Bala Olympic Distance Triathlon 2017

On Sunday 3rd September I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. The 1.5km swim took place in Bala lake, with the 40km bike and 10km run route taking place along a closed road. I completed it in 3 hours 9 minutes which I was really pleased with.

The conditions weren’t too bad as we set off from Wrexham at 6.30am. My Dad said that the weather was supposed to hold out but about half way en route to Bala the rain started. Once we arrived at Bala rugby club, the rain continued. We arrived in plenty of time and went to register. Once we returned to the car we started to prepare our gear and the wind and rain showed no sign of stopping at this point.

Bala tri is a qualifying event for the European Championships taking place in Estonia in 2018 so there were loads of professional looking athletes there. When I saw people in Team GB tri-suits, I soon began to realise that the quality of athletes in the field would be really high. There were a few less professional looking people there too like myself.

Once our bikes and trainers were in transition we were briefed and the first wave which Stew was in headed over to the starting point. The race was about 15 minutes late to start and as the men’s wave were lining up, the majority of the women’s wave were hopping on the spot trying to keep warm.

Bala lake is one of the largest natural bodies of water in Wales, definitely the biggest lake I’ve ever swum in. As we were waiting for our wave the wind had picked up and the lake looked choppy, it was also still raining. As always there was a bit of chatter among participants on the start line as we all questioned each other why we were putting ourselves through this but eager to start.

When we finally got in the water the lake didn’t feel too cold, helped by the fact it was cold outside of the lake as well. It was a shallow water mass start and I was conscious to stay near the back to avoid being swamped at the start. Once the race was underway, after I sorted some initial issues with leaky goggles I soon got into my rhythm with front crawl. The swimmers stayed relatively close together which made it easy to sight which direction to go in. The waves, however, were pretty choppy in some bits of the swim which made it difficult particularly as I’ve never swum in ways like that before.

One thing I find difficult with swimming is keeping my head down and not disrupting my rhythm. I can be swimming for what feels like 15 minutes, poke my head out of the water and realise I haven’t come far at all. So in the swim I was determined not to look up and just keep going. I kept my mind occupied by singing songs in my head and trying to think of the entire Game of Thrones story line from start to finish as best I could. It worked quite well and soon enough the swim was over.

My first transition was pretty slow. Trying to take a wet suit off quickly after swimming 1.5km is tricky, so is putting socks and bike shoes onto wet feet when you can’t feel your hands. The bike ride was pretty grim with strong side winds and rain. Luckily it was a straight road with not too many corners to steer a wet bike around. I never dried off from the swim and the rain made my handle bars slippery when changing gears which was annoying. It felt like the bike ride went on for a long time. As it was an out then in route the men’s wave were passing us on their way back in which was nice to see. The leaders came flying passed and I eventually saw Stew too. The hairpin bend around a cone at the half way point was a tricky maneuver. Luckily a friend tipped me off and said to make sure I was in a low gear. This old guy came into the turn really quick in a high gear, got half way around the turn then really struggled to get going again. He was swearing at his bike as I overtook him on the corner.

There was one point on the bike where I thought to myself I do not want to do this run at all, do I have to do the run? Soon enough I was back into transition to ditch my bike and swap my shoes and I headed out on the run. It felt good to be off the bike and I soon started to warm up my numb feet. I was running at a decent pace so I just kept it up. Coming back past transition towards the finish line I still felt good and knew I had a bit left in me. I’d been about 10 metres behind a woman for about 5k and I sped up slightly to get past her. I heard my parents and Stew cheering for me as I powered ahead and waved at them, then got confused where the finish line is, came to a stop then realised where I needed to go, about 100 metres further around a corner. I was knackered by this point but managed to push through.

I was so pleased to finish and felt great. My Mum was waiting there with a big coat which I put on straight away then had some water as we started to make our way back to the car. We received our goody bag at the start which included a black Bala Triathlon towel which was quite cool, but no medal sadly. The food and drink in the bag were pretty basic too e.g. no sweets.

Despite the weather I really enjoyed the triathlon. I’d bought a triathlon wet suit (£112) and a tri-suit (£55) both Speedo, for the event which both were really comfortable. I’ve had a lot of use out of my wet suit this summer so I’m pleased I invested in a decent one.

I would like to do another Olmypic distance tri at some point and definitely a couple more sprints. I’ve really enjoyed my open water swim training too so will be looking to keep that up next year. But for now as we begin to move into Autumn I think it’s time to get back into running.


Swim: 37 mins

T1: 4 mins

Cycle: 1 hr 29 mins

T2: 2 mins

Run: 54 mins

Thoughts from this week:

  • I completed my bike ride from Wrexham to Abersoch with my Dad a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Will be looking to do it again next summer.
  • I’ve been doing a lot of classes at the gym recently which I’ve been enjoying.
  • I also now have a beautiful new niece called Imogen.
  • Going on a family holiday to Spain in a couple of weeks for a final bit of sunshine, hooray!

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