The Scribbler

7 May 2012

Triathlon season starts here

Filed under: bike,run,swim,triathlon — The Scribbler @ 17:21
Tags: , , ,

So this is the race that kind of snuck up on me. I’d been so focused on getting my foot fixed (seems to be doing fine) and then thinking ahead to my big challenge open water swim tri, that it was here before I knew it.

And yes, feeling slightly nauseous, hand shaking as I was putting the toothpaste on the brush this morning were the signs I was quite nervous about it. Struggling to finish my porridge was another one. Still I was all sorted, gear packed and off in the car in plenty of time.

I just tried to keep quiet, took some deep breaths as I was driving and think about the race ahead. I’d read through my visualisation that had helped me overcome my nervous adrenaline rush in previous races and a chapter of Chrissie Wellington’s book for good luck before I went to sleep last night. And everything just about went how I imagined it would.

It was nice to get a good luck text from Lesley just as I was setting off. Last year, this race was my first ever tri and there were lots of Fetchies and friends doing it with me. This year I wasn’t sure who I would see.

I’d got set up in transition and made the race briefing. The weather forecast wasn’t so good, with heavy rain predicted at some time, so I was a bit undecided about what to leave out. But the sun was out, and even though it was cold, I decided less stuff was less faff and I’d Geordie up and get on with it.

I pretty much kept to myself, to avoid getting hyped up before the race. Did a little run, and stretches for a warm up, then ditched my hoody and shoes and made my way over to the pool. Had a nice chat poolside with a guy getting ready to compete in my wave and watched those ahead of us in the water. As we got ready to go, I took some more deep slow breaths.

I was first off in my lane. I managed a quick sink to blow bubbles – nice and smooth and controlled – and then I was off. The water was really warm, which I didn’t much like, but I just tried to keep it slow and easy and give myself time to breathe. I’m afraid my other swim techniques such as getting my head low and my elbows high either happened or didn’t happen, as I wasn’t thinking about them, just concentrating on breathing and feeling relieved that I’d managed not to panic and swim like a brick.

I was pleased to be first as I knew I’d have clear water ahead of me, but within a couple of lengths I was tapped on the toes and overtaken twice, once by a guy and once by a girl. I pulled over to let them past and then tried to get a pull off their swim on the way back. They didn’t hold me up for long.

A couple of times, I misjudged the breathing and swam a few strokes with my head out of the water, and I took my time to gasp a good breath or two in on the turns, but mostly I felt nicely in control. I reckon there’s a lot more in my swim if I can get used to pushing myself a bit. For today, I was just happy to do it without feeling the adrenaline fuelled anxiety.

Me on the bike at Ashington sprint triathlon 2012

Heading off on the bike at the start of lap two. Picture by double-i-photography  

About 10 lengths in, the guy in front of me stopped at the side of the pool, saying, “I’m going to do breast stroke,” so I got one of my places back. With 2 to go, I really turned on my kick, powered up and down the pool and then out and off into transition.

A bit of a run down the path to the car park and to see my lovely bike all bright and shiny, racked up and ready to go. Helmet on and I grabbed a piece of mango I’d stuck to the stem. Struggled a bit with my bike shoes, but got them on, unracked the bike and off out to the mount line.

I’m afraid my brain left me and I didn’t do a scoot mount, but I still managed to get on board fairly quickly. I’d left it in low gear so took the first few hundred yards nice and easy, negotiating the couple of turns and grabbing a drink from my bottle. As I turned onto the long straight main road, I clicked up through the gears and then realised I’d made a rookie mistake. Forgotten to pick up my number belt :-O

Thoughts of disqualification popped into my head, but I knew this was a friendly event, and so I resolved just to keep going and make the best of it. As I passed the marshalls at the key points I yelled out my number to them. One even said, “It’s on your helmet – you’re alright’, which was something of a relief. Bet you I don’t do that again!

The bike route at Ashington is two and a bit laps. Out up a main road to a roundabout, then left through some country lanes, then down towards a little village, with a sharp left hand turn and then a steep climb up, with a twist in the middle, so you think you’ve got to the top and there’s a bit more.

On my first lap, I’d been overtaken by quite a few bikes, which I was expecting. With it being a lapped course, you’re never quite sure what lap everyone else is on and there were some fast bikes – lots of tri bars, carbon frames and disc wheels. But as we came to the hill, a guy came past me and then seemed to just putter out on the climb. I was in my lowest gear and towards the middle of the road, which I knew was slightly less steep, so I managed to overtake him on the up and get closer to the girl in front of him.

My breath was coming fit to burst when I reached the top and while I recovered, the guy on a nice Ribble (so I suspect carbon frame) got his place back. “Second lap?” he asked as he sped away. “No, first,” I managed to breathe out.

Breath recovered, it was back on the power and up through the gears and soon round for another go, just taking care at the junction onto the main road. This time I rode all of it on the big ring, putting the power on and dropping a few cogs for the small rise towards the roundabout.

Back round and flying down the down hill in top gear, dropped and tucked, then peeling off the pace for the turn and a quick drop through the gears for the climb. No one to pass this time. Just make it to the top. And boy did it hurt! However did I manage this on a mountain bike last year? Oh yes, I was fitter and lighter then.

Another slow down recovery at the top, then on for the final section, with the relief of knowing I didn’t have to tackle the hill again. Just up to the roundabout and back down the road. I remembered the back down as being all downhill, and I flew dropped and tucked for a while, but there were a couple of slight gradients and with the wind in my face, I was feeling the effort, but the end was approaching.

I’d dried out pretty well in the wind, but my feet were freezing. I tried to curl my toes in my shoes to get the circulation going, but couldn’t feel anything. Back round by the shops and roundabouts and heading into transition. The marshalls were waving a car through as I approached, but he didn’t go. I’d slowed down, being wary, but managed to get around him and thank the marshalls as I headed back into transition.

A moving dismount this time and crunch, my feet hit the tarmac and I kept on running with my bike. Round and racked. Bike shoes off, road shoes on. Helmet balanced on the bars and go!

Ow! Ow! My feet protested. Little steps, little steps, just keep moving I told myself as I stumbled out of transition and onto the pathways. It’s a 3 lap run route, so I’d mentally given myself a lap to warm my legs through and get the muscles used to moving for the run, rather than the bike. But my feet were frozen.

Running off the bike is always a bit weird, and usually reminds me to pay attention to my calf muscles, and knowing it does ease off is the only way to get through it. But this was like nothing I’ve felt before. My feet felt like theywere running between cold iron rails. Like they were being crushed at the sides and hitting something hard beneath. I actually looked down at my shoes to check I hadn’t picked up the wrong ones.

Mind over matter, I kept moving, telling myself it would pass, that my feet would warm up. But all the time I felt like I was barely jogging along. Aerobically, my breathing was easy, my legs just wouldn’t go fast enough to make me breathe any harder. “Relax and enjoy” – I tried Scotty’s mantra.

My running is a long way away from where it was this time last year, so I wasn’t going to make any unreasonable demands of my legs today. Just drop the shoulders and try to pick the knees up.

As I came round to the end of the first lap, I saw Stuart just ahead and he gave me a shout. “You’ll catch me,” he said. “You’re kidding,” I replied, thinking not with my feet feeling like this. It was 3/4 of the way around the second lap before my right foot began to feel anything like normal and my left was still stiff and cold. I’m sure my form was appalling.

Once again, towards the end of the second lap I saw Stuart and I’d gained a few yards on him. So I held him in my sights for the last lap and whether it was having a target to aim for, or just finally thawing out, but at last I started to feel like I was properly running and I caught and passed to some friendly encouragement about half way round.

Onto the final pass of the playing fields and in my mind I’d determined to pick up the pace here, but it was really hard going. I think the wind had picked up a little and my leg muscles were still fighting any turn of pace.

So, in the end I left it all to one of my death or glory finishes. Onto the grass, with the finish arch in sight, power through the arms and a sprint that came out of nowhere. Heard my name being called as I crossed the line. Brilliant!

A lovely lady marshall came over and asked if I was okay, and took my chip off for me. I was fine after gulping a couple of mouthfuls of air. High as a kite for completing my first race of the season and just happy to be back and racing.

I saw Stuart come in just after me (although way ahead on the timings as he was in the swim wave after mine), grabbed a cup of water and an orange segment, then went to get my race times.

I haven’t got accurate splits yet as the bike timings were out and I didn’t wear my Garmin, but here are the preliminary timings:

400m swim 08:19
20k bike 50 mins (approx as timing chip had 3 mins!)
5k run 30:15
total time 01:35:10

Provisional results for Ashington sprint triathlon 2012

It’s not a course best, but I really lost time on the run and probably could have pushed a bit harder on the bike.  But all said and done, it’s my first race back and it went better than I expected.

What’s even more wonderful is that my tri inspiration Lesley raced yesterday and completed her race a minute faster than me and she did a longer swim! Just shows what you can do with focused training and skill. It was fabulous to get a call from her at the end of my race and compare notes.

So, I am about where I thought I was. My swimming is better. The time’s not a big improvement, but the strength and energy I had to spare on that shows I can push harder here. Time to forget I ever had a ‘moment’ or two in the pool. I beat that last season, so now it’s time to get sharp and swim hard.

I still need more bike time. Longer rides, more brick sessions and some hill training. I’m still not sure how hard to push on the bike, and not having any speed or pace references meant I just went with how I felt. And I’m probably still a bit conservative. But I did enjoy it. And I raced clipped in for the first time :-)

The run could be better. I know that. It’s just where I am right now. I’m coming back from injury and I’ve lost some of TheScribbler pace. But I’ve got experience and stamina  and the pace will come back.

This has really made me realise what an absolutely amazing running year I had last year. I was on form and fast. But I was very running focused and a bit lighter then. I don’t want to lose my tri focus right now, so I shall just let my running come back to me in its own time. And another run with no sign of the plantar fasciitis is a brilliant result.

Just remind me how hard that slightly less than 5k was after a bike ride and how I’d have to do all that twice next time I mention a standard tri. Must train harder!

My PT and good friend, Ian, really knew what he was doing when he first put the idea of a triathlon in my mind. It fits so well with my ideas about whole body fitness, training variety, strength, focus and most of all fun. Still such an adrenaline rush!

So, first one down and more to come. Bring it on!


1 Comment »

  1. […] full of tri activities. My first triathlon of the season and a return to the scene of my first EVER tri at Ashington. With a still nigglesome foot and little focused training, I failed to improve on last year’s […]


    Pingback by 2012 – a review of my training and racing year « The Scribbler — 30 December 2012 @ 19:26 | Reply

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