Monday, 2 December 2013

Dash 113 Brazil race report

As always following a disappointing race, reflecting the morning after it doesn’t seem half as bad as it felt at the time.  My experience yesterday seemed to go from bad to worse as my psychology was all wrong and I was unable to motivate myself to put in a better performance after a poor start.

However bad it feels to be going through a “disaster” of a race, my experience has taught me that it really isn’t all that awful, and to at least continue to the finish as credibly as possible. So, once I got onto the run course, where there was a lot of support and I was able to get sight of the other women ahead (not as far as I’d feared) I did buck up a little and found some energy to run at a decent pace.

In fact, although my perception through the first stages of the race was that I was dead last and a long way behind, the reality was that I finished in 7th place, and only a minute or so off 6th, with the rest of the field all only minutes ahead of that.

The conditions for the race were pretty perfect- it would have been nice to race in blazing sunshine, but an overcast and still 20 degrees suits me pretty well. The sea was pretty calm also and sufficiently warm that wetsuits were optional for age-groupers and not allowed for the Elites. We started in a small group of Elite women, 3 minutes after the men and about 10minutes before the mass start. In these circumstances, especially without wetsuit, I knew that the run into the waves and first few hundred meters would be critical for me to have a hope of a decent swim split, and was ready for it. Or so I thought. Unfortunately within a few seconds that opportunity was gone, I was somehow at the back of the rapidly disappearing field of short-course specialists and before long the group had made off without me.   I noted one other swimmer who had managed to stay in the pack up to the first buoy at about 200m but was becoming separated, and made a course for her feet, but found that I was actually swimming faster than she was. I told myself that there must be others in that group like her – with a good starting speed, but less endurance than me. It’s a bit of a joke that my instinctive ability to swim straight is pretty lacking, and so sighting the far away buoy would be critical to my chasing attempts. I managed this pretty well on the way out, but unable to see where the group was after we turned there. At that point my vague understanding of the race briefing gave me some confusion as to where to head next and started feeling pretty despondent after having been told by a kayak to swim back against the current to round a buoy which I had understood to be merely for sighting. I’d not seen that other women come past me, but I felt sure that if she’s swum the correct course, she would have done so…and I was dead last out of the water in 34 minutes. 

The “silver lining” of this cloud was that by now the age group men were also coming out of the water, and would give me something to pace of on the bike. Although not a “long” day as such, I felt confident that it was long enough to capitalize on my endurance and make up some good ground on the bike section. I resolved to go as hard as required by pacing off the strong age group athletes until I’d passed at least one other female pro, and then re assess the race situation and appropriate intensity.  The course had 3 turn around each lap so there’d be plenty of chances to see who as ahead and by how far at regular intervals.

Grabbing my bike stuff in the “open” transition I removed the ankle tag that I’d been given for the swim section, and went on my way out. I was stopped there by the spectating crowds and transition security, and eventually realized that they wanted me to go back an retrieve it. I was pretty sure that the tag I’d had to attach to my bike’s forks, and the one that was I’d had to attach to my shoe laces meant that the heavy metal piece we’d worn in the swim was only required for that part of the race….but it didn’t seem worth debating at that point, and so I went back on my tracks to find and re-attach it. 

Well, this additional delay didn’t do a lot for my mindset. I don’t fall easily into feeling  “hard done by”, but the frustration was pretty overwhelming. I tried to use this emotion as a fuel to fire me up, which worked to some extent – but rather I just felt cross with myself, and doubted whether it would be possible to make up the time now. I was so unfocused that, although comfortable and holding a good power and riding a fantastic flat course, on several occasions I found myself almost crashing into the traffic cones that were in place to separate us from the traffic! I had to pull my self together. It did help a bit that at each of the turn points I saw the race leaders, and it wasn’t huge time gaps that separated us, though not really enough. Pulling out was a very appealing option but or the fact that I was pretty sure I’d regret doing so –none-the-less it occupied a lot of my mental energy, which is no a good mindset or racing.

I got through the ride in 2hr25- not awful, but certainly compromised by my lack of motivation. I was looking forwards to the run actually, although by now I was just expecting to get around it at a comfortable pace, feeling sorry for myself. I left transition with an age-group woman who set out at a good pace, and was determined not to have her show me up and was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt pretty good. The two of us were close together for most of the run-  she’d let me go ahead for a while and then she would be coming from behind again, maybe pass me briefly – at one point gave me water –before dropping back.  I expected this to last for only the first lap before she conceded that the pace was just a little too much for her to maintain, but I guess I was providing motivation for her also. It was certainly useful after I had to make a toilet stop in the final lap – catching back up to her and re-passing to get back into “my” position on the course. At the last turn-around, I caught sight of pro woman in front of me…very close and realized that I was certainly catching, but without enough kms left to pass her.  Maybe if I’d been more focused I might have, maybe if I’d not been into the bathroom, been delayed at transition, got lost in the swim…..all these things…..BUT all these things are what make the race, right?


Really I just didn’t care – I only wanted to get to the finish. 

It has been a great experience for me as a guest pro and the only international entrant, and for a first-running of an event it's been very impressive. The organisers put a lot of thought into touches that really enhance the athlete's experience of the whole event, with a great selection of race sponsors, a gluten free pre race meal, very stylish high quality race T-shirts  (you get two - one in your registration pack and another Finisher shirt), thoughtful location around the race hotel and simple, fast courses. This year's race sold out within 20 minutes of opening registrations, but the organisers are keen to attract a more international participation and there will be a certain number of slots left available for international entries. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

From Brazil - pre race Dash 113

 I felt very honoured to have been invited to come and race at the first ever Dash 113 Brazil here in Floranopolis. It is a half –distance race, admittedly not my specialty, but as such the addition to the end of a pretty full-on 2013 race season (which included 6 Ironman races as well as organizing 3 training camps) seemed feasible. And a trip to Brazil in December was as just appealing as the chance of a new race experience and the chance to race on my recently acquired Airstreeem Air TT bike.

So, having settled into “off season” mentality and habits, gaining close to 5kilos as I did so…I quickly booked up a two week training camp in Lanzarote in order to recruit a bit of fitness, get used to the bike and build a bit of a sun tan.  I managed to put in a couple of good weeks training from my base at Trisports Lanzarote who always look after me and their other favourite Pro visitors exceptionally well (let’s just say that I didn’t loose any of that weight!),
trying to be disciplined about limiting my training volume and maximizing focus on race intensity. Having Cat (Morrison) around helped with that  -  after a session with her I really had little desire to add in any incidental mileage!!

The three days between my return from Lanzarote and departure for Brazil were spent mostly avoiding the cold – which meant training inside something that’s pretty unusual for me, but having this race as a focus I was able to rather enjoy it.  

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The journey was as you’d expect long and tiresome ,but I eventually arrived on Thursday morning and was met by one of the race organisors ,with whom I’d been exchanging emails prior to arrival. Unfortunately the other British guest Pro, Jodie Swallow had to withdraw from the race…which made me the star guest! (No pressure then) And I must say that I have been looked after very well – both in terms of hospitality and ensuring that I have all the information about the race that I need.  Triathlon is very popular in Brazil and I learned that this race filled within 20 minutes of it’s entries opening – mostly to locals. So of course all of the race information is in Portuguese , with English not widely spoken…whatsmore the Brazilian “way” is somewhat different to anything I’ve experienced previously - so I would have been pretty lost without Ina’s taking care of me.

The race courses are pretty straight forwards actually ,and very similar to those used by the Ironman race which also starts out of Florinopolis .There’s not a huge amount of options actually – as we’ll ride a serious of out and backs along the highways. I went out for a ride on the course yesterday with the motorways still open to live traffic. “Terrifying” sums it up quite well – but it was good to have a spin out and survey the topography (flat and fast) which we with thankfully ride on closed roads on Sunday.  Cycling is not so common around here and since cyclists (as well as pedestrians) share these main roads, accidents are common .The local triathlon clubs have started initiatives to educate drivers about sharing the road with cyclists – and vice versa trying to teach cyclists to ride safely and with awareness and respect for vehicle traffic. However, for the race I am very impressed with the measures gone into ensuring safety and that traffic will be managed or stopped to allow us clear use of the roads. 

At this point in time I’m somewhat confused about the variety of different bags we have been given and the three separate timing chips…but I’m sure that it will become clear in due course!

It’s also not clear whether we will be using wetsuits or not. Yesterday I went in and swam the course without wetsuit, and I strongly suspect that it’s too warm…which is unfortunate for me, but it’s best to be prepared. Having done that practice I discovered that those 5 extra kgs were responsible for some pretty bad rubbing in my Huub swim-skin, which I will have to try and counter with Vaseline.  The forecast is for calm water – and calm cool weather in general, so although I’m not exactly looking forward to the swim, it shouldn’t be unduly difficult and my best bet is to try and stay connected with the small group of elite women that start together.

From that point on, with good conditions, I’m looking forward to the day  and getting on with the task of making up lost ground through the bike and run! 

better get some sleep - it's an early race start.