I love my car. It goes well, it’s comfortable and it’s an estate so plenty of room to throw a bike and triathlon kit in the back. And still have plenty of room for snack cheese and the like.

I love my car. It goes well, it’s comfortable and it’s an estate so plenty of room to throw a bike and triathlon kit in the back. And still have plenty of room for snack cheese and the like.

Downsides: she might be a bit high mileage (230,000 miles …), she might be a bit scratched (some scrote went around her with a screwdriver while parked in Slough … lesson there) and she might be a bit aged (she’s almost old enough to vote).

However, she’s been incredibly reliable even if the MOT is squeaky bum time, but the age and other bits do mean that things occasionally go wrong.

Like today. Rolling down the M6, the wind volume went up dramatically and it suddenly got a bit drafty inside the car. Turns out that one of the rear windows had decided that it might be nicer INSIDE the door, had fallen down and it wouldn’t go back up again. Yep. Free indoors weather. And free rain, free wind, free roadkill and whatever else the British summertime threw at me today.

Great. So, the car would be insecure all day while I was racking and racing. Oh well. At least it’s not prime theft material. I couldn’t see any motor thieves with a car-theft shopping-list for an ageing Skoda with less than the usual number of windows and an odometer most of the way to the moon.

Parked my open-to-the-elements vehicle up at the event and walked up to the start with Anna and Mike from Rugby Tri Club. On the way, we spotted a couple of friends, Rae and Dave and their gorgeous campervan. I had immediate vehicle envy. AND I couldn’t help noticing that Rae and Dave’s vehicle had all its windows. Posh.

I was so overcome with window-envy that I walked straight past the massive ‘TRANSITION’ sign. Which is clearly something that I don’t normally do. Get lost on the way to transition? Me?

Finally got myself through the door and picked up my race pack. Coventry Tri didn’t bother with race tattoos, preferring instead a sharpie and a willing limb.

This would normally be fine however having the attention span of a gerbil, I spotted a tri buddy, Fiona across the room and gave her an enthusiastic wave. Unfortunately, at the same time as the marshal was trying to write my number on my now rapidly waving arm. My race number looked like a tribal tattoo.

I’d forgotten how lovely it was doing a local event. Angela, Richard, Corinna and Guy from run club were all marshalling and lots of Tri Club friends were there too. I’d have lots of people to cheer on and wave to on the course should I have an excess of energy. Or need a distraction from the pain of having to do a short-distance race.

I racked Pinky-The-Amazing-TT-Bike, laid out my kit and sellotaped the gels to her frame. Everything important now sorted so went off to hunt down some caffeine. The coffee shop wasn’t open, but an amazing chap on reception opened the breakfast bar for me specially and got me a free coffee. It’s the little things that make a big difference. And I really need coffee to have a pre-race poo. So there’s that.

The swim times for me and Anna were only 5 mins apart, so we walked down to the swimming pool and had pre-race nerves together. Even better, we were in the same lane which was lovely as I get quite nervous before a swim and it was a comfort to swim with a friend. As an additional bonus, one of my friends Rae was my lane marshal (yes she of the campervan with all the windows) and was to be counting laps for my lane. She was telling people when they had 2 laps to go so I didn’t even have to worry about over or under-counting my laps.

There was a choice of hat colours to differentiate the swimmers in the lane, so I chose red to match my trisuit. And to match my terror creeping in at the edges which happens before a race. I would be fine when I started but pre-race is the scariest time.

I put my hat on and was signalled by Rae and I slipped into the water. The swim felt like it went quickly, and I was getting out of the water before I knew it. Had to leave the red hat poolside so I pushed my goggles down around my neck and dropped the hat.

Out of the warmth of the pool and out of the door to transition. Onto the cold tarmac and into the cool air, around the side of the building, into transition and a run towards where Pinky-The-TT-Bike was waiting for me on the front row.

Sunglasses on, helmet on and race belt, socks and bike shoes. And go, go, go …

I didn’t realise until I was already sprinting towards the mount line with Pinky that I’d left my goggles on and they were hanging round my neck like a damp rubber necklace.

Great. Well I’m going to look even more of a twerp in my race pics than usual. It looked as though I was planning to cycle through some REALLY deep floods. Well anything is possible in the British weather … I’d just have to pretend I was being REALLY well prepared.

I got completely confused by the cones in the car park leading out of transition onto the road. There was a line of cones, but I wasn’t sure which side of them I was supposed to be on. Decided to compromise by winding in and out. So, I’m wearing goggles on my bike and treating the road markings like some sort of dog-agility course. Get a grip, Booker!

Finally, out onto bike course and away from the confusing cones and I got a cheer from Corinna who was marshalling the site access. Although she did ALSO give me a confused look when she spotted the goggles.

I got my head down and concentrated on pedalling. I could see one chap in black and white in the distance, so I concentrated on closing the gap to him. On downhills and flats, he widened the gap and on uphills I started catching him. This could be lap one’s game.

The Coventry Tri bike course consists of one small lap and one big lap. It was a mix of roads and there was some cycling in town but a lot of pretty lanes too. It was undulating, but road surfaces weren’t too bad apart from quite a lot of drain covers. It was a pretty course but as I found when recceing it, it was surprisingly slow.

I overtook a female cyclist early on in lap 1 and wanted to see if I could overtake her again when I went out on my second lap. Silly games like this keep me occupied on the bike in an event otherwise I get distracted and drift off onto ‘social pace’ and start looking at people’s gardens and singing. My attention span really IS appalling.

Anna my swim lane buddy was clearly smashing the bike as I hadn’t seen her AT ALL despite her saying that she was going to cycle slowly and have lots of fun doing it. I spent the rest of the bike ride trying to catch the chap in the black and white top and as I came around the corner in a lane I was overtaken by a bloke on a disc wheel. Bugger. Back to 1 overtake and 1 overtaken. As I came down the hill, I could see someone flying up the other side! Anna! It was lovely to see her and we exchanged brief words of encouragement.

As we came up to the end of the lane and the only right turn on the course, I had to stop as there was traffic coming down the hill. All that hard work to have to sit and wait at a junction. And of course, setting off, I was in the wrong gear having not been prepared to stop for traffic as it was early on a Sunday morning!

Finally got going again and spotted Mike - a Rugby Tri friend, so cheered him on as I passed on the bike as Mike was already out on the run. He didn’t look like he was enjoying the run. This was a bad sign. Mike always looks strong so he’d either picked up an injury or the run course was a pig!

Due to having to stop, I had completely lost sight of the cyclist in black and white I had been trying to catch but, I did see the female from lap one. Managed to grab a sneaky overtake so that was 3 overtaken and 1 overtook me.

Last little bit and coming up to the turning back into the leisure centre, a car started pulling through in front of me from the opposite side of the road. Corinna-the-hero had practically thrown herself on the bonnet and was shouting at him to stop and get off the race course. I managed to pull the bike in while the car was stopped and - ignoring the confusing cones – was heading back to transition to drop off Pinky – and the goggles - and pull on my trainers.

I heard the announcer shout that Anna of Rugby Tri was coming into transition, so this gave me the impetus to get off my arse and get onto the run. It’s only 3 miles, right? How hard can it be?

Pretty bloody hard when it’s an out and back and the whole first half is uphill.

I didn’t look at my pace but went on feel and went as fast as I could considering it was hot, uphill and I had been neglecting my speedwork. So, about the speed of a really poorly badger then. With 3 legs and ingrown toenails.

It was tough. I was hot, grumpy and was pretty sure I was at max heartrate. I could feel my heart hammering the inside of my chest. And the road kept going up and up. Where was this turnaround point?

And the most irritating thing was that by the time I FINALLY reached the turnaround point, my legs were too battered to make the most of the downhill which I had crawled up with such difficulty on the way out.

It’s never good when you’re on a 3.1 mile run but your watch ticks over 3 miles and you’re not even into the road that the leisure centre is on, let alone the field behind the leisure centre in the middle of which is standing the finish gantry.

BUT … I knew I was close. Come on legs just keep running. Come on Sarah, don’t get overtaken.

Over the crazy paving. (YES – crazy paving!) … Up MORE uphill … onto the grass … up the grass uphill … bloody hell that finish gantry is never getting closer!


Over the line.

And bling.

written by

Sarah Booker

Emergency Services from Midlands

Age group: 40-44
Club: Rugby Triathlon Club, Northbrook AC,
Coach: Chris Weeks

My Disciplines
Ultra marathon Trail run Ultra trail run Long distance triathlon Marathon

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