Monday: REST DAY
AM – Swimming 3000 metres in 1 hour
PM – 45 mins weights
AM – 40 mins steady turbo watching Tour de France highlights summaries for stages 1-10.
PM – Impromptu bike ride = 29.2 miles. I’d left the turbo trainer set up to do some intervals before an evening yoga stretch out, but the weather was so lovely I went out on my good bike instead. I didn’t have a route planned so made it up as I went along thinking of doing about 90 minutes. I did 2 hours in the end and had a great time, slow though I always am.
Lunch – Lido swim 1 mile steady
Friday: REST DAY
AM – Tring parkrun with my parents. It’s a very hilly course, pretty much 1km straight up, 1km flat along the Ridgeway, 1km steep down, then 2km undulating with added bovine obstacles. I’ve done it three times previously with a best time of 23:06, and a worst time of 25:56 (New Years day having already done Aylesbury parkrun as part of a double). I’m certainly not on form so I was really pleased to dip under 24 with 23:54. My parents both finished within 10 minutes of me. So a good day at the office for Team Gush.
Sunday: Fugitive Triathlon, half iron distance triathlon fairly locally in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. I signed up as it was so conveniently located, then heard some really negative feedback from some club mates who did it last year. It seems they had taken heed of feedback and ironed out some teething problems and overall it was a good race.
It was a bit of a pain to go and register the day before but not be allowed to rack my bike until the day of the race. I feel an either/or rule should be in place with these things – if you have to be there super early to set up in transition on the day, then let me register then rather than driving back and for.
I was so underprepared for this race. I’ve not run much, my ankle is still unstable and painful. I had intended to recce the bike course, it being so local but hadn’t got round to it. But I thought at least I’d previously swum in the lake…. got to registration and it wasn’t where I’d thought. There was no lake and the swim was to be in the Thames! It was nice not to be really anxious at the start though, with far less pressure heaped on myself than at my Ironman races, or my other races I’ve prioritised recently like Challenge Paguera half iron distance in October, Cardiff Triathlon last month, or the Boston Marathon in April.
The swim was two laps up and down the Thames and we were in a women’s only wave due to set off 15 minutes behind the men who were going at 7am. This meant for a fairly thin field which meant a less competitive feel but less of a ferocious whirlpool so I could just get into a rhythm and enjoy my swim. I could also see my mum walking alongside me on the bank. We actually went off a little early at 7:10, which allowed me to catch and overtake a fair few men (identified by different colour hats) in the wave ahead.
Distance: 1.27 miles
Ranking: 12th female, 46th overall.
I spent a fairly long time in transition, donning gloves, glasses, my race belt, socks and shoes; and filling my pockets with energy gels, a CO2 canister and a couple of emergency tools. Less time than at Challenge Paguera, because I swam in my two piece trisuit under my wetsuit rather than in a swimsuit and then getting completely changed, but it certainly wasn’t a slick transition.
Ranking: 19th female, 74th overall.
The bike was an out and back with three loops at the far end, the first half of the loop being mostly uphill on a quiet country road, and the second half mostly downhill including a fun, fast descent on a smooth dual carriageway. I didn’t lose as many positions as usual on the bike with a few overtaking me, but I also overtook a few. I felt strong and happy for Lap 1, but as usual struggled as the distance went on, particularly with pain in my shoulders. I took on a pack of Clif mint flavour shotblocks and a bottle of tailwind on the bike. Nutrition and hydration is often something I neglect while riding due to my inferior bike handling skills and nerves having previously crashed during a triathlon while taking a drink. I was really pleased with my time, about 20 minutes faster than at Challenge Paguera in October.
Distance: 53 miles
Ranking: 16th female, 77th overall.
T2 was a disaster! I went in and couldn’t find my kit, I was flapping thinking it had all gone missing. I hadn’t been pleased with transition arrangements as the racks were unlabelled with no designated space for each athlete, therefore I had to squeeze in between where people had set themselves up and spread their things out. I hate to move other people’s carefully laid out things, but it’s important to also be considerate to other competitors and not take up an inordinate amount of space. Finally I realised I had entered transition from a different direction, and was scanning the wrong rack for my things!
Ranking: 28th female, 100th overall
The run was 4 laps of approximately 5kms, out along the Thames towpath, then turning up a country lane including a reasonable hill, along a short flat stretch of road to a water/gel station and then meandering through a residential area back to transition with a second water stop at the start of each lap. Last year there were split times for each lap, but this time there was no timing mat. My strava shows reasonably consistent splits through from 8:05 as my fastest split for the 1st mile, to 9:25 as my slowest for the 11th. I knew what average pace I needed to maintain to get the overall time I was aiming for and resolved not to rocket off but keep it measured and steady. I was feeling strong and managed to run without walking except to take on gels and water. I had a gel per lap, which is a lot more than I ordinarily would but with my shot blocks averaged out and approximately what the sports nutrition companies would recommend for the duration of exercise. I overtook people steadily, but it was difficult to know if I was lapping them, closing and overtaking people with small lead, or just reducing their lead on me to less than a full lap. Or even if they were doing the same distance as there were also sprint and Olympic distance races going on and no way of differentiating between athletes. I found it really disheartening on my first lap being constantly asked what lap I was on or being told “only one more lap” only for people to seem shocked when I said I actually had three. Was I really doing that badly? Was I really the last one going? I certainly wasn’t, and I knew I was having a good race, but it did make me doubt myself. Fair enough from the general public, but the race officials should surely have known better.
Distance: 12.4 miles
Ranking: 10th lady and 50th overall.
I ended up 11th place among the women, and the same in my age group, with the first vet finishing straight after me in 12th. This was out of 30 female finishers and 1 DNF. Overall, I placed 62nd in a field of 11 finishers and 4 DNFs. I was surprised by these numbers given that last year there were more than twice this with 254 finishers. I know there were a lot of other local races going on this weekend (High Wycombe half and 10km, Chiltern 100 sportive, Chiltern Challenge 50k with XNRG, Race to the Stones, the Humdinger swim, and also the big one Ironman Bolton today too), so perhaps that explains it. Perhaps people were put off by their negative experiences last year. But it seems the cracks have been ironed out and I would definitely recommend this race to others. There was a mobile Costa (even doing the iced drinks) and massage at the finish. I then went home to gobble my weight in icecream in my pyjamas.
This race meant completing the hat trick of Sprint, Olympic and Half Iron distance Triathlon PBs in the last 3 weeks. I briefly considered entering a last minute Ironman for next weekend to complete the set, but by the second lap of the bike, had put that thought safely out of my mind!