Friday, 22 November 2013

The Vitruvian Part 3: the Bike and the run

The Vitruvian Triathlon 2013

1900m swim (1.2 miles)

85 km bike (52.8 miles)

21 km run (13 miles)

The Bike

So off I set on the bike leg. I felt fresher than I expected. The course leads uphill out of the entrance to Rutland Water then uphill slightly on the main road. I used this as an excuse to go slow, catch my breath from making the change from swimming to cycling and get into a rhythm. I knew a steep downhill was coming leading to the roundabout at Oakham. I tried getting my head around this. I do get the fear on steep downhills! I get more confident the longer I am on the bike. Anyway, I held back a little on the first lap. I had done the route before, on a practice run and at the Dambuster, so I knew what was coming, but my brain tends to remember bits instead of full routes, and I struggle to put the pieces together in the right order. This meant that as soon as I took the left at the Oakham roundabout, I expected to pretty much straight away hit the Rutland Ripple (the big double down then up section that is not very nice on the uphills!). This wasn’t the case, by probably at least a mile if not two, so I had a massive build up of anticipation whilst I got to it. It wasn’t the uphill I was bothered about. I knew I could make it up, even if I hit my super slow any slower and I’ll stop speed in my last possible gear, I knew I could hold that for as long as I needed.  Again, it was the downhill that bothered me. I tried to let it go and people were rushing past me much faster than I was going, but I just couldn’t let it go. I held off until I was partway down, then let go of the brake. I think if I had a closed road I would feel safer, because if I came off I had no chance of then also being hit by a a car. To me this was the difference between gravel rash and, at worst, a broken bone compared to potentially ending up dead (such a drama queen). Whatever. As I had already learned, my head had much more influence over my performance than my body. I was working on this and there wasn’t much more I could do right then. Clearly holding back on the downhill made the uphill more difficult than it needed to be because I had less momentum, so I slogged myself up the other side and found I had developed an internal mantra: “Not as bad as Bigby, not as bad as Bigby” which is a super-steep evil curving hill that Chris had built into our training route to prep for these hills. It was true, it wasn’t as bad as Bigby, for steepness, but it seemed to last forever! Whereas Bigby was more of a short sharp shock. Anyway, that seemed to help!

The Vitruvian Cycle Route (do twice)

There were a few more landmarks, but the scenery, as much as it was beautiful, all started to look the same. It was only when I got through Ketton, turning a sharp left, I felt that I was on the home straight. It hadn’t felt like it had taken as long as I had expected, even though the journey had been filled with the usual messing with your own head issues such as “If I deliberately stack my bike I won’t have to finish, I could just stop” type thoughts. That and praying for a flat. This is when you end up with time to think about how far you have come, how far you have left overall, and how long it is all taking. Not helpful, but then what else are you gonna think about on the bike leg of a triathlon?! This would alternate to thoughts of “thank god I haven’t got a flat, I just need to get the bike leg done then I know I can plod the run” and “I’m doing it! I’m gonna actually finish!” Unfortunately, the event photographer appears to have caught me in one of my unhappier moments!
Not looking too chuffed...

Nothing particularly eventful happened on the bike leg. I remember feeling properly in sync with my bike and being really happy about it, like “this is TOTALLY the right bike for me! She’s AMAZING!” and feeling like everything was pretty smooth. I had a mental counting thing going on that was helping me keep my cadence up and make sure I was in the right gear to maintain my cadence. I’d gone past a speed camera feeling pretty comfortable and it had clocked me at 20mph, so I counted whilst pumping my legs “twen-ty, twen-ty”. The things you do on a long repetitive road ride!

I came in after the first lap thinking “crap I never practised bottle pick up!” just as I was headed at a load of people holding out high 5 bottles. I lobbed mine at a guy gesturing frantically at me and shouted “high 5” twice before one of the bottle guys went “up ahead”. The first guys were giving out water only but I knew I needed the electrolytes because I can get cramp in my calves. As much as I preferred water because I just find it more refreshing and pleasant to drink, I knew I needed the extra content the high 5 would give me. Turned out it was a pretty tasty and not syrupy one anyway, which was good. I managed to grab a bottle without fumbling about, but I was going pretty slowly just to make sure I got it. I couldn’t get round again without it as I could feel it was getting warm by this point.

 I headed out for the second lap surprised to find myself feeling good. I was over halfway through the bike leg, though I had expected to feel more like “Oh no not again!”. I was more confident now I had warmed up and spent some time on the bike, so I let rip on the hill down to the roundabout. I came up to the roundabout with some momentum, and realised I was rapidly gaining on a woman ahead, who was slowing to deal with the roundabout and was alongside a car. There was nowhere for me to go and both cyclist and driver looked like they were going to stop... at an empty roundabout. I wasn’t about to slow down to unclipping pace, so I said “Come on go go go!”. The woman jumped and got a shift on. I apologised as I rode past, but felt I shouldn’t have had to say it anyway really! (She overtook me back later!)
I still held back for the ripple! It was just too big! I went into a kind of plodding get through it headspace for the rest of the time. Just finish it! I felt excited coming in from the bike. The end felt properly in sight! The run was going to feel short relative to the bike. I gave Fran a thumbs up coming in from the bike. I was elated. Next, run!

The Run

I got into transition again feeling better than expected. I quickly changed shoes and started heading out when someone let me know I was still wearing my bike helmet! I shed that and hit the run. I didn’t feel tired at this point. More over the moon! I headed out, which again was slightly uphill. My expectation of struggling with this straight off the bike wasn’t realised, which boosted my confidence. I could hear the guy on the tannoy announcing finishers, but instead of thinking “Crikey I’ve got the whole run to do yet” I just thought “That will be me soon!” and buzzed off the happy atmosphere. I think I was almost in denial about the amount of time I had left to do, which was at least 2 hours!

The first bit of “urgh” was just where the run skirted the lake, at about half a mile out, when there’s a short, steep uphill which is just what you need! I never for one second thought about the run as a half marathon. I think that would have done me in. It was 4 5km runs. The run route was two laps of an out and back. So 5km out, 5km back, 5k out again, and 5km back. This rings a bell to when I was marshalling the Outlaw, which is ironman full distance so finishes with a marathon. I cannot remember who said it, but one of the guys doing it was saying they were seeing it as 4 10km runs and explained how he had broken it into sections. Perhaps this had settled in my head, but all I could think afterwards was how detrimental to my state of mind it would have been to even think half marathon when I was starting the run. So I’m buzzing totally. I can hear the music from the finish for some of the run, and I’m back in a group of competitors rather than being in the middle of nowhere on my todd on the bike leg. It felt a lot different.

 I got over the dam, about halfway through the first “out” when I clocked my friend Nick heading towards me having already hit the turn around point. I gave him a shout. He had clearly been working very hard as it took him a second to recognise and acknowledge me. He seemed a bit dazed. To me, this was a massive boost.  I had had it in my head that the guys’ would have finished by the time I got on the run (they had been in earlier swim waves and were generally MUCH faster than me at everything!). Only a few yards further on I clocked another friend, Aidy, and gave him a shout. He just looked at me and shook his head. He didn’t look very happy at all so I let him be. Another few hundred yards and I spotted Jonny. Now I was really confused and wondering what lap everyone was on as Jonny was more in line with my speed than Aidy and Nick’s so I shouted to ask what lap he was on and he replied “one” and we did a high five. This made sense. Aidy and Nick must have been on the home straight. I was still boosted by seeing them all and my first lap felt great. I was feeling really hot though. It was now lunchtime and the sun was fully up. I was taking water at every feed station. I was sick to the back teeth of high five now and hoped I wouldn’t start cramping. I necked half a banana on my way out on the first lap, which seemed to go down fine. On my first “back” I stopped at the portaloo. I was pretty impressed with myself at not having needed the loo already! I came back in and picked up a gel from the marshalls before turning to head out again. This was when I started flagging. I just seemed to slump! I knew I’d slowed a bit, but I think I had finally hit that “given all I’ve got” stage. I felt like I’d run out of resources. I just kept going. I knew I wasn’t doing bad for time. At the final turning point (5km to go) I stopped for a second to drink some water and asked for the time. My legs were giving me a load of grief in the muscle over the knee, in both legs. I gave them a seconds rest. The lady said 1.30pm. At the time, my head couldn’t even compute what that meant. I knew I had been thinking 2pm would be good but I couldn’t figure out the time. I just remember I knew 1.30pm was good and I felt chuffed anyway! I grabbed another half banana just for the home straight and plodded my way back through. We were few and far between now, and I acknowledged the people behind me as I passed them. We’d done this bit together!

I came down to the finish line making sure my number was visible. I wanted to hear my name called out and those magic words “You are a Vitruvian!” I was so happy! I waved my arms in the air coming down to the finish line. I crossed it and all I could think about was getting back in the lake. I’d had this image in my head at several points on the bike and run. I sat down in a chair immediately. I’d felt nauseous stopping at the end of the Dambuster and wanted to check I wasn’t going to feel that way again. I felt ok. Voices popped up behind me and there were hands on my shoulders. The A team had come to congratulate me! I couldn’t even think, I just wanted to get my t-shirt (proof I’d done it!) and get my ass in that lake! I asked a marshall if it was ok to go in and he said “Put it this way, that’s what all the elites did as soon as they finished”. I needed no further encouragement. I headed in aiming to get at least thigh deep. I ended up laid in it with only my head out. It felt brilliant!



  1. Reading this brought it all flooding back :-) What a great day....the A team were like proud parents. I can't wait to start training with you for 2014. ....even it encouraging you to write about it means you stay up too late for a run the next morning! BTW, I'm reading it on my tablet!

  2. Reading this brought it all flooding back :-) What a great day....the A team were like proud parents. I can't wait to start training with you for 2014. ....even if encouraging you to write about it means you stay up too late for a run the next morning! BTW, I'm reading it on my tablet!