It was Friday morning. The end of a glorious September week of sunshine, calm seas and early morning mists. At about the time that you were all settling down to your desks with that first cup of coffee or struggling with the first class at the end of a long week, I abandoned my duties as an average mum, ignored the pile of laundry, spurned the siren call of the vacuum cleaner, forgot the data entry mountain and swam to Fidra. And, you will realise, back. It was fab!
Now I’m not what you’d call an elite athlete. In fact, those of you who know me will appreciate that ‘athlete’ is an over-generous term. But over the last few years I have taken part in a number of triathlons. No reason, really, except that, like Everest, they’re there and I can. I then found that one of the hidden joys of hitting 50 was that I moved up an age band, every sensible middle-aged female dropped out and I suddenly started winning prizes. If I’m honest, the biggest draw for me was always the realization that when I was training I became so much fitter and life – all of life – became easier. It’s true. But the trophies do add a little incentive!
However, after the travails of the last year or so, I had been thinking it might be time to hang up the tri suit and retreat to the ironing board. And then we went to Ireland. Our visit coincided with the Mary of Dungloe Festival and this year the festivities included a charity triathlon. This was a team event with each team of three needing at least one woman. Sadly it wasn’t a relay as we would have entered a couple of teams but no-one at the cottage was over enthusiastic about leaping into the lake, onto the bike and off on the run. Can’t say I blame them; you should see the gradients around Dungloe. I left my name in the office and a blind date was duly arranged with two fit young hunks. I don’t think they were expecting a granny with pink hair but they were very good about it and we did come second, on a scorching hot afternoon, with our winnings going to the local cancer unit. I must admit here that I walked most of the run but I think if you saw how steep the main street is in Dungloe you would sympathise.
The thing was, it got me going again so, a couple of weeks ago, I entered the Haddington triathlon. Twice as long but a flat course. However I hadn’t banked on hurricane conditions and nor had the organisers and so, on the morning of the event, with the river flooding the footpath the run route had to be changed. I pootled my way around the course, ambling through the swim, taking my time in transition – cycling jacket (it was raining), socks (didn’t want blisters), number belt, shoes, helmet – and on to a leisurely Sunday morning cycle through the East Lothian countryside. Back into transition and onto the run. No, let’s call it a jog.
This would all have been fine had my brain not chosen to ignore all the instructions we were given at the start. “There will be a marshal at each turn.” “Don’t turn off the path unless a marshal tells you to.” And what did I do? I decided a right hand turn was a fork and that that was the way I should go. I found myself in a school playground in the nether regions of Neilson Park on the wrong side of a locked gate with runners going past on the other side. Climb over? I thought of that. Too high. Back I went, round to the wrong side of a football pitch; I estimated afterwards that I probably ran nearly an extra kilometre. Never mind. I finished the race, didn’t walk any of the run, got a very fancy trophy for second place in my age group… and didn’t get out of breath at any stage on the race. Perhaps I wasn’t really trying.
So we come to this week. Having not tried too hard at Haddington, I have entered the Portobello Aquathlon and am off in the morning to try to win back the handsome trophy I held for a couple of years. This one is a sea swim, so I was a trifle disgruntled to see white bits on the Forth this morning. It may be that my training strategy – the swim to Fidra and back – leaves a little to be desired and I suspect, looking at last year’s times, that I may need to sprout wings to win. But I figure I can’t get lost on Portobello Prom and this time I plan to be out of breath at the end of the run.