My last “bonus” end of season race was only three weeks after Vitruvian.
When my coach Scott and I had first started talking about an end of season race, the two races we talked about were Elbaman or Lanzarote 70.3. Both had big hills on the bike course, but Lanzarote is known for a strong head wind as well. I decided to limit the negative factors, and opted for Elba.
As it happened, this coincided with my parents’ trip to Europe, so they got to come along with me. How nice it will be, I thought, for them to have a weekend on sunny Italy and to watch me triumph in a race. They got neither of those things.
Our first issue was a ridiculous hire car which I managed to stall eight times in the three hour drive to Elba. Clearly mechanical error nor driver error – this would be a theme for the weekend!
By time we got ourselves to the town of Marina de Campo, it was late. We went to a supermarket in the hope to pick something up to cook for dinner at our apartment, but all the supermarkets had closed: it was just on 8pm.
Being super-organised as I am, I had of course brought some gluten free pasta which I could cook, but my parents picked up some takeaway from a little trattoria: lasagne, potatoes and chicken.
We booked an apartment at a campsite close to the race start, but when we arrived at 8.15pm we were horrified to find the office closed at 8pm. We tried calling the number on display at the office, but received no answer.
Great. Now we had nowhere to stay. And worse – I had nowhere to cook my dinner!
We headed down the road to a hotel, and found two rooms for the night. But of course no kitchen. So I left my parents in their room and headed to the restaurant … where – of course! – the kitchen was closed.
I started panicking: I should be carb loading! I imagined bonking in the race due to lack of carbs… I thought back to the food my parents had ordered. The potatoes!
I raced up two flights of stairs and started banging on the door of my parents’ room. My mum let me in. I brushed past her and raced to the balcony where I saw my dad raising his hand toward with mouth, with a potato on it.
“No!” I cried out, reaching forward to snatch the potato before it entered his mouth. “I need all the carbs!”
The next day followed in the general series of small mishaps which were tainting the weekend: we got to the campsite for the manager to insist someone had been on duty the night before; I was refused entry to bike check on because I had left my race belt number on the apartment; the car stalled some more; and heavy clouds hung ominously above us…
Sunday morning dawned – and surprisingly the clouds seemed to have drifted away. Could our luck be changing?
When I started the swim, I felt strong. Until someone kicked me in the head. But I managed to stick with a group of girls, and got to shore in a relatively good time.
I was shocked when I reached the transition area: I have never seen so many bikes still in transition when I came back from the swim. I was going strong.
No disasters in mounting the bike this time.
The disasters all happened after that. For some reason, I could not find any power in my legs … Or really, any speed on the bike. On the flat I was struggling to reach 25kph, but even going downhill I was struggling to get to 30kph. And for all those who have ever ridden hills with me: I can confirm that for once I didn’t have my hands on the brakes!
For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to check the mechanics of the bike until the 80km mark – i.e. after practically everyone had passed me. I started listening, and could hear a faint sound. Was the brake pad touching the wheel? I stopped and pushed the brake slightly and got back on. I seemed to be moving a bit better. Oh dear… Was that it? Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier?
When I came into transition more than an hour behind what I was expecting, I was sad to see that once again, all the bikes were racked in my area…
I changed into my running shoes and took off, quickly taking off my watch so I wouldn’t have to see the disappointing time I was posting. Without the watch, I ran to my own pace and just marked off other competitors. The only good thing about going so slowly on the bike is that when you hit the run course, most of the runners still out there aren’t competitive. So it was a nice change after the soul destroying bike ride.
As it happens, I wasn’t just running fast only in comparison to the folks still out there: I was one of three women to break the previous run course record that day.
As if the indignity of the race itself wasn’t bad enough, by the time I had eaten, “iced” my legs in the ocean, and collected my stuff, the skies above opened up and let down a thick blanket of rain, which my dad and I walked through as we made our way back to the hotel…
I could add in another couple of anecdotes about how I also managed to break my laptop screen, how both my parents’ backpacks broke, and how when we got to the dock we couldn’t get onto a ferry for five hours … but you would surely think so much bad luck couldn’t happen to one family in one weekend, and assume I was making it up. I’m not.
My mum says we will look back and laugh at this experience one day. Yes, my dad and I agree, after someone has forced laughing gas upon us …