SHORT REPORT 0:54:08 - Swim 0:03:35 - T1 6:08:36 - Bike 0:06:56 - T2 4:15:44 - Run 11:28:59 - TOTAL - 34th M45-49, 271st Overall
I slept pretty well for me before the race. I wasn’t quite as nervous as usual I think for a couple of reasons. The main one was going in the second wave as I felt confident it should be easy to get a good start and a clear swim. I also had felt great in the days before the race and felt I was ready to finally race well again.
The hotel put on the full buffet for breakfast plus things people had requested, like porridge. I had a couple of eggs and three rashers of bacon forced down with a few coffees. I was relaxed enough that though transition was open 5am till 6:15am I only got there at 5:45am. Bike was ok so within a couple of minutes I was out of transition and met up with Roger and Neil. We got in the queue for the loos and I wondered out loud whether there was someone in every one of them as I’d seen it happen before that everyone was queueing waiting for someone to exit but some were empty. I noticed one of the ones I was queueing for was green but the guy at the front of the queue took some persuading to check the door. It was empty.
We relaxed and chatted before heading to the masses getting ready to enter the start pen. We were the last wave off at 7am. It was all rather civilised and I got stood on the front line in the middle without any problems. They did a proper count down to the start. not the normal a minute to go then the gun. We were told 20s, then 10s, I counted down in my head BOOM charged in to the water lifting my feet high to get as deep as possible. A larger wave was coming in, I dived over and started swimming. Within a matter of strokes I was clear and about 100m out I could see there was no one matching my pace.
By the first turn buoy (about 300m) I reckon I had at least 20m on the next person in the wave, I’d relaxed in to a very comfortable pace, did some bilateral breathing, even a little backstroke just to double check no one was going to get on my feet. The sighting was so tough – it was 500m between the sighting buoys and there was big chop. They also had the buoys for the return leg the same colour as the outbound leg. I sight every stroke initially using “crocodile eyes” scanning the horizon over several strokes till I see the buoy. Once I spot it on several consecutive strokes I sight less often to check I’m on line. The first buoy I saw must have been one of the return buoys as I initially went too far left. I then headed towards the cranes but didn’t spot a buoy for so long I ended up stopping completely, taking my goggles off and looking. Never done that before. I was slightly off course so sighted for the second buoy now as no point going directly back to the first. After about 10 minutes I noticed a kayak right close and ended up stopping again for him to ask me to move right !! I finally got a good landmark to work off and the rest of the swim was uneventful. The return leg was easier as I could aim for the pier and could judge by where most swimmers were. Passing the previous wave was easy as clearly everyone was finding sighting difficult so they were spread out across about 100m I reckon!
I really enjoyed the swim. It was as planned very relaxed and easy. The only error in execution was the sighting after the first turn.
I exited the water and had a camera guy with a GoPro running a long filming me and then a ref pointed at me and said first. I was in a great mood and looking forward to the rest of the race.
On the bike I was determined to hold back as I was pretty certain the second half of each lap was going to be very tough. I monitored my power and kept holding back to keep it at the lower end of my target range. By the halfway round the lap I must admit I was a little surprised that I was down to 6th in my age group. My power numbers seemed reasonable. We turned in to the headwind and I kept at it feeling reasonably ok. Still more guys in my age group came by and I was getting more and more perplexed, I was feeling less energetic and my mood was worsening. Towards the end of the lap Roger passed me, I was guessing he must have caught me for 10 minutes in under a lap. Given we typically ride within minutes of each other he was either having a stormer or I was way off the pace. My watts were 239 (about 3.1w/kg) but I was heading to about 3hrs for one lap. I started to wonder if something was wrong. As my mood had changed I started the second lap and started to eat more as I wondered whether that was it. Now I felt to have so little energy, I was fading and I hadn’t even pushed the first lap. I gave up counting where I was when I hit 27th in my age group. Perhaps my power meter was over reading as I’d been aero other than the hills and that just seemed way too slow for what power I was showing. However, if it was reading high my situation was even worse as I was feeling tired and my numbers were low.
Luckily I had kept enough back so I kept aero on the return in to the wind and was moving faster than most around me. This was encouraging but I couldn’t get away from how tired I was. I’d got through my gel bottle (18 power bar gels) by 135k and was now taking on fuel at aid stations. It wasn’t a lack energy. It also wasn’t my legs feeling overworked. I managed short periods where I pushed harder on the way back, felt like my normal riding but they didn’t last.
As I approached town I was pretty much decided to pull out. I could only think I was coming down with an illness and I was persuading myself the sensible thing to do was to pull out. I then persuaded myself to have a talk to myself when I was in transition.
So in T2, I sat down and ate my mars bar and considered what to do. I decided that I should at least start running and see how I feel. At least I’d get some training benefit by running off the bike. I’d also been dreaming of coke as I finished the bike. If there’d been some in T2 I may not have left but to get some I had to get to the first aid station. Also last night I’d dreamt of running like a dream. perhaps it would be right. I would just run the first out and back that was 4k and I’d be back next to transition.
I walked the first aid station drinking a couple of cups of coke. Then I got running and by the 2nd KM I was running sub 5min Ks and I felt the best I had all day. After 4k I’d told myself I should at least run the whole lap so I’d seen the full course. For the next few KMs I was still around 5 min / ks and I was thinking I could get my best run in years. I told myself I’m not going to go through another marathon with lots of walking. As soon as I walked I would pull out. I couldn’t face that torture again.
I slowed towards the end of the first lap but was still on 3:40 pace which was enough to convince me to get on to the next lap but within 2k I was walking. No idea why I continued but I did. I walked very slow as I approached the 18k marker which was by the bike in and out. I lowered my cap as I was pretty upset as I had this discussion in my head about pulling out and continuing. Martin came by, lapping me and looked to be toughing it out. He told me to get some sugar in. I was certain that thats not what I needed but it didn’t matter it was the kick in the arse I needed. It felt like he fully expected me to do whatever to tough it out. It added weight to one side of my internal dialogue. The discussion lasted long enough to get me past transition and for some reason I didn’t feel I could pull out before most of the pros and the first age groupers had finished. Logic had gone, it didn’t matter, just whatever harebrained reason kept me going.
I was in a pretty bad way as I climbed the hill to the university and the 21k marker. Could see it and thought “shit, I’m only halfway”. Yet another mental battle started. Now I could sniff finishing but I couldn’t see how I would get on to the final lap. I focussed on the marker and decided it was trigger, when I passed it I would execute “The Florida Manoeuvre” thus named when I did it in OtillO. I started running properly and walked the aid stations with a purpose. It was fun! I was running faster than most around me and was running sub 5 min Ks. I ran the next 5k in 24 minutes including walking aid stations. It felt good and started to focus on a negative split and running under 4hrs for the first time in years. I kept 5 min ks through to the 29k and was on the last lap.
I then walked. I can’t even say why. I found myself walking again. Now though I knew I would finish. I continued the Florida Manoeuvre but the walks were getting longer and the runs were creeping closer to 5:30s
Once in the University and with 5k to go I managed to run much more than I walked and at last the finish line was in sight.
I was proud to finish but so gutted and very upset at the performance. I’ve had poor races before but this felt so at odds with how I felt going in to the race. Working out that out is for another time.