Crashes, cuts and bike envy - just another triathlon experience

By Steffan GarreroBBC Wales Sport
Steffan Garrero
Steffan Garrero's game face - Geraint Thomas had better watch out.

Meghan Trainor's "All about the Bass" pumps out from the PA system on the back of the van where my friend Chris and I try to hide from the driving rain and wind sweeping across Cardiff Bay.

The same tune played five hours ago as a drunk Frenchman jumped on my back on the dance floor at a friend's wedding.

I figure that's how the Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonny warm up for an event - piggy-backed by a large Breton while bopping in smart shoes.

Either way it's an irritating earworm which stays with me for the next three hours.

"White swim caps, get ready to enter the water" comes the announcement over the loudspeakers.

We are a wet-suited, goggled and swim capped tribe who nervously shuffle past the Cybermen and Daleks of the Dr Who experience, down a ramp to the edge of the water.

Allan Bateman
Allan Bateman played rugby union for Wales and the Lions, and Rugby League for Great Britain - he also pounded the barrage in the Cardiff Triathlon

The Cardiff Triathlon experience is about to begin.

The 15,000 competitors are split into eleven groups of swimmers, the start times staggered according to their swimming ability and we are in the ninth group.

The wind and rain have made the usually calm waters choppy and as we begin a large wave hits my face just as I take a breath.

For those wondering, the water in Cardiff Bay is quite brown and leaves a metallic aftertaste. After the initial frantic start we settle into a smooth pace.

Halfway through the 1,500 meters I realise I've forgotten to take off my wedding ring and the fear of losing it to the depths of the Bay rather distracts me from the rest of the swim section.

The transition is intriguing. It's where you leave your bike, your helmet, your running shoes, all of the 'bits' you'll need once the wetsuit comes off.

I've taken part on a couple of races, but am by no means a veteran, so the sight of expensive bikes being racked at 6am still fills me with excitement, nervousness and bike-envy in equal measure.

Watch highlights of the inaugural Cardiff Triathlon which saw 1,200 triathletes race around Cardiff on Sunday, 28 June.

The pre-race hours are spent with energy gels and weird coloured drinks being laid out in a methodical order; trainers with elastic laces placed underneath the bikes.

It's all about spending as little time switching between the disciplines as possible; tugging off your wetsuit, changing footwear and getting going.

I've yet to perfect removing a wetsuit and wind up lying in a huge puddle dragging it off my right leg while trying putting on a rain-sodden pair of socks and get ready to ride 40 kilometres.

There are bikes and there are bikes. There are bikes with wheels which cost more than a weekend break in Rome. Bikes which make you stare with awe as they overtake you.

There is a lot of overtaking on four laps of the 10K circuit. The wet weather makes for a few crashes, a whole host of punctures and one guy going straight into a bush on a roundabout when his brakes failed.

It's a flat bike course and you can go fast, but there is nearly always someone else faster or more daring.

Your right ear becomes familiar with the whirring, whooshing noise of a time-trial bike about to fly past you with a shout of "overtaking!" urgently hitting the air.

Four laps later, bike and body still intact, it's time to re-rack the bike slurp an Energy gel, drain a caffeine drink and put the squelchy trainers on to embark on a 10K run.

Steffan Garrero
The final leg . . . BBC Radio Wales Sport presenter Steffan Garrero pounds the streets of Cardiff

A steady snake of runners wind their way up and round the Cardiff Bay Barrage during two laps of the circuit. Men and women with little more than adrenaline, lactic acid and the thought of catching that guy 10 yards in front pumping through their bodies.

There are the watch checkers, those who want to hit their personal bests, accelerating when their bodies would rather go home.

There are the bloodied, the fallers from the slippery bike section, battling through.

At one point the former British and Irish Lion and Great Britain Rugby League international Allan Bateman runs past - it is a sport which attracts athletes and amateurs alike.

And then it is over. The crowds outside the Wales Millennium Centre welcome home the tired, the injured, the proud and the gutted with the same euphoric cheer.

For the winners it has been less than two hours of their lives; for the rest of us it has been much longer.

The following day, aching and hungry and chomping through my fifth ham and cheese toastie in a row I wonder if this is how the Brownlees manage their post-race recovery.

So much better than an ice bath.