Despite being literally the first into transition at 5am, without Mr. Punctual Lord for company, I still found myself making my way to the start of the swim with not many minutes to spare. A warm up consisting of the swim out to the start line was sufficient, I thought. By chance I had managed to find a good spot to start from and experienced no crowding or kicking at all when the gun went off. This remained the case for the entire swim – the worst aggression being dealt by myself as I instinctively reacted to someone trying to swim over my legs with a sharp breasts-stroke kick. I felt pretty awful when it connected very solidly with a soft body and dared not look around, fearing a red card from a kayak marshal…but aside from this, and the inexplicable ‘squeezing’ as we passed each buoy (as if everyone felt that it was necessary to swim up to, and touch, the buoys on their way round the course) my experience of the swim was very calm. I felt that I was swimming well – focused and with a steady level of effort, for some of the time hanging on feet and chasing other ahead for a bit more speed periodically. I exited the water in 63 minutes – a bit slower than my optimal target, but fast than the time than I was expecting based on my recent swim training. The long and crowd-lined run into T1 provided plenty of excitement and the chance to pass a few more people.
It was a fast transition, despite putting on more clothing than usual because of the cool and wet conditions – tri top, arm warmers, compression socks and the lovely new waterproof gilet that I’d purchased the day before. Because of the wet weather and grassy transition, I also put my bike shoes on for the run to my bike….
As we rode out, Steven was there telling me I was 10 places down and about 5 minutes behind the lead. Keeping in mind the advice about ‘patience on the bike’ I kept an eye on my Powertap as we rode out of town and up the hill. The numbers seemed a little strange – very high. I could not really believe that I was riding at those watts, but thought that adrenaline may be playing tricks on my legs and levels of perceived effort. Keep it steady, drink some water and get some food in was the plan or the 1st 30 -40 minutes. Still the power numbers looked high… but I felt very comfortable and I was not willing to drop back off the pace of the group I was riding with. Pretty soon it was clear that the power data was doing something screwy when the numbers made a rapid drop, and eventually just sat between 0 and 15 watts. O it was back to old style riding which involved finding some riders to keep pace with, passing any female that I could see ahead and/or keeping up pace with any female rider who passed me. In the fist quarter of the course I passed two girls and 2 passed me – we would to and fro a little through the ride before I eventually came in ahead of them. There was sufficiently little wind out there that it was hard to tell whether there was a head or a tail wind. During the second quarter, the first time back from the far turnaround, the rain showers started …and my cycle computer eventually decided that was too much, and packed in. bummer. Lucky I had started the chronograph on my wrist watch and was able to use the ride time display on the Powertap (still reading 0 watts but measuring speed) I figured that I had to finish the ride in 6 hours 30 total to be in with a good chance of my sub 10 hour target, and the maths kept me entertained for that tough stretch of the ride. On the back way out of town for the second lap, the Powertap sprang back to life and was giving readings which tallied with my perceived effort and I was able to use this t maintain an effort for the next hours or so. This was the best stretch of riding – speedy Iron-virgin Stephen Thompson caught and passed me at the start of the second lap, and we exchanged a bit of banter as we changed positions a few times during this leg of the ride. I think it helped us both keep on pace. I concentrated on keeping my power at target race watts, eating and drinking and keeping and looking out for the many people that I knew out on the course to give a shout to. The final leg back to town was tough. I found my power dropping very easily and it became more and more of a conscious effort to get back onto target watts. I wondered if the ‘tap was working or not but felt that it was quite likely that I was a little cooked. Still, I was passing more riders than passed me and I was motivating myself by racing for the 6:30 hours back to town. With 20k to do in 30 min I realized that I would miss that deadline…but 10 hours was still achievable if I ran the sort of marathon I was hoping to.
Steven yelling that I was 11 minutes down at the start of the run and to ‘ unleash it now’ motivated me to start out at a very fast pace. I had exited transition with one of the girls in my age group who I’d been vying with through out the ride and to avoid a shoulder to shoulder battle through the marathon wanted to shake her off quickly. The first km was pretty painful for me, but I could hear by her breathing that she was less comfortable with the 4:15/km pace and pushed on for another km like this. It must have looked impressive as we got some real cheers as we ran through the crowds. Steven yelled that I’d made up a minute in the first 2km’ …my pursuer, Amanda, was no longer in sight as I pushed up the hill out of town and I was working out that even slowing to my target 4:30-40 pace I’d catch the lead by half way. I managed to hold this for the first 13km…out to the turnaround at 5 mile bay and start of the main hill – a km long drag past the airport. This uphill lap was 5:20 (compared to 5min on the way over the first time) and I found myself unable to run freely over the top to make up the deficit. From this point on my lap splits dropped massively to 5:10’s and it was hurting. Though I thought I’d be able to live with the pain in my legs, I just did not have anything within to push harder. I ate some gel, which helped keep me moving, but still stuck on a painful plod. I’d blown – and not even 1/3 of the way. That run was the toughest ever – it was obvious that I was a long way from catching the 2 girls ahead of me and would be lucky to achieve a 3:30 run, which was mentally very had to deal with. There seemed little point in putting in any effort after that, and the temptation to walk through aid stations and eat the cookies and chocolate bars was huge. Seeing lots of friends out on the course, in varying conditions themselves, but all cheerful, kept me going; I’d be ashamed of myself for giving up on it so easily. So, I’d stuffed up. Yeah. But I came into this race, as always, prepared for that. I had no excuses; the conditions had been perfect (ok, could have been a bit more sunshine!) No technical problems other than the irritating Powertap/cycle computer and I’d certainly done the training for the distance. I’d simply executed badly - so ‘suck it up’.
Splits dropped to about 5:20’s on the second lap – until I caught sight of Amanda again at the far turnaround. Not very far behind. I reckoned that I was in 3rd place still and he though to losing that was sufficient motivation to dig in and I managed to claw back 10 seconds or so a lap for the last leg. Oh my god it felt like my last legs. During the final 3km I wondered if I was about to collapse – never having done so before I just didn’t know how it’d feel just before crumpling…and I was having trouble staying in a straight line, or even on the pavement! This is usually my favourite part of the race, where I’d pick up the pace and soak in the feeling, sprinting to the chute, but none of that today. I did manage a final dash down to the line, just in case there was anyone close, but I was really just pleased for it to be over, chalked up as experience, a lesson learned and move on.
And, actually, despite my disasterous run i did manage the 7th fastest female marathon of the day :o)
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