It seems like an absolute age ago now, but on the 22nd June, I raced the Worlds 2013 and Europeans 2014 Qualifying race right on my own doorstep- the Dambuster. Having been on the triathlon circuit for a while now, this race holds a lot of prestige and for me holds a lot of memories. It was the first triathlon that I think I ever watched, 7 years ago, when Will raced trying to qualify for the Worlds in Lausanne in 2006. in 2011 it was a race that saw me battling sever shin splints and after seeing both Will and another fellow friend drop out, I had my own race trauma crying on the bike leg and pulling out on the run. It was a difficult time for me and being such a competitive race it was immensely hard to watch yourself slipping further and further back in the field. 2012 was the year of everything- I managed to get around the course fairly ok and enjoyed the race! This year it was all about taking on the times from last year and trying to beat them- although the run aspect wasn't going to be fun and I knew this was going to be a toughie given the sever lack of running training and run form.
Registration Friday evening was a picture perfect scene, delicious millpond conditions with not a breath of wind. Both Paul (friend and soon to be Ironman UK competitor) and I had been checking the weather forecast with an almost obsessive nature during the week and we discussed how we both thought that we were hoping that each time we pressed refresh on the Met office, BBC weather, Metcheck, XV weather... (you get the idea) the weather would miraculously turn from 15mph wind with gusts up to 25mph and rain to a balmy day of sunshine and light winds.
It was not to be, and race morning dawned (very bright and early for this race) at 4.45am with drizzle and gusty winds. Despite the fact that the Dambuster is on our doorstep in the picturesque county of Rutland, we were at the race HQ for 5.45am with cars soon queuing to get onto the site. Will and I managed to get ourselves sorted pretty sharpish, and then spent some time giving Paul some tips (it was his first ever triathlon and he had chosen probably one of the most competitive races in the country to do it!). the next few sentences you should read as the complete opposite of what is actually written and you can start to get a sense of how we were feeling.... The water looked quite appealing exceptionally calm and not at all choppy. The canoeists safety cover certainly looked to be like this would be the easiest day ever for them..... Anyway.... with the conditions being as they were, the swim was slightly shortened giving us 1390m as they brought the furthest away buoy back into shore- you couldn't see it anyway! I was in wave 6, with Will and Alex (our other mad triathlon friend) in the first wave. Michelle (his other half) wasn't racing, so she was on chief photographer duty. We both commented on how choppy it looked and how it was going to be a toughie as you swam past the point which was sheltered With a South/South Westerly wind it was blowing straight into the creek. Not ideal.... We then waited for the horn and suddenly it became apparent that triathletes could do a Kris Gemmell . Alex was the first one to set this trend off and sure enough the following waves copied suit and would run around the edge of the beach start to get a competitive advantagfe over the swimmers. Well it also soon became apparent that this was dangerous and shortly before we were off they prevented the ladies from doing the same.
Being a beach start was rather nerve racking, but given that the water temperature was much more temperate than of late I was rather enjoying the warmish water around my ankles before we set off. I knew it was going to be a beastly swim as soon as we swan past that point, and boy it was rough! I usually breathe to the right, but during that leg I had to go against all instincts and breathe on the opposite side. It was tough until that first bouy and then on the turn we had the wind mostly behind us, but on the diagnonal so I kept bashing into the other swimmers quite a bit. The swim down seemed to take forever but then on the way back, I seemed to overtake a fair few others. Getting out of the water I sprinted into T1- getting one of the fastest times for T1 in my category (if I'm not the fastest swimmer I can try and be the fastest changer!) and wetsuit off I must have passed 4 girls onto the bike. My favourite part at the moment! I just settled into a rhythm and let the water roll off me as I got onto the tri-bars. Home field advantage meant that I knew what to expect, where to hold off, where to power through and for the first time ever I think- I was powering up those hills like there was not a hill in sight! Despite the first part being mostly into the headwind (Rutland Ripple) the tailwind was EPIC! I flew on the back straights of the course and before I knew it I was heading back up the familiar road into Whitwell.
It was great and I managed a PB on the course, with fairly tough windy conditions! Racking the bike and trainers on, it was a struggle to get going on the run. Immediately my legs cramped up and my glutes, hamstrings and calves were yelling at me. My ankle was also really sore on impact. This was not going to be a fun run at all! I managed around the run, but not in a PB time or anything particularly fast. i was just running for survival! Realistically I should have possibly dropped the run out and been satisfied with a great swim and bike, but I was also secretly hoping for a European's place. I have managed to get a percentage place, possibly meaning that I could get a rolldown place- but Will managed to qualify so looks as though we woudl head to Kitzbuhel anyway!
This weekend saw the inaugural Oakham triathlon held again on my home patch at the gym and swimming pool that I use every week (or daily when I am fully fit!). It was to be a fairly sociable start time of 11:02 am just before Alex and Michelle (10 minutes after me) so I was hoping that I would make it onto the run before they caught me up!
Having an okish pool swim (400m in 6:58) was not my fastest but with men pulling my legs 9i kicked back) and a choppy swim (I sense some kind of theme here) from such a dated pool with string rather than lane ropes, I was pleased to get it over and done with. Running out to the tiny transition (only around 180 competitors) I was racked near the end, and was slick as I could have been out onto the windy bike course. being called the MountainBull oakham triathlon I knew that this route was to be a hefty challenge, even though it was only 14 miles, the majority of the first half was direct into quite a blustery headwind, so climbing Cold Overton Hill was a bit more of an effort than usual.
Anyway with blue skies and dry weather, we couldn't complain too much, and the hills weren't too much of an issue for me. I headed back into T2 only just narrowly missing beating Alex in before he overtook me. That was a bit demoralizing!
Heading into a tight T2 I ran out of transition really fast, before an almighty stitch kicked in straight away. My stomach was so tight and the water I had drunk on the bike just sloshed around despite the sweat pouring off me. I was really struggling and felt the pace slacken right off. It was only on the turnaround and seeing Michelle as she charged past me that spurred me on up the hill, and then just as quickly as it appeared, the stitch disappeared What a weird thing, i felt the pace quicken and then before I knew it I was running back to the finish line. It was a great feeling to have finished the race, and I was nearly sick again and just managed to hold it (quite literally) in. I was not really aware of what my time was or positioning due to the wave and swim starts, however it looked promising for Michelle although strangely she was 2nd in her age category..... I however noticed that they had put 1 next to my cat placing.... did that mean an AG win? Well yes it did! It was a tough little sprint race and although it was immensely painful, I was pleased as punch with my AG win. 1st out of 10 in my AG (20-29 years). What was even better was encouraging my friend Rachel and Matt in their first ever triathlon. I lent out bits of kit and even helped with their training a little bit, so I was quite proud of them both for completing what was a relatively tough triathlon!
So now it's finally the end of my blog, and a bit of a sad end I am afraid to say... I have felt totally exhausted and drained since Monday and I think that 3/4 weekends racing has certainly taken its toll on me. I feel that I should shelve the training this week, and I am headed for blood tests next week just to check that there is nothing untoward going on. I have felt tired before but not like this.... hopefully it is a small stumbling block, but I want to try and get back training ready for the Vit in 8 weeks time. I think rest and recovery is just as important and I want to get my body back fighting fit!
So in the meantime, a bit of downtime.... nothing wrong with that!
Happy training folks!