SHORT REPORT SWIM: 24:28 T1: 05:03 BIKE: 2:57:58 T2: 02:13 RUN; 1:43:54 TOTAL: 5:13:36 3rd M45-49, 58th overall
The problem with a local race is that being at home my normal process for packing transition bags is changed – as a result I managed to forget to pack a few things. First, spare glasses which i always pack in case my lens come out. Secondly, my run cap which given I’d shaved my head I was rather hoping it wouldn’t be sunny, and finally I didn’t consider sticking anything in my T1 bag for bad weather other than arm warmers
As I stood in my Blueseventy Helix waiting for the start and the heavens opened I rued my forgetfulness.
I was in the second wave having only recently heard that you could choose to go in the earlier wave. If Ironman didn’t send so many spam emails I may well have picked this up. Whether I would have changed is another thing. I do feel it’s a flawed idea. With World Championship slots up for grabs I don’t think they should allow age groups to separate. In fact, if they really want to remove congestion from this course then go the whole hog. Do age group waves and set them off in pace order based on the average time for each age group in the previous year.
This does mean the swim is very civilised as there’s loads of space and no one is really fighting for the front spot. I’d met up with Matt Malloy before hand and we got together on the start. Over the years we’ve been pretty much similar swim speed and it seemed a good idea to set off together. The gun went and I had my usual quick start and got a bit of a gap on Matt. We took a slightly different line but I could see him throughout and by the first turn buoy we were right next to each other. I’d decided I was going to give the swim and bike full beans as I felt in great shape. This meant arriving at the buoy with Matt, I knew he was swimming well so I hopped on his feet and let him take me through the previous wave. I was ready at the second buoy to take over the lead if he eased up but he just kept going, later telling me he ‘did one for the team’ (as he wasn’t in shape to race!). We came out in 24:28, my fastest swim there and right on my threshold swim pace. I did what I thought was the right thing and let Matt cross the timing mat first so he registered the fastest time. We were first two out in our wave and had the 4th and 5th fastest splits of everyone.
As expected T1 was carnage. I got myself sorted and looked for my T1 mars bar which I was so looking for. I couldn’t find it. Even unpacked my wetsuit to look. As I ran through transition I had two bizarre thoughts. First “who would have gone through my T1 bag to grab my mars bar!” and then “could the mars bar be in my cycle shoes and me not notice”. Perhaps I was still a little cold.
The mount line was also carnage. So many people looking like they were about to fall off as they teetered with feet on top of shoes. No racing till across the bridge. Then I hit it. Full bore trying to pass as many as possible. It’s quite motivating and generally people are quite considerate as I kept shouting “move as far left as you can”. Only a few times did I need to back off the gas.
It was so wet I couldn’t read my power meter but I kept pushing. The previous few weekends I’d consistently been doing 140+ mile rides feeling strong so I was convinced I wouldn’t fall apart. By about halfway round the lap it felt like I’d got through the worst of it with fewer groups to pass. Having done Haddon Hill I came through the fast corner at Upton and minutes later realised I had a flat rear tyre.
I stopped to fix it. First thing that went through my head was that’s race over. In that moment I’d given up and was just fixing the tyre to get home. I then remembered my goal TSS for this week and it required me doing the race. Then I thought “you’ve had a rest, this will do you good”. Before I knew it the puncture was fixed, I was back on my bike and I was racing. I’ve mentally rehearsed puncturing numerous times but in 14 years this is the first. It was very interesting and enlightening to see my very first reaction. It probably helped me keep calm to fix it. Whilst fixing it I realised that I wasn’t out of the race. In fact, the main thing that was gutting was I know I was on for a very quick bike split. Looking at my standing time the puncture took 5:20 to fix. I think the slowing down, re-starting means it cost at most six minutes.
I hadn’t found the cause of the puncture so the rest of the race was spent with this tiny niggle at the back of my brain. Soon I was re-passing people and I was back in the zone. I still finished the bike in just under 2:58 and was second in my wave with one guy (“Katie” on his number ??” came by just towards the end of the lap.)
On came my new Vibram Trek Ascents with a fantastic new off road sole. As soon as I started running I could feel my heel. I’ve been having some problems with my left foot. I believe brought on through a combination of increased run training on a foot that is at a “bio-mechanical disadvantage” following FHL repair and (stupidly) wearing flip flops (which are now in the bin). If I hadn’t been leading my age group (in my wave) I would have (and should have) pulled out. It was a little frustrating as the foot pain was a limiter. There were a few occasions where the terrain is nice and regular and I ran well, but the uneven grass on the field by transition was a nightmare, as I was clearly planting this foot wrong and it was straining the side of my leg above the ankle. It got progressively worse as the run went on.
Still, I was relatively pleased with the run. It wasn’t ridiculously bad. Early on I was at 4:30 / KM pace and I was sub 5 min for the whole run. On the last lap I kept pushing thinking that I had no idea how any my age group in the previous wave were going and I thought it’d be a nice surprise for those that chose to move up to get beat from the second wave.
I finished over the moon with my performance. I’d felt very fit but was not confident as I’d felt the same for South Africa and had a terrible race. This confirmed that I can tell if I’m in good shape. Perhaps what I struggle with is knowing whether I’m recovered or not. I was struggling walking which confirmed what I’d thought during the run: running Four Trails next week would be bonkers.
When the results went up I felt really quite gutted – 3rd in my age group just under 4 minutes behind the winner. I did get a World Championships slot which I’d decided a few days before that I would take if I got one. It’s nice to feel really excited about heading out to race! I wonder whether 70.3 is actually a much better distance for me.