Day five had been labelled as ‘Mystery Monday’ – essentially it was a chance to change plan according to the weather, so it was decided that we would tackle Col D’Aspin.
The day started with a clear sky, so I was keen to get my trainers on.
Unfortunately, I was struggling to run because of my bruised leg and the pain in my arm. We got to a turning point and were given the option of extending the run into the woods. Graeme encouraged me and told me that it would be fun, but I was conscious that I would hold everyone up, so I refused.
In hindsight, this was a mistake as the others who went into the woods seemed to have a lot of fun, but I was aware that my lack of ability meant that I was constantly holding the group up 🙁
(There was an obstacle course in the woods, so people had a lot of fun there… including, Louise [above]).
We had porridge for breakfast again, but I was physically sick with fear. I was absolutely terrified about getting on my bike again. Fortunately, Graeme had thought hard about a plan and had worked out how all of the coaches could get out on their bikes and be able to pick me up form the top of the mountain.
I put my trainers in a bag and then we cycled up to a nearby industrial estate so that we could practise transitions. Again I felt frustrated by my injuries as I’ve practised my mount and spent a lot of time on my dismount (I’ve even used it in all of the races that I’ve done since I was in Lagos). Unfortunately, my inability to put any weight on my right arm meant that it was really difficult for me to balance myself properly on the bike. As soon as my arm has recovered, I’m going to find a quiet path/road somewhere that I can practise this.
After the brief transition training session, we were joined by Louise and Bernadette, who’d had a little rest. We set off from the industrial estate and, before long, we were at a long downhill. My heart was in my mouth and I know that I was going very slowly, but I was really afraid.
Finally, we were at the base of Aspin, where we were met by Alan with the van. Louise was doubtful that she would climb the mountain, but I encouraged her that we could do it. The start of the Col was quite gentle, so it lulled me into a false sense of security. I kept going and was determined that I would make it to the top, but was wondering when Alan would come past.
Part way up the mountain, I could see a couple of men herding cows across the road. In my mind, I was urging the cows on, as I didn’t want to lose my momentum. Fortunately, they finished crossing the road just in time for me to go past.
For some reason, I thought the climb was 5km, which always sounds manageable as it’s the distance of parkrun. However, I realised that it was actually 12km (I had both numbers in my head). When I got to 5km, I felt that I was doing OK, so I continued.
Some time later, I saw a crazy cyclist coming down the hill at over 70km/h (43mph). I couldn’t believe how fast the figure in black was moving… until I realised that it was Graeme. He was heading down to get the van from Alan.
5km from the top, Graeme was waiting in a lay by with the van. It was a relief to see him. I needed to drink some water, but couldn’t reach the bottle with my bad arm. I decided to stop for a minute to stretch my legs and have a drink. I was a little worried about trying to start again as it’s never easy to clip in and get moving on an incline. Graeme helped me to set off again and said that he’d see me at the top.
My confidence started to fade, as it was incredibly hot, so I found a wall about 3km from the top (just in case I couldn’t unclip) and then drank some more water. I was aware that I was going slowly and getting tired in the heat.
At 1km from the top, I could see the summit, but it felt so far away. I paused again in the shade of a tree to drink the last of my water, before doing the final climb.
I could see my fellow triathletes waiting for me and felt so pleased that I had conquered the Col.
I wondered whether I would be able to cycle down, but knowing that there were some steep drops and hairpins, I knew that I wouldn’t be able t managed it, so I was relieved to get back in the van with Graeme and head back. I did wonder whether I would get out at the bottom for the final ride home, but in the end we headed straight back to the farm-house,
After arriving back early from Col D’Aspin, I helped Graeme in the kitchen. It was BBQ night, so there was plenty of chopping to be done. I wasn’t able to chop cabbage, but I was able to peel and slice the eggs, chop feta and prepare potatoes for wedges. I also made the veggie kebabs for Kat and I.
For me, this was the most successful day of the holiday and I felt a good sense of achievement.