Collecting my race pack on Saturday morning filled me with apprehension. Rain lashed down all day, and a walk of the run course revealed a muddy and hilly yomp. At least the lake would be nicely full for the swim!
Race morning began at 5am. The drive to Emberton today was glorious, the sun was rising over clear amber skies. Getting up this early does have some perks!
Setting in transition was smooth, everything had been prepared the day before so all I needed to do was find my number, lube up, and squeeze into my wetsuit. Before we knew it, the race was upon us.
The swim was glorious, the water was warm and clear, and the sun was still hiding behind the trees, limiting the glare on the water. The sailing team had kindly cleared tonnes of weeds out of the course and everything went to plan. I clambered out of the swim and into transition 2nd female out of the water.
T1 is always a panicked drying and dressing situation and debate of “is my tri suit really enough clothing for a 56 mile bike ride?!”. Luckily the sun was still shining and I knew that once I got going I’d warm up.
Onto the bike…The first part of the course skirts around Olney, with some speed bumps and potholes safely avoided, the route then leads onto beautiful rolling countryside and fast smooth A roads. At pre 8am the roads were quiet and it was a lovely morning. I always try to shout thank you to the marshalls sitting on the course, they’re essential to making these events possible (and it’s much easier to speak on the bike compared to the run!). The bike was excellent except the nasty little hill on the way back to the start, which you have to go up twice on the middle distance and the photographer was sitting at the top ready to catch grimacing faces!
The only thing that went wrong on the bike was dropping my squeezy gel bottle which I had to stop and pick up (I wasn’t willing to risk no sugar for the ride). Unfortunately, the drop had broken it so I couldn’t get any gel out anyway! I dug deeper to try and make the time up.
Wiggling back to T2 the course was now joined by the sprint and standard athletes. I remember the first time I did the sprint distance stampede and thinking the people doing the full Cowman were completely insane. How things change!
Off the bike, and just a cheeky hilly off-road half marathon separated me from the finish line. As I ran out of T2 my committed soigneur (my husband) shouted that I was a minute in the lead. Panic set in, the bike is my strongest discipline and 1 minute is not much of a lead over 13 miles!
The run was abhorrent. I’ve only ever done 1 lap of this course at once as part of the sprint distance, and now I was having to do four, plus I knew I was getting hunted down by the people behind. The cola at the drinks station saved me after I hadn’t been able to have my gels and the marshalls and music lifted my spirits. My legs were screaming louder and louder with every lap, by the 4th lap all I could think about was how great it would be to collapse after the finish line. My husband was moving around the course and shouting encouragement which helped a lot, and each time we did a lap of transition the crowd grew bigger and louder as the other distances started to finish and join the spectators.
Finally, I ran up the muddy hill into Emberton for the final time. I stumbled down the road from Emberton and back into the park past the cheering marshalls. Finally, crossing the finish line was in sight and I got to lie on the floor. This was the hardest triathlon I’ve ever completed but luckily it was time for birthday cake, champagne, and a chair!
Huge thank you to the whole team who make these events possible and give up their time and effort. Next time I think I’ll marshall the Cowman Duathlon which is coming up in October! You can sign up here: https://the-cowman.co.uk/cowman-duathlon