This Sunday was the GeoPark Adventure triathlons, there was a sprint and a standard distance and I knew this would be my last race for the time being. Looking at the maps of the course, I also knew it would be the hardest event I’d done so far, as it consisted of a 1500m sea swim, 42km of rolling hills and a 12km undulating run across the coast near Paignton, in Devon.
After struggling to find a space to rack my bike (there were no number assigned places) I got ready, with my trisuit, swim caps, goggles and wetsuit. I went over to the race briefing with the 70 other participants and listened to details of the course. The marshall said it was one of the toughest triathlons in the UK, which made me feel quite nervous. But I was determined to enjoy this last race and not kill, or overexert myself in the process.
The moment I stepped down into the steps into the water and a big wave of cool sea water came over me, it was high tide and there was no time for hesitation. I got in and the two minutes acclimatisation time passed really quickly as before I knew it, the klaxon sounded and we were off. The first lap was quite difficult as I couldn’t get into a good rhythm with my stroke and trying to spot the green buoys when everyone is wearing green swim caps was tricky! On my second lap, I felt better and overtook a few people but swimming back towards the exit was the hardest part.
After the swim, it was T1 and I couldn’t undo my wetsuit, I was struggling and pulling and tugging but the zip wouldn’t come down. Luckily, a kind lady helped me unzip and soon we were both out on the bike course. In the triathlons I’ve done with lake swims, I’ve had a horrible lake water taste in my mouth, but the sea water wasn’t too bad.
The bike course was going to be challenging, but one thing I feel was a bit unfair was that getting out of the town to the country roads, there were several sets of traffic lights. When competitors stopped at the lights, we lost a couple of minutes and there was no time taken off for abiding the highway code and stopping at the lights. It was frustrating too, as I lost the groups of people who were in front of me.
Anyway, the course was hilly, there were descents that were so fast and curvy they scared me, as I had no idea what would be waiting at the end – a T-junction, an uphill climb, a parked car, reversing car, another cyclist – I even heard there were horses on some parts of the course. Not knowing the roads made it hard and also the sheer intensity of the hills. Some athletes got off their bikes and walked up the hills, they were so steep. I spent many minutes crunching away in my lowest gear trying to make it up the steep hills.
The narrow country roads were great for glimpsing spectacular views, but they required attention, careful riding and decision making. At one point, two big cars were trying to pass each other but there was no passing place, the cars were at a stand-off and me and another lady were waiting for the motorists to figure something out. It was frustrating, not being able to advance but I imagine things like this must have happened to everyone at some point of the race. In total, I was cycling for over 2 hours.
Back to transition (T2), I rolled my bike onto my rack, undid my helmet, picked up my cap and off I went. My T2s are always pretty speedy as I don’t need to change shoes, so my T2 was the fastest out of all the competitors, at 00.00.35. The run was absolutely spectacular. It was my favourite part of the race and probably the nicest scenery I’ve run along in the UK. I first ran down the promenade, with sunbathing families on the beach to my left and old couples in deckchairs outside their beach huts to my right. Then I went up and down coastal steps before going across some hidden stony beaches towards the woods and had a lovely trail run through the woodlands. It reminded me of running in the Canary Islands and I was just having a great time taking in the scenery that I didn’t want to run any faster. I was jogging at a slower pace but I was so happy, my face was beaming and I’d never felt better.
On the way back, we ran across a golf course, through some more woods, past some trainspotters, more kids on the beach and on the home stretch, I had enough energy left to run past 5 others for a sprint finish. The sunbathing crowds were great sports, clapping us all along and moving out of our way. They smiled and were really encouraging. I already said it was going to be the hardest event I’ve done so far and with a finishing time of 4 hours and 3 minutes, it deserves the tagline “Beautiful yet Brutal” that some people have used on their Facebook. I was the 9th female to cross the line and 7th in the senior category, which I’m pleased with.
Overall, I highly rate the GeoPark Adventure triathlon, the scenery was immense and the course was challenging. It was also quite a small scale event, so all the photos have been published on Facebook and you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts for a copy. Instead of a medal or a tshirt, I got a mug for participating, which I had a nice cup of tea in when I got back. It would have been nice to have numbers on the bike racks, swim caps that are different colours to the buoys and some minutes deducted for waiting at junctions, but these are minor details.
They also do other events, such as runs, swims, sportives as well as the triathlons, so check them out if you’re in the South West and want to try out or volunteer at an endurance event. I hope to be back next year to improve on my times and take on the challenge again.
All photos are taken from the GeoPark Adventure Facebook page.