Saturday, 9 June 2012

A difficult, but good sprint

Blenheim last year was a mixed race, but a wonderful experience overall.  I always think back to what happened at the swim exit and run to T1 with fondness.  I was pretty early out of the water in my wave and despite the horrid 400m uphill run to T1, the reception of the supporters was absolutely amazing as I rounded the final corner into T1.  I was greeted by a huge wave of applause and cheering and it lifted me up higher than I've ever felt in a race before or since.  OK, so due to my knee troubles at the time, I had to stop racing after the bike leg and as a result did not complete the race, but the experience of T1 far far outweighed that on the day and ever since.

I needed this race in order to put in some of the final building blocks to get me through the Ironman Ultimate Challenge.  If I didn't do this race, I wouldn't be in good stead for the first Ironman (UK 70.3) on the schedule next weekend.  For me, these Ironman races are not only a significant financial commitment, but they come together to form a major life event for me.  Almost every waking moment when I'm not at work, I'm training or preparing for or planning for or thinking about these races.

So, I raced.  Some of you will know what a really hard decision to carry on and do that was under the circumstances of the 24 hours before and that I now need to be up all night to support something important.  And it was a good race, despite the mental turmoil.

The water was cold and very churned up and silty.  I got a good mouthful at one point when someone with a phenomenally sploshy kick was alongside me.  I got a kick in the jaw near the end of the swim too and the whole thing felt terrible, which usually means that it's quick.  And it was quick. A whole minute faster than last year.

The bike was windy as all hell, but again quicker than last year, this time by 3 minutes and 5 seconds.  Lots of people don't learn about the beginning of the bike course.  There's a short downhill run into a short rise.  People free-wheel down the downwards bit and then end up cursing and sawing at the pedals to get up the rise, instead of powering down the hill then using the momentum to swing up the rise.  There are a few sections of the bike course like that and with 3 laps, it's really something people should learn and take advantage of.  Anyway, I had some fun over-taking a good few people in the first couple of km and then over-taking and re-overtaking a guy in orange-soled shoes who was very distinctive.  Yes, there were a few people on squishy bikes with whooshy wheels that over-took me, but today wasn't about really slamming it - especially after yesterday's hour of spin bike work.

Oops, I left my bike computer on after the bike leg, so the last split includes all of the time for my last 5km of the bike, T2, the run, getting back from the finish line and then realising it was still on.  Still, very nice average and top speeds for not trying very hard on the bike leg.
The run... meh!  Turns out I could have give it a heck of a lot more, but again that wasn't the aim today.  The aim was to ease into the run and then see how I felt.  I felt OK, if a little warm and the rises weren't half as horrible as I thought they would be.  I got overtaken by a little blonde girl about 750m from the end, which made me kick up two gears and then curse the fact that I'd had those two gears and not used them - and there was plenty left to hold that pace -and- put in a sprint finish.  I got overtaken again by two more girls, who I hung on to, hoping they were only on their first lap of the run.  When they peeled off left to do their second lap when I was finishing my second, I laughed out loud because I hadn't been racing them, had a huge grin and sprinted to the finish.

Overall quite pleased, 7% faster swim, 7% faster bike and no idea about the run as I DNFed last year.  The results are screwed up online and there are loads of people who clearly didn't do 3 laps of the bike course, but I'm provisionally 9th in my age category and that is only likely to go up if the results are properly and fully scrutinised for finalisation.  So, for a race where I wasn't really racing, I had a great result.


Now back to work.