I was never an athlete; however, I was always competitive. I remember signing up for a race after I took it personal when someone said I couldn’t finish a 10k race while writing my final thesis at uni. Of course, I did the race, and sprinted so hard from k 1 that I had to finish on foot, passed and cheered by all these mega-tanned 100 year-young Spanish marathoners! This pattern has repeated on a number of occasions and Deva turned out to be only slightly different for me this time.

After a year of weird lockdowns my fitness level has oscillated between Tokyo Olympics-ready and over 4h Netflix marathon-finisher. In one of my few turbo-training peaks I was able to binge on a lot of Youtube triathlon videos. I particularly enjoyed this one video, where Iván Raña, a Spanish triathlon pioneer, voices over training footage of himself in the volcanic desolation of Lanzarote. His motto, something along these lines: ‘if you are only happy when you win, you will only be satisfied a couple of days in your life, if you are lucky.’ He is one example of the rare breed of humans passionate enough about what they do, regardless of recognition, for whom appreciation is through dedication.

Since then, even if not having trained much, I ditched the watch and the Strava and, fuelled by visions of Iván running, I started to cultivate an appreciation for running -which for me is the most painful of the three sports. I managed to do that for a while, with Deva still months away. Unsurprisingly, and with lockdown becoming more destabilising that I thought, training became much looser, and I resorted to my natural all-out rushed competitiveness of yore. I dropped my initial idea of doing a Half Distance to an Olympic and headed towards Euston station to head for the coming race in Chester.

No, Katie and Helen did not race in these shoes

I hope I was not too much of a pain for the small Ful-on Tri contingent that shared our northern base for the weekend. I was freaking out for the race ahead, as the lack of practise and substantial training had taken a bigger toll on my otherwise lovely attitude (wink).

After visiting the picturesque Chester on Friday and raiding all the hipster brunch places on the arcades on the Tudor-styled centre of town, Eszter Szadeczky-Kardoss, Katie McCreadie, Helen Fagan and yours truly (Alex) were all pumped up for the race on Sunday.

 

 

 

Race-day came inexorably and early in the morning we headed to transition to rack our bikes. Some amazing rides where lined up, rubricating the level of the field around. There, we met the rest of the FOT crowd that was lining up for the race: Ed Challes, Colin Frew, Stewart Juroszek, Kenneth Murray and Fiona Geldard. 

We walked down from transition to the small pier on the river Dee, filled with queues of neoprene and excitement, to see both Ed and Eszter jump into the water to start their Half Distance race, followed closely by Ken. A rough half hour later they were sprinting back into T1, shoulder to shoulder, and quick to hop on their bikes, with Ken on the chase.

Then, the rest of the FOT crew got on their way to start the Olympic Distance race. I dived penguin-like right after Helen and managed to get a glimpse of her in the first half of the swim as she sped away from me. After 1,500m of pleasurable swimming (maybe too enjoyable!) I got into transition only to find that she was clipped in and ready to go. It took me a good three quarters of the bike course to come level to her (who would have thought that a steel bike could be that fast) to shortly be left in the dust by Katie van der Poel.

I didn’t have my best bike ever but managed to spot the hidden photographer in the bushes and get on the drops quick enough to pose for a nice profile pic (worth the pain!). So focused I was on the photo op, that I might have missed Stewart and Colin passing me on the bike. I assume they were blazing past some of the super-fast double-carriageway sections of the course.

After T2, I was in for a pain feast, with no running mileage on my legs in the past months. The otherwise lovely course, meandering up and down the river Dee, next to the red sandstone roman walls on the north bank and through the sandy Chester Meadows on the south, became a conscious effort to avoid walking. Being cheered-up by fellow club members, and by the awesome spectators gathered around the town, I crossed the pedestrian suspension bridge that headed to the finish line, after my three laps of the course.

Most of the Olympic Ful-ons were already casually waiting for me in transition. Suddenly I remembered one of the things I like most about triathlon, the atmosphere and the people. The race organisation was great and used to the races peppered around in the London Green Belt, with only the occasional spectator (normally a marshal), the warmth of the spectators felt phenomenal. In transition, the scene was quite weird if you think about it. Sweaty humans, all dressed in a sort of tight uniform, still half high on the released endorphins, were all greeting each other while walking around with pieces of metal hanging from their necks. Still, I was part of the party and joined the communal excitement.

After promising myself that I would need to train better for the next one, I let myself enjoy the moment while the rest of the Olympic distance crew crossed the finish line and the Half Distance super-heroes smashed their races stopping the clock at very impressive times.

Deva, I will be back.