The race organiser gets p1$$ed off when he hears people talk of the race as an "easy version of Ironman", and yes - 226km of racing on any course is as hard as you chosoe to make it! However, the swim condtions are very favourable, the bike course about as flat as it could be, and ditto the run - I'd estimate that with equivalent fitness it'd take about 50min -1hr (or, say, 10%) less time to get around than a lumpy course like IMUK ....and probably about 30 mins faster than an "average" kind of a course.
My fitness going into the race probably about 15-20% less than i'd like it to be going into "race" ... so I was expecting to get through it in about 10.5hrs, avoiding the front end of the race, and gathering data to inform my next training block towards Kona.
Arrived later than I'd hoped after a busy week at work and 5 hrs in traffic, in the nick of time to register, put up tent, quick dip in the lake and then eat the lunch that i'd not got around to before the rain started. It rained a lot. All weekend. There was lots of talk about the - ever changing- weather forecast. It kept raining.
The Swim: still a mass start ,which i've not expereeinced for a long time. Has not lost any of the craziness - from the start gun just ridiculous, frantic kicking and punching and pushing and shoving. Kept head down, protected face. Occasionally got a stroke in here or there - it didn't really matter as the thrashing foam of limbs would carry you along anyway. Managed to weave through by pushing legs aside to clearer water ( clear of limbs - not "clear" clear. it's disticntly goose poo coloured) and then at about the 400m point crash into a wall of slow moving bodies. What?!? these guys must have just put themselves on the front line, smashed that first 400...and then come to almost stationary when they ran out of puff!! Continued to swim the very lengthy length of the lake, easy pace...occaisonal draft, occasionally alongside someone. Found that with a little more effort at the back of the stroke, could pull ahead of most people who I found myself awkwardly face to face and sharing air with. On the whole bi-lateral breathing...evereyone and then going for a surge to catch a group of swimmers ahead and then cruising on feet. Nice to have company rather then getting droped by the [ack after 200m! Was pleasantly surprised to notice that my watch read 59min in T1. (=slightly short swim)
The Bike: it's 180km. about 600m ascent. pretty much featureless. Luckily for me i had company from the film crew for a bit of interest every now and then, and feeding me a bit of info about my position. other than that i was really just fixing my mind of maintaining 34kph average, and doing sums. I wanted a 5:20 bike split. By midway i'd almost caught the leading female & felt that it' had taken a rather long time. The single hill on the course provded me an oppurtunity to really close the gap, and she came into sight - i put in a 10 minute burst of effort to try and put her off the idea of chasing me (i really didnt want to have to race!) and that seemed to work. I went back to my zone. or a bit below because then i was feeling kinda tired and hungry (i found that i was eating more than usual in this race) but mostly aching and a bit bored. At about 110km a little rocket in female form belted past me, ....kinda like i had the last girl to be fair. but fast! I was really only just hanging onto my pace so wasnt in any kind of mood to go chasing. I was getting a bit irritated by the film moto, and it started raining a bit, and then a local cycle club decided to come and join in the race, riding as a group, 2-3 abreast and blocking. dangerous and inconsiderate, given how generous i'd seen the moto refs were being with the drafting cards. Yes, i was grumpy... and glad to turn into the rough section of track that marks the final 3km or so of the bike course. That was kinda slow, i'd already been driven into a big pot hole which caused my bars to slip by that naughty cycle club, so took it real gingerly along there. I could see that i'd narrowly missed my 5:20 target. but that's ok.
In T2 we heard that I was 10 mins behind the leader - crickey -she'd put 10 mins into me in the last 70km or so of the bike course - how fast had she gone?!! That was enough of a gap to put any thoughts of runing her down out of my head ( luckily!!)
The Run: i like running - i always feel more relaxed once the bike is over and i'm through it without collision or mechanical trouble. On feet all that can go wrong is....er, well - the feet. and the legs. and the tummy too i suppose. It's not fun, ever, but it's just a case of getting on with it. I'd not really looked at the run course in any deatil - i knew that we'd be going round the lake a lot...but also into Nottingham a bit, which i wanted to be a surprise, at least on the first time through. I was looking forwrad to that part. I managed to hold a decent pace for the first lap (21km), and felt pretty much alright up to that point. I decided that this would make a really nice half marathon route. I didnt so much fancy going round again, especially now I'd seen what Nottingham had to offer (coke and gels!) and that the narrow and muddy footapth was full of other people, and the mud well churned up. Additionally to the other peopel racing, the path was also filled with a lot of spectators and general walkers. And at one point, three people on ponies. I guess it helped to keep the mind occupied!! My wheels really fell off at about 25km... things started getting a bit walky and a bit huffy puffy - even at slow speeds. I strated eating things like jaffa cakes and crisps. You know it's all over then, right? Was passed by one (or two ?) women as I stopped to stretch my achilles, remove the chip and have a little faff about. Stopping even between aid stations! It was interseting (you might think not all that surprising!) that 25-26km is about the usual distance i've been covering on my "long runs". ha! Obvious - you say ...but for the past however many years, this has been the case. But I was also racing a lot more frequently then and I suppose I'd just carried that run endurance from each race into the next. Well, apparently no longer can I get away with that. But that's relatively easy to fix...and realising things like this was the real point of doing this event ...so i just continued on as best i could manage to keep the pace not too far over 5mins/km whilst i was running, and trying to move steadily through them when walking the aid stations (and other parts).
The race finishes with a double lap of the lake, which is great because it's flat and you pass a lot of supporters. but it's a long way round! as I started my first of the "last laps" the lead woman was announced as having completing that lap and about to start her final lap.... so, i calculated in my weary brain, by this time she was about 20 mins ahead of me. At this point I knew I was 3rd - and saw what i thought was 2nd female not too far ahead of me. I focused on reeling her in...and was able to pass her before the end of that 5km lake lap. This focus brought my pace back up a bit too, and I was starting to enjoy myself, despite feeling very tired and having very sore legs. Becx was standing at the start of the final lap, and informed me that "2nd place is about 10 seconds ahead" . What? I AM second place, I said. nope. i'd actually just been chasing someone who was still in their first half marathon ,and a looong way behond me ....so I chased some more. Really chased! It got to about a mile to go... i didn't want to risk making the pass too soon and provoking her to come back at me. I was too tired for that ! So I waited and waited, behind her. With 1km left I went - as hard as i could, and didnt look behind , just kept running at full pelt to the finish. It was kinda fun, really painful fun, to actually be racing...
Overall finishing in 10:03 was better than I expected. I DID not expect to get trounced by a 53 year old...and to be honest it's not much of a consulation that Gill Fullen is a no ordinatry 53 year old (read her story) ... So, I think I will try to get fit for Kona :o)