Sunday, 7 July 2013

Stowe Olympic Distance Triathlon

So, today was my first attempt at an Olympic Distance tri.  I reasoned that if it's usual to attempt a half ironman 6-8 weeks out from an ironman to see how training is progressing, then I should do an Olympic Distance to check on my progress for the half ironman which is exactly 8 weeks today.

Let's start with the good bit.  I finished, and, although I haven't seen the splits, I think that they were probably on track.  (c.2 hours 10 minutes for the bike ride of 30 miles, which is going some by my standards), and a total time of about 3h45.  Yes, that's slow, but I'm not a speedy person, and my aim is really just to get around.

The bad bits.  It was always going to be a slightly odd race, not least due to the distances (1.5k swim, 800m run up to transition, 56k bike (which actually turned out to be about 53k), 8k run).  And I know this is the second time this week I've ranted about the poor organisation of races, but really, today was pretty poor.  It was announced that the water was 22C, but there was huge confusion about whether or not it would be wetsuit legal, optional or what.  At first it was announced that you couldn't wear a wetsuit if you wanted to go for a prize, but then they seemed to change their minds.  This confusion meant that they had to delay the start time by half an hour while people got organised - transition was 800m away from swim start and several people had to go back to get their wetsuits.  Still don't understand what was going on (Claire reported that the same happened before her wave an hour later, no idea why the communication was so poor).

Of course, my own organisation was a little poor too.  I know I could never swim in a wetsuit at 22C, but I had anticipated that the water would be about 18C which I could just about cope with.  So I'd planned to wear a wetsuit.  Of course, I didn't really have anything to wear without a wetsuit, so I ended up having to swim in my tri shorts (ok), and my running vest tucked in (rather not ok).  Next time I'll have a suitable swim top in my bag.

Then the lake.  I'd been to have a look at it with Claire the Crayfish beforehand, and noticed that there was quite a lot of scum on the surface.  It wasn't that big either, so I was suprised when about 400 people were walking down to our wave start.  We got into the water, and it wasn't even cold, but it was very very dirty.  The bottom of the lake is silt, and it had got all kicked up so the water literally went dark when you put your head in.  In fact, it wasn't really deep enough, as you could feel the silt even at the start line.  Yuk. 

I positioned myself in the usual place and we set off.  Unfortunately, I got hit on the head, so stopped to reorientate myself, during which time the other 400 swimmers started to surge past, and I went into a full blown panic attack due to the number of people around me.  Horrid.  I had to let everyone go past me in order to find some space to calm myself down.  Started swimming, but obviously I started to catch people up (my wave was the sub-30 minute 1500m swimmers, but I am more towards the pointy end of that usually), which led to another panic attack at the second buoy.  Horrid.  Luckily, it thinned out a little bit, although still the busyest swim I've ever done, and I managed to complete it, get out, get my shoes on and jog 800m up to transition, mostly in tears.  Bizarrely I came out in the middle of the pack at around 23 minutes 30ish.

So, I got up to transition and yelled at Mr Tuna what had happened - he had beaten me out of the swim but not by much and although I'd panicked seeing that his shoes had gone. I should have known that he wouldn't be that far ahead.  He was able to give me a hug and offered to cycle around with me (but was firmly told by the BTF official that that isn't allowed!).  I urged him to go on because only his T1 time would have been screwed up by me, so he left, and I went out on the bike. 

The bike was pretty grim because I was still in tears and it was very hot.  I had to stop about every 3 miles on the first lap in order to top myself up with fluid as I felt very thirsty, and after about 30 minutes, everyone from my wave had passed which led to a lonely hour and a half where I didn't see another cyclist.  A major disadvantage of having everyone seeded by swim time - good swimmers are not all good cyclists.  Although there were hills (I think 500m climbing total), it wasn't actually too bad, certainly not compared to some of the long bike rides that I've been on, and I did manage to go around fairly fast (for me).  I'll be interested to see what my actual split was but if I'm correct then I should be well on track for Zell am See.  Despite the tears.

During the bike I'd been hoping that Mr Tuna would have finished when I got back to transition and then I could get him to run the 8k with me, as I couldn't bear the thought of being the only runner on the course (the fast people from the wave an hour later hadn't actually caught me, and didn't actually catch me...).  Unfortunately he wasn't, and as I was in floods of tears again at this point, the run was not very fun.  I ran for 1k and then was crying so much that I had to switch to a grim route march.  Suddenly I saw Mr Tuna at the side of the road!  He'd not had a great race, and had fallen off after hitting a tractor and had decided to wait for me, he'd not been there that long apparently (not sure what his idea of that long is), marital ESP I reckon!  So I cried a whole lot more and we carried on grimly trudging around through the heat - I didn't mention the heat enough yet, but it was about 26C and under the midday sun with no clouds - we planned to DNF.  Then, I decided that it would be better for my psychologically if we did manage to complete it.  And we started running.  We managed to run about 2k to the drink station, where I poured loads of water over me, and my wet clothing cooled me down enough to run a little bit more.  At about the 6k mark we had to run/walk the remaining 2k; if it hadn't been so hot I could have run as there was more in my legs but it was just too hot.

We finished.  Unfortunately they'd given up on announcing finishers and were in transition announcing the people coming through from the next wave, so I didn't get my name called out.  There were no medals and I had to ask for a t-shirt.  Which is green, probably my least favourite colour.

So, what have I learnt today?
1. I have the grim determination to make it around things, but a bit of encouragement really really helps.
2. I think I am probably on track with my training for Zell am See, and after all I will be nicely tapered, not at the end of the biggest training week so far..
3. I really don't like heat, but pouring about a litre of water over my head makes all of my clothes wet (my Mind running vest worked nicely for both bike and run) and helps to keep me cool - I will utilise this more if Zell is hot.
4.  I need to have other options of outfits with me to race in.
5. Maybe I will find someone who knows about sports psychology to help me deal with the mental difficulties that I faced today.  Having a panic attack is scary, and it is such a shock for it to happen in what is usually the best bit of my event, but I think I allowed it to derail me a bit too much.

Oh, and it's too hot to put on my compression tights.  Tomorrow is going to be fun....


  1. So sorry to hear about your tough race, Verity. :( Honestly, I would try really, really hard not to dwell on everything that happened, especially since your half is fast approaching. Take what you learned--both the good and the bad--and apply it to your training and outlook. Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to become a better triathlete!

  2. So proud of you for gritting your teeth and getting through it!