Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ironman 70,3 UK report

Swim 1.9km 29.40
Bike 56mi 3:02.20
Run 13.1mi 1:33.27
Total 5:09.21

Position – 5th professional female (6th overall)

Midsummers weekend meant that when we left home at 4:30am, it was light .We were treaded to a beautiful peach coloured sky as we rattled through the Somerset lanes towards Wimbleball Lake, which had a fluffy white mist hovering over it at that time. Alex pointed out that meant the water had to be warmer than the air – and I should hope so. It was a chilly morning – the entire two hours between our early arrival and the start of the race were spent shivering!

20 min before kick off, we were allowed to walk down to the lake, which despite having grown up in the area, I’d never actually seem before. A deep water start, with the professional athletes arranged at the front, attempting a little bit of a swim warm up whilst we were corralled back to the line by the canoeists paddled. Everyone was shivering and so relieved when it was time to go. This format of start is god for me – soon after the froth of the pro start has disappeared, there is a feew minutes ( probably just tens of seconds, actually) of absolute chaos whilst the fast age group swimmers swim over me. As long as I keep my head down, keep cool and keep swimming as hard as I can, the pace of the surge reduces to a speed at which I can latch onto some feet belonging to someone who swims at a pace that I have to keep working to hold. A perfectly paced draft. Of course what frequently happens is that those feet will slow down after a while, but there’ll be other in the vicinity that I can cross to. On this occaision I soon became very dubious of my tow’s ability to swim in a straight line, but I was swimming too hard to take much of a look to the bouys and the low early morning sun just glared at me anyway…so I just kept checking for bodies each side.
I was pretty pleased to be dragging myself out of the muddy shallows in under 30 min, and sprinted up the start of the ramp to T1. The gradient of this exit route pretty soon put a stop to my sprinting, but I ran at full tilt, as I planned to be for much of the day ;o)

I grew up in this area, and often stay with my mother down here. I’d ridden the bike route a few times this year, and knew full well what was ahead as we raced up the first long climb out of transition. Rather a contrast to last weekend’s race on unfamiliar roads and riding solo for much of the time, I was totally prepared for what was to come, planned how i was going to approach each section and could see who was riding near me at all times. I’d fitted drops to the CD.01 the day before, really in preparation for IM Nice, but thought they’d give me a little extra confidence on this course too. The brakes weren’t working great, but being able to get in a more stable position for cornering does make a difference.

After a week of very minimal training, I was feeling fresh and excited by the challenge ahead on a course that I knew should suit me now that the wet part was out of the way.
I was trialling a different nutritional strategy - one 750ml bottle with 6 Powerbar gels (3 x caffeinated green apple+ 3 x lemon lime) diluted with water which I would swig at the top of each climb. I was also using the HR monitor again this time - I felt that the lack of guidance in Zarautz contributed to a loss of focus – as means of checking my max on the climbs (not too much above LT ,for too long) and keeping the intensity up on the rolling sections which actually make up about the first 35mi of each loop.
There was plenty of company out on the course all the way round to keep me pushing along, and being a home race I knew so many of them it was great! Before reachingthe hilly last section of my first lap I saw a familiar female rider, Yvette who had passed me on the run at Lanzarote to finish one place ahead in that race. I’d been kicking myself for letting her go by me ever since then, so I was seeing this race as a chance to redeem myself in that department! I worked to catch and pass her, and turned my focus to putting as much distance between us as I could, pushing the hills as hard as I could, and not letting up in between. I had a bit of a clumsy transit through an aid station (on my wrong side in the UK!!) and she managed to snael past again. That wasn’t in the plan! She was clearlt riding well over this terrain. I pushed on past again, but was conscious that she was not far off at any time.
As I began the second lap, down on the aero bars along the rolling main road, there was suddenly significant increase in number of people passing by. Where did they all come from? It was quite a large group and I, along with the other 3 or 4 blokes that I’d been riding near to for the first lap, got sucked up in a bit of a peloton for a few miles .There was an age group girl in there too – in the same predicament. Although it initially appeared that she’d come along with this ’bunch’ to be fair, she was making an obvious effort to get away too. I kept her in sight but in the end we just resigned ourselves to easing off a bit, hanging back, and rolling at the same pace as the crowd. When the hills came, we finally managed to get some space, but she got a bit more than me and I saw her disappear over the top of the Morebath hill away from me .Yvette meanwhile had made up more ground and in those last cruel climbs to the finish, she passed. I realised that I’d been lagging a bit -the men who I’d been with for most of the ride were now ahead and my Hr was getting a bit low at times. I really had to focus and remind myself to keep pushing. I drained the last of my gel-juice and gave chase, thankful that there really were only 4 miles and two of them were downhill (mostly). At just over 3 ½ hr elapsed race time I’d calculated that if I wanted to get under 5hrs now I’d have to run a sub 1:30 half. My pb is 1:24 - that was a rolling course though, nothing compared to what I’d been warned was ahead. However I knew I’d have someone who was sure to break 1:30 to pace me round so

As I ran into transition, the announcer was naming me as the fifth professional woman. With Yvette already in the change tent I made a very rapid change to run shoes to catch her as she so made her exit onto the run course together. I felt pretty confident that I could hold her pace, but knew it would not be easy. I had several concerns at the back of my mind already -one of which being that I needed to pee, the other that I needed to get some drink and a gel in soon, but resolved to put those to bay for the first lap and focus on holding this pace .The going was far from easy – steep banks and hills over varied surfaces meant lots of change of pace and stride – just how I like to run and clearly this suited Yvette too as she made the transitions between up and down hill smoothly. Both of our boyfriends were out on the course, which was brilliantly designed for spectators with all of its out and back ,dog legs and cross-overs (albeit totally disorientating for the frazzled athlete!) and they were giving us both huge support . It seemed that I knew a lot of people who had turned out to watch the race today and the encouragement I received was awesome. There were a few mile markers out in place which I used to get some pace splits – though on the terrain it didn’t make a lot of sense, I knew that at least we’d repeat the same lap 3 times. We ran the first mile in about 6:40 and the second under 7. The pace was manageable but painful. Out on the damn(the one flat section on the entire course!) there was a turn around with an aid station. We ran through too fast to grab a drink. I slowed a bit to take some water – it was hot – and a small gap formed .it was a small gap, but having eased off just momentarily, I just could seem to pick the pace enough to catch her again. That split second was enough for me to decide to back it off to a pace that I was more comfortable with, and that would allow me to use the aid stations. I was petty sure Yvette would ease up too once I was off her shoulder, though she’d still run faster than me. The way that we’d hit those first hills had sapped my legs and I could feel that the underside of my feet were blistered from moving in my shoes. Throbbing head from the sun and heavy legs, I was in a bad place – but still moving past people, still resembling someone in a race at least. It was just a matter of holding my pace, or rather effort since the terrain did not make for a consistent pace and getting to the finish .i was aware of the race time – I’d not break 5hrs…and depending on how fast the winner had gone had to get there as soon as I could if I wanted to take prize money.

I finished in 5:09 ,20 minutes off Bella, who won, and in 5th position. Admittedly I was initially very disappointed to have failed to stay with Yvette as was my goal,and visisted some pretty angry places during the last 6 miles of the race, in retrospect I did race as hard as I could have done all through the day. It was my best effort, I enjoyed giving it (well, that’s not strictly true when I think about that run!) and as ever I’m learning things along the way.

Post race I was looked after superbly by Aurelie of the TriTouch who was working the massage tent and had a chance to catch up with TBC Sportaid teammates Tristan (who came 10th, well done!) and Ryan whilst we waited for the awards. It would have been nice if these could be presented a little earlier in the day, but at least the sun was shining so the 5hour wait was pleasant – and there were no queues to leave the carpark by the time the prize winners were able to go home!

Back in Taunton I had a late curry and a beer with Steven. A huge blister on the sole of my foot throbbed all night and I ache so much that I hardly slept – but at least I did not have to get up and train! Today I’ve just been on a nice easy ride on the Blackdowns and now I’m packing my case for a trip to the south of France…..

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