ETU Long Course, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain 2010

Time: 6:33:23
Swim (4k): 56:36
T1: 1:24
Bike (120k): 3:11:19
T2: 1:07
Run (30k): 2:22:58
4th Age Grouper, 4th M40-44

Race Analysis here.

Had a great nights sleep. 8 hours. Thats superb for me. Didn’t really feel any nerves till the morning and had to force down some breakfast. This is a small field and wave start with only about 60 in my wave. It made me realise that it’s the mass start that really gets my nerves.

The Elite men went off at 9am, then Elite ladies at 9:05, M19-34 at 9:20 and then my wave M35-44 at 9:25. I had a simple aim for the swim – to pass as many of the wave ahead as I could. My overall race strategy was to try and get to the front of the age group field on the bike and then race the run and try to hang on.

As an ITU race they set the age groupers off the same way as the Elites. This meant we lined up on the small beach in numeric order. I like this as it saves the stress of fighting for the “best” position. It also means you’re alongside your british teammates who hopefully will try not to give you a good bashing. Given the size of the wave I felt there was a very good chance I’d be the fastest swimmer.

The gun goes and no one around seems to rush into the water. Almost instantly I’m on my own. I can see to my right there’s a big pack forming quite quickly – this must be the M35-39 guys. I decide not to merge with them but to just go comfortably hard and see how they progress. A few minutes later they seem to be holding my pace and I start to move over thinking I will merge in with them. no sooner had I thought that than I’m suddenly several body lengths up. I think, whereas I went steady from the gun, they sprinted and now settled down. I quickly decided to keep away from them and push to ensure a gap as they tried to move across to my toes. I got the gap and pushed on. My breathing was heavy now and I consciously got it under control. 1k in and I’m starting to pass the wave ahead. At the turn I can look over my shoulder and see where the chasers are. They’re still in sight which spurs me on. I keep passing the wave ahead which soon thins out showing I’m getting towards the front of their wave as well.

Exit the swim in just over 56 minutes and get to transition to find only maybe have a dozen bikes gone. Very pleased I head out on the bike.

Early on the bike it feels hard to get the power down but I feel like eating. So I munch some jelly babies and swig a load of my gel mix. By about 20k I really start to feel good and drop the guy I’ve been toing and froing with. I have my power meter on but really just to get some data. I do notice how high my heart rate is. Higher than I thought it would be but it doesn’t influence me as I’ve never raced with it before. It feels right. I spent the whole bike reeling in the odd person ahead. At one point my gel bottle spills from my bike on a speed bump. Minutes later a motorcyclist comes by beeping his horn. I look over and he’s got my bottle and hands it back to me ! Thats service.

Nutrition is going great on the bike. My gels and jelly babies are going down a treat. My stomach is feeling great so when I finish my gels I think “fill your boots” and start taking carb drink. Towards the end of the ride I was catching female Elites and it seemed I got the final few age groupers. it was nice to get in to T2 and see only Elite bikes sitting there. I headed out on the run knowing I was leading the race.

Plan now was to put it out there and run hard. There was logic to this. Firstly there’s an out and back of about 1.5k total around the 7k mark. I felt I would have a decent lead off the bike and the hope was to get through that out and back without them seeing me. Out of sight out of mind was my thought. The other point was I didn’t want them thinking they could catch me. If they had someone give a time check at T2 at 7k I didn’t want that to have come down. I felt great running. First 3ks at 4:15 pace and then settled to 4:30s. At the out and back I saw the guy in second 5 minutes down and the guy in 3rd 6 minutes. They’d both seen me unfortunately.

I went through 10k in 44 minutes and started to really believe I could win.  I certainly felt at this pace if they chased me down they deserved it. Got through 15k at 66 minutes and there was a step change in my pace. I suddenly dropped to just under 5 min Ks. I took some more food wondering if that was the issue. I take one of the gels which tasted horrible. It doesn’t upset my stomach so I just put up with the bad taste and take others periodically. I could now not lift my heart rate, my legs that were limiting me. I remembered something Clas had told me about you settle into your comfortable pace and for me that seems to be 5 min Ks at the moment. I was starting to suffer but was telling myself I can’t ease off or relax until I’m in 4th !!

At the turnaround the guy in second was now within a minute and 3rd just over 4 minutes. I knew I wouldn’t hold on for gold but felt silver was a real chance and I’d seen no one else so it felt Bronze was in the bag. I was passed bang on the 20k marker – I’d lead the age group field from start to that point. I managed to maintain just under 5 min Ks through to 25k and then I suffered and they crept over 5 mins. I was pleased that though I was suffering I didn’t completely fall apart.

Then at about 26k there’s a right angle turn so I look over my shoulder to see if I can see the 3rd place guy. He’s there but I also see a german closing who has his number all scrunched up (looked VERY intentional to me) and when he passes I see he’s my age group. I’d not spotted him on the out and backs because he wasn’t showing his number so I’d have thought he was Elite. This sort of practice really hacks me off – it’s just not sportsmanlike. I make sure my number is visible. I reckon they should give warnings and then penalties for it. To me it’s verging on cheating. So he goes by and I’m now in 3rd. With 2k to go I get passed again into 4th. Those two were racing hard because by the finish I was 3 minutes behind 3rd place !

I ended up 4th M40-44 in 6:33:23. I am very happy with my race as I’d really raced my heart it. It’s the hardest I’ve raced in a long time. When I saw the results online I found that I was also 4th age grouper overall. Thats both very pleasing and slightly annoying. Any other age group and I’d have won. What are all these young guys playing at letting four forty plus old guys beat them.

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