Elbaman 73: Race Report

My dad and me on the ferry to Elba. Yes, that t-shirt reads "Team Haydock" - and yes, I had them made especially for me and my parents to wear :)
My dad and me on the ferry to Elba. Yes, that t-shirt reads “Team Haydock” – and yes, I had them made especially for me and my parents to wear :)

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…

Lucky number????
Lucky number????

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 …

Vitruvian Race Report

When I first started writing my blog about the Vitruvian race, I found myself bored: apart from a crazy work schedule interrupting my training, this was the perfect race. But after experiencing the disaster of Elbaman 73, I thought a boring but happy story wouldn’t go astray…
I returned from my holiday in France toward the end of July. Of course, holiday for me means doing an Olympic distance triathlon and a ten day cycling camp in the Pyrenees. At work, I discovered my latest tour of Europe wasn’t even over yet, and I was about to begin a new one: this time four, rather than two, nights away each week… Until December. I emailed the new schedule to my coach Scott. “Just some things to take into account when setting my training schedule!”

He wrote back, do you realize you’ve only got 16 days at home over the next 10 weeks?

No… That was a calculation I was unwilling to do, for fear it would freak me out completely!
Since the next five weeks would be in London, we came up with a plan: I would drive my car over to London, allowing me to take my bike & turbo trainer for my hotel room, and give me flexibility to drive to parks for run training, rather than wing stuck running around Gatwick airport car park again.

The programme he devised was really effective in the end, and I found myself excited as the Vitruvian race approached. Similar in distance to Austria 70.3, this Vitruvian involves a 1.9km swim, 85km bike, and 21km run.

Race Day

I was once again racing with my friend Ironman Rich. We met at race transition at 5am Saturday morning. I love the fact that at triathlons at 5am, everyone is as perky as I am:)

I got my transition area ready, then headed down to the start to cheer Rich on in the swim.

The Swim

After having got in the water way to early for Austria – and a little bit late for Paris – I seemed to get it just right for Vitruvian.

Unfortunately, the swimming is the one part of my training that really has suffered amidst my travel schedule. When I have been training, I’ve seen my times balloon out. For this swim, every time I felt myself finding my rhythm, I also found myself off course.

I exited the water in just over 38 minutes, but minus the black eye of Paris!

Lesson learned: don’t skimp on swim training!

Transition to the Bike

I raced into transition, and as pleased to see there were still a few bikes about. Some work to do, but not quite at the back.

I grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line.

Despite the fact I had seriously considered putting my bike shoes on in transition, I had made the decision to attach my shoes to my bike and put them on as I cycled. It was the wrong decision. I made a complete mess of it, and had to stop, unclip my left foot, thread the Velcro straps through my shoes, and start again.

Lesson Learned: practise the transitions, get triathlon-specific bike shoes, or put your shoes on in transition

The Bike

Finally settled, I headed up the hill and onto the course. Thankfully Rich has done this race the last few years, and gave me some insights. I knew the first few kilometres were into a headwind, so I couldn’t expect great speeds.

I turned a corner and hit the “Rutland Ripple”, a series of hills. I love the hills – even more so after my time in the Pyrenees in July. Well, more specifically I love going up hills. Down, not so much. So I powered up the first hill, passing a number of other athletes… Most of whom passed me again on the way back down. But this time, I swear it was a result of weight alone – my hands were off the brakes. Yep, seems I may be absolutely terrified with high speeds associated with going down hills, but my competitive spirit kicks in when I race, and I’m able to forget my fears. Or I just think that racing is more important than being scared.

After the Rutland Ripple, you turn a corner and the wind picks up behind you, lifting your speeds. I hammered along at 35-40kph, and came to the end of the first lap bang on target.

The second lap was even better, as others tired and I stayed strong, again doing a lot of overtaking on the hills.

The Run

I started off strongly in the run. I raced past two men early on. One commented, “Good running!”

I replied, “Thanks,” and because I think you should always return a cheer, “You look strong too.”

As I was racing away, this guy’s mate said after me, “Show off!”

“Jerk,” I thought.

I kept up the pace but felt myself tire at the twenty minute mark. “Stay strong,” I told myself. But it wasn’t working. By the time Rich and I crossed paths, he running in the opposite direction, I could only manage a grimace and a half hearted high five to his smile.

Nevertheless, after I got a gel and some water into me at the thirty minute mark, I was fine again. And thus it went: twenty minutes following my gel feeling fine, ten minutes of misery.

I looked down at my watch and could see hope was fading for me to reach my time target of under five hours. Given my ten minute waves of misery however, I was just happy to see the finish line come up. I finished in five hours and one minute.

The Result

It seems “plus one” was order of the day for me:
Top ten? No, 11th place
Top three in age group? No, fourth
Fastest run split? No, second fastest

I was rapt with the result, and happy to catch up with Rich so we could start talking 2013 races…