Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Vitruvian Part Two: Race Morning and the Swim

The Vitruvian Triathlon 2013
1900m swim (1.2 miles)
85 km bike (52.8 miles)
21 km run (13 miles)

The Pimp

Just a little aside to introduce The Pimp as I haven’t blogged since I got her. She’s the best bike I’ve ever been able to afford. Still aluminium, with carbon forks. Even the cheapest carbon bike is waaaaaaay out of my price range. Anyway, here she is:

She loves it... gagging for a race she was
I got her at the end of July finally after messing about with the bike to work scheme which saves you about 30% overall (totally worth it!). I remember on our first ride out telling Chris “I am scared of how fast I know this bike can go”. I have no idea how people riding carbon deal with the speed. It scares the bejesus out of me! The wind is the main issue (I find) on the bike. On that first ride it was only a little blowy, but every field gateway or gap in the hedge and I knew about it. The bike felt so light compared to my old one (a few years old Boardman hybrid) that I felt it tugging underneath me as if potentially the bike could be blown out from under me. It turned out this was just getting used to it. It occasionally makes me jump now when it catches me off guard, and it does need correcting, but I’m used to it.

As for the name, she’s such a smooth ride I had an image pop in my head of a pimp in a velvet bell bottom suit, wide hat with feather etc and then I thought “Well, she does like making me ride, she’s clearly my pimp” so the name The Pimp was born.

Race Day

Just a little mention to the lovely young lady on reception at the Travelodge I stayed at who moved me rooms when I asked because I could hear a crying baby really loudly next door and I really needed a good night’s sleep! She put me in a room that appeared to be between two cupboards. How nice was that?! I slept pretty well for the night before a race. As I said before, the “prep” races had ended up making me kick myself up the bum and get training proper. I actually feel I’ve never felt more ready for a race. The distance didn’t intimidate me as I had already done the bike/run full distance brick session, and I wasn’t tired because I had tapered properly, which I don’t think I’d done before. I was sort of comfortable, but THAT was a little disconcerting. It was almost like the tapering was such an agonising wait, I was glad to just be getting on with it. Anyway, however I try and describe it, it felt a little different. I kept having the thought that this time last year I had been marshalling the event (and think the participants were all mad/amazing), not taking part, and how had it come about that I had moved from one to the other? I was a little worried about queuing to get back into Rutland Water but I was early enough to just miss the rush (It was about 5am and still dark). I had transition set up in no time (such a veteran!) and then just hung about waiting for other people to pop up. I found the boys in transition, then the A team down by the water. I thought I’d watch the first couple of waves set off then go and get suited and booted seeing as the first wave went 45 minutes before mine did. It turned out the A team had made support T-shirts which were awesome!

A team - run section
A team - bike section

The 'A' team: most amazing and committed support team ever

 It was such a beautiful morning. The sun was just rising in front of where the swimmers were heading in, and the water temperature was so good that in the race briefing they announced wetsuits were optional (though I didn’t see anyone take that ‘option’ as it was borderline!)
Photos don't do this place justice

 I began to feel a bit wobbly in the stomach as the first waves went off. I interpreted it as borderline worry/excitement. I was looking forward to it, but the swim looked really far (it had for the Dambuster) and there was a “run out round and back in” bit between swim laps that was new to me. My blood pressure is a little on the low side (not enough to prompt any cause for concern) but standing up suddenly from swimming can cause you to feel pretty light headed, and I had previously had problems with this. I was also thinking about the run back in because it was a nasty stony entry. I went off to get wetsuited and thought I may as well get in the portaloo queue whilst I was at it. Overhearing a conversation between the two people next to me prompted me to leg it for transition, which was closing, to grab my wetsuit. (This had not been in the race instructions, just that it would be closed for racking bikes from 6 as this could potentially get in the way of competitors coming off the swim). I got back in the loo queue and hit that “no sense of time” zone that comes from having no phone/watch for reference. The only way I knew I was ok for time was that there were other wetsuited ladies also in the queue for the loo (we were so few in number that they only needed to do one swim wave for us).

The Swim

I headed back down to the water ready to start. There was now a continuous stream of people around the swim route where all the prior waves had gone, spread out, and hit their second lap. As soon as the wave before mine went I was in the water trying to get the blood flowing swimming up and down and running my legs treading water. I do take some warming up and hate a cold start. I hung back for the start. I knew I was one of the slowest swimmers and there was no point being swum over and freaking out from the get go to set myself up for a bad race. I ended up in a busy spot anyway somehow and it got a bit lairy. It didn’t freak me out as it has done in the past though. I was kind of cool with it in a “this is normal” kind of way. I just made sure I kept one hand/arm in front all the time to save getting my goggles booted off in case I caught up with someone (which I did seem to be doing with some. Don’t get me wrong, eventually I ended up in the last few!). My sighting had been crap for the Dambuster, mainly because I hadn’t practised enough to get the breathing right. It threw me off rhythm. I had since made a point of practising in both open water and pool drills and it was paying off. I had a new rhythm which involved sighting every eighth stroke, whichever side I was breathing to (which I tried to alternate as my left arm is weaker and aches, but still need to build it up). I had sighting nailed, but actually seeing the first buoy was difficult, because the sun was coming up and reflecting off the water right into your eyes.
Sun in my eyes and the world at my feet :-)

 It was easier to see the second buoy once turning round the first, even though it looked miiiilllllllles away. I felt a bit robbed really as there had been some extra fluorescent buoys out for the Dambuster but they hadn’t put them out for the Vit. Anyway, cue lots of plodding swimming, trying to push a little but not get wiped out. I dropped off the back of the pack with a few stragglers, as expected, and overtook a couple of people from earlier waves who were slowing due to being on their second lap. The exit was rounding the Rutland Belle (a tourist boat) and coming in the last 25m to a sloping exit. I don’t really use my feet all that much swimming. I’m working on it but I run out of breath. Approaching the end of the boat for the exit turn, I began to kick as hard as I could. I knew from swim training that this was the only way I could make sure my blood pressure would be high enough to combat the wobbles on exiting the water. It worked. I was still disorientated and slow over the stones (I grabbed a marshall for support, but that’s what they were there for) but I didn’t have that crazy dizziness I had experienced previously where it felt I couldn’t stop my eyes flicking sideways and back for about half a minute. (Like if you spin around a lot and then stop, but it feels like your eyes are still trying to spin. It’s the best way I can describe it!) I actually managed to semi-run round to get back in.
I have to run round this? and then swim more?

A couple of other women were making a meal of it so I lobbed myself into the water past them and headed out again. Another woman seemed to be trying to swim over me, which was completely unnecessary now we weren’t in a crowd, so I tried to bump off her and get some space. She ended up slightly ahead of me, then because her sighting was rubbish she began to swim diagonally across in front of me. I was annoyed by then, so I grabbed her legs and shoved her to the side she was heading for to get her out of my way. She seemed to want to draft off me after this, but I was too conscious of her being a potential danger having got in my way twice already, so I deliberately headed slightly off course to get some space between us. From then on it was steady plodding again, until just before the second buoy where I felt my hand hit something quite hard at the end of my pull. I looked back and another swimmer was treading water looking a bit stunned. I’d clearly just clocked her in the face by accident. I asked if she was ok and she nodded so I apologised and turned to carry on. I felt bad but I couldn’t really do anything. She wasn’t bleeding that I could see, and there were plenty of canoe safety crew about it she got stuck. I think it was more the shock! She carried on anyway. I kicked like hell on the exit again and managed to get out pretty well. I asked the marshall to start my wetsuit zip off as I can never do it myself (this is allowed!) and managed to tap up to transition. I was walking by the time I got to my bike. My body felt really heavy from the swim. I shed the wetsuit and did my best to dry my feet on my talcum powder covered towel. I wasn’t gasping for breath but I didn’t want to be. It was all about lasting, finishing, not sprinting. It was too far for that. Putting my socks on I thought about how temperamental my feet are (they get upset easily and demonstrate this through ridiculous levels of blistering). I was aware that I needed to be careful putting my two-layer socks on because I could end up in a world of limpy pain on the run. I’d had situations before when I’d got them “wrong” before and ended up suffering for it. I didn’t have too long to think about it and just thought I’d have to sort them out later if I had to. I ran for the exit (not the easiest in bike shoes. I’ve never tried the rubber band-put your feet in your shoes whilst riding angle. I find it hard enough taking my bottle out for a drink). I had to stop at the mount line because I’d got my shoe strap folded wrongly somehow in the rush. I sorted that out, clipped one shoe in and pedalled like billy-o to get the pimp up the little incline to get out on the bike course (she was well ready for it)...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Vitruvian Part One: Prep

The Vitruvian Triathlon 2013
1900m swim (1.2 miles)
85 km bike (52.8 miles)
21 km run (13 miles)

Sorry! There was so much to say I've had to cut it in half! Suddenly I've been thinking and writing for so long I have to call it a day or I'll spend all day tomorrow asleep at work!

So... where to start? I’ve missed some bits recently, like Woodhall Spa’s nostalgia triathlon. We’ll have to come back to that. I need to get this down before it goes. I hate to lose the experience, and it’s already slipping away...

The Vitruvian (or The Vit) *flashback to lots of “are you hitting the Vit?” facebook comments flying around particularly between the madogaylords* started for me at last year’s event. My friend Aidy completed it and I was marshalling (and didn’t everyone crossing the bike mount line, either way, know about it). I remember once everyone was in on the bike moving over to marshall a crossing point on the run, and determinedly waiting for the last competitor to come in (a very tired looking man who was quite a way behind everyone else, but he made it!). I remember being in awe of everyone taking part. The distance seemed crazy! I was still doing sprints (with pool swims) at this point and it just seemed off the chart. I was so chuffed and proud for Aidy, especially as it was a really hot day and his time was amazing! (The sun does seem to come out for him, as it did on the Outlaw this year. Heat is not necessarily the best weather for triathlon!) Cue Aidy telling me I could do it, and me getting caught up in the excitement of it all deciding to sign up for it. This made sense last September, when it still wasn’t real. “I’ve got a year, easy” I told myself. And so it began...

Fast forward to conquering front crawl, getting my head around open water, speeding up on the run, and investing time in the cycling which I hated with a passion, especially after Lincoln Sportive (see 6th June Update). Most of these have been/will be documented... let’s get up to speed (fnar fnar). So Rother Valley (first open water race) and the Dambuster (at the same place as the Vit, doing the same bike & run routes just one lap) were my “prep” to build up from sprint to half iron distance. Well, let’s face it, I papped my pants! I’d been kind of training, but clearly nowhere near the intensity and distance I needed to. After the Dambuster I had a massive “What the chuff have I done?” fit and even tried to cancel and get a refund on my Vitruvian place. I was told all I could claim back was a 50% credit not. You can imagine my snort of derision at that. It cost £120! My Yorkshire tightwadness then made the call... I was going to hit the Vit! At this point, I realised I had 8 weeks to pull my finger out and get training PROPERLY. I hadn’t been doing nothing, but I needed to get structured and do more workouts each week. I spoke to Aidy as I knew he’d followed a properly structured plan and he sent me a couple of links for webpages. There were plenty of ready made plans, it was all about organisation (not my strongest point) and some good old determination. I also ended up with the “A” team for support and I honestly do not know what would have happened to my training if it hadn’t been for them. The “A” team are made up of Fran and Chris Allison. Fran loves running and has been my running buddy for at least 2.5 years now, and Chris had been getting back into his cycling on and off and had recently treated himself to a new road bike. I explained to Fran how I was worried about getting ready for the Vit, and the next thing I had her and Chris as well commited training buddies 2-3 times a week each. They were amazing! I let them know at the beginning of the week what workouts I needed to fit in that week, what distances/times/intensity etc and between us we co-ordinated them. This included brick sessions (covering 2 disciplines e.g practising bike to run transition) which involved everyone! They really put as much time and effort in as I did, and we got into a great routine with it. They invested so much of themselves in it that they decided to come down on the day and cheer me on. Fran plays it down, but I don’t think I would have trained half as well without them. It makes all the difference having someone to train with. It’s easier to bin it off on a tired day or cut a ride short when you are on your own (who is going to know, right?)

The 8 weeks flew by... Sorry, the 6 weeks flew by. We fit the training in as best we could, occasionally missing one or two training sessions a week purely due to time restrictions, but still we worked bloody hard. The distances progressed really fluidly and it all felt great. I had a period where I wasn’t feeling great so had to have a quiet week, but it didn’t seem to matter. At the start, 8 weeks hadn’t felt nearly long enough, but by the time weeks 7 & 8 came (the tapering weeks where you do very little to make sure you have recovered from your training fully in time for the race) I felt ready! We hadn’t rushed or skipped up massive distances, and yet at the end of 6 weeks we finished by doing a brick session of both the full bike and full run distance. To be fair, it was pushing it a little by week 6, because we did the bike, then the run the day after, then 4 days later did the full distance brick. This was purely because a) I was away that weekend so couldn’t leave it until the weekend to do the brick which would’ve given me about a week to recover and b) I had to get the full brick done before tapering started because I knew psychologically that I needed to KNOW that I could do it. And the only way to do that, was to do it. So we did...

Tapering was agony! I was gagging to get some exercise and my goodness did everyone know about it! I did very very little in the last two weeks, mainly due to time limitations, and birthdays, but I felt completely ready for it, and very impatient. I didn’t want to wait any more. Now that I knew I COULD to it, I really wanted to get on with it! Frustration is not a big enough word to describe it! My tolerance level dropped massively, and in my head most people around me were dead several times over for crimes as minor as dropping a pen. It really was agony!

Then it finally came... (to be continued)