Race No 104
Billed as 2Km Swim, 77K Bike, 20K Run which is 99K (14K short of 70.3) none the less a significant distance.
I went and registered on the Saturday in order to make my life a bit less stressful on race morning on Sunday (it doesn’t matter how many times I do this, I still get the Jitters) to be told that the swim had been cancelled due to an algal bloom and toxic water, the swim was replaced with a 5K run turning the race into a Duathlon. This was disappointing but understandable but as the swim is my strongest discipline, a little bit worrying for me!
If you have never done a duathlon you should not think it’s easier than Triathlon, it certainly isn’t, especially for a strong swimmer who’s run & bike training has been somewhat “intermittent” for the last 12 months.
This race was always going to be an experiment to see if I could “Blag” the distance on very little training relying on the base I have built up over a number of years and the knowledge that I had done this and much more in the past and on many occasions. Could the mental strength that came from knowing you have done it before offset a distinct lack of training?
I arrived early as is usual for me and racked and got sorted there was a lot less faffing involved as the swim was deleted. I saw Andrew Hallowell in transition and we wished each other well, I saw him on the run course, he nailed the bike and looked really strong on the run, absolutely smashed it winning his age group! Good luck in Barcelona!
My plan for what it was worth was to run the first 5K at goal 20K pace, bike at 140.6 (full) pace and then run the 20K at the same pace as the first 5K.
The first 5K went to plan (24:54) and as there was no wetsuit involved transition was quick and easy (1:22)
Out on the bike course there are two or three climbs that you would notice with the rest undulating, it’s a nice course and the traffic was minimal! First lap went by uneventfully but some of the road conditions were poor which impacted descent speeds on some of the steeper downhills, my first lap was faster than my second, given my lack of conditioning I over biked lap1 and paid for it on lap 2. (2:40:04, 29Kph) again Transition was relatively simple, apart from my legs were not working (1:55)
The final 20K run is a 4 lap 5K course and is almost identical to the first 5K but with a little extra which brings you close to the finish line for the turn round. As soon as I got off my bike and tried to run to rack I knew I was in a lot of trouble! I usually run really well off the bike, today was going to be a very different story!
It took me around half a lap of run-walk to loosen up to a point where I could run continuously, I then mostly ran a lap and a half, only walking the steeper hills (tbh they were not really hills) after this I was in more pain than I have ever experienced even at the end of a Long Course triathlon marathon run! Luckily everything hurt and not just one thing so whilst I was in pain no one thing was getting to a point of failure. If you get a tight spot in one place and not in another the uneven strain often leads to injury. I had to dig deep just to move forward and nearly gave up on a number of occasions. The support of the other competitors helped to keep me going and I decided to enjoy some banter with them and offer support to take my mind of how I felt, this worked great and I am pretty sure helped others too. I also had some kids cheering for the Pirate which is always uplifting, their dad passed me at one point and had been told by them that he had better beat the Pirate J that was pretty much nailed on!
On laps 3 and 4 I started to dread the turn around and a few other spots where the spectators were congregating because my pride would not let me walk here and I knew it was going to hurt!
The last lap seemed to take an age but at least as I ran down to the lake for the last time I now knew I would finish, I even picked it up a bit from a shuffle to a run for the finish chute!
Done (5hrs, 38mins, 45seconds)
6th in Age Group, or last in age group J
71st finisher of 82 (must try harder)
Whilst this finish is woefully slower than I am capable of, it is actually one of my proudest, I sucked it up and got it done.
For a change I didn’t get emotional at the finish (too broken) I am not ashamed to say I often cry at the end of an Ironman and remembering those finishes even years later does it to me every time! For example I got choked up travelling to the Relays with Dave Harley when we were chatting about races we would like to do, just remembering the IM Wales start made it hard to talk for a while!
It is interesting that at no point did I feel my heart and lungs were at capacity nor was I low on energy. What was missing was the conditioning that you get from spending long hours in the saddle and on your feet along with the strength that comes from bike interval work and track/trail running.
I now know what it really feels like to hurt and that up to now in races I just haven’t been trying hard enough, when I am back to full fitness and racing full distance next year this race will help me put into perspective how I feel and just suck it up and take the hurt.
In short, yes you can “Blag” it and finish on very little training but don’t expect to perform and it’s going to hurt, A LOT!