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. 

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