Well, look ‘ee here… 30 weeks of training and we made it – race day. Here’s how it panned out; where we see what all the hopes and fears, early mornings and late nights, dedication and bloody single-mindedness amount too…
There’s just so much that can go wrong racing long distance triathlon. Getting to the start line un-injured is hard enough, then making sure you have equipment and nutrition plan dialed in and everything organised in the right bags in the right place, including contingencies and adaptations according to what might happen in the race, the looming threat of imminent mechanical, physiological and/or psychological breakdown. Needless to say, I didn’t really sleep well again…
I watched the clock changing all through the night and at 4:30 or so, decided I might as well just get up and start getting ready. Rather than bothering the other guests in the B&B, I had packed breakfast, such as it was, in the car, so stood and ate a bagel with some cottage cheese and two chocolate flavoured meal replacement drinks – good for 1000kCal or so. That seemed to work ok, though, really, a nice cup of tea and some proper food would have been preferable.
Got to the race site and checked bike and bags in, then went through body marking and changed into race kit – good timing with not too much hanging around, but not rushed either. Met up with the fab Bridgewater Triathlon Club crew. We had 5 individual racers, plus a team entered. At around 6:20am I said my fond farewells, drank a bottle of Gatorade and went through to the swim start area – no coming back now.
After a quick warm-up, we were counted back into the water and with a strong breeze blowing and squally rain, we were off! Despite there only being 120 or so swimmers, it took a while for things to thin out, but by the turn at ~1000m, I was swimming with the same group who were going about my pace. In particular was one female (different coloured swim hat) who I kept swapping draft off and we stayed stroke for stroke the whole way – turns out this was Dot Martin, half (with John) of a great couple from Vermont we had met and shared a meal with the night before. The backside kilometre was quite choppy with the wind kicking up the waves – it had also blown the warm water down to one end of the lake with the colder water coming up to replace it. Still, I was fairly comfortable and I was almost sad for the swim to be coming to an end – I could have swum all day! No problem sighting the buoys, so much open water practice, plus you could actually follow the wire strung under the water to which the markers were affixed. Out and helped off with my wetsuit by the jolly ‘strippers’ – wayhey, flying brine! I checked my watch: 1:07:12 – wow, happy with that – great start to the day.
I got through T1 without mishap in a reasonable 4:07, clambered aboard and off for the long ride. Now. On a nice day, this is probably a pleasant scenic bike, but this really wasn’t a nice day – felt like I was racing in Scotland, except a tad warmer. Overall, though, not a bad route, 180km as one out and back. There were no great hills to speak of, hardly needed to get out of the saddle, one rough section of road for a few km otherwise good surface, well-signed and marshalled with aid stations every 20-30km. The time went by quickly; battered by the wind and rain, I had been picking off riders, making up ground, and coming to the turnaround I was able to count the riders in front and reckoned to be around 10th position, with an unknown number of those being team, aqua and epic distance riders. The bike and wheels behaved perfectly, I had worried about using the disc rear and 60mm front Flo wheels in strong winds, but I had no issues with control at all. Cool moment, as I came past the end of the airport runway, a plane was coming in to land right over me. I felt comfortable the whole way, though the last 25km I maybe pushed a bit hard, into a strong headwind on rolling roads. Off in 5:28:19 – right on target. Proved to be the 2nd fastest bike split amongst iron racers and 6th fastest overall, though Sam Gyde’s 4:44 made everything else laughable, but then he has won his age group in the world championships the last two years!
Nutrition: 5 Clif bars and 5 bottles of Gatorade.
Zipped through T2 in a speedy 1:57! As soon as I started the run, I knew it was going to be a slog. Whether the last three weeks of no running had more impact than I thought, or whether I pushed the bike too hard, I don’t know, but I started off slow, and got slower. The first lap, I ran 10.55km in under an hour – good enough, and I didn’t lose too much more on the second lap, but the third lap was a real struggle mentally and physically, I lost 16min and my hope of my goal time. The final lap was slightly better, I revised my goals and was happy in myself. Although I had no clear idea of where I was overall, I knew I was ahead of some of my key age-groupers. Thankfully, I had no major injury upset, though my right achilles got sore at one point – generally you are in a fair degree of pain by this point. There are some significant uphill sections on this run, and I had to walk them on the last half. Otherwise, I managed to keep the slow plod going.
Nutrition: Gu gel roughly every half hour at water stations 1 and 3. Gatorade and water at stations 2, 4 and 5. Some cola on the final lap.
The final few kilometres are a joy though, you know you’re going to make it and you can relax a bit. Coming in to the last 500m is one of the most epic experiences you can have, but the best part was having Jane there at the end to share it with – she made a lot of this possible, picking up the slack from the the time I spend training, and supporting me through the rough spots. Thank you.
So, what did all that training time amount to? Apart from a very gammy toe and the inability to tackle stairs unassisted? Overall time was 11:08:18, good enough in the small field for 1st in my 45-49 age group, and 4th overall! So, I didn’t hit all my goals, but hey! I’m plenty pleased with that…:-)
More than that though, and one of the reasons ironman (with a small ‘i’) is so popular is because it is so life-affirming. I’m 46 bloody years old… and in the best shape of my life. I might have failed in some areas of my life, but in this; when I take control over controllable things, make a plan, read my body’s reactions and learn, face up to my fears and worries, laugh at the pain – *and overcome it all* – that, my friends, is what it’s all about, really what it is all about.
I’ll do a more in-depth think-through of where things went right and wrong in this week’s review – and also consider what to do with this blog! Thanks for listening.