I got into Triathlon 2 years ago, at that point the furthest distance I had ever raced was a 10km run. Once I discovered Triathlon, I had this desire to one day try and complete a long distance triathlon, often commonly called an Ironman. That day became 5th June 2016 at Challenge Venice.
This was Challenge Venice’s maiden year, so there wasn’t a massive amount of information to find on the race, just the orgainsers assurance of a spectacular and unique course, which it certainly was.
On the day of the race, we had to arrive 4:30am at Parco San Giuliano, this was the location of T1,T2, the Finish line and where the Marathon would be run, from here we got buses and then a ferry over to the Venice islands. Once there we had a bit of time to get into wetsuits, drop our belongings off and a lot of nervous wees!
At 6:15 they started getting athletes into the water, starting with the pro male and females, ready to start at 6:30. The water temperature was around 21 degrees, so very comfortable, the depth of the water was fairly shallow and I don’t think it ever got very deep, from going on the amount of silt off the sea bed that was kicked up, which made the water very murky. The race was started with Andrea Bocelli playing over the speakers then a loud klaxon. I know I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, so I positioned myself behind most of the athletes waiting to start, to reduce the amount of people who would inevitably swim over me! Once underway I spent the first couple of hundred meters getting the odd knock and bump and decided to make my way to the left of the pack of swimmers to have a more clear area to swim in, I soon got into a nice rhythm and could see the land in the horizon which at the start seemed hardly visible. It soon became larger and more clear and soon enough I was at the foot of a pontoon, where I was greeted with plenty of helpers to assist lifting us out of the water.
After a 500 meter run to T1, I collected my bike bag and got ready for the 180km bike, there was plenty of helpers in T1 to help make this as smooth as possible. Once on the bike course I had told myself to try and hold back, as many athletes had said that the course was lovely smooth and fairly flat roads and it would be tempting to try and go too fast. It really was a stunning course and some of the best roads I’ve ridden on. Looking back I think I did maybe push a bit too hard to start with, around 90km’s in, I could feel myself start to become weak and I was struggling to maintain the pace I had planned on. I removed my visor to try and get more air to my face as the heat had become unbearable, and I made a point of taking on extra food, I remember spending around 20 minutes trying to swallow a ham Panini, soon enough the time and distance ticked away and I was back at Parco San Giuliano. Just a marathon to go!
I spent a little extra time in T2 this time, just to put some sun cream on, the temperature was up in the mid 20’s now. The run was 5 laps around 8km each around the park. This was great for spectators, the main reason for being in Venice was a friends wedding who was also competing, so we had a great mix of friends and family in the park, cheering us on and giving us that extra push. The run was just a grind. I told myself I would keep running and only walk when I hit a feed station, to take on enough fluids and energy. It was around every 2km to each feed station, each one was a really satisfying site, they had showers and people with garden hoses to cool you down and wet sponges to grab and run with. I think the heat was possibly the hardest aspect in the end, training in the UK it's not something I’ve had to deal with, and something I really underestimated. Finally I was coming to the end of my 5th and final lap, I knew I had made it, my legs stopped hurting, I felt a burst of energy and relief as I ran down the red carpet and over the finish line. I finished in a time of 11:16:08 and came 13th in my age group, much better than I had expected. Challenge Venice was a really unique and stunning course, which I would definitely recommend.