Racing Outlaw full (140.6 miles) yesterday was bitter sweet for a lot of reasons. The short of it was that I came 4th in my age group. That sounds and is my best result to date in a big event and would have been beyond my dreams when starting out. However, whilst I have only been racing four years, coming 4th in any sport is never easy. The winner in my AG was also the overall female winner who is a pro, broke the course record and whom I would put my bets on winning the Ironman World Champs in Kona. I’m pleased of course for her but also a bit annoyed that there wasn’t elite wave as in some other events because as the results stand virtually nobody in my AG could get anywhere near a GB qualification time. The overall winner isn’t usually allowed an age group prize as well either.
I know for a fact that I put in an absolutely solid performance and in the conditions encountered, 25 minutes slower than last year felt like an hour’s personal best! The foot pain is a permanent worry at the moment but on Monday last week I promised myself I would get to the start line as I wouldn’t make it worse. I wasn’t in the mood for dithering and ripping myself into indecisive bits further as to whether race or not. Green light from first thing Monday, head down and I put in to execution a good taper. I did everything I possibly could to minimize the chances of pain at the weekend and part of that meant minimizing time on the bike even more than usual. It wasn’t an easy week.
I was soldiering on nicely riding the tapering emotional roller coaster pretty well and then I looked at the weather on Thursday and then the game playing came along on its own accord. Thankfully I managed to ignore all future social media posts about the weekend, packed 3 rain coats and applied Velomati rule number 5 (Harden the f*@K up). I’ll be the first to admit I am terrible in rain and even worse in wind but there was a tiny part of me thinking that doing an Ironman distance in these conditions (permanent rain for 13 hours, 40mph winds at times) in some way speaks to the character of the sport and its bragging rights. I also very logically reasoned with myself that being freezing cold and wet would substantially help the feet situation.
The swim was changed to an Australian entry/exit which meant three laps opposed to one. I was out completely in 61 mins and 30 secs (getting closer to that sub hour!) which I was pleased with, even allowing for the ensuing rage in the first minutes from a bullying man who tried to rip my arm and leg off. Sorry Mum, I called him very bad words. The worst I’ve ever done in a race.
Strava and Garmin tells me I was faster on the bike in quite a few places compared to the same course in May (18) and last year. I did a lot of things right but it didn’t always feel like it. I suffered big style in the rain and wind and was on pain management until 90 miles (out of 112) until I finally pressed play when I realized I would complete the course without causing too much agony or further damage for the run. But I have to remember, I’ve had days in the past two weeks when I haven’t been able to manage more than 5 minutes without pain and ultimately its taking a lot of effort to have any confidence in riding a bike and any sustainable power (always been my game plan till now) of note is impossible. There were some further vile bits, like the puddle in my shoes for nearly 7 hours but then I also remembered that water was probably keeping my feet cool. My helmet ripping every neck muscle I have and oh, and jumping two feet across the road with deep rims wasn’t so great either.
Onto the run. I have never been so pleased to see retrieve a pair of dry socks from one of my kit bags in all of my life. I don’t always have a second pair but this was a big bonus psychologically. Just a few miles with agonizing feet but dry ones was a highlight for about an hour. I ran very solidly with a good PB on last year but it was enormously painful in the first ten miles and didn’t get much better really. I had miscalculated paracetamol timings and so when I ran bare foot on concrete through transition off the bike I knew what was coming on the run. Even with the pain I managed to keep running. I tried run (0.45 miles)/walking (0.5 miles) at one point but quickly knocked that on the head when I realized my walking was so bad that I couldn’t let myself do that. It wasn’t even a proper walk and I would get cold and join the growing number of other comrades who were getting hypothermia from being so wet and completing their race walking the run route with a foil blanket. Slow-ish and grimacing running was better. I had intentionally left the run as bit of a “training run” anyway for the European champs as I hadn’t been more than 2 hours and 15 minutes all year for various reasons. I was steady and lasted until about 21-22 miles when I started to fade a bit but kept running. The pain might still be there but so is the fitness and I was happy.
Overall I’m a little disappointed but this is the start of a journey to hopefully recovering my feet and I also know completing an Iron distance in those conditions has given me a massive weapon for the future, for the rest of my life riding and racing in fact. I can’t imagine I will face that weather on many start lines ever again, even in British summer. It was spectacularly awful and whilst I left my support team at home and missed them, I’m also glad they didn’t suffer that.
I felt an absolute car crash this morning but am now nicely recovering and reverse tapering back into training the way I went into race. August will be a relatively normal month’s training (for a long-distance triathlete with potential bone bruises/fractures) without racing before resuming a short race schedule in early September.
6th last year, 4th this year…next year? It’s only Nottingham and really is my home race anyway and I know the course well. Let’s repair the feet, and watch me grow into making me the athlete I have always threatened to be. It’s going to take a while but yesterday has shown me I still have something.
Oh and I’d be lying if G winning didn’t encourage me all the way around yesterday. Vive le Tour!