5:37:25 165th M45-49, 1,498th overall !! 0:25:57 Swim 0:05:35 T1 2:36:38 Bike 0:07:25 T2 2:21:50 Run
This race went so much better than expected. You can see from the race preview I was far from prepped for this race. I really wanted to finish, that was the only goal. That said there was a lot of evidence that I would no way be able to finish. Last time I’d swum I’d hardly been able to walk for the rest of the day and for several weeks now I couldn’t walk more than a kilometre or so without it becoming uncomfortable enough that I’d need to stop. I was certain I couldn’t walk a half marathon, my hope was that running would be more comfortable. This feeling was confirmed when two days before the race I walked in to Zell Am See and then walked to Rogers hotel to have dinner there. I was limping badly enough on the way up to the hotel that at the end of the meal I find that Roger has ordered me a cab knowing there’s no way I could walk home. I was concerned enough that I canned the practise swim on Saturday as I didn’t want to walk and I rode to racking whilst Rachel carried my bags (I know not very gentlemanly).
My wave wasn’t off till 11:26 which meant a very civilised start. it also confirmed what I long suspected – my lack of sleep the night before a race is due to the imminence of it starting on getting up. I slept well getting 8 hours with only waking twice.
Sat in transition before the race Roger asked what my plan was for the swim and whether I considered going easy to ease in to it. I’d not considered it pointing out I wasn’t sure my ego would let me. I went to warm up and felt ok. I lined myself up to the right which should be the least congested side as its an anti clockwise course. The gun goes. Instantly any thought of easy was out the door. Strong few strokes and I was clear. Back felt ok. Pushed on for a few minutes. Then the very laboured breathing had me easing a little knowing I had to get my breathing under control. Looking left I could see the lead pack and joined it. Brilliant ! From there it was a fantastic swim. As we caught the earlier wave I drifted off the back of the pack and concentrated on long strokes and keeping comfortable. My back was progressively aching and by the last 400m it was pretty bad. I tentatively got out (4th in my age group – I’d be over the moon with that if I’d had full swim training let alone what i have done) wondering whether I’d be able to walk.
Start jogging very easy. Back ok. phew! Rachel gives a big cheer. She did well to get to that spot. Jog a little faster. No heel pain! What ! My mood was already good now it was building. Got to my bike.
Carefully mounted and kept telling myself you’re not racing, you’ve not trained just go easy. This lasted for a couple of KMs before I put my head down. I’d ridden the course in early July and knew how quick it would be. I averaged 41km/h through 20k to the bottom of the long climb. There’s a fast descent into the first uphill curve. Glad I noticed the crash matts they’d mounted at the end of the bend as it made me shed some speed, I needed to.
They’d kindly put up additional markers telling you how many KMs to the summit. Hit the climb, started passing people. 300 watts, brain clearly not properly engaged as rather than telling myself to back off I was encouraging myself that this was great. Seems my mind was thinking I was back at the fitness of 2 months ago. I survived to the top and headed down the technical (more technical than I remembered) descent. I have to admit I over cooked a couple of corners early on largely because of passing very tentative riders and then approaching the corner too fast. I found myself taking the piss out of myself in my head as I’ve made numerous comments about descents like this in races as people switch on their race brain and switch off common sense. Here’s me doing precisely that.
The rest of the ride is again super fast. With 10k to go it was pretty clear that I’d ridden a little above my fitness as my quads started to cramp. I eased back a little. Too little too late I was sure but probably a little better than trying to hammer right to the line.
No rush ! Didn’t want to find out too soon I couldn’t walk and the race be over. Vibrams on, eat a bar, drink lots of water. Get asked by medic if I’m ok. I’m more than OK, I’ve already got further than I thought I might.
Start tentatively. no pain. Run a bit harder, no pain. However, I feel a twinge of cramp in my quad. Hit first KM in 5:07 and have a brief irrational moment of believing perhaps this won’t take over 2 hours. From there it slowed. In town the crowd was fantastic. Rachel shouted at me I tried to indicate I was OK. In fact, more than OK as I felt sure I could get round. The problem now wasn’t the heel but the cramp. After 7k I had to walk to ease off the cramp. From that point on I was able to run at most 2k at a time, normally less before I had to ease it off. It was a balancing act as walking was uncomfortable.
Luckily it’s a very well supported and beautiful course. That kept me distracted. I was so happy to be able to run pain free that the cramp was easy to deal with. Towards the turn around on the second lap this american lady heard me telling Robin about my cramp and as she came by she thrust gel in my hand telling me it would save me but to take it with water. At the next aid I took “The Right Stuff” gel – disgusting and vvvv salty. A couple of KM later and it felt like I wouldn’t cramp. Was it the gel or the fact there was only 3k to go. I didn’t care.
I was so enjoying it now. Coming down the finish chute I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that crossing the line.