It's been quite a week, celebratory times, mixed in with some sad news.
First of all, the obligatory look at the distances, and with my 'monthly wildcard challenge' of an aquabike event planned in, I was told by Coach Tom to reduce any unnecessary mileage so that I could be well rested and sharpened ahead of my race.
Normally I would talk about my upcoming monthly challenge but I am incredibly cautious about promoting anything I have planned in the way of races ahead of time, in case things don't go as planned. I was feeling particularly apprehensive ahead of my race this time as it had been two full years since I had raced and challenged myself in this way and I really didn't know what could happen.
Anyway, more on that to follow, the distances this week are looking like this:
This distance would see me arriving at the largest city in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which translates as 'Holy Cross of the Mountain Range'. The city was first founded in 1561 by Spanish explorer Ñuflo de Chavez about 200km east of its current location, and was moved several times until it was finally established on the Pirai River in the late 16th century. This thriving city has the largest and most diverse population in Bolivia where modernity mixes with tradition such as the beloved national drink chica. This is a milky, sour beverage, made out of fermented corn, quinoa or peanuts, Chicha can be a potent alcoholic drink or a refreshing soft drink. Having actually sampled some of South America's 'traditional drinks' I can only imagine caution should be exercised with the alcoholic version of this! But more on that when I get to Chile....
The sad news this week came in the form of hearing from my partner Ian's friends in France that their lovely dog Brodie had sadly passed away. An incredibly gentle giant of a dog, Brodie was a Leonberger who I only had the pleasure of meeting once on a trip to see them in 2019. He changed my mind about my love of small dogs (although I will always still love a westie) and I could totally see the appeal of this beautiful breed. At 12 and a half years old, he had been suffering with some health problems, but I know his sudden decline and passing still came as a big shock and huge loss to his owners Jim and Sandra. Rest in peace lovely Brodie, I hope there are lots of treats and ear rubs where you are now.
But onto happier times - although Sunday's race didn't start out that way.
It was a truly miserable morning as we arrived at the race start at 7am in Marlow, and Ian tried to optimistically tell me the rain was easing off. I got soaked as I ran just the 500m or so to the race registration and back, and then once again as I racked my bike.
We tried to joke it off with our usual "well you can only get so wet" Scottish take on the situation. But I was worried about the bike, this was a route with hills, and downhills have never been something I have been particularly confident on, let alone in the wet.
Then there was putting on a wetsuit for only the second time since 2019. I have a great suit, but I still hate the palaver of putting it on, and how it feels. A slightly surreal swim start ensued as, rather than a mass start we were allocated a 15minute window for our wave and then started off at 15 second intervals. With no race briefing on the day I ended up double checking with everyone around me where exactly in the river the swim started, and where the 1500m loop was. I was called forward over the chip timing mat, and then told to sit on the edge before being given the signal to officially start.
I dropped into the Thames and was immediately off. There were other races already in progress and so it was a case of trying to find your 'Covid friendly' space in amongst the other swimmers, whilst also keeping my ideal pace. I must admit, this is one of the first triathlon swims I can honestly say I enjoyed! It must be in large part down to my winter open water swimming practice as I didn't feel stressed and came in at 24:52, a PB over this distance of about 4 minutes! Then it was up a ladder out of the water and a run for the bike. It had bucketed down with rain all during the swim and my bike and surrounding kit were soaked, but I was on my way.
Ian was on the edge of the course trying to stay dry whilst also being in charge of those all important race shots!
We had only driven this route once in the car and I was surprised at how challenging the long climb up to the halfway point was, my lower back was feeling it, as needless to say my legs were. Then there were the unexpected temporary traffic lights - they caught me out both out and back and I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or annoyed at the 90sec+ stoppage at either side. But it didn't seem to affect me too much and I was delighted to come in with a bike time of 1:22 on this Olympic distance route. I must admit I was relieved that I had played to my strengths after achilles niggles and didn't have to add in the run at the end of the bike. I am loving aquabike events just now!
I was so happy to see Ian standing there cheering as I ran in with my bike for the final 500m. He is the best supporter - usually the tallest person in a crowd and always the most enthusiastic! I think he was as surprised as I was to see me arrive back so soon.
It wasn't until I arrived home and checked the results that I found out I was the first female, the oldest female, and came in 6th overall!
And so that called for a celebratory curry and beer :)
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.