First of all it was cold. And raining. We cycled down to the course with dry, warm clothes in rucksacks, waterproof jackets and overshoes and having registered last night all we had to do was have a bike check and rack up. The layout is a tiny bit different this year for both transition and a bit of the course - the one bit of the race briefing I actually heard (being at the back of the crowd) was that there was now no need to stop at the bike course end, just go over the mat and enter the non-compete zone. Also, no numbered places in transition, just lettered rows for the waves and marked places. I found a gap between two other bikes, where someone had missed a marked place and laid out all of their kit underneath it, with their bike next to it in the next spot. Tough nuts matey bobs and I racked up over his kit, racked the reverse way to him to mesh the bikes properly so they didn't tangle, and laid my kit (bike shoes, running shoes and rucksack full of dry kit) under the front of my bike, with helmet, race number and glasses on my tri bars.
At the end of the race briefing, my guts said "loos! now!" and there was no choice in the matter. Thankfully I was not too cold yet and quickly out of my clothes and tri suit and back in again -just- in time to queue for the start and watch someone near the beginning of the swim start, I think 3rd over the line, break into breast stroke, take off her goggles and pootle really slowly through the water. Maybe she didn't understand the seeded swim-time race start or the point of it?
Anyway, it was cold. Really quite cold to the point I was worried about not putting on any clothes after the swim, but the water in the pool is deliciously warm and we were warmed up from our ride to the course, so it wasn't too hideous at that point.
The swim felt... well... rubbish. I thought I was slow, I thought it felt easy although my arms ached a little by the 7th length and my form wasn't brilliant. Skipping out of the water, over the timing mat into transition I just got on with it into T1 where I ended up knocking matey bobs' bike off the rack next to me - again, tough nuts, that's racing. I left his bike on the floor where it had fallen and ran off to the Bike Out to hop on, right behind Clare Cunningham (GB Age-Grouper F30-39).
For the second time ever on a bike ride, I got down onto the tri-bars. And stayed there for the majority of the ride, trying to stay in Z3 but it was raining and very wet on the road, with puddles an' t'ing. I did ease off after about 10 minutes on the bike which I'm a bit cross about now, but still... I reeled in 5 other cyclists and passed one poor woman with a puncture and towards the end I realised I was reeling in Clare Cunningham and almost caught her! Mr TOTKat just passed me near the end of the bike and we chatted through the non-compete zone then I pedalled off a bit quicker to get into T2, taking my cycling shoes off as soon as there was soft matting before the timing mat for T2 so I could run barefoot on the soft grass a bit faster.
T2 was a bit of disaster. My feet were so cold that I didn't feel that not only had my little toe on my left foot been rammed between the elastic gusset and the lining of the shoe, but my big toe too. I couldn't get the shoe all the way on and couldn't work out why for a while. Then I had to pull it off and back on again, still not sure it was right as I really couldn't feel my toes and despite the talcum powder in there, my foot was a bit stuck. Still, it appeared to be correct and I shoved the other one on and trotted out, turned my race number belt around so the number was at the front and discovered that for the first time, one corner had come free. That explained the unusually loud flapping noise from the paper during the bike leg then. My right hand looked like I'd had a punch-up with a clown as it was slathered in talcum powder and grass stain, but there wasn't much time to marvel over it as there was still the run to go.
Mr TOTKat passed me on the pavement section of the run into the park, seconds before the horrible stitch kicked in. Now, I've had stiches before and run through them, but this one was really nasty - all the way across my diaphragm. I slowed to a very slow jog and breathed through it before picking up again and pushing through the gate and into the park.
In the park I felt good, much better than previous runs, which I know means I'm not pushing hard enough, so I pushed harder and shortly afterwards, the stitch came back and I had to slow to a walk and breathe slowly again to get it to go away. I was then wary of pushing too hard, which peed me off quite a bit, but yes... one more naffing time the stitch came back with a-vengence about 1.5km from the end and I had to walk -again-. Just under 1km to go and I turned up the gas again and hope it wouldn't come back. It didn't and I hit the penultimate corner of the run where I usually sprint from to the end and decided not to quite there this time. Good thing too as, because one of the other corners was cut a bit short on the route today, the finish line was further down one of the paths than usual. A final sprint in and I threw myself over the line and stopped my watch.
It said 01:26:44 - I was convinced I'd not made my goal of under 01:20:00 as the non-compete zone is 7 minutes long and I was sure I'd not used a huge amount of it. However, I had started my watch early in the pool as the count down was short and quick. Mr TOTKat had definitely managed under his target of 01:10:00 and we walked back to the pool, getting a bit colder all the way.
It was really really cold by then and we shivered about waiting for the final swimmers of the second wave to finish so we could get into transition for my dry clothes. A nice lady offered to buy me a cup of tea, I looked that cold! Clothes on and up to the cafe for a cup of tea (and a Bakewell tart for Mr TOTKat) and we were still shivering so much that I nearly threw my tea all over the floor.
I was desperate to get home, warm, with bacon buttie and tea, but Mr TOTKat had spotted a results tent on the top deck in the cafe (yay for the new chip timing!) so we used the printer to get our provisional results:- me 01:19:45, a whole 41s faster than ever before; Mr TOTKat 01:08:23, 3 minutes 36s faster than his previous PB!
Compared with my previous best performance, the provisional results from today (rank and category rank to follow when the results are published):-
|Race||Weight||Time||Swim+T1||Cat rank||Bike||Cat rank||Run+T2||Cat rank||Rank||Cat rank||Rank %||Cat %|
What's interesting is that I'm clearly fitter than then and clearly put less effort in (lower average and maximum heart rate by 6 BPM) today for a faster time. AND it was raining and really wet! The top graph is my previous best (where it looks like I got caught by the traffic lights in the bike leg), the lower one is today.
And you can really see in the run where I had to walk three times... the run starts just before the 01:00:00 line and there are three clear dips where I slowed or walked to clear the stitch. But look at the difference in the bike stage end; a real sharp drop off rather than a sludgey slow down.
I think I'm quite pleased with that and I'm looking forward to the full results with placings for the disciplines and in my age category.