Friday, 18 June 2010
TriGrandPrix _ Zarautz Race Report
TriGrandPrix Middle Distance Triathlon, Zarautz.
Swim 2.5km 46:45
Bike 82.5km 2:40.51
Run 20km 1:24.02
Position – 9th female.
I’ve now raced twice on mainland Spain and had a both occasions were crazy, chaotic, charismatic and highly enjoyable experiences. A little unnerving for those of us accustomed to the highly efficient and regulated handling that we receive in the UK or at an Ironman branded event, but totally refreshing. The enthusiasm that the lovely town of Zarautz and surrounding mountain villages raised for race day was absolutely awesome. The experience of climbing ‘the wall’ at km 70 of the route as the crowd of noisy bystanders parting to allow my slow grinding pursuit of the crest of the 25% incline, literally shouting in my face ‘Animo Animo’, banging drums and creating large plumes of cigarette smoke left a huge smile on my face and reminded me how much fun it is to race…like wise the hundreds of children that populated the town square with palms held out as we ran by.
I arrived two days prior to race day, Basque country, in the rain. I’m welcomed to Zarau by Dan and Jose, TriGrandPrix’s athlete care team who looked after us superbly through the event. A leisurely recce of 2/3rd of the bike course revealed a pretty hilly profile for the most part – with a nice ‘treat’ in the form of a 2km climb, referred to as ‘the wall’, with a gradient of about 25% in places. Having done NO research on this course, this was my first surprise. I was riding the new QR TT bike, with 808 wheels and a 39/25. It was the first time I’d ridden on the deep wheels kindly lent by my mate Kevin, and as we rode that afternoon the winds of an approaching storm picked up and scared the living shit out of me. That and the hairpin descents on wet roads. This clearly was a course that would favour the brave….with low gears!
My second surprise was to discover that the swim was a 2.5km point to point around from the next town .not that this had been kept a secret from me in any way. I just hadn’t read up much on the race. I practiced the course with Martina (Dogana) and Edith (Neiderfringer) the following morning. It took a while, but I was swimming easy and there’s something really appealing to me about point to point swims. The rest of the day was spent in my hotel room resting, looking out the widow at the rain, hoping that it’d clear up for the following day, eating ‘flan’ and generally worrying about stuff. However, I felt confident that I was recovered form Lanzarote and had a good race in me and that I’d overcome my fears and worries and just get down to it on race day. As long as I just ate enough flan.
Race morning came, and with a 1:45pm race start there was time for a full size breakfast, attend the long (and mostly superfluous) mandatory race briefing in the town hall, assemble race kit and wander down to rack in transition before being transported to the race start in the town of Getaria 3km up the coast. In true Spanish style, the buses arrived a half hour late, and in true Spanish style, no one really seemed that concerned. Of course, we got there with plenty of time to seek pre race toilet opportunities – no portaloos so the visiting female pro athletes each selected one of the vaults at the rear of the beach for their business before zipping up and warm up swim. We didn’t see hundreds of locals disappearing into the vaults, so either they knew something we didn’t about provision of facilities, or the Spanish have different pre race needs to the rest of us!
The ladies race started 15 minutes before the men, a beach start we lined up behind a tape and on the hooter sprinted to the water, dove in, and swam hard. There were probably not more than 60 girls in the race – and I’d guess that 20 of us wore the red caps of professionals. Of that 20 most would be within a few minutes of Leander Cave, who lead the swim as predicted, and a good handful of minutes clear of me and the competitive age groupers. This distribution meant for a pretty civilised start, and very conflict free swim, though the relatively wide gaps between groups combined with the sea swell obscuring the view ahead did make it unlikely to catch a faster group of feet ahead. I found myself catching 3 swimmers (2 green, one red hat) who were not quite fast enough to draft off, pushing the pace through and we dropped one. We swam together for most of the swim, each pushing the pace a bit now and then but not really wishing to swim on front until we sighted other swimmers (red cap) ahead. The fact that I was gaining ground on bodies at least encouraged me to keep working hard, though all hard work and no finesse was evident from the very bare looking bike rack that greeted my arrival into T1 (after an rather public and difficult exit through the surf!). Hey Ho…time to go!
The start of the bike route is up a pretty decent hill. Not a steep gradient, but certainly enough to get the lungs working over the first few km. It took me most of that climb to get my feet inside my shoes (not slick!) and I was on the descent before I was properly strapped up. The weather was holding and the roads were drying out fortunately so, aside from large piles of dung that the local police were out in force to warn us of on one of the switch-backs, the descents were pretty safe. I’m sure that someone lost it though – I came close a few times and I was riding pretty sensible! With the front of the ladies race going on some way ahead, and none of those behind likely to catch me, it was a pure time trial. Difficult for me to judge the effort levels here, having ditched my HRM as part of my ruthless packing protocol, and no-one in sight for reference – fortunately there were plenty of climbs to keep me focused. Aid stations were handing water in standard screw cap 33cl bottles – which don’t stay in my bottle cage, so by the second ( of 3) lap I was dry and pretty preoccupied with picking up fluids so that I could get a gels down. Near the end of the lap I was experiencing the light headedness, dissociation and ‘sparkly’ vision that I associate with hyperglycemia…and was becoming a bit concerned about being able to see the road well enough to avoid pot holes etc. I know that this sensation can pass and decided the best thing to do was to increase intensity and push through it, getting sugars in as soon as possible. The back of my mind was wondering if it were possible to pass out and lucky for me at that point someone called Lizel rode past me. That gave me a jolt – I didn’t want any age groupers kicking my butt, so I gave chase matched her pace and keeping her in my sight. She was a bit bigger than me and knowing the steep climbs were ahead, I felt sure that I’d pass her as long as I did not loose sight ( and got to the next aid station) before the ‘wall’. That got me along the flat coast roads back through the crowded and rowdy town of Zarautz and out the other side for our third lap. Having picked up some drink in a useable bottle, we began our acsent of ‘The Wall’. With standard gearing the only way up was a sort of zig zag up the road, which was lined on both sides by spectators with drums, mucic and plenty of cheering. I chased and passed my target – to discover that Lizel is a bloke- and worked to pick off the next rider ahead. After the triple summated climb, there’s just one more to the highest point, the town of Aia, and the 11km down to the finish. A good way to take on last gels and drinks and spin the legs for the run.
I joined the run course just before Miranda Cafree was making the turn at the end of her first lap (of 3) - this was brilliant fro me since it gave me a couple hundred meters to get my legs moving before she came along and showed me some pace. We ran together for about a km, just about the right level for me to maintain for a good run. On a small incline she picked it up just a little - enough though that I was not going to match it early in my race – and made some distance on me. However I focused on the 4:10 pace that she’d pulled me up to, knowing that was something I could maintain for 20km and more. The course was nice and varied -taking us a winding route through town, out along the estuary, over a rough timber boardwalk, along the promenade back to transition and finally into the town square past the finish for the start of the next lap. With so many tight turns, underpasses and uneven surfaces the course was a little slower than it might have been, but it was absolutely dead flat and with so much variety it was easy to keep focused. I enjoyed this part of the race most of all – I was running well and felt at last that I was involved in the competition, as I am sure everyone was made to feel by the tremendous enthusiasm of the supporting crowds.
With a variety of snacks and ice baths available after the race I soon felt refreshed, collected my bike and wandered back to the hotel for a clean up and chill out before the awards dinner later that evening. Also in the hotel were a host of big-name pro triathletes and it was fun to hang out a bit with these guys before, and after the race. It made for a superb quality field, some inspiring racing and although my top 10 finish speaks of an unremarkable race it was against a world class feild. It was also equivalent to an age group win - which i'd have been overjoyed at last year...and the prize that i picked up for that cheered me up a little :o)
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