Monday, 14 May 2012

Swashbuckler - how not to race

Where: Buckler's hard, Beaulieu
When: 13/05/12
Organiser: Race New Forest
Course details: Swim in a Beaulieu River. 2 loop rolling bike, Lumpy run.
Distance(s): 750m swim, 80km Bike, 23km run
Marshalling: Quite a few marshals
Facilities: Toilets, free entry to Buckler’s hard
Technical: Chip timing
Freebies: Tech Polo Shirt, Cake buffet, Medal

Swashbuckler was to be one of my main races of the year. I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years, but it has always conflicted. This year my calendar was free, so there was no way I was missing it. In tempting other BCTTT’rs into it I offered space on my living room floor to any would be Swashbuckler. A couple of weeks ago SoS decided to take the offer. Having had a hectic week at work, an untidy flat, and a number of unfinished DIY projects the build-up wasn’t exactly stress free!

For something that was to be an A- race my training wasn’t exactly brilliant either. Having screwed my wrist up doing 24HrTT in Feb I managed to use my bike for a grand total of 7 road rides and 7 turbo sessions in the past 3 months. Not the smashing the bike course every other week I had planned. My running stats aren’t much better either; 22 hours in the last 3 months. I was going into this pretty under trained. To compound matter the physiology study I am taking part in involved a VO2 max test on Friday afternoon, followed by 1 hour of riding at 60% VO2 Peak power without fluid ingestion. I wouldn’t recommend it as a pre race strategy, I wasn’t sure if my quads would recover in time.

Having welcomed SoS into my freshly cleaned flat on Saturday we headed off for some fast food lunch whilst waiting for Ris to get into the station, then we headed out to Buckler’s hard to register, taking the long route so I could show off the wonderful New Forest route. Having arrived we registered and I manged to pick up some Clif Shot Bloks at the race stall (my nutrition strategy that is proving to be another online shopping nightmare), I figured I ought to be able to survive on 3 packs. We ventured down to the water front where Tritans came down and said high, with his carb loading beverage in hand and pointed out the swim route to us. Then we had the briefing where we were told there would be swim, it would be short, if we didn’t want prizes we could wear booties, or wuss out and not swim. No way I’m paying £100 for a training session, Hill Head was cold but bearable the week before so I was swimming. Then the 3 of us headed back to my still sparking flat to cut the freshly baked coffee and walnut cake and I put on a pot of Colombian Oporapa for an extra caffeine hit. Bopo joined us, we talked triathlon for a while, then he left with Ris and SoS and I sorted dinner. Upholding BCTTT traditions it had to be fish and chips, but I don’t like any of the local chippies, so I’d bought some nice fillets of haddock. SoS and I headed off to get some chips though, we venture into the chippie and I say “how many chips do you like? Is sharing a large portion going to be enough?” I got a strange look. The question was soon understood when SoS could barely lift the wrapped portion off the counter. We headed back, I cooked the fish, we ate, then about 2130 I decided I’d better my kit together for the race. Queue clusterdom. I couldn’t find my long fingered gloves for love nor money. I gave up and resigned myself to the fact I’d be racing in mitts, I still needed to shower and shave.

Eventually I went to bed, after 4.5 hours sleep I awoke to my alarm at 0315. Urgh. Bagels for brekkie, coffee, OJ. Pack car. Drive to Bucklers Hard. Start getting everything together then head into transition. Hear that the swim is being shortened to 750m in the briefing. Hmm I can cope with that Pick the outer row of racking, head halfway up to a clear bit (not a far to run in cleats that way) and set up. SoS sets up next to me, cue jokes about picking the wrong bike, then Ris appear opposite and sets up, spot Bopo mulling around. Get everything sorted, make sure I am at minimal obtainable weight then faff in transition until I hear someone shouting they are closing transition for the first waves. F***! I’m still in my tracksuit. Cue a panicked wetsuit donning. Then I run down the slope to the waterfront, where the swim brief had just finished and people were getting in the water. Only problem was I didn’t arrive on my feet. I managed to slide the last 4-5m on my a*** just as everyone was turning around, there were a few “ooo”s and “ahh”s as I picked myself up and very nearly face planted into the river, making into the water with just enough time to get my face wet before the klaxon went.
My swim was utter sh**e. It was more of a fight. I was in the wrong place on the line, stuck behind slow people in the middle of the pack. I tried for clear water, but either I wasn’t swimming straight or other people weren’t as I kept having collisions, one guy got so over my feet he was grabbing my ass with each catch, so I tried some white water, connected with a rib and that was the last I felt of him. At one point someone smacked my ankle so hard I feared it would be sprained again. After 11m24s I made it out of the water. Disappointed with my performance though. I could have swum so much better.

Then T1, a long run up the hill. I seemed to be flying up the hill passing lots of people. Starting stripping my wetsuit on the way up and the top half was off before I entered T1. The Garmin says it was a 320m run ascending 20m, not inconsiderable. Then I faffed and p****d away all the gain. Couldn’t feel my feet or hands, so couldn’t get my wetsuit off properly, sat on one of my towels and dried my arms off with another, removed the suit, stood up, tried to put my socks on (should have done it sat down!) failed to get them on properly. Shoes on, Belgian booties on top, then tried to get my gloves on, failed again as my hands were still wet. At some point I spotted Tritans and hurled some abuse appropriate to his bottling out of the swim. Then as the first of the next wave arrived I left for the bike. 6m30s for T1. Shocking.

I think that contributed to what I did next. I’d worked out I could ride the route in 2h30 on a calm day. So I’d aim for a 2h45 to save myself for the run. Through the red mist though I went out hard. I was talking scalps that had got one up on me in T1. There was a problem though, I realised at the first of the inclines as I tried to stand for a kick up the slope. My feet were completely numb, not just my toes, my whole feet. My fingers were also numb, which didn’t make changing gear particularly easy. The thermometer was fluctuating between 2 and 3°C, it was cold! As I was descending into Ipley Cross there was a startled horse galloping along by the road, not sure what to do I road down the far right hoping it wouldn’t cut across me. I made it over the b****** cattle grid in one piece, then onto the hill that normally catches me out. Drop down early! So I did, my front mech moved, but the chain didn’t at first, not until it had bent the mech. So at the top I had fun getting back into the big ring, where it was now rubbing the inside of the mech the whole time. I ploughed on then got past the cheating feckers riding 2 abreast. Onto the A35 where the pelotons started coming through. Leaving Ashurst I caught one, not wanting to draft I went for the overtake up the bridge, managed it, the chain went over the top onto the cranks, while I was on the outside, once the peloton passed I pulled in, got the chain on, bent the mech back into shape then tried to get my place back. Passed the hour mark just as I went through 20 miles, and realised how badly my nutrition was going, I hadn’t drunk, I hadn’t eaten. Nearly at Balmer Lawn, once I get on the quiet road I’d pig out I told myself. Except I didn’t I had a Shot, a drink and made the most of the smooth tarmac. I passed an ambulance blue lighting it to fetch a guy by the cattle grid who was apparently hypothermic. Then I picked up a real cheating fecker. It’s one thing to draft someone in a race, it is something quite different to try and have a chat going up one of the hills. Knowing the course I saved myself, and in a Schleck/Contador moment attacked and dropped him. Through the first lap then another peloton in front of me. Up the hill near Ipley, with a rather daring photographer in the middle of the road, hopefully a nice shot. I wasn’t going to let the course get the better of me and I was nailing it. My tough hill passed fine this time and I was back down on the A35, nice fast run this time. Legs were tiring though. I was being chicked by an RAF tri woman. I picked myself up and held on (draft legal distance back) until just before the turn at Lyndhurst when I put a spurt in and unchecked myself. Onto the nice section to Beaulieu Road Station, nice quick descent past Matley wood and retook a couple of Bedford Harriers on the corner. I Realised I was heading towards nutrition fail and tried to chew a few more shots, and more importantly drink. Went through Ipley cross for the third time and onto the straight run home. I tried to force fluids down here and backed off a touch, saving myself for the hill back to Buckler’s Hard, it has a bit of a sting to it. Made it home and spied Bopo with the camera. 2h34m11s for 79.4km. A damn good ride at consistent pacing, estimate is 211W average for the ride. A serious nutrition fail though. 700mls of fluid, and 5 shot blocks (should be 6/hour!)
Looking at the Garmin T2 wasn’t as bad as it felt. 2m7s. Problem was I couldn’t feel my feet still, they were numb from the ankles. Made getting shoes on hard. As a result I didn’t feel the fact my socks weren’t on properly.

Out onto the run and Bopo was there cheering me on. I was hurting though. I’d come in from the bike 10 minutes ahead of schedule with two lumps of frozen jelly on my feet. The run hurt. No two ways about it. Every foot strike result in a painful jarring right up my tibia. Probably as a result of the fact I couldn’t sense my foot striking. The fact I was doing 4:30/km might not have been helping matters. About 4k in I regained the feeling in my feet with a vengeance. I could feel a blister forming on my insteps. The run was just one long blurry pain train. The camber was messing with my calves and hips, I was alternating sides of the road, doing 200m on each, or just running down the middle. I didn’t drink on first lap (idiot!). The trail section came around and I loved it. There is a noticeable lift in my pace as I found my element. Then I passed the ice cream hut into Bucklers Hard and there was this huge white flappy thing with black writing all over it. Bopo had put up the club colours. Top man. That gave me a lift. As did seeing the man himself stood camera in hand. I made it up the hill and took a cup of energy drink and water, energy down the hatch, water over my head. My feet were in a mess, I was considering stopping and attempting to fix them, but thought better of it. This second lap was going to be tough. I just needed to survive to the trail section. That was my focus. The wheels fell off at 16km, the hill just before the aid station. It destroyed me. I took energy and water at the aid station, except drank them both this time, and walked a little longer. Then the walk/running started. My legs were a mess, everything hurt from my feet to my hips. Save it for the trail. 4:45 slipped out of my grasp, 4:50? I made it to the trail and got a mental lift again, my speed crept up and I just kept telling myself to power on. I rounded the corner, saw Bopo and went for the line. Someone sprinted past, I tried to follow but the tank was empty. Crossed the line in 4:31:51 on my watch after a 1h57m20s 22.4km run. Official results have me 5s slower.

Then I collapsed after 5m from the line. I was destroyed. I could see Bopo stood at one side of the pen, but had no energy to move. I crawled over eventually and took my shoes off to see the mess. My god it was ugly. A blister bigger than a Compeed on my right instep and a smaller one on my left. Basically this was a catalogue of how not to do an A- race. I completely screwed up hydration/nutrition, I was late to the start, I mentally gave up on the run. I feel happier today, but there is still a niggling “could have done better” thought in my mind. It was great having the BCTTT there in full support, great cheering people on. The weather came good and it was a fun day out all in all!

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