So it's training race time again and we're all ready to roll in Penzance. Races on a Saturday are a total nightmare for me because of the dumb hours I work, but I needed to get something long in to see what sort of shape I was in and either kick me into action or give me a much needed ego boost. Thankfully Saturday turned out to be the best day of the week with just a few small showers although that wind could have been a whole lot kinder to us.
Realising on Friday night that I was going to be struggling for breakfast I picked up one of those Nutrishake things to try, it seemed ok, certainly didn't lead to any race day problems. My only other forgetfulness problem was sorted when I scrounged the use of a track pup pre-race to sort my tyres out. I'd got gas canisters handy just in case, but my kindly fellow competitors saved me wasting one.
We headed down to the water a little late and very casual (just my style). We posed for a few pics and then headed into the water. The stroll out is interesting, you're walking along on soft sand and then suddenly your feet are on a ridge of rocks and you can't get any balance. There was a bit of a countdown and we were off. No fisticuffs in this swim, not with a field so small, I just settled into my rhythm and watched two swimmers charge off ahead of me. By the first bouy though the two early speedsters had dropped off a little and I was out from on my own.
The swim itself was cracking although I'm sure I swam through a cluster of small jellyfish early on, no stinging action to report. Swimming around the Island didn't make any difference to me, I breath to the left and it was always on my right so I never saw it. As there were so few of us we had a kayaker each, saved me any navigational issues until we were heading into the beach when the damn sun kept getting in my eyes. I've since heard stories of the chop and a few rips messing with people but to be honest I'm so ignorant of whats happening around me I just plough on, so long as I can see something to try and keep me straight I'll swim through anything.
Out the water 1st in 45:02!
There was a section between the swim exit and T1 that involved crossing roads and various safety gubbins. I understood (?!?!?!) that we had 5mins to get from one mat to the other and whatever time it took below that would be taken from the final results (it wasn't). So I strolled from the beach, had a drink of water and pee'd (we'll leave that bit there) before heading off to the T1 where I did the normal gubbins and headed off out. Still, it made no difference to anything and everybody had the same so I won't worry about it.
Heading out on the bike I felt shocking (must stop drinking that sea water) and on the way out to Lands End I was just waiting for someone to come past me. A couple of times I actually felt like stopping to see if I could be sick but I had the company of a lead motorcyclist and while I was in that position it would be stupid. I was glad I'd kept going when we got there as things were easing. It was here that I first attempted to drink out of my aero bottle and found that I couldn't reach the straw, I hadn't used it since November and forgot about the extension piece which was (thankfully) swishing around inside. A bit of one the move groping around and bottle maintenence sorted the problem though and all was well. The bike section from Lands End to St Ives is simply stunning, the road it tortuous, twisting and hilly but this section had a nice tailwind to compensate and the stunning views took your mind off any pain. I got a 5min lead on the 2nd place cyclist at Lands End and 9mins on 3rd place. I had no idea how far behind they were out of the water though so I pushed on through the scenic section, still waiting for the inevitable pass. When I got to St Ives I saw Shelly and asked her to let me know what the gap was, then I headed out for 2 tortuous laps of the Olympic Tri course. Shelly came past in the car and shouted to me that the gap was up to 10mins by St Ives. Oh hell, it was growing!!! That's not what I'm used to! It was a nice thing to hear however because the headwind on this section of the course at times was crazy. It just never seemed to be behind me, even with it being looped. Leedstown to Hayle is normally super fast, not today!! At 56miles I passed two girls, they were the frst racers I'd seen all day, must have been the tail enders from the Olympic race that started 2hrs later, it gave me a bit of a boost because finally I was going to start seeing people. WRONG!!!! The next people I was were at 87miles on the road back into Penzance before T2. Finally I was back off the bike and my focus for the whole ride had been achieved which was to keep my average speed above 20mph. This stat was ruined however when I headed straight into the loos for an Austin Powers style pee stop before hitting T2, I was in there forever!!
My normal 'casual' T2 followed, sit down, put socks on, reset Garmin, have a drink etc etc etc before I headed out onto the peachy little run course. It turned out that I hit T2 with around 30mins lead, maybe I'd coped better than most with those 2 windy laps.
The first lap of the run was a tester, I'd heard it was tough and with my habit of blowing on the run I wanted to push nothing. At this point I had no idea how close/far away 2nd place was so I was risking nothing. Immediately I walked the first hill out of transition, a girl ahead from the middle distance race ran every step and only took around 20m out of me, as soon as we were over the top I passed her. I ran and focused on keeping it smooth when I could and as soon as I felt my quads twinging or felt I was working too hard on a hill I would walk for 30secs or a minute. The off road section was fantastic but if I ran it again I wouldn't wear lightweight shoes, I felt every stone through the soles. I missed a turn towards the end of the lap but the marshalls were awake and aware of the situation so I was soon back on track (my fault entirely). Lap 1 and 6.5 tough miles completed in 50mins, sorted!! Lap 2 was more of the same and also done in 50mins. The 3rd and final lap was similar to the others, I'd set myself a 50min target so I could complete the run in 2:30, I also had a couple of targets to aim at for a change. My first target worked really hard on the hills and I just had no interest in that so I'd walk, let him get away from me a little and then reel him back in again once the terrain was favourable. I caught him at the drink station half way around the course and never saw him again. At this drink station though I had my only 'bad' experience of the race. I was on my last lap, I was nearly home, I just wanter to play things safe so I ignored the energy gubbins and just knocked back a cup of water. The problem here was that it tasted like sterilising stuff and almost as soon as I started running again my guts felt rotten. There was only 3 miles to go though so I wasn't concerned and kept running with my eyes firmly focused on it's new target further along the trail. I carried on plodding and walking, feeling slightly queazy and with that nasty taste still in my mouth until I got to the last drink station, it was only just over a mile to the finish and I'd planned to run straight past but I took some more water jus to get rid of the taste in my mouth. It was too much though and 1mile from home on the side of the main road I was hurling my guts up in the verge while my target disappeared into the distance. I felt fine once my stomach had done its thing and the stuff was out of my system but it cost me my 2:30 run split and my target, no worries though. Lap 3 was 51mins and I was very happy to run across the field to the Finish Line after a properly solid workout where my body had proved to me it's not in bad shape and I'd even worked through a couple of mental barriers too. Job Done.
So in the end I won by close to 50mins, but I won't let my ego get carried away with it, I know that on another day I could have got thoroughly beaten and while that challenge would no doubt have dragged me along to a faster finish that wasn't what the day was about. A solid 8hrs Ironman Training session was the plan and that's exactly what I got, I'm happy.
The swim is the swim, nothing to learn there really except that maybe my ignorance helps me cope better if the conditions are challenging.
The bike was great, it's a tough course made tougher by the wind and I averaged 20mph while never really feeling I was into it. Do I think I could have carried on for another 22miles. Yup
The run was as tough as old boots but I kept the pace consistant even with my random walk breaks. Other than an unforseen drink/stomach issue I'd have kept the same pace for lap 3. Could I have done another lap -yeah I think so. I'd have rather had a more cushioned pair of shoes for the stoney off road section though.
2.8km sea swim - 45:02
Transition 1 - 5:53
91 mile bike ride - 4:36:11
Transition 2 - 2:08
19mile run - 2:31:35
Total Time - 7:56:12