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Staffordshire 70.3

June 18th, 2017

The day had arrived for my crazy challenge. One year after finishing my triathlon of treatment for breast cancer, I was going to do a half-ironman triathlon - that's a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, finished off with a half-marathon. No small feat.

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My training had not been traditional in the least. I had completely trusted my awesome coach Tanja Slater to get my Boyd round the course, safely, without ending up a broken mess at the end of the day. I didn't do a single brick session (where you run after the bike to get used to running on jelly legs). I had 5 weeks without training thanks to a nasty cough and a virus, and hadn't really done much swimming. All I wanted to do was get round the course.

How hard can it be?


I'd cycled the bike course a month before with Dermot, when the Staffordshire try team offered to take newbies around the course. Things went well when I realised I'd forgotten to pack my cycling shorts - so a mad dash to find a cycle shop and buy the first pair I could find. Staffs is quite a hilly course, with a really steep climb after a tight left-hand corner. I was very glad I'd been warned about this before race-day so I knew to get in the right gear before hand. However, as well as leaving my cycling shorts behind, I'd left my cycling legs at home too. I was getting slower and slower, averaging about 15km on the flat, and knew the group were getting tired of waiting for me. I told them to go on without me, and Dermot dragged me round. That was a very hard day on the bike and I wasn't looking forward to doing the course again.

It gets harder


They say 'nothing new on race day'. Well my 'chemo brain' had kicked in here. The last tri I did, I wore my tri shoes without socks. It's fine cycling 40km without socks, but to do close to 100km without socks, in shoes I hadn't worn for over a year, was bloody stupid. Did I bring cycling socks? Of course not! Luckily Dermot had a spare pair with him, as he was going to cycle to see me out on the course.

One more thing


To top it all off, the weather was forecasting the hottest day of the year so far - 29-30C by the afternoon. I was planning on running the half-marathon in a neon pink wig for charity. I would melt! Had I brought my running cap that I always wear? No - because I don't have long hair and didn't think I need it. Cue a last minute dash to Tesco's to buy a baseball cap, and an anxious panic about just how hot it would get.


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Race Day


Staffs is a bit of a pain in the bum because it has 2 separate transitions for the bike and the run. I got up at the crack of dawn and headed off to the swim start, whilst Dermot cycled off to try and spot me on the bike course. I held it together at the start, surrounded by hundreds of anxious swimmers, getting excited when the pros set off, and the PA started to ramp up the energy. But when I was standing on the pontoon, in my predicted time group, I suddenly felt incredibly weepy. I was crying - for what I was about to do, for the fact that I had trained to do it after everything I had been through, and because I was all alone. A lovely woman next to me noticed I was crying and gave me a hug and then suddenly we were wading into the water.

The Swim


The swim started when we walked into the water down the ramp - no warm-up. I had picked the right group and had some people to draft with. 1.2 miles felt like a very long way at the beginning, and I had to do a bit of breast-stroke in-between the front crawl. But I actually enjoyed it! There was a huge grin on my face as I got out of the water, and started to jog up to transition. The swim took me 48 minutes, and I was happy with that, given the training I had done.

The Bike


I had decided to wear cycling gear on the bike, and change into running gear for the run - mainly for comfort's sake as cycling shorts have a lot more padding. I had my special cycling jersey printed up by @iprintstuff with my 'Point Your Lazers' logo and my name, and as I was wheeling my bike out to start, I saw Tanja, my coach, waiting for me! This was a huge boost, and I set off smiling.


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One down, two to go. It was starting to get hot, and I knew that I had to finish the bike in about 4 hours to give me enough time to crawl the half marathon in the heat. I had a great first hour, and was flying round which got me smiling again, as I knew I had enough time left even I really slowed. Which I did. It got hotter and hotter, and the hills seemed much steeper. The volunteers on the course were great, and had bottles of water for us to pour over ourselves as well as drink for the bike. It was great to see Dermot twice on the bike course to cheer me on, and I was so grateful for the final swooping descent into T2. Total time - 4 hours, 14 minutes.

The 'Run'


By now it was 28 C, and I had to run a half-marathon. Hmmm. The cut-off time was 8:30 for the race, and I knew I had 3 hours to do it in. The course was a hilly three laps, so one lap per hour, which should be doable even if I walked it. After changing into my running gear and pink tutu, I set off, and right away was cheered on by Tanja and then Dermot which was fantastic. They then found each other, discovered they were not wearing their FUCK CANCER socks and became my cheerleading team.

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The only way I got round that course was because of the amazing crowds. They had rigged up hosepipes, water guns, buckets and jugs in the middle of the road to cool us down. After cresting one hill, pubs had rigged up music and I danced and waved my way down, being cheered as the tutu lady. It was amazing. Tho I was desperate to turn the corner so I could walk again. Finally, after 3 hours and 3 minutes, I turned the final corner to run down the red finish line to cheers - I had bloody done it!

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Lucy Gossage (who won the race) gave me my medal - and then more hugs with Dermot and Tanja, and then food. Lots of food.

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I wasn't broken! I hadn't pushed my body to breaking point. Could I have gone faster - yes, but that wasn't the point of this race. This was purely to prove that my body can do amazing things after having breast cancer. And there was also the small matter of the Maratona in 2 weeks' time. I haven't told you about that yet, have I…?
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