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In 2005 I started working for Newham Council

Back then I was not into Sport. (AT ALL)

I did not come from a sporty family…unless watching West Ham on the TV counts. My new job was to help train and support volunteers in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics…although we were still in the bid stage at the time.

One of the events we provided volunteers for was the London Triathlon…I didn’t even know what a Triathlon was.

Imagine that?

I met with the organisers we discussed the event crew support needs…and I put myself forward for two days of getting stuck in too.

Day one I was standing on top of a hill telling cyclists to slow down…it was an OK day…a bit repetitive, but got to hang out with some other cool volunteers and it was super interesting seeing all of the different types of people involved.

BUT DAY TWO!!!!!!

OMG

Day two I was on dockside asking men to strip.

YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT.

This 25 year old was spending the day standing in the sunshine basically perving over all of the hot men…and let me tell you there was some super fit men (James Cracknell competed that year if I remember right)

Anyway there were of course women…but my recollection was 100% about the men ha ha.

In the debrief meeting a few weeks later I made the schoolgirl error of saying, “I’d love to give it a go” and the race organiser sorted me out a FREE place for the following year and that was me.

2006…I lined up for my first ever not only Triathlon…but mass participation event.

Look how young I looked in 2006?

So walking into the same building this weekend 13 years later to compete in this event again was super weird…it all felt so familiar, but yet so different.

I am not as nieve as I was back then about sport.

I have better kit that’s for sure….and 13 years worth of events behind me…including an Olympic Distance Triathlon, and 5 marathons.

But I am also a busy mum, that lives in a size 18 body…proof if ever you should need it that Triathlons are for everyone.

I have been training hard for this race, using it to get me out of my post London Marathon motivation dip…and it was working a treat. I was cycling to all of my meetings in London, swimming a couple of times a week, and hitting it hard at my CrossFit box.

But I felt sluggish come race day…tired from a 6 year old daughter that didn’t want to go to bed. A bit worried about the torrential rain…and probably a bit stressed that I hadn’t in fact done enough training at all.

Oh and I managed to half cut off my fingers chopping onions the night before for my carb heavy tea…great!!

But it got worse.

The stuff…minus my bike

After dropping my daughter to my sisters for the day, I came home picked up my bursting at the seems race bag and my bike and made my way to the DLR…if it wasn’t raining so heavy I may have considered cycling the 3 or so miles to the venue.

But I decided to cycle literally the 2-minute walk to the DLR to minimise the effects of the rain…but my foot (in its flip flop) slipped and I came off the bike whacking my ladybits on the saddle (ouch) and scrapping half the skin of my calf muscle.

Eying up the other folks on the DLR with bikes that looked more expensive than my car I was like “Julie…what are you doing?” and by the time I got to the Excel I could have cried…but the atmosphere as I collected my race number perked me up and I knew it could only get better.

The volunteers were brilliant. Helpful. Knowledgeable. Plentiful.

I wondered if any of them were still around from the Newham Volunteers days.

I racked my bike, set out all my kit, and then headed dockside to watch some of the swimmers in the earlier heats. My race was not until 1.10pm which felt weird…I’m used to morning races.

The lippy is for good luck

I met a lovely lady called Sally, a few bikes on from me…and we stuck with each other through the safety briefing and into the water (I would see her later on in the run too)

But back to the swim.

I have never been a strong swimmer. I’ve had adult lessons, and I swim in the Olympic Pool near where I live. But my technique in open water is a little shocking.

I knew to stay to the back of my wave to find some space. And this worked.

I found it hard to find my rhythm at first, and in the first 10 minutes I was like REALLY??? is it seriously going to be this tough. But then I overtook a few ladies and that seemed to boost my confidence.

The safety canoeists on the course were friendly…giving words of encouragement and pointing if we went too far off course.

As I approached the 500 meter bwoy…I was overtaken by a few ladies from the wave behind me, and so although staying out of their way it gave me the confidence to swim strong, and also it gave me someone to follow.

Before I knew it I was walking up the gantry to transition.

A lovely volunteer gave me clear instructions and helped me take my kit off…she was so professional and so confident, I wanted to give her a hug, I wanted to cry, I wanted to say “14 years ago I did this job, and it has lead to great things” but I did none of those things…I simply said.

Thank You.

I managed my 750 meter swim in 27.17…around 5 minutes faster than I had done in training the week before in the docks testing out my wetsuit….chuffed with that and now know I could go faster if I trained better and more often in open water.

The run to my bike seemed to take forever…I didn’t want to slip..there may have been a bit of walking too.

I managed to leave transition without my race number so had to go back for it (can’t believe I did that)

The weather was still not great, not tipping it down like it had been but enough to keep a lot of the crowds away which was a shame, those that were hardcore did a great job and the stewards on the course cheered us on too.

I was confident on the bike as long as there were not any big hills…as I’d done NO hill training….and of course there were hills…near Leamouth there is one F***er of a hill that just goes on forever.

I remembered to stay hydrated and I had a few Jelly thingys (from Decathlon…much better than gels) and I just kept peddling.

There were a few folks with punctures on the side of the road, and one dude who had come off and had some terrible road rash…but other than that the bike was a good leg….oh other than my index finger on my left hand bleeding constantly.

My dressing had come off on the swim leg and it was only once I was on my bike and cruising downhill that I noticed the blood pouring from the sliced finger…not good…made me queasy, prevented me from holding onto the handles properly…was a bit of a distraction.

On the 2nd of the two 10K laps, I had to get off my bike and walk a bit up the hill…it was that or roll backwards…I swear I could have walked up faster…turns out I could…just a little mind.

The encouragement from the other cyclists was great.

I came into transition after doing the cycle in 1.01.43…I had predicted an hour so was happy with that.

I was just 3.19 in transition two…no mucking about this time…even spotted a runner from my running club and gave him a wave.

But now as I ran I could feel something weird in my back…on my left hand side at the back, I got outside of The Excel and tried to stretch it but nothing seemed to work.

It was a sharp pain what got worse when I ran, especially downhill.

It was going to be a long 5K.

But the atmosphere was great. Loads of young volunteers along this bit, all in good spirits. I loved the samba band, it was meditative and just what I needed to keep me going.

It was hard running into The Excel to come back out again for the 2nd lap.

And the rain had started again.

About 10 minutes from the end I heard “Julie CREFFIELD” and turned to see it was my old buddy from my Newham Volunteers days, Alison who now manages the volunteers…it was so bloody good to see her, I gave her a massive hug…and she called me a “Nutter”

The pain in my back seemed to have disappeared with all the adrenaline and I made my way up that final hill into the Excel and towards the red carpet of champions.

The bright lights. The crowds on either side. The MC calling my name.

It was EPIC.

Bloody brilliant.

I finished in 2.24

What was I doing?

And can’t wait to do it all again…even with all of the things which went wrong.

I love running (well most of the time) but my oh my Triathlon is something else.

It suits my personality.

It allows me to integrate CrossFit into my training

And the best bit is that despite being a little tired the next day, I have no muscle soreness…and was back training at 10am today.

So where do I sign up for 2020??? (It’s here actually)

This race is super special.

Maybe because it was my first race experience all those years ago. Maybe its because it’s in my home borough. Maybe because my Grandad was a docker (the first time I did this he said “you know how many dead bodies are in that water? He died a couple of years after).

It is an incredible event.

Niiiiccccceeee!!!

A massive thank you to LimeLight Sports who manage the London Triathlon for gifting me a place, I hope to be supporting them over the next 12 months to look at ways we can get even more women like me (minus the bleeding finger though) taking part.

I’d love to come back with a Too Fat to Run (slash Try) Team for 2020…who fancies it?

Also a massive thank you to Decathlon who have been supporting me that last 2 years or so with kit. My bike and wetsuit, and various other bits of necessary kit have been gifted….go check them out for really affordable triathlon gear.

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