Sunday, August 28, 2016

Worthing Standard Triathlon - ITU European Qualifiers 2016


Driving down to Brighton on a bank holiday Friday.  Watching the queuing traffic on the North-bound carriageway as we sailed through all the way to Gatwick before reaching any traffic.  Then we were off again and arrived, partially sweltering at 10:30pm to unload the car into my friend's house as our weekend base.

I had a poor night's sleep - heat, an open window and noisy neighbours, a snoring tiger who slept in the middle of the bed and left me switching between the edge of the mattress and the cat sofa.

Registration was a pleasure as I bumped into a team mate at registration. She wanted to remain nameless as it was her first standard distance race. Still,  a real pleasure to catch up and offer some encouragement though I was a little stuck for advice to give as she is an accomplished sprint racer.  It was however, frighteningly hot.  I sweltered through a walk in town then drove to registration to save my legs and get some time in an air conditioned car.  I yearned for my cool, stone house in Yorkshire.  We drove the bike route to get familiar with it and a slightly complicated turn-around point and also to pass a bit more time in the air conditioning of the car and just about managed to drink enough to stay hydrated before going to bed.

Thankfully, with a single mattress pulled onto the floor of our room and ear plugs, I had a much better night's sleep and was actually ready to get up at 5:15am for breakfast and race packing as the wind battered the windows in the kitchen.  The sky blackened as we drove east and rain spattered the car - or was it sea spray?  Hard to tell.

In Worthing, the weather was very different from registration.  I actually queued for the loo wearing my fleece. Straight to the start line. We were counted into the water and allowed a quick familiarisation swim before being pulled out to do an impressive running start into the crashing waves. They literally were 4 ft tall. On the start line I was laughing. Excited. I would happily have spent all day in there playing on a surf board or just body surfing. I thought the swim was going to be a blast! I rubbed my hands together with glee.

The siren sounded and we threw ourselves at the waves. Belly flopping into the waves seemed more feasible than running and thankfully there was soon enough water to support my weight and I started swimming.

For about 4 minutes I tried to keep with the group but keeping and swimming into are different things and I found my long, slim frame getting buffetted left and right by the waves.  It was almost impossible for me to swim crawl in a straight line and less possible for me to breathe.  I really couldn't time the waves and was either fighting for breath to stay on course or being smacked in the face by a 5 foot wave.

The kayak support were rapidly waving at me to change my line just to stay on the right side of the buoy and once safely around that, things rapidly got worse and I resorted to breast stroke just to keep myself on line and get my breath back.  Every time I stuck my face in the water I got blown inside the buoys towards the shore.  I accidentally swam into another competitor who got quite pissed off with me - justifiably - and when someone started swimming on my feet I just screamed, "oh for fuck's sake, give me some fucking room".  Yeah, it was starting to get a bit tetchy out there.  The woman in front of me didn't seem to be able to believe it and kept treading water, looking around to seek assurance from everyone else that this really was happening, we really were doing this right?  I know how she felt.  I started to wonder if they'd cancel the rest of the races.

Breast stroke it is then.  Possibly my best decision.  I decided a qualifying time was out of the window so I started to relax and just enjoy my day.  Once I'd calmed down I started to swim competitive breast stroke, breathing under the water and properly skimming.  I caught a few people up - still struggling from earlier waves.

I knew I wasn't going to turn around at the first buoy because that had been from the sprint race so looked towards the second buoy.... but then another one appeared!  SHeesh.

I kept going with breast stroke.  Having tried a sneaky crawl and been nearly drowned again I decided it wasn't a good idea and got back to the breast stroke.  At least the return to base was downhill (with a tail wind).  Around the buoy it was hard to see where to go.  A lot of people were cutting a straight line for transition which seemed like a massive short cut to me and I'm still not happy with some of the record-breaking swim times on the results sheet.  I stuck out towards the line of buoys so I wouldn't get dq'd or washed to shore forcing me to swim back out to finish.  At times I had people coming the other way swimming within 2 feet of me as they were being washed inshore.

Finally, I cut the corner when it felt reasonable to do so and clambered out feeling deidedly battered.  A painful run up a rocky beach followed by a gravelly carpark and I could get my cycling kit on.

I decided for a fleece jersey to cover the impending cloud-doom and gusty conditions and don't regret it.  I only felt hot once or twice and the heavens opened briefly on the course.

The ride out of town passed without fail.  Impressive given the potholes and speed bumps.

Out of town the ride was pleasant - undulating and the climbs suited me down to the ground.  Although not steep, I had to put some effort in to the long climbs.  I got passed by a guy on the ups and caught him back up on the flats and downhills.

Looking at my watch and doing a bit of maths I realised that my swim couldn't have actually been that bad.  I must've still managed to pull a 32 minutes swim out of the bag.  I mean it's not great but I've qualified with less.  I was still competitive.  I put a bit of effort in after that.

I got a brief draft of a tesco lorry passing on the best part of the course.  Obviously I immediately backed off to the recommended distance but Tesco lorries don't half pull!

I ground out the bike ride in 1hr 22min.  Pretty pleased.  Not as good as Bala but still competitive.

Coming back into base I knew I could look forwards to seeing Lucy on the run and of course, TSK, who was out with his mountain bike.

I had a good run transition but didn't pick up any gels.  Oh well, I'd have to manage.  What I did know was it was going to be windy - well, half windy!  Tail wind out, head wind in.  With two laps to do, it was on-load, off-load.  I was running well.  A little wobbly but that would go away.  I hammered it down the straight.  I was getting passed by a lot of people but I mostly put this down to much faster runners on their second lap getting ready to finish.  I waved to some of the other 40s girls, well ahead of me going the other way.

Lucy was at the turnaround point offering cheers and shouted, "find someone to run behind" as I turned into the headwind.

A man came past me and I got in behind him and stuck with him as long as I could but the pace was not sustainable and I didn't just want to blow up so I dropped back to my own pace at the pain of running into the headwind.  Then the engineer in me realised that if I couldn't run behind a person I could at least run behind the beach huts.  Genius. That saved me some effort.

Onto lap two and Lucy had headed home to race Steve back to the house from Worthing.  I still thought I was going to see her though which made me keep going - at least keep looking like I knew what I was doing.  Back at the final turnaround point and I caught up a lady with red hair.  I drafted her for a while but she just wasn't going fast enough anymore.  I didn't want to pass her and then die in the wind but I really thought I could do better so I came past and encouraged her to sit behind me for a bit so we could work together to the finish line.

Unfortunately she couldn't keep up with me and I left her behind.  A blonde lady came past me and I sat behind her up to the lap 2 turnaround where she picked up a band and headed out on her second lap leaving me to run into the headwind on my own until the finish.  I was back to drafting beach huts.

Finally the line came into view.  A drop down from the beach promenade into the finishing field and a push for the extra few seconds to finish.  No gels - so a perfectly balanced lead up to the race.  I knew I'd done everything right this time except for a few seconds wasted in transition.  A race I could truly be proud of and one I found incredibly enjoyable with a side order of spending time with great friends over the weekend.

Only one thing remained, did I get a qualifying time for Kitzbuhel or not?  Well, upon initial inspection it appeared that I had, with the winner of my AG finishing in 2:24 and me in 2:50, giving me 118% of the winner's time.  However, a lady moving up into 40-44 AG next year did finish faster in 2:21:38 (20:54, 1:16, 42:14), putting me 0.17% outside a qualifying time.

Am I disappointed?  No, not really.  Unlike last year, I didn't invest this whole year in AG qualifying, it would have been the cherry on a rather tasty cake - a cake largely made from Iron distance, with a thick layer of Half Ironman cream in the middle and a surprising quantity of enjoyable jam underneath.  The icing is having made enough time to prepare for a very enjoyable summer holiday experience on the mountain bike (more to follow) and the coffee that goes with the cake is figuring out just where I feel I might like to otherwise direct my efforts for next year and I'm quite excited about that.

Number of entrants: 522
Number of brave starters: 411
Number of people still competing after the swim: 367
Swim: 32:28 306th, 100/110 19/20
T1: 3:07 352! 345/361 105/110 19/20
Bike: 1:22:24 277th (normality restored) 59/110 10/20
T2: 1:16 298th 81/110 17/20
Run: 50:57 (nowt special but enough) 288th 67/110 10/20

So... swim training it is then!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Positive Anxieties?

Morning running tale Rain, heavy nettles and mud Ouchy midriff fail

I woke up at 4am, worrying that the car had no insurance for its impending trip to Europe.

Got up and ate a banana, hoping I'd fall asleep again but it was no good. Thankfully, work laptop was at home so I logged on, put my mind at rest and set about going back to bed.

Then I started worrying about getting all my kit on my bike for the trip. It all worked last week and I had spare space left in a backpack for dry / clean clothes but since then I've made a long mental list of additional bits to take and now I'm not sure if it will all go. A lot of little things mounts up to more bags. I also received some new kit yesterday which should prove to be more robust than the Restrap stuff I bought initially. That keeps dropping bits - mainly into my wheel - not good!

I got out of bed again at 5am. I still didn't manage to run yesterday so I decided I would run now. It's the best way to ease anxiety - it really is. I've found this when I've been away with work. There's nothing like a sleepless night followed by a 3am run - or staying up late and having a 2am run before bed time. Nothing like it at all.

So I dressed in warm-ish running gear and ate some cereal, fed the cats (I was actually up before the cats got in!!!) and set off up the hill in the rain wearing a thin wind-proof to keep the chill of the rain off. It was insufficient to keep the rain out but I didn't want to get too hot.

By the time I reached the top of the Rivelin Valley, the rain had stopped and I wore my coat open to dry it before stripping it off, bundling it in my palm and running the rest of the run without.

How far? I kept going till I got fed up then turned around and went back. So I turned around at about 4 miles, dithered a little and then ran it back. I put on a burst of speed for the downhill which left me doubled-over trying to manage my digesting breakfast and breathe at the same time. Once I felt better, I did a fast run along the river, just enjoying the flow. When I reached the Rivelin Road, I decided to take a fast turn down the road - since there was still virtually no traffic on the road yet.

Bliss, fast, quiet - being suddenly away from the gurgling noises of the river. 7 miles in total so I treated myself to a walk up the hill.

I got home at 8am and made coffee. What a brilliant start to the day. Why don't I do this more often? (because I hate the bit I always forget about - the bit in the middle where I can't decide which path to take because I'm so bloody tired and I just wish everyone would go away.

Still, maybe another time huh?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thoughts before Worthing (think Worthers Originals).

Worthers Originals
I can't remember the name of this race I'm going to next week.  It's not a place I know anything about.  I had to look up where it is.  I might have been once, but can't quite be sure.

I have to think of the delicious childhood sweets, to recall the name of the place.  Sometimes "Worthing" gets a "ton" on the end of it but Worthington is in Leicestershire so I'm not going there... at least I hope I'm not going there as I'm staying in Brighton.

Worthing is the only qualifying race I can make for the Europeans next year - Liverpool having been filled before I was ready to enter and the Ellesmere race clashing with this year's Europeans.  So I have one shot at it.

I haven't put nearly as much specific effort into this race as I did when I qualified last year at Bala.  I've done a lot of running but none of it short and fast.  I've done a lot of cycling now to get ready for Torino Nice - but none of it fast and flat.  I've done a bit of very pleasant swimming but I'm not sure how that will see me perform in the sea swim at Worthing.  All I can hope is I fare better than a few others because I am less prone to wobbles of confidence in the waves and more likely to take anti-sickness pills on the basis that I can feel ill on a flat lake in August.  And the yoga!  Let's not forget the yoga which I've done with reasonable regularity, either in classes or at home / work.

I seem to have a brick wall outside my front and back doors today.  I've dressed like a runner but so far have failed to exit the doors.  Possibly I am too lightly dressed like a runner and need my leggings to combat the wind and rain squalls which seem to be abiding.  According to my records, I last ran on Friday last week - 8 days ago - when I achieved only 6.3 miles per hour and it hurt.  I thought the lunchtime run was back.  It has continued to evade me all of this week and so I will be no faster. I may not even qualify.  There's no excuses about resting up.  I'm just going to be slow, but dammit, I'll do my best.

But what can I say about this year other than it has been an absolute blast?  A mixed bundle of insignificant results.  23rd in the European tri champs, 13th in an Ironman - and last, 11th in a half Ironman which I enjoyed immensely.  

Since the Legend Half, I have been working on my cycling.  For once, my bike ride was the slowest - 58th in the swim, 60th on the bike and 52nd in the run.  With a 700km mountain cycle ride for my holidays I decided it was time to get ready for the mountain bike and have ridden no other bike since.  

So what can I do to give my fitness a kick in the proverbial for next week?  I've been sneakily dreaming of turbo sessions.  Something that many of my team mates are currently celebrating completing prior to their Ironman races.  Me?  I can't bring myself to get on the thing whilst the weather is good.  Something to do with being a bit old school and considering myself a real cyclist who rides to work regardless and is therefore too tired for turbo at the end of the day.  Something to do with having to tidy up the kitchen before I do turbo.  So I wonder if I'll manage it today.  Whilst I'm sitting on the sofa covered in cat at the moment, it doesn't seem likely but with autumnal weather and those walls outside the back door and the womens' Olympic triathlon on the TV, who knows what might happen.