Wednesday, 19 June 2013

European Championships. A hot day out.

I managed to pick up a last minute spot for this race, having posted a good enough time last July, and stirring up a little trouble I managed to get a roll down spot minutes before the entry cut off. I was getting to wear my GB trisuit again and racing in the Olympic distance race.

Arriving in the resort almost a week early gave me what I hoped would be plenty of time to get used to the heat. By race day I had stopped sweating profusely in the heat, so this was achieved. Plenty of morning sea swims and I was used to the non wetsuit open water. Walking around the town I saw just how evil the hill on the run would be. It was horrible walking it. A trip to the castle showed just how far 1500m is on a 1 lap course. The day before the race was a stress filled day, with registration, briefings, riding to hotel, and racking. My racking spot was horrific. The bikes were 60cm apart, on one side, so really 30cm apart, with a box to fit in the gap. Needless to say my bike didn’t fit, so my anxiety levels rose, how would I get my bike out without knocking my shoes off?

Checked into a nice noisy hotel I got some sleep. We headed over for final checks, the GB managers negotiated moving some bikes, now I had some space. Then it was time to get ready. Faith and I headed into the water for a warm up as the first wave went off. They all dived in. We looked at each other in horror, having been told explicitly we wouldn’t be diving by the team manager in our briefing. Having settled my mind in the warm up we hear on exiting that the rest of the waves wouldn’t be diving. Phew. The women’s wave was next off and I watched them all run out on to the pontoon. The call for us to wait in the holding area was given and we formed up in a line on the ramp. The women got in the water and were off. We were waved onto the pontoon and walked/jogged to the line. I gave my goggles a last dip and we were put into start boxes. We were reminded that we had to pass each buoy to the left and then instructed to get in the water with a minute to go. I cling onto the rope. As the women approached the first mark we hear “on your marks”

Swim Course - Anticlockwise from pontoon around yellow buoys and back to the beach

The horn sounds and the water boils. In a split second choice I decide to pace this rather than fight the first 100m. A pack forms to my right side, the pack to the left forms separately. I try to stay near the front, but the guys are pushing and there is no way I can hold this pace. The first mark comes and I’m 20m back. People are tapping my feet so I figure I’m heading a pack. I spot a couple of stragglers between the packs and try to bridge for some feet to follow. The second mark comes and I roll turn. The bashing I get taking such a tight line confirms the pack behind me. As I look down the diver on the seabed looking back startles me. A glance at my Garmin puts me halfway in about 12:45. The third mark comes and I don’t roll turn, a few sights and I’m on track. The guy on my feet makes a break on the inside. I follow for a bit then he veers left and I opt to go it alone. I’m passing the slower women now. Mr breakaway corrects and slots in 10m ahead as we near mark 4. How did I lose so much ground? The last 500m now and I start working my stroke. I feel a few stings and I block the thoughts of jellyfish. When I swim properly I pull to the right, so I keep sighting a lot. The shore isn’t getting any closer though. The deep blue starts to fade and the water becomes a murky brown. The jetty finally appears and it is just the final leg into the beach exit. A guy to my left gets up and starts running. I take a few more strokes and my fingers scrape the bottom. I get up and make a break for it. My knees are barely breaking the surface though. Finally I’m onto dry ground and the ramp up to the shower and into T1

Transition 1
Into T1 and I find myself wondering where my bike is for a second. Having made the right split second decision as to my row I run for ages before I reach my bike. I chuck my hat and goggles in the box. Then pause for what feels like an eternity, a rabbit in the headlights. Remembering what needs to be done I get my helmet and sunglasses on and unrack my bike and I’m off, jumping on without incident

I delay getting my feet in whilst I negotiate the first few corners and get on the log straight. I try to get some speed up, but the block paviers are sapping my efforts and making things a little dicey. I struggle on and finally I can give the ride 100%. Now for the game of leap frog that follows T1. Jostling for a good spot without drafting is tricky. I’m holding 32kmh, but it is a bone shattering ride. A mile or so in and I’m on 31 minutes of race time. Finally I reach the tarmac. My speed jumps to 38kmh. If I can avoid the poorly fixed potholes there is 5km of this. I can’t of course, but I’m doing OK. My legs are feeling heavy so I play with my gears to find the right speed/cadence/comfort combo. 5km in and the dead turn for the run back, I scrub (far too much) speed to make it round in one piece. 7.5km, the tarmac ends and we are back on the paviers so my speed tumbles. 5 bone shaking kilometres until the tarmac. I spot the red flash of Faith’s wheels and wave. Did she see me? Coming to the end of lap 1 I hear a cheer that is more “ Go Jib-bee” than “Go Gee-bee” from Faith’s entourage. Through the timing point and I’m nearly too fast and overcook the corner. As I transition to the tarmac for the second time I spot Faith and manage a cheer. The focussed poker face remains. A slow dead turn and the second run home. I have my first peanut butter Gu. Mmm, why did they have to discontinue these? The pelotons are forming now, isn’t this meant to be non-drafting? A third of the way through lap 3 and someone is dropping some serious f-bombs behind me; “get on the effing right you effing…” As he zooms by on the left his trisuit reveals him to be Fiore of Italy. He is clearly unimpressed by my following the instruction to ride on the left and overtake on the right. Ten seconds later a Brit passes me and confirms what I thought. I was in the right place and that guy was prick. As I come through the lap/finish point for the third time I’m too fast and come with 2” of clipping the foot of a barrier. Too much speed Jibby. Focus you idiot. Onto the straight and the start of lap 4 and I have my second gel. I’m looking at my speedo feeling disappointment and frustration. My speed appears to me to be dropping. Has the wind picked up? Mentally the cracks are forming. The super peloton zooms past now and I find myself scrapping with people that are melting in the heat, trying to stay out of the draft zone. Digging deep each time to make the pass and stay out of the 10m box, or at least be visibly on the offensive to the referees. The turn point comes and the relief of only having 5km left. I make a mental check of my fluid intake. Speed is feeling OK as I make the push. I spot a blue shimano flag and begin getting my feet out. It’s the wrong flag though and I have done it waaay too soon. Finally the dismount line comes into sight.

Transition 2
I’m off and running. Again I have a think about my row. I reach my spot and stop and stare at the racking for what feels like 10 minutes pondering how to put my bike on it. Eventually I put my handlebars over it. Unclip my helmet, but because of my T1 choices sunglasses are over the straps, so they come off, helmet off, then glasses back on. Run shoes on. Hat…! Grab that and I’m off.

Out of transition and straight into aid station 1. They have bottled water not cups. I grab one and have 2 gulps before emptying the rest over me. I soon realise the downside is my feet are now squelching in my shoes. I reach the hill. A nasty 5-10% switchback that levels out but lasts 400m. Thankfully there is a second water station at the top. I grab a bottle and repeat the 2 gulps and pour over myself, filling my hat with water before putting that back on. My right heel is killing me now though. It seems my shoe is trying to amputate my foot. 2km in and the catalogue of ailments is growing; left Achilles, right heel, left toe. Now my quads join the party with shooting pains through my legs. There is no way I can even try to put on a brave smiling face as I pass Faith’s entourage. This is grimace and bare it territory. Through the aid station with my now standard procedure of 2 sips and shower. The GB support is great through this part of the course and the cheers are helping lift me up. Second attempt at the hill is just as painful as my quads cramp up on it. I get a multi-lingual cheer from a (Swiss?) woman. I almost run into the bollard at the timing point, why not put it inside the barrier? Down into the town and I’m begging my legs to behave. Halfway. Second to last go at the hill and it hurts lots. Only once more though! A little jostling for space as we go through the aid station. As I run through Team Faith my legs are screaming, if it wasn’t for all the water I’d poured over myself they might have seen the tears. Last lap. Make it a strong one Jibby. I look at my watch, 8 minutes for a sub 2:15. No way. A sub 2:20 is on the cards though. I try my hardest to up my pace, but my legs don’t want to go anywhere. As I reach the hill I contemplate walking. The GB cheers are too motivating though so I suck up the pain. As I go through the aid station another Brit is running beside me, she chucks her bottle to the left off course (as we were instructed to do), except it narrowly misses a passing couple and the dregs of water appear to shower them. It lifts my mood as I head into the timing point. I try to up the pace giving every last drop of energy I can find.

I enter the finish straight and it feels like I’m sprinting for the line. I don’t think anyone is behind so I grab a GB flag holding it up as I cross the line. I’m totally spent and just want to collapse in a heap but I’m not allowed. A medal is put around my neck, my chip is removed and I’m ushered out to somewhere I can. I sit on the floor for a bit. I have just finished what feels like the hardest race in my life. I get up take my shoes of, grab an iced water sponge and cool down. As I walk away the looks of other confirm what I feel. I’m a total mess.

Swim: 26:46
T1: 00:40
Bike: 1:07:11
T2: 00:36
Run: 43:49
Overall: 2:18:52
24/28 in Age Group, 149/256 Males

I’m uncertain what I feel. I wasn’t last in my age group. It is an Olympic distance PB by over 4.5 minutes, so that is good. I have represented GB in triathlon now, but I’m hungry for more. So Austria next year, hopefully.

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