Sunday, 22 May 2011
OUCH - my IM Lanzarote report!!
the first race of my 2011 season yesterday …and it was a bit of a shocker. To be honest, it's a total mystery for me as to what exactly went wrong, and why but it's not an experience I'm keen to repeat so once i've given myself a couple of days to celebrate the success of my friends and athletes who raced yesterday too and put my own disappointment behind me disappointment I'll be looking closely for clues in my final preparations.
But, back to the start of the day: I arrived early in transition to prepare my bike and do final checks because i knew that with so many athletes, including my sister, racing there would be a lot of distractions. These were quite welcome distractions really, and certainly helped with all of our pre race nerves. Our support crew were already positioned for a long day of filming and yelling, passing their final good luck wishes through the railings of transition zone.
I'd been lying awake in the early hours of the morning listening to what sounded like very strong winds, but the morning was calm and as it slowly became lighter, the huge crowd of Ironmen and women to-be gathered on the beach, whilst we warmed up in the professional start area. I was excited and calm and we all greeted one another with good luck wishes. Gun start and its a case to get in the water and swim as hard as possible to make some space before the descending crowd of age-groupers hit us! Very rough, and rather frustrating for the entire back stretch of the first lap, but with plenty of company I was getting good draft and no chance to slow up because of those behind. I was aware that there were several green hats indicating female pros around me ,which was encouraging. I stayed within the same group after the land-buoy for the second lap which apart from a couep of tussles and brief double calf cramp as i turned around the far marker buoy ,was just smooth, strong swimming. I was running up the beach within 57 minutes -a huge personal best swim time..setting me up for the day that i was expecting based on the shape i have been in training recently.
My bike did look quite lonely in transition, but the results tell hat i was actually the 4th female pro out of the ocean. Natasha Badman's Cheetah was still in place, though it was only a matter of km long before she'd passed my and was a speck in the distance. However, as we made our way westwards into a healthy head-wind, found myself riding in the company of Emma-Ruth Smith ( who 's number bib read "curly - em"!) and Karina Ottenson, exchanging positions as we went. It seemed that i was making my passes on the inclines whilst they both seemed to have the advantage when the road tipped down. I knew that I had to take advantage of the motivation that the 'racing' experience gives me, and so kept my efforts up even after they'd both pedalled out f sight on the long sweeping down hill stretch of highway to El Golfo - confident that I'd see them again once we hit the undulations of that loop. As it happened, I was at the top of Fire Mountain, having been extremely frustrated by the line of tourist coaches blocking the course -whY???? - before I caught back up to Emma -Ruth, who then bowled over the ridge on her drops and out of sight. The winds were pretty strong blowing from the North-East, which meant a headwind for much of the first 2/3rds of the course. It was pretty draining but luckily, we had a crew of super -EverydayTraining supporters out and about- Ali and Farouk and Naomi and Thomas leaping around like loons at various points to give me a lift. Aside form that though, there was a general atmosphere of gritted teeth about the race - very little exchange between the athletes, which is unusual in my experience of this race. I certainly noticed that I was feeling the strain a lot earlier in the route than i had last year, despite feeling in much better shape prior to the race. I was passed by anther Fpro on Haria -and though i did not know my position, figured that I was probably near last. But fought to stay positive and focused on keeping my own power and effort up to what i knew i needed to do. Despite this, it was clear that this was going to be my slowest ever bike split on this course - as these were the toughest conditions that i've raced here in. My mined did go back to Wanaka (jan 2011) -it certainly wasn't as tough as that!! Te final portion of the course was mostly with a tail -wind - with 52 chain ring this forced me to really get my cranks spinning, which i reckoned would do me good for the run. I found myself passing people in this last portion of the ride, and started thinking about my run. I have ben in great running shape recently and was looking forward to making up some places once off the bike.
Using my new Timex Global GPS, since traditionally there have been no distance markers out on this run, I set out just a bit (but not too much) faster than my target pace of 4:40, and got into a stride. A spanish guy asked me my division, several time before i understood his accent, and i admit o was a bit snappy with him - a sign that was working a bit too hard to want to chat. However he did not seem to take any offence and complimented my running as we fell into stride together. About 3km along the beach front course the head wind hit, and he encouraged me to run in his draft. I wasn't going to turn that offer down! I'd seen some of the other girls already heading out past the 2km point as i'd ridden in, so knew that i had at least 15 min to make up.
Lap 1 of the run is an 18km out-and back most of the 9km out into a headwind and even on the shoulder of my spanish friend, i was finding it tough. Our pace had dropped to run 5min/km -but that would be so much quicker on the return - however, just as we got into sight of the far turn, I found myself slowing…and then having to make surges to close the small gap up. Perhaps it was these short efforts that brought on the stitch (or maybe the cup of ice water I threw on myself, or the can of red-bull in transition) that forced me to slow for a moment. He actually looked like he was waiting for me, so i made an effort to catch up again, but my stomach cramped again and i waved goodbye whilst i jogged a little and stretched out my rib-cage. Pretty much from that moment on ,only 10km into the race, it was all over for me. The stitch passed, but i was barely able to run under 5min/km with the wind on my back. I cant really describe, or even adequately remember the feeling -my legs were not sore, no stitch, it wasn't low blood sugar or caffeine or any other familiar bad running experience - just spaced out and drained. With the wind on my back and the sun out, it felt extremely hot -but i usually handle the heat pretty well. I was caked in salt, but that's not unusual for me and i had been taking on adequate electrolyte drinks, magnesium and salt tabs. I have had poor runs before, but that usually means just going a bit slow because of sore legs or general fatigue. This was different - i felt like i was giving hard effort, HR was high and i was breathless, but still barely running -in fact there was a lot of walking. And a lot of thinking about pulling - the thought of how long it might take to walk 24km was pretty daunting! But, at the same time i could see that others ahead of me were finding it tough, and was hopeful that i'd recover my ability to run.
Well, i stuck at it and saw all our coaching athletes, my sister, our friends on the course and had huge amount of support along the way - despite my obvious detonation people were saying such encouraging things. With a run split of 3:59 and race finish of 11:10 I placed 7th Fpro overall and have plenty to reflect on.
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