I got to the finish exactly on target – still smiling, really happy and not in a desperate state! Job done.

 

The Stats

Statistically the cycle ride was my worst leg - I was amongst the slowest (no great surprise), my run was average and my swim (incredibly) was better than average. I am not being hard on myself though because I have only cycled over 50 miles twice in my life and I only got used to the shoes a few weeks ago.

I do however know what I need to improve on. So here goes… the next event will be a cycling challenge, feel free to make suggestions!

 

What I Learnt

Staying steady, keeping clam and smiling at everyone was a top strategy.

Real food worked for me.

There’s a gap in the market for a good triathlon bra – water and stretch fabrics do not equal good support!


The event: I took part in was the Cotswold 113 event (near Cirencester). It’s a smallish event, run by a fab team – find out more about it here.


Read the other previous six installments from Danielle's half ironwoman challenge here.