Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Rubicon Middle Distance 31st August - hard day at the office

The second of my middle distance races this year and my last A race.

I travelled up on Saturday afternoon, about hour 3/4 but thankfully no dramas on the roads for a change.  I was on my own for this one as Gail has not been well.  This also meant I was more relaxed as I didn't have Jasper to contend with either.

Registration was a simple affair so I was able to pitch up the tent and my new folding bed and then have a good look around the transition area and also the run up from the swim exit to T1 (quite a long one as it happened). A dip of the hand in the water and the temperature wasn't too bad, certainly no colder than Pennington has been the last few weeks.  I also took a drive through to the village nearby where the 3 bike laps would split so I could get an idea of that part of the course that the organiser was keen to make sure we all understood to save any confusion on race day.There was a catering van on site so dinner was tuna pasta bake whilst I sat and watched a film on the tablet, it was then off to bed. Alarm was set for 5 and I slept through till about 4ish before stirring, but felt like I had slept well.

Next stop was the catering van for porridge and a coffee and then had to go and collect the timing chip from registration.  I prepared drinks and loaded the transition bag and wandered down to rack the bike.  Bike on the rack I then went and checked the swim in/bike out/bike in/run out so I was clear where I was.  It was at one end of the racking so easy to find.   The racking was very tight on space and it was a common comment I could hear all around from many competitors, but  fortunately I don't have a lot of gear.  Bike was popped into a high gear and shoes and lacky bands readied for flying bike mount.  We had a briefing with all the usual standard stuff, then we had a 15 minute walk down to the swim start further up the river.

I got in the water quickly and kept moving, it was ok temperature wise, but it did take a long time for all athletes to get in the water which was a pain, and due to the flow those of us at the front kept drifting.  I seeded myself slap bang in the middle of the river for best flow and on the front line.  Eventually we got set off and it was into the 10 hard strokes before breathing, a few more hard strokes and then settled into a steady pace.  I tried to draft as much as possible, but found it hard to drop on a pair of feet that didn't then disappear due to questionable navigational skills.  Probably about half way through the swim I took a kick to the goggles by one of the drifting swimmers, but aside from me turning the air blue with some inappropriate language the goggles stayed on and I settled back in with only a small amount of water in the left lens.   You actually pass the finish on this swim and continue downstream before turning and heading back up 200m against the flow.  Turn at the buoy was fine and I stayed towards the bank as much as possible to mitigate the flow.  It was a deep water exit onto a wooden platform, though there were helpers and I was out with no issues.  It was then a ~400m run to T1, it was sligtly uphill and towards Newby Hall itself through the gardens before turning off through the bushes.  I could see a girl in front of me struggling to find her wetsuit cord, so caught up with her and pulled it down (she was grateful).  Thankfully they have carpeted the route as one of the paths we ran on was pea gravel.

Into T1 and wetsuit off, helmet on and then ran out with the bike to the mount line.  Flying mount went a little wayward and nearly drifted into a guy next to me, but got it back under control and then I was off, eventually getting feet into shoes with no problems once I was rolling.  I was carrying 4 gels (one in reserve) and the bottle mounted in between the tri bars.  The course was a 2 big loops of 40k and 1 small loop of 7k.

Initially it was through country lanes before a small climb through Kirby Hill and then out onto the A roads. These were fast flowing wide A roads with good surface and it was easy to get down on the bars.  The first loop went without incident and I was passed but also passed plenty of people myself, keeping it in zone 3 and sipping from the bottle (Hi 5 energy).  The bike course loops back through Newby Hall and it is there they have the bike aid station.  I grabbed a bottle of energy drink and as I road back out of the Hall ground I topped up my main bottle.  Somewhere along the way into Lap 2 for some unknown reason the arm rest of the clip on tri-bars sheared off (too much power being applied I guess (lol)).  As such all I had to balance my arm on was the two bolts that hold the arm rest in place. 

This was extremely uncomfortable for the remainder of the bike and in the end I was balancing my left elbow on the pad and crossing my hand over to rest on top of my other hand. Lap 2 also saw an increase in the wind speed and the once fast flowing sections became in some cases a bit of a battle of wills against the headwinds. Once back into the lanes it was a little more sheltered and it was then through the Hall for the end of Lap 2.  I ignored the feed station as there was only a 7k lap to do and this was quickly despatched.  My flying dismount on the other hand was less than successful, and couldn't lever my leg round for some reason, so just came to a halt and stepped off the bike.  The run into T2 felt fine, no obvious issues.  Bike racked, helmet off and I sat down to don socks and shoes, grabbed my cap and away I went.

There was some water on the way out which I grabbed a cup for cooling me off rather than drinking and settled into zone 2 as instructed.  The run is 4 loops all passing through Newby Hall and of 5k in length.  the run starts flat and then there is a small dip and rise up to the first kilometre marker.  It was as I approached the top of the rise and the 1k board that I started to feel a cramping sensation in my left quad.  This was odd and not something I had experienced in racing before.  I stopped briefly, crouched down with my feet under me to stretch it out.  I stood and started off again and this seemed to have worked.  There was a slight twinge as I neared km2 but it didn't flair up as it had before and was fine for the remainder of the run.  What did become apparent during the 1st lap was that increasing the pace was almost going to be a non starter.  Even level 2 felt like a hard slog and I began to wonder if I would even be capable of finishing the event.  Eventually I reached the aid station back at Newby Hall and took a bottle of water for cooling purposes along with a gel. I walked through the aid station and out the other side I drifted into a run, but the required lift to level 3 just wasn't happening, I just didn't feel that there was anything there to give beyond where I was at.  

I think this pic sums up my run quite well

The km's ticked by slowly and I occasionally took a short walking break and slowly I at least started to feel a little more alive, but the pace remained the same.  At the aid station for the second time I took on some coke, gel and water for cooling and proceeded to lap 3.  The heat on the run had been quite hard and the car temperature gauge later had shown 25 degrees.  Around 3k into lap 3 I started to get some camps in the stomach, nothing severe and certainly manageable.  I guessed at either the gel or coke causing this.  Reaching the aid station at the end of Lap 3 I knew it was 1 lap of 5k left and no matter what I was finishing this.  I took on 2 cups of coke and again some water for cooling and then set about the last lap, also determined that I would not walk any of the last lap.   I was ever hopeful that I would feel like I had enough to up the pace, but it just never came and whilst the last 400m might have been a bit more energetic as far as I can tell, the whole run was done in level 2.
I was a bit of a mess across the line and it took a good hour and half before I started to feel normal again.

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