Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was waking at dawn after an almost sleep-free night, maybe it was the stress of the week before; who can say but the day I did the Blenheim Bloodwise Triathlon on June 4th for the second time I really wasn't in the mood.
You know those days when you go for a run and you feel like you're wearing concrete trainers? The days when making it to the end of a length in the pool feels like a super human effort? Well I was having one of those dire days that Saturday morning.
I knew from the eight weeks training I had done that I was strong enough and fit enough to finish, and that's all I ever hoped for (my mantra being slow and steady).
And I knew I was capable of getting through this adventure because team ELLE and I had done it the year before but I also knew something else more worrying: I knew that those first five minutes in that tranquil and strangely sterile Blenheim lake would be make or break for me. And this thought had become almost my only thought in the days before I was stood on the side of it looking down into the brown liquid.
I don't know if you have ever swum in open water before but you either take to it, well like a duck to water or you take against it. Lake swimming is something you love like you love donuts or newborn kittens or it's something you loathe like nettle tea and giant spiders. There is no in between. I loathe it and within seconds of getting into Blenheim lake a surge of panic gripped me and to use a technical term I lost it. My heart began racing in the cold ( it was 12 degrees), my breathing faltered. I was freezing despite my wetsuit and scared, it was mental chaos and I couldn't put my face in the water as the gun went off to start our wave of the triathlon. Without my friend and fellow amateur triathlete Victoria White (a super swimmer) alongside of me I would have got out. It was an inexplicable and unexpected reaction. Failure was just a second away and I held onto one of the nearby safety canoes for a few seconds while I put my head back together.
God how humiliating, I thought. I only had 800 metres to swim (I had swum twice that distance the week before in Hyde Park's cold murky Serpentine.) It was a measley 25 minutes maximum in the water but for a few minutes it looked like I wasn't going to do until slowly I began one of my less elegant breast strokes towards the first bouy with Vic talking me on.
The lesson I have learnt from this really is that no matter how physically prepared you are for anything it's your mental mindset that is most important. I think that transfers to any part fo your life. I had let doubt in, I had begun to think negatively about what I was about to do and that had caused the faltering start. But like all things in life this was a valuable learning. I made the distance in the lake but for the bike ride and the 5k run I was still mentally catching up on confidence.
We finished with a time four minutes longer than last year and we'd hoped to beat that by at least 10 minutes. Still we finished. We made it through and we had yet another experience to add to our list of sporting adventures. I had said, as we started, that I wouldn't do Blenheim again but obviously I will now because I have to beat that time! So count me in for 2017.
If you fancy taking part in a triathlon I would highly recommend Blenheim because it is such a well organized and jolly experience. The course is beautiful, the crowd is incredibly supportive and the mix of abilities is wonderful to witness. More than anything it's a good day out and an uplifting experience for anyone keen on missing up their sports. It has taught me to swim properly, given me the confidence to tackle new challenges and changed my outlook on life, helping me think bigger day to day. Big thank you to everyone who helped us prepare including my trainer Cathy Brown and Third Space Gym, SwimforTri, Blenheim Bloodwise triathlon and everyone who sponsored us here.