Saturday, March 26, 2011

Newbury Duathlon Race Thoughts

4:45 am is not an acceptable time for an alarm clock on Saturday, never mind a race day Saturday but let's just regress for a moment to 7:00 on Friday night when we realised we'd made it to Northampton without the keys for the Wootton Bassett house.

A swift call to the old cat sitter found us crawling around in the bushes and the recycling bin at Wootton Bassett trying to find the keys and talking to the neighbours to figure out whether she'd been round or forgotten.

We got ourselves in at 8pm. Cooked and ate dinner and hit the newly transported 2 single mattresses on an old-fashioned UK size double bed frame. A little skew when we went to bed turned into sleeping on a 45 degree slope in the middle of the night - or so my brain thought.

4:45 am. Drive to Oxford park and ride. Drop off boyfriend for 300km Audax. Retreat to Chievely services via a few wrong exits in the fugg of 5:45am. Toilet stop.

Bed down for 2 hours with bike leaning ominously above me and my thermarest and my lovely snuggley Rab down sleeping bag. Wake up refreshed at 8am. Toilet stop.

Coffee and buns, lunch bought, race drinks made up using bottled water from M&S. I am totally weaned onto Northern water again now. Race clothes on.

8:30am Drive back to Chievely village and register for Duathlon. Show evidence of payment for season on account of losing triathlon card in wallet in Switzerland. Talk to neighbouring car owner whilst drinking coffee and checking tyre pressure in the sunshine. Moderate panic when I realise helmet is not in the transition box then distinctly remember sticking race number to helmet and realise it's on my bike.

Rack bike, lay out box - shoes in right order, near top. Gloves opened and laid on top of shoes. Energy food. Number on belt. Drinking drinking drinking. Feeding as stomach convinced still hungry. It has, after all, been working on and off for 5 hours already.

I am missing my wetsuit / swim costume and the prospect of doing this thing soaking wet. I did my racing nail polish – as usual on Friday night – toenails too. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wasn’t going to get my feet out.

Faffing. Clothes changed, on off on again and off again. Running round the field, down the road. Race briefing which I spend chatting to a chatty woman. One last shed of layers as I conclude it is warm enough to race in my vest.

A man backing away from the front runners nearly walks backwards into someone and we're off - forwards mate, not backwards.

My target today is to run my own race - not get caught up into competitions I can't manage. I tried to set myself some target speeds based on my race targets for ADIL and the Helvellyn Tri but they're so difficult to compare with this event. My target flat speed of 7min/km is so slow on this little field in Chievely and at the start of the race so many people are going much faster than that. It's not that I can't resist joining them, I just feel so slow at my target speed so I run at what makes me comfortable.

There's some cheeky hills and I realise I'm trying quite hard to keep pace with those around me. It does hurt; can I really keep this up? I use a technique to take my mind off the pain - looking up. It's really hard to focus on the negative when you look up and as soon as I'd looked up my brain stopped saying, "hurty hurty... must hurry" and said, "Ooh bumblebee".

I felt good off the road as we bounced down some steps and my feet started swishing through lush green grass instead of pavement pounding. Last night's rain had soaked into the soil meaning it wasn't dusty and had evaporated from the grass. I had little battles up the lesser inclines.

When we hit the longest and steepest hill, my fell runner’s legs did their thing and I passed several people. The sunlight dappled through the overhanging branches of trees and life was good up until the final road section back to transition but then the pain was taken away as I chatted to number 142, out of surgery 5 weeks ago, this is the start of her training for the ironman distance at Henley in the summer. She's brought her mountain bike to do some resistance training on the ride.

In T1 everything is smooth. I exit transition to find a marshal walking along the curb stopping me from getting onto the road. Something to do with a car coming. Ahead of him is a woman turning her pedal around by hand before lifting her foot over her top tube to mount her bike. Seriously, if you're going to do that, do me the favour of buying yourself a ladies' bike.

Faced by the misery of waiting for all this to get out of my way, I jog along the pavement, place my bike in the road in front of it all and do a running mount to get going. I set off down the road at 38km/hr. My target average is 27. I see neither the nervous lady, nor the car that probably waited for her again.

I have no idea about the profile of this course. I am here because Andrew was starting the event in Oxford. It's not a big race for me, just a training event really. I'm not sure that if I carry on at 38kph there will be plenty of redress later as I slog up some hill at 14kph.

I start ticking people off, slinking by on my tri bars. I finally catch up number 142. That mountain bike is bloody quick. Beyond this, a number of similarly skilled riders start to group together. Two women and one man. We pass each other time and again, sometimes three abreast, working our way between other competitors and negotiating inconsiderate motor vehicles which just get in the way. One of us is a better climber, another passes then lets up as they take a drink, someone else is better on the flat. We all help each other, calling out when it's safe to pull in, shouting out when a runner is coming down the road. Gradually, one by one, I pass them for the last time and keep going.

I try to think about achieving my target speed of 27kph but my initial pace and the hills surprised me so much that I lost the will to plan it, to try to do anything with it or to think about it. At one point I was horrified to see my average speed was only 20kph but then realised that my run was included. I gave up at that point on trying to calculate my output to achieve the average and got on with riding.

The hilly bits start. My estimate that this would be a flattish course was not justified with first, rolling hills followed by one hell of a climb and I even had to get out of the top chain ring eventually.

The gradient and the niggling cramp in my calf conspire to force me to plan on idling a little bit on the ride back to the finish. Thankfully the course becomes suitably technical so none of my esteemed assailants were able to catch me. Twisty country lanes and gravelly potholes put paid to that.

There was a slight young man playing carrot ahead of me, going just that fraction slower than me that I could watch him and stalk him down over a long period of time.

My real pacer came when one of the misschief riders from last year's road race circuit passed me on a narrow village lane whilst training. It was obviously making her feel good to ride past people with 5km of running race in their legs so I used her to make me feel good and gave her a run for her money up a couple of steep climbs through villages. This is probably overstating it as she was already ahead and probably had no clue I was there but I kept pace with her anyway.

The "STOP" turn which had been so sorely emphasised as a foot-down-or-you're-out disqualification point was a bit of a disappointment. NOT actually a road-legal stop but a broken line give-way. I followed the marshal’s orders to put a foot down which amounted to a rolling stop with me scraping my cleat along the tarmac as I rolled down to around 4mph with sparks flying (in my head).

I approached some imaginary stop sign with a clear (if a little oblique) view that there was no traffic coming for 200m or so and I was sent on my way, somewhat confused.

My last overtake of the ride was done on the vehicular side of a traffic-calming ramp as the other chap carefully passed through the flatter cycle lane covering his brakes. I executed the ultimate flying dismount amongst flapping marshals and cheering crowds in the dismount area. Thankfully I kept my leg cramps under control though my stomach gently glopped as I ran into transition. I spend 2min: 20s in T2. When I put my running shoes back on they're lovely and warm - the black rubber of the new insoles cooked under the opaque lid of my tri box in the sunshine.

Some time is spent trying to persuade the guy I just passed to carry on as he complained of a sore calf. I offered ibuprofen gel and ran off, taking my gloves off and stuffing them in my pocket with the Garmin and an energy gel.

For the third part of the day I had no choice but to run my own race for I was pretty much alone. Partly a curse because I had no one to drive me to go faster, partly a blessing because no one was around to push me too hard too early.

I just kept plugging away at what did turn out to be an awesome speed over the 2nd 5km - for me. 5:40min/km. A couple of times I swore Colin Papworth the podiatrist a miracle-worker as my feet felt so comfortable and none of the usual serious pain in my legs was happening. The thought of my feet leaping forwards from the toes without unnecessary twisting or slipping carried me forwards even faster.

2 people passed me and I did try to go with them but there was nothing there so I continued my trudge, at least still driving myself to run up the hills. 3 people caught me on the final road section. I sped up to stay with them, feeling like I was trying too hard too early but making sure I was just draughting.

When we hit the last loop of the field, the pace increased yet again but I just couldn't manage it so I let them go. Thankfully only two people ran away from me, not three. I kept my pace as high as I could around the field and unleashed that secret extra sprint for the line that lies in the last lap bag of tricks on the final corner from the playing fields and through the finish line. I wasn’t sprinting against anyone other than the clock. I wanted to finish sub-2-hours but the Garmin didn’t include my transitions so I had no idea how close I was. A nice young marshal waited patiently to recover my timing chip whilst I walked all the rubbish out of my legs. A lady and a boy scout gave me water and a banana as I walked around in circles cooling down.

I popped into transition as it seemed like a safe, quiet and comfortable place to be with my things. I took the opportunity to stretch in peace in my shorts and vest under the spring sunshine.

What an incredible feeling of euphoria.

I didn't want to take my bike out of transition and admit the race was over. I was enjoying myself so much.

Walking across the carpark to the vanu, I was struck by the knowledge that I could've kept going. Not at the same speed but I could've. I packed the bike away in the vanu, kicked back the drivers' seat and ate my lunch whilst chatting to the other competitors and watching volunteers at work. Racing, vanu and sunshine. Except for TSK's absence, there’s no more perfect combination.

Run 1: 26:08 5:13.6min/km 125/137 overall. 9/22 women


Bike: 54:03 27.75km/hr 80/137 overall 5/22 women


Run 2: 28:09 5:37 min/km 117/131 overall 16/21 women. Need to improve this.

Total 1:53:01. Not bad for sub-2 hours.

12/27 female

4/5 age group female

107/141 starters

1 comment:

Vicki said...

me and Freya think that's very cool!!