I flew out on Wednesday afternoon (raceday is Friday) following an AS maths exam in the morning. Everything went perfectly on our travels until we arrived at baggage reclaim. Every athletes' worst nightmare is for one's luggage not to turn up, which was exactly what happened. Fortunately my bike box made it but my checked in bag with my Trisuit and full race gear did not. With my race in 36 hours, it triggered an onslaught of thoughts about how to resolve the situation, Will someone have a spare trisuit? Helmet? Could I buy some running shoes? Cleats?........Thankfully non of this was necessary as at 1AM there was a knock at our apartment and a Portuguese delivery man handed me my case, relief is an understatement!
Thursday was quite busy, full of typical pre-race admin: registration, race briefing, bike racking and multiple route recces. The bike recce was especially memorable, 1000 European triathletes on a closed coastal Portuguese dual-carriageway and a police escort. It is unlikely I will experience anything similar again unless I have a change of sport, become a pro-cyclist and race the Vuelta a Espana......unlikely. The swim recce also went well, I was feeling fit, fast and fresh, things were looking good for the race in just 18 hours. We finished the day with a trip to Lisbon old town for dinner, pasta of course, and then back to our apartment for an early night.
My race was at 11AM which is the perfect time as there is no need to wake up at a ridiculous time in the morning and fueling is simple as all you need is a decent breakfast. I was at the event site by 8:30am to give me plenty of time to set up my transition, this extra time proved crucial as I struggled to pump up my rear tyre due to a loose valve extender and an air lock. As a result I was left running round transition trying to find the correct tools to fix the issue, I was unsuccessful in my quest. My Bear Grylls instinct then kicked in, I borrowed (stole) a Biro from a race organiser, snapped the pen to get the ink cartridge out and used that to stick into the valve extender and release the airlock. Panic averted. Everything else went smoothly and I was in my wetsuit at 10:40 to go into my pen and wait until we were allowed to enter the water. During the wait all competitors try to maintain some blood circulation through swinging arms, hitting yourself, jumping etc. however despite one's best efforts it is inevitable that you cool down waiting after your warm up which only makes the hectic swim start more painful!
Finally the clock struck 11, we entered the water and very quickly we were off. My wave comprised of people ages 16-30 so the start was typically aggressive with testosterone and adrenaline fuelled racing. 100m into the swim someone's limb (not sure if arm of leg) struck my face and my goggles were knocked off my face, I attempted to continue swimming but it was futile, I was blind and I would have ended up swimming out to sea. I had no option but to stop and put them back on. Once restarted I had clear water and I was able to put the hammer down and claw back some time. I exited the swim in somewhat disappointing 35th place and was left with lots of work to do. Down but not out.