If you had all seen my latest post, you will have been aware that I was intending to fully go out there any enjoy the Dambuster race this year and try to avoid any dramatics like last year. Being at Rutland Water gave me that full home advantage and I wanted to face my demons and race hard and strong with the added bonus that it was a ITU Worlds Qualifier and would be a tough field.
Knowing the course was probably in my best interests as having been following the weather forecasts pretty much hourly, I knew that a Southerly wind would mean that the Rutland Ripple would be doubly hard due to the hills and the headwind.
So the weekend began with my friend Rob Monk arriving from Chester. He has played a large part in my swim coaching for the past couple of years so it was great to be able to see him and show him the route the night before. Driving around the course was a great way of seeing where you needed to be able to push and where you needed to avoid anything in the road- there wasn't that much as our roads around here are really quite good and smooth!
We then registered and were informed that due to the temperature of the water being below 12 degrees BTF rules stated that they needed to cut it down by 500m making it 1000m. Additionally due to the southerly wind blowing directly into the creek that we were to swim in, if this made it difficult for safety cover, they would cancel the swim entirely, making it a duathlon with a 5km run to begin.
That was not the greatest news I could have heard. I was ignoring the fact that the water was so damned cold, but knew that I would not have covered 15km in training so that would be a bit challenging to say the least. The decision would be made at 6.15am the following morning.
So it was off home to discuss the potential pitfalls for the next day and what our race strategy would be come duathlon or tri. For Will and Rob a shorter swim was really detrimental as they are very strong swimmers this would mean that they had even less time on their main competitors.
The morning dawned windy and slightly drizzly, but I was pleased to see that the rain did manage to hold off and even the sun was trying to say hello.
It was great to be at a race knowing the area, knowing sooooo many people, and to have Stamford Tri supporters out in force to cheer us on. Racking my bike I overheard the commentator announce that a swim was due to take place, and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, as swimming is my strongest at the moment. Racked up, I made my way over to the throng of Stamford Tri competitors and we chatted and listened to the race briefing to be told that we needed to watch out for cars etc as the amount of people on bikes would mean that the cars would be slowing down. You weren't to overtake or undertake, and with 8 draft busters on the course, drafting would be definitely caught!
Finally it was time for Will's wave to go, and beach starts would take place- to get as much meterage as they could for the swim and watched the men dive into the water. I managed to clock Will coming out of the water in 7th place around 1:30 down on the leader (he was MILES in front!).
Chatting Ready for the race
Then it was back out and ready with the hooter for the off......
Beach Start made for interesting swimming or rather fighting- you would have thought ladies were uch more polite!
Off we went!
I can only descorbe that those first few hundred metres as being a bit of a washing machine and fight. I was groped, I groped others, I got hit on the head. It was really manic. I can only imagine that for weaker swimmers it was really quite awful. I stuck my head down and maintained a hard but manageable pace which seemed to get me clearer and nearer the front of the pack. As we made our way towards the end of the creek I was in clearer water but still on top of people and toes. It was only when we turned around (and back into the wind and chop) that I made some headway as I was fairly confident in this choppy water. Having only swallowed a small amount of water, I was pleased to get back to the start with relative ease and exited the water with a couple of others. It seems I placed well in my age group for the swim and exited the water around 25th or so out of a field of 190. Not bad at all! With 15:20 for the 1km swim being announced by the commentator (she did have some good points!) and running the slightly longer path for the ladies and older gentleman's transition, I found my bike and then struggled to get the wetsuit off (thus noting that I needed to practise this a bit more!).
Getting onto the bike was a bit of an effort but once the shoes were on (left them on the bike this time with elastics) I was off down the driveway and out onto the main road.
Here would be a slight crosswind which I used to my advantage and worked my way on the bike, I was fully expecting to be passed quite a bit on these early stages, which did happen, although I managed to pass a couple myself and made my way to the first roundabout without too much trouble. I could however see the cars being problematic as one car passed me and then couldn't pass anyone else so braked heavily meaning that I had to slow, as did two other ladies, and then on the roundabout he managed to squeeze one of these poor ladies onto the pavement! Not good at all. I also clocked a large group of ladies in front of me who were clearly drafting, but it wasn't long before I saw a draft buster coming along and clocking them! I also happened to see a lady whose number wasn't facing the right way, and the draft buster signalled this to her, and after he had rode off, she blatantly left it facing forward- there is just no justice sometimes.
The next section was to be straight into the wind and my gosh it was tough hard work. Approaching the Ripple I knew that it would be tough, but managed to get my head down and work up those hills as hard as I had done in training... and some! It was great to see so many people cheering us on at specific points as well. The only weird thing I experienced was a real feeling of jittering in my legs on all of the hills. I don't know whether it was anxiety or nervousness or even weakness, but any ideas or thoughts are greatly recommended!
Having conquered the Ripple, it was down onto the fastest part of the course. It was brilliant! Tailwind and smooth flat roads meant that I beat my target of getting to the final hill in Ketton. i wanted to be there in an hour which I did. I was pleased as punch. I did manage to pass a few more people (probably around 10-12 in total) which isn't many but considering the field I took it all in my stride and enjoyed it.
Heading back into Whitwell would be another tough old drag, but I clocked my time and realised that my aim of 1:30 for the bike was a very realistic goal and making my way back into T2 (with a very slick dismount according to Will) I was pleased to have ridden a 29.2kph average (1:26:06). AWESOME!
The run would be my absolute worst part of the day, although setting out of T2 I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt ok. Heading out to the Dam I realised soon enough that I probably would need to remove my trusty cap and went across the dam into a huge headwind that wanted to blow me away! The run was a steady run and although I knew that it was slow, I just wanted to finish strong and not have any stomach problems. I had taken a gel 20 minutes before the swim and at 45 minutes into the bike and only sipped a bit on the bike. I did not want to vomit again or to have a stitch. I was unfortunate enough to get a slight stitch initially on the run, but this soon went off. I ran as hard as my legs would go, and it was a relief to get the wind on my back turning around on the dam.
On my final leg I was quite pleased that there was a steady stream of people after me, meaning that I would not be last and far from it!
The last mile I tried to push slightly harder, and with it came the stupid heaving again (need to sort this out) and it was a huge case of mind over matter to stop me from being ill over the finish line which would not have been a pleasant look! Lots of cheering from Stamford Tri all the way to the finish and some great photos (courtesy of Darren Kelly and Steve Meynell- thank you guys!) showed that I really did enjoy my day out on the Dambuster.
Finish line- Yes I had done it!
What a race! It was then to find everyone and congratulate everyone else and see what my final times were.