Time: 4:52:09 Swim: 24:33 T1: 4:53 Bike: 2:48:12 T2: 1:58 Run: 1:32:31
I was looking forward to this race. For the first time in a while I’d had a proper break from racing. My last race was Kona last year. It meant that not only had I had a solid winter of training but I was also really keen to race. That said I was focussed on Roth so I didn’t ease off till the week before this race and even then I still wanted this week to be a good weeks training. With this in mind I did a big day on Monday, then had three easy days mainly swimming and one long run. Then Friday I did 6 hour swim bike day. Given the level of riding I’ve been doing I was uncomfortable not riding the day before the race so I went out on our club ride though I sat in more than normal.
I felt relaxed about the race until I went to bed at which point my mind was racing and I didn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. As ever as soon as I got up my nerves disappeared. Having recently moved in to a new house we had plenty of space and had lots of friends staying over for the race. It was such fun to have race breakfast with so many.
I arrived early at the race and checked bike was OK and then left transition to relax. I was in the second wave which wasn’t in my favour giving no chance to latch on to a pro pack and almost certainly meaning a lot of traffic. I wandered down to the start early to make sure I was on the front line. I realised I’d not put any vaseline round my neck but wasn’t worried as I’d got used to the fact that since I started using the BlueSeventy Helix I’ve never had any rubbing issues on my neck.
The water was freezing. Like last year it was a civilised start with hardly anyone wanting to be on the front line. In fact, there were only a few swimmers in line with me at the start with a pretty substantial gap behind. Felt a little bizarre just like the start. We were told a minute to go and then the next thing I notice is all the swimmers I can see over my right shoulder have started swimming at which point I think I heard a hooter and just got going. For about 200m it felt like loads of people were close and then they all just dropped off leaving me on the toes of a guy. I stayed there until I got sick of his line and decided to swim on my own. Hindsight it a great thing, should have stuck with him as he swam a minute quicker than me. The water was cold and my breathing was overly rapid for the first 5 minutes. My hands were feeling numb reducing my feel for the water but I was pleased that the Helix has very thin forearms which helps you feel the water on your forearms.
I’d caught people before the first turn buoy and by the final 500m it was just non-stop breast strokers. I felt for them. I was a solo swimmer and could go round them but they would soon get mown down by a big back. Same thing running up to transition – I was racing whilst everyone around me was pootling. So apologies to any reader than I shouldered by ! To top it all T1 was like a war zone. A few friends were pleased I experienced it “welcome to my world” I heard more than once. I could only just find some clear ground to get myself sorted. Numb fingers didn’t help and it seemed to take an age to get my wetsuit off.
Could it get worse ? Yes ! The bike mount line. There was hardly space to get through and even when I got going there were people randomly weaving all over the place. All I could think of was to get past as many people as I could on the first hill. Looking at my power file I see I didn’t drop below 300 watts for the ascent and I must have passed 100s of people. My plan on the ride was to just see what I could and ride it completely on feel. I wasn’t monitoring power or HR just looking at time to motivate me.
Out on the course once the previous wave had thinned out it became a real advantage being in the second wave as I had a constant stream of people up the road to chase down. Also mentally it was so much easier than last year. When it was one wave I passed virtually no one after the swim but had loads passing me. This year I had two people pass me on the bike and no one pass me on the run but must have passed the best part of a 1,000 people ! That is very motivational.
I decided to ride with minimal liquid given the number of aid stations and how little I tend to drink riding so I started with about 200ml of water and at aid stations took a little water but never really rode with any just dumping the surplus. I had my gel mix as usual but dropped it on one of the descents on the first lap having only had a single sip (at most one gels worth). End of first lap in 1:25. Last year I faded I was hoping not this year. I was riding so much better feeling stronger on the second lap. Thought it best to have something to eat so grabbed a bit of banana. I ended up finishing the bike in 2:48 having maybe drunk 500ml and had one gel and a third of a banana.
Now was, for me, the key part of the race – how would I run. I’ve been running so much better, finally feeling I’m near full recovery from my foot surgery after 3 years, but the real test is can I run well in a race. It was also a test of my new FiveFinger Spyridons – an off road shoe that I’ve been impressed with in training – possibly the most comfortable I’ve tried. Sub 2 minute transition shows that putting them on can’t be that costly. On this course they proved perfect – the sole provides good grip both going up and going down, they’re light and keep your foot very close to the ground making it virtually impossible to turn an ankle. They’re also not quite so in your face so for the first time I didn’t hear a single comment about my footwear.
I started out solid on the run and grabbed a gel at the first aid station knowing I better get some gels down me given how little I’d had on the bike. I think I perhaps went off a little too fast and it felt so hard but by the second lap I relaxed, heart came down, perceived effort down and pace up. I felt good. I could see I was leading my AG and it seemed my competition was a ways back. I continued having a gel every other aid station stopping after the dam on my final lap. It was great to feel so strong running.
I crossed the line pretty sure I’d won my age group and absolutely chuffed to bits. Back in 2009 when I aged up Jo and I had left work to train full time with the aim for me being to storm my new age group and get some age group wins. I never got to test it when I bust my foot. It was very satisfying indeed to just over three years later finally get that age group win. I knew it would take patience to get back from that injury and after three years the patience is paying off. What is most exciting though is that it feels like I’m just starting to run well and that there is massive room for further improvement.