So, after a ridiculously early start on Sunday morning and the small issue of Georgia and Cat getting lost en route to Gare du Nord, five bleary-eyed Expatries arrived in the picturesque spa town of Enghien for their Decouverte adventure. It was somewhat chilly – well it was practically the middle of the night – so we found ourselves having to get into our wetsuits way before we had to just to keep warm.
Having race numbers branded on arms and legs was a new experience for some of us but somehow made us feel like proper triathletes so we went with the flow and tried not to think about how long it was going to take to remove said numbers afterwards.
Kristine must surely get the prize for the fastest transition set-up breezing in not long before the start of the race, laying all her stuff out in a very orderly and professional fashion and jumping into her wet suit all in a matter of minutes whilst certain other members of the team who had arrived in the transition area considerably earlier were still trying to work out whether bike shoes should be placed in front of or to the side of running shoes or indeed on the bike itself. With the tricky business of transition set-up sorted, it wasn’t long before we were skipping off down to the lake barely able to contain our excitement at the thought of jumping into a freezing cold lake which we had been reliably informed was 13.7 degrees. We all slipped into the glacial water without so much as a whimper trying to pretend that we weren’t at all phased by the icy temperatures but all secretly wishing that we had opted for a Sunday morning lie-in instead. Before we knew it and indeed before many of the competitors were in the water, the gun went off and it was c’est parti race on!
Rich, Kristine and Georgia sped off in to the distance leaving Paul and Cat trailing (but doing le crawl…and for the record putting their faces in the murky water) in their wake. What was a fairly uneventful swim for most of us was anything but for Kristine who found herself being stalked by another competitor who, having figured out that she was a proficient swimmer, decided that she was ripe for drafting and stuck to her like glue almost drowning her in the process. This sport really isn’t for the faint hearted! Anyway, after a few stern words to said stalker at the first buoy, Kristine was on her way again making up for lost time. First out of the water was Georgia followed by Rich then Kristine with Paul and Cat bringing up the rear (again).
As she made her way to her bike, Georgia heard her name being announced over the tannoy which made her feel pretty special, well for a millisecond anyway before she remembered that only a third of her race was done and realising that her Chrissie Wellington moment would have to wait. She was super-efficient in transition and was soon on her bike powering through the streets of Enghien hotly pursued by Rich.
The bike course was truly unpleasant even without the big hill which our Olympic teammates had to contend with. The road was narrow and full of potholes and the boundaries marked not by metal barriers but by volunteers, a sort of human chain-link fence. Is that really allowed in France? It is perhaps a miracle that none of us suffered a ‘mechanical’ or worse and perhaps more pertinently that the volunteers escaped with their lives intact! After wasting a ridiculous amount of time in transition, Cat had a pretty good bike leg but could not catch Georgia, Rich or Kristine who had been so speedy in the water. Rich was the quickest on the bike and got back to transition first. Being an old hand at this triathlon business he wasted no time in discarding his bike and all the bike stuff before leaping into his running shoes and scooting off to start his lap of the lake with Georgia and Kristine not too far behind. Cat had a much better transition this time and she wasted no time in giving chase with Paul a short distance behind. Before too long, Cat caught Kristine (who was having an issue with her feet which were still numb from the swim) but despite putting in a pretty quick run, she could not catch Rich or Georgia. So Rich was the first team member home with the rest of us bunched up a little way behind.
Having changed and grabbed ourselves a coffee, Paul wandered off to check the results board. It then became apparent that Cat had come first in her category. A result indeed! Needless to say, trying to track down the silverware took longer than the Decouverte itself but Paul’s perseverance and badgering of officials paid off and soon Cat was waving around her trophy for all to see. All in all, not a bad morning’s work by the team.