The first BIG test; a middle distance 70.3 (Half Iron Distance) event back home in Bedford. The intention here was to use it as a practice run for Outlaw. Testing everything from pacing through to nutrition and equipment. Little did I know that those would be the least of my issues, and actually areas where I’d not considered any issues would rise up and bite me squarely on my neoprene covered arse.
The event was due to start at 7am. I set my alarm for 4, got out of bed and immediately force fed myself a high carb breakfast (big bowl of cereal, two bananas, High 5 Energy Bar & 500ml Energy Source). To be honest, that was difficult enough – me and breakfast don’t see eye to eye on most days, but a big breakfast like that at 4am was hard to stomach. I just about kept it down. I got to Priory Marina at about 5:30 and set up in transition – put my nutrition on my bike, laid out my bike and run gear to change into in T1/T2 and squeezed myself into my wetsuit for the race briefing at 6:45. So far, so good.
The Swim (47:57) – Verdict: Disaster
After the race briefing we had just a few minutes to walk to the start and acclimatise before the gun went. On getting to the lake, I said a quick hello to Mum & Dad who showed up for the start (thanks!) and dived in. I got used to the temperature pretty quickly (13°c!), filled my suit and felt good. But when the gun went and I threw my face into the water for the first stroke everything started to go wrong. I couldn’t catch a breath for the life of me, panic set in and I started to hyperventilate. I turned onto my back and sculled for a couple of hundred metres but was still struggling for breath. I consider myself a very strong swimmer, and someone completely at home in and around water, so this totally took my by surprise. I stopped for a few seconds and just floated in the water and gave myself a good talking to, forcing myself to crawl again, slowly starting to get my breathing back in order.
It took me the best part of 47 minutes to get around the swim course and back to the “beach”. Awful. Lesson No.1 – get acclimatised early, and get some more open water swimming in before July 7th! To make matters worse, 40 metres from the beach I started to do breast-stroke kicks to loosen my hip flexors. For some reason, both calves immediately seized up leaving me in considerable pain. The run back to transition sorted them out, but maybe some added salt/potassium in my breakfast to counteract?
Back in transition and I quickly removed my wetsuit, threw on some bib shorts, dried my feet and put on some socks and my cycling shoes. The weather was a bit overcast (at this point) so I also put on a long sleeved cycling top. This is where it got comical, I went to put on my new helmet (Giro Selector – never used in an event but worn on a couple of occasions) widened the “aperture” (for want of a better term) to squeeze my massive head into and promptly unclipped one of the side panels. In trying to put it back on, I then managed to pull the clip off one side of the “buckle” which holds the thing on my head. Bad times. I spent at least 4 minutes longer than I needed to sorting this out, including tying a knot in the strap. Nightmare.
The Bike (3:14:18) – Verdict: Win
This was the stage which least concerned me in terms of physical effort, and more in terms of nutrition and any potential problems with the bike over the distance. As it turns out, once on the bike I felt good. Average speed over the course of the distance was 28kph, I drank when I was thirsty, had a gel every half an hour and ate something more substantial (energy bar / flapjack) if the mood took me. I also wasn’t going full tilt, mindful of the fact that I’d not run so far off such a long ride before. It will clearly be important on the day for me to hold back like this so that I’m not completely knackered for the marathon.
I was also very mindful on the day of any potential mechanicals, particularly punctures in the tubular tyres. So I’d packed Pit Stop, a spare pre-stretched tub, tubular tape, and had filled both tyres with liquid latex, designed to prevent any punctures. As it happens on the day, I had no such issues. Fingers crossed I don’t have any in a few weeks. Overall, pretty happy with the performance on the bike.
Not a lot to say here. Got back to transition, took off my cycling shorts, jersey and shoes and threw on my trainers. I grabbed a handful of gels and threw them in my tri top and took a few seconds to take a drink of High 5 before running out. Not much I could have changed here I don’t’ think.
Run (2:18:26) – Verdict: Fail
This is where it all went wrong. I set off at my normal pace (5:00/km) and felt good for around 10km. I was taking a gel every 20 minutes and feeling good, not slowing down despite the weather getting pretty hot and humid (for England anyway). My mistake was in drinking everything I was offered at every aid station, which was in some cases a couple of cups of water, and maybe an additional High 5 drink. I can’t refuse a free drink I guess 😉 After 17km my body just seemed to stop processing all the liquid and it just sat in my stomach, sloshing around.
I still felt like I had energy but it was too uncomfortable to run at any pace. For the last 4k I jog/walked. Lesson to learn is to continue to drink only when thirsty and not because it’s offered. Stick to the gel every 20 minute approach. Clearly I saved a little for a pained looking run across the line though 😉
I finished in 6:29 and I wasn’t too unhappy with that – I finished after all ;-). And I finished *just* under the time I said I’d be happy with (6:30). But I know I could have done better, and there are lessons to learn all over the shop. There are things I know I would do differently next time, and things I need to sort out before I get to Nottingham. Mainly, I need to re-gain some confidence in the water and stick to my nutrition plan. I wonder if I can fit in another 70.3 (Cotswolds 113 maybe?) before Outlaw, just to fine tune things? Shh, don’t tell the wife.
Still, at least I’m not taking part in an event that’s double the distance in just over a month. Oh sh….