So what do you want to know first?
Did I Finish? Do you really want me to spoil the story?
Did I enjoy it? Hell yeah!
Would I do it again? The race? yes, the training NO!
There are not many single days in ones life that result in so many stories! I’ll just hope that the small niche of people that will find the stories interesting are reading this: I can’t imagine there are many out there.
First, I must give a big shout out to everyone involved in organising and helping with Ch’Triman 2015 itself. The whole weekend must have been phenomenally complicated with 7 races culminating in the French 113 Triathlon Championships, which was actually being run at the same time and on the same course as the 226 race.
I will mention the conditions, that they had to battle, a little later but, from gun to tape and beyond, they were lump-in-your-throat superb: merci a tout!
So let’s dive in.
It had been an interesting weekend so far. That I was here in the boating lake of Graveline, vas’d up to my eye-balls, at all, was amazing. That I was calm and ready to race over two hundred and twenty six kilometers was nothing short of a bloody miracle.
24 hours ago we were waking up in the sunny village of Bidwell in Bedfordshire ready to to take the kids to my Brother-in-law’s. This was already plan B and an early example of what can get in the way of even the fittest person completing a full distance triathlon and the important reason of having a plan B for EVERYTHING.
Since I had told my mum and Dad about doing the triathlon they had displayed varying degrees of support: from buying kit to asking how much they would have to pay me to not do it.
But the biggest demonstration of support came when they offered to look after the kids for the weekend. This was not going to be a problem they said, until the hospital phoned up and offered my mum a date for her hip replacement just 2 weeks before D Day!
Still no problem “I was up and about well before the two weeks were up last time” boasted my mum “it will be fine: and the kids will be good and they can help me around the house!”
But the same people who were busy telling me that the last triathlon I did (Olympic distance) was 10 years ago and that I shouldn’t expect to be up to the same level of endeavour, were not brave enough to tell my mum that here last hip op was also 10 years ago and that maybe her recovery may not be so smooth.
The operation went well and mum came out over the following weekend but, whilst her hip was indeed better than ever, the rest of the leg was not playing ball.
Daisy, my daughter, had long since planned to go to her friend’s house instead and Ali and Jo, Clare’s bother and sister-in-law, had also offered to look after the kids if things hadn’t gone so smoothly so, even though Grandma and Grandad were still sure they could manage, it was time just to make sure that the plans little Daisy and Emily had made could still be put into action.
So with daily updates we had a plan B which became plan A on Thursday when the new drugs failed to work and mum still hadn’t had a good night’s sleep!
Although I have returned from my race, mum’s long distance challenge is still on-going – maybe she will write a book about her experiences too.
In the end, whilst the pain was not enough to stop her forcing dad to drive her over to ours and feed the bunnies and chickens whilst we were away, it was enough to restrict their ability to help with the weekend to a rather super slap-up lunch at The Five Bells in Stanbridge – even post-race nutrition is important!
Thanks and get well soon mum!
So off we went to St Albans to dump the kids. Even though St Albans is closer to the Chunnel than Eaton Bray we kept the same drop off time and I am so glad we did! Clare and I returned to the car with the image of my brother-in-law, in nothing but a towel, waving a toothbrush from the top of the stairs and wishing us good luck, still burning our eye-balls. For the first 20 minutes everything went according to plan. But as we got onto the M25 an electric sign caught my eye
“Did that say that the M20 is closed?”
I had given us an hour extra for the journey but we hadn’t been going 20 minutes and that comfort zone was already looking insufficient.
I’ve always enjoyed doing mental arithmetic and I had filled the hours of triathlon training over the last 6 months, working out how fast each kilometer needed to be swam, cycled or run to achieve my goals, then converting those figures into miles and then working out how much an extended stop would effect those times and what effect of extra effort over certain distances would have on those times. So like a well-oiled machine my mind started computing scenarios for the next hour and a half.
Clare hit the map as my GPS device slipped in and out of range and we meandered through the smaller roads of Kent.
“OH That’s where auntie Erica lives” I exclaimed in one of my lighter moments during my decent into cold blind panic as I made a wrong turn and realised that the GPS, my sense of direction and the plonkers pissing around on the M20 were more than a match for Clare’s excellent map reading skills.
As the last chances of us ever making check-in faded I started to accept the fact that today was not going to be as easy as I first hoped. Having said that, I had built in over 4 hours leeway before my bike had to be hanging up in Transition so we could afford to miss a couple of trains.
It seemed that the M20 closure had kept at bay many of the mornings travellers so 10 minutes too late we got to a rather deserted looking turnstile at the entrance to the terminal.
“I’m afraid we are having technical difficulties” the lady said. We held our breath. “All departures are being delayed so can you just go to the terminal and wait till we call your letter”
It was one of those good news/bad news moments: we hadn’t missed our train – yippee! But no one new when our train would depart.
Cold blind panic!
But we still had six hours to get to transition…
In the departure lounge the display boards were full of the information you don’t want to hear and my brain started its calculations again: I think it was enjoying itself, what with transit times and the hour difference there were tonnes of things to add up and take away.
An 11:35 train for travelers with letters B and C hanging up in their car was boarding and a 12:45 was promised for C and D but with one hour plus between trains and us a full 4 letters away, my brain gave us 5 minutes to complete the 25 kilometer drive to Graveline and the location of Ch’Triman 2015.
Cold blind panic.
6 months of planning and training was just about to go up in smoke.
Cold blind panic.
What to do? What to Do?
Queue! If in doubt, an Englishman will queue! It is the default setting. It is our equivalent of the interstitial – that little whizzy thing you see spinning round when a web page is trying to load.
So we found the nearest queue and joined it. I don’t know why we didn’t do this when we first arrived. It felt comforting: we were doing something positive. Contributing to the situation. You never know, when we get to the front of the queue we may be able to come up with a solution that the combined brains of Euro Tunnel and everyone else in the queue in front of us, had not thought of before and we would save the day, the trains will miraculously run on time, trans-channel travel will be changed forever, a statue will be raised in my honour and, most importantly, I will get to transition before 6pm!
I looked at the queue. about 20 people were in fr0nt of me. Some, of course, were in couples so maybe only 12 or 13 distinct queries and problems to sort. 10 minutes on average a query, gave me about 2 hours to come up with a genius plan that no-one had ever thought of… think, Think, THINK!
Cold blind panic.
“They’ll probably be able to let you and the bike on”
If I hadn’t married her already I would have got down on my knee and proposed right there and then. The statue would not be of me at all, but Clare. The cool sensible one without whom I would not be here!
I didn’t know if it would work, but it sounded good and now I had something to offer the customer service desk that no-one else would…
The calm, comforting, warmth of certainty seeped through my body like a triathlete weeing in their wetsuit!
But wait what was that on the display board? More trains… earlier trains… passengers with Letter H to wait in loung for the 14:15? Was that a mistake? Quick big brain: is 14:15 enough? Add 35 minute for the transit, an hour for the time difference, that’s 30 minutes for the journey the other side… yes Yes YES! Just!
Quick, get a sandwich, WE ARE GOING TO FRANCE!