Back in the day when I first started triathlon, I’d never heard of prescription goggles, and I never came across anyone with the same vision problem that I had or they were wearing contact lenses. Triathlon and open water swimming was only just beginning as a mass participation sport so they were probably not something you got on the high street.

I’m really quite short sighted. I can’t see to tie my shoelaces. So how I managed an open water swim without being able to see I’m really not sure.

A lot of races would have a glasses table. A table put by the exit of the swim where you could leave your glasses at the start and collect them as soon as you exited the water. But a lot of races also didn’t have them.

At Shropshire Olympic back in 2005, a marshal promised to look after my glasses for me and hand them to me as I exited the swim. He was a young lad in an army cadet uniform. The only problem is the whole platoon of army cadets were there! When I got out the water and asked for my glasses he was no where to be seen. I’m slightly disorientated after the swim and of course can’t even see my own feet clearly.  All the volunteers have army cadet uniforms on and look the same! 10min later they found the lad with my glasses.

That was the last time I ever gave my glasses to someone. Until May 2021 that is.

My strategy now is to have a pair of prescription goggles and two pairs of glasses. That is in T1 with my bike and one that I’m wearing until it’s time to swim. I will then exit the water and keep wearing my gogglles until I get to my bike.

Of course, it’s a bit tricky if I’m at a race on my own and there’s a long wait or walk between transition closing and the swim start. For example, at this week’s race transition closes at 7.15am and my start isn’t until 8.30am. That’s a long time to stand around in a pair of prescription goggles. That are uncomfortable and will start to fog up. Usually, I’ll find a hand supporter to take them off me closer towards the start, or I’ll have to ask a marshal if they can help.

After more than 16 years of racing I went to a European Championship qualifying event and the race briefing said there would be a glasses table! Hallelujah! I was excited to feel included! Especially as there was a long walk from transition to the beach and a rather long wait until the start. I couldn’t really believe it so I double checked with an official on the morning of my race who assured me there would be a glasses table.

After transition closed, I kept my glasses on and walked down to the beach. I searched for the glasses table but couldn’t find it. So I asked a proper British Triathlon Official. He assured me and another athlete there wasn’t a table, but he would look after our glasses and hand them to us as we exited the swim. He’d be standing at the point where the mat changed halfway up the beach.

I exit the swim run up the beach, there’s a lot of people, it’s crowded and I’m out of breath and a bit tired! I get to the bit on the mat. And Bob is no where to be seen. I look around, I ask every official I see for Bob, but he’s nowhere. This is a qualifying race so I can’t afford to faff about in transition. That could be the difference between a place at the Europeans or not.

Thankfully I had left a spare pair in transition with my bike. In the stress I forget my gels, drop my chain on the mount line and lose my spare tubes somewhere in the drama.

After the race, I find the race director and ask him to help me find Bob the official and retrieve my glasses. Bob is eventually found who says he got called away to be somewhere else, so he’d put my glasses on the glasses table. The table he’d told me didn’t exist and that I never found. He led me to the table, which was still on the public beach, 4hrs after the race had started. My glasses are underneath the table on the beach! Thankfully its stony and not sandy.

Despite all that I had a great race and none of it made a huge difference to my finishing place. But that is the last time I ever rely on anyone else to give me my glasses.

The next race I go to, I’m all prepared with my two pairs of glasses. No need to rely on anyone else! As I’m setting up transition I open my glasses case just to check the lenses in my cycling glasses are all clean and clear. Only to discover I have my husbands reading glasses!  Good job I checked otherwise I could have had an interesting experience trying to ride or run in my goggles.

So this time I had no choice but to rely on someone else and thankfully I find my bestie Clare who is volunteering on the swim exit and is allowed to hold my glasses and hand them to me as I exited the swim.

After 16years of triathlon there are still mistakes to be made and things to learn!