Monday, 7 September 2009

settling - the vitruvian

I was pretty pleased with my swim, having had a good, clear start and made what I felt were sensible moves between the feet that I followed. I was able to get decent draught for most of the way round, swimming at moderate effort for pace that would have been hard to unsustainable under my own efforts alone. The two 950m laps were broken with a land buoy to run around, and this is a nice break from green/brown murk and a chance to survey the spread of the field. 3 of us raced around together – the feet i’d been following and someone from behind (who passed me when, to save my poor feet from the sharp pebbles, I dived back into about 3 inches of water and found myself crawling along the bottom) and there were a half dozen or so red caps already a little way into their second lap.

Running up the exit mat and fumbling cold fingered for my wetsuit zip, I noted my time about 30min, and was pleased with this – a minute ahead of last time. So far on plan.
I met Helen Smith from Thames Turbo on the bike mount line and recalling her speed from racing Olympic distance against her, pushed on up the hill out of transition. It was damn cold and this was good incentive to keep working the pedals hard. I knew that I was going to really have to crank this course if I was going to challenge last year’s winner who would be well up the road ahead of me by now, and keep the pressure on to produce a very fast run – her weaker discipline, if it could be called that!
After an hour I’d passed all but 2 girls who I knew I’d unlikely catch sight of until the run and so it was a case of not loosing too much more time. I rode within a cluster of guys, passing one another back and forth as the terrain varied to suit our relative strengths, thinking that this was helping keep my momentum up. However when my friend Helen came breezily by with a cheerful ‘hi Jo’ I was given a bit of a jolt into reality. Not wishing to take anything from Helen, who is a very good and dedicated long distance triathlete, but she’s not someone that I’d previously considered to be serious competition. And here she was, not only passing but riding away from me up that hill….there didn’t seem to be much that I could do about it either – it seemed that I could not find another level of effort. Was it my legs, or my mind? From that point the mental battles began. I figured that I’d catch Helen on the run for sure…putting me back 3rd place, and that is where it happened: I settled for third. Half way through the bike course, half of me (or more) gave up on the race. The other half of me was then obliged to devote precious energy that could have been used for thinking positive and inspiring thoughts, arguing a case for continued best efforts from the legs and pushing on into severe discomfort regardless of the rest of the race. Late in the second lap I was passed again, by a girl riding at such apparent speed that I assumed she must be part of a relay team. I could not figure how it had taken so long to catch me at that pace, or why her number was out of sequence with the rest of the ladies. I pushed it a little more to keep her in my sights, realizing that it had been a mistake to loose visual contact with Helen, but lost her when I found myself caight behind a large slow moving horse truck.
The Vitruvian bike route, 2 laps of the Dambuster Triathon course follows secondarty roads around Rutland Water. The roads are rolling and potentially fast, but also winding and narrow in places so are marked with double white central lines. The race just happens to be on the same day as a major local horse show…and so by about 8.30am the roads become jammed with cars and trucks unable to pass cyclists, and unpassable as they crawl along at 10 miles an hour. Frustration mounting, and picturing the 4 women ahead steaming away at from me along clear roads, I remind myself that, this surely is happening to everyone else too. Confirmation of this a little further on I spy Helen up the raod, behing the same vehicle who’s backside I’d been cursing 10 in earlier. Either she’d dropped pace as the winds had increased on our second lap, I’d managed to pick it up a bit or she’d been more unlucky that I with the traffic. Whatever, it lifted my spirits a bit and it was quite comical to find ourselves having a bit of a natter as we tailed the horsebox, into T2! Wished each other luck for the run and I just hope that my legs were going to serve me well as I stepped out into what I have come to consider my racing ‘territory’.

I didn’t feel great at all, but that is to be expected and I know its just a case of settling into it. it doesn’t exactly get any better, but you just kind of get used to it! As I’d run through the transition and spectator area I’d heard the commentator mentioning that John Francis from Tri London had just passed the turn around and out onto his second lap ahead of me. Soon he was in sight - -my firsts target. He was a rather fast moving target, impressive having already put 11km behind him, and it took a while to make ground on him. I caught him just at the same moment that we saw Steven coming from the other direction. Walking. He’d had a go, I assumed, and got himself round half of the run before deciding that his foot wasn’t going to hold out. I felt sad that he was pulling out, but proud that he’d made a lap and was looking so happy. He yelled ‘you’re really going to have to push this, Jo’ which I knew meant that the lead was not just a matter of a few minutes ahead! So, since John was running at about 4-4:15 pace, I figured that by sticking on him would help get me on pace until I saw the gaps at the far turn around. A few moments later we passed the possible relay rider (obviously she wasn’t ) and back into 3rd place. John started pulling away from me. I’d settled for 3rd, remember? I wasn’t getting into this run at all, and 4:20’s became 4:30’s and though I knew I wasn’t working had, I just did not seem to have the capacity to go to any harder. The leaders passed me on their way back from the turn around a good km before I’d reached it, Lou was nice enough to say ‘hi’ but I hardly even registerd who it was until Lucy passed me a minute or so later. Wow. They really do have a lead. What would I have to do to make up THAT gap? Run a 1:13 half marathon (1:19 would have got me second). You know what , I didn’t really feel like it. Maybe I should have a gel? No, might as well avoid eating that junk unless I really have to. I know I can carry on at THIS pace for as long as I like. Oooh Jaffa Cakes….well, nothing to loose might as well have one of those.

It was nice to see friends and club mates out on the course including Roger, flying along ahead of his age group who told me off for not smiling. I hate it I told him – it was a joke of course but made me realize how close to the truth that was and I’d better start getting a bit happy! I’m here by my own choice and it’s a nice day and soon I’ll be finished and its still good exercise….and there’s Steven again, RUNNING! I wanted to give him a hug. People are telling him not to do this and that for his foot – it’s still problematic and with Kona, a race that he really wants to finish, only a month away it’ s too risky etc etc. I have to say that though I’d think he was stupid finishing this one out of pride alone, I totally understand and support him wanting to test it out. Obviously it was holding out ok for him to decide to run the second lap!

A little later, I was pleased to be told that I had the nicest smile of the ‘top ladies’. Fourth place was not all that far behind me, which was enough to keep me running at a moderately hard, and increasingly uncomfortable pace (4:40’s now) but not close enough to make it hurt.

Eventually, I was through the last sheep-y bit, over the last damm-y bit, through the woody bit, another sheep-y bit then the boat-y bit and finally the finish-y bit….
4hr 43 (just under)
Around 15 min slower than target, and in the position that I’d settled for 3 hours previously. Of course as soon as the race is over this mistake is obvious, my target was not at all unrealistic but as always on the day the head rules - and the head was not on my side!!!

swim 30:39
t1 2:07
bike 2:35:18
t2 1:07
run 1:33:40
total 4:42:54

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