Sue alias ‘Tiger Stripes‘ was back smiling and with vengeance this year! Last year Sue joined the kayak course but after a few weeks almost transferred back to the Triathlon, but after a serious (friendly) talking too and a sprinkling of the fairyquadmother’s fairy dust she came back the following week wearing her ‘Tiger Strips and hasn’t looked back since!
Sue has been an inspiration to our Deva’s kayak team and a demon with her camera capturing our weekly canoe sessions! Her smiles and positivity this year has been infectious, she has been an absolute pleasure to coach and long may she continue to share her ‘Quadrathlon Passion! Thanks Sue for your great race report … see you next year!
Sue’s Story …… Four of us had joined Chester Canoe Club’s training plan as novice paddlers to take part in the Diva Devas Quadathlon last year and enjoyed it so much we returned again for 2019.
However that brought with it the added pressure of trying to beat last year’s time rather than simply be pleased to finish.
The day of the event dawned with weather conditions perfect. As we arrived at the Meadows the site of transition, ladies unloading their bikes, volunteers in high vis seemingly everywhere, made the butterflies start, my heart beat faster and of course my stomach and bowels start to churn!
Watching the clock it was a bit of a race itself to get everything set up in transition, having to count not three but four sets of kit and make sure my number was on my kayak. The nerves were obvious on fellow competitors’ faces. The obligatory queue for the loo, wrestling to get the wetsuit on and all too soon it was time for the race briefing and the walk down to the swim start.
There wasn’t time to be nervous as Quadathletes were in the first wave so it was ditch the flip flops, kiss hubby and get straight into the murky but not too cold water.
As the hooter sounded the strong swimmers seemed to fly away from us slower ones and, feeling sick with fear that the panic that can overtake my swimming in events would kick in, I set off. I chose the middle of the river to catch the current but at the back to keep out of trouble.
Surprise, surprise about 100 metres later after a great start that feeling began, I cant do this, ‘I can’t breathe’. But I remembered the mantra I had been telling others, stop or slow down, look around and BREATHE. Thank goodness it worked and after a couple of second I started again. The remainder of the swim was slow but steady and enjoyable, even pulling away from several swimmers – I’m not going to be last out I realised!
The exit ramp and the volunteers ready to help me out came into sight so I kicked hard for the last 50 metres hands helped me onto dry land. And there was the wonderful Jean Ashley shouting encouragement and helping with the zip of my wetsuit.
Shouting my number to the kayak volunteers I ran for my paddle and BA and managed the undignified clamber out of my wetsuit.
Back to the river bank and down to my loaned Tempest and once safely in the boat, the next half hour was spent desperately trying to remember everything our coaches had taught us. Paddle position, core strength, using our hips and legs and turning to the side. Oh and breathe.
Better kayakers passed me and my head went down. But constant encouragement from safety paddlers in kayaks and on SUPs and even one volunteer taking photos lifted my spirits as did the shouts from fellow paddlers that had already turned for home.
As I turned I felt the current helping me and doubled my efforts. A beautiful heron flew towards and directly over me and then the finish buoys came into view. A paddler in a plastic boat was in view nearing the turn, maybe I could actually pass someone. In fact we beached our craft simultaneously and she shot off into transition while I hauled myself out and, clutching a seized up glute hobbled through the mud and to my bike.
The bike mount is at the start of a gradual climb and I prayed my lovely new machine was in a very low gear.
Thank goodness it was and again encouragement from marshals got me out of the saddle and up that hill. There then followed my best leg.
My bike behaved like a dream and, remembering to get a gel down me in the first mile I found I had the strength to overtake several triathlon competitors and it turned out four quadrathlon ladies over the 15 miles.
I went full pelt on the long downhill worried that the return uphill would be much harder.
The majority of other road users were patient but a few caused some hairy moments including a taxi that had to anchor up as it tried to overtake me just as another vehicle was overtaking competitors coming in the opposite direction. My heart was in my mouth when I took the decision to go across the halfway point roundabout as a car was approaching but the decision proved the right one as I had more time than I feared.
Again reaching half way spurred me on and it was good to be able to shout well done to the ladies bringing up the rear of the event still on their way to the roundabout.
As I reached the long incline a valuable hill workshop I did a couple of years ago paid off as I remembered to use my cleats and pull up on the pedals as well as push down. The feeling of being able to overtake going uphill was wonderful.
Under the bridge and soon we were turning right into the residential streets leading to the Meadows. I quickly grabbed my second gel to help me on the run and there was the entrance to the site and my last fear, how to stop on a downhill without falling off. With a squeal and a prayer I pulled up safely, unclipped and ran my bike in. I could hear my name being shouted by hubby and fellow quadathlete unable to compete because of illness who came along to cheer us all on.
Back in transition, bike safely racked, helmet off and trainers on emotion almost got the better of me as I finally knew I was going to finish and get my medal. There had not been a panic attack like the one that had seen me DNF in a triathlon three years previously, I had not capsized and I hadn’t come off my bike or had a puncture.
The run stage summed up just why Deva Divas is simply the best. The two lap course allows you to see so many other competitors. The faster quadathletes I knew were well into their second lap and we swapped shouts, cheers and high fives on the path.
We were also with the slower triathletes which for me was completely humbling and choked me up. Ladies who would never have the courage to take part in a mixed event had donned their lyrca and conquered their fears to be so close to achieving what they never dreamt possible.
As I neared the half way stage one of my fellow paddlers appeared. She had finished her race, collected her medal and ran back to join me for a few hundred yards just when I needed it. Then it was into the part where second lappers head for the finish line and the rest of us have to face another 2.4k. There was mentally tough.
But stride by stride I reached the turn point, a much needed water bottle and then head for home.
Hubby was on a small hill yelling my name and once again my friend was there to run me in, leaving me to enter that final funnel.
I had just enough fuel in the tank to put on an apology for a sprint and it was under the finish arch and straight into the arms of the wonderful Jean Ashley who put a medal round my neck and gave me a wonderful hug.
Then it was back out to the course to help two first time tri ladies I knew run into the finish.
As last year the Deva Divas quadathlon had completely exceeded expectations. I may not had been anywhere near a podium place. But I wasn’t last.
In fact I had not only come 36th out of 49 quadathletes, not bad for a 58 year old, but I had taken no less than eight minutes of last’s year’s time, what a PB! No pressure for 2020 then!
Written by Sue Austin alias Tiger Stripes