Writing this a day after my first 1/2 Ironman is probably a bad decision. I’m hoping that it will be in some way cathartic but we’ll see, format and syntax be damned, I need this out of my head. If you want the short version;
‘Man has technical during triathlon, vows to do better’
I signed up for the Fugitive 1/2 a while back and it’s crept up like a sneaky fox. Like a fox in such that it was nice to look forward to in the distance but when you get close it only offers the chance of disease and a disappointing mangy look.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to fail – Not this time
For once I prepared properly, eased but didn’t cut my training, held off alcohol and ate cleanly for the week leading up to the event. I even practiced replacing an inner tube, realised I’d lost a lever so replaced it with the trusty teaspoon from the drawer.
The day before we attended the briefing in the ‘athlete’s village’. Village is a strong term, unless you like your villages like Sangatt. A few scraggly tents and an Ewok massage tent. I’m assuming Ewoks as the tent roof was 3 ft off the floor. Post briefing we drove the bike course to get a feel for the hills. An out and back with 3 laps thrown in. Some good quick sections and a punishing climb on the lap.
Roll the clock forward a few hours, an early night and an alarm for a 4AM feed. For once I reacted to the alarm, got 100g of carbs down my neck and dozed until 5AM when my partner, The Earl, picked me up. For once, nerves generally controlled, we racked the bikes and shuffled down to the mass start. A 7AM, 2 laps in the river Thames affair. The water was bearable, I’d imagine somewhat warmer than average when you have 200+ men providing their own liquid heating on entry.
The horn went and I experienced my first triathlon ‘washing machine’. Whilst I’d set myself at the back, it wasn’t pretty. As soon as you got to any kind of pace, you’d hit the back of the guy in front, look up, just in tome to see him switch to breast stroke and kick you in the face. In the meantime, the guy behind hits the back of you and the cycle repeats. For about 100m I genuinely wanted out, I didn’t enjoy it, I couldn’t find a rhythm and my breathing was horrendous. Real doubts crept in. After around 400m it spread a bit and I managed to talk myself into getting my breath right and just taking it a stroke at a time. Once fluid and warmed up the rest of the swim was actually OK. 1900m in 43 minutes. Ignoring the boat diesel fumes and the mild panic attack I was happy enough to get hauled out.
A non eventful transition and off onto the bike, steady climb out of Marlow and onto the road to Henley. Again, it took a while to find my rhythm but it began to click at about 2 miles in. I ground up a short sharp hill and settled onto the aero bars just in time to crack a pothole. A slow hiss on the down hill told me what I needed to know. First puncture.
Pull over, wheel off, tyre off, tube in, tyre back on…eventually. Thanking my preparation, gas in, tyre back on and away. About 8 minutes. Too long, but better than I would expect. Watching competitors go by wasn’t easy, but I took it as part of the test.
Minor setback, handled well, back on the bike and try to make it up. 8 minutes later a crack like a gunshot. Another blowout. I don’t know if I’d done something wrong, but this time a bit of dread snuck in. I only had one spare tube and a puncture kit. I pulled over next to a lone supporter and her daughter and they offered some condolences. Whilst I fiddled she offered to get me a tube, she had one in the house 100 yards away. On her return, repeat and refill. All patched up 11 minutes later, I was away and immediately heard the rubbing. The tyre had split slightly and swelled enough to rub the brake pads. I stopped, pulled out the allen keys and slacked the brakes right off to open it up. No more rubbing! I honestly thought at this point I had it covered.
I’d lost 20 minutes, but I now had a reason to dig deep. I’d overcome not one, but two punctures, I’d adapted to overcome the rub and was away again. It lasted 4 minutes. As I picked up speed the tyre swelled. It rubbed more than Errol Flynn in leggings. Boom….another blow out and no options left. A four mile walk on a main road with no pavements in cleats wasn’t the way I’d seen the day pan out.
Moody in Marlow
Emotionally gutted, the riders that came past me offered help, which whilst nice made me feel more alone. Back to transition, pack up, load the car and then wait for the Earl to finish. The walk back took about an hour and I hated every second. I ate a bit and made a conscious effort to retain a stiff lower lip. A stiff upper was not to be had. Of the thoughts that came and went, the worst were embarrassment, failure, disappointment and letting people down. I’d kept this low key but I’d still put people out in training and life to make sure I was ready.
After 10 minutes of sitting around waiting I bit the bullet, pulled on my big boy pants and decided to go for a run anyway. If you want an image to keep you happy, imagine someone pulling off a lycra tri-suit and pulling on a pair of running shorts in the back of an overheated Ford Galaxy in a busy car park. I’m pretty sure I confused a fair few people with my moon and walnuts show. I consciously made the decision to run without water or gels. I’ve no idea on how I got to that train of thought, other than to make it harder for myself because I’d let myself down on the bike.
I managed 10 miles in sweltering heat. A couple of faint experiences and a cracking headache and nausea on the return leg. Beautiful countryside, ridiculous weather and lots of confused faces as I ran back against the flow of runners now completing their triathlons. I could have ran with them, but again, the self pity gene said I didn’t deserve to.
It’s a tough one this. Whilst it’s raw in no particular order;
- Carry 2 tubes
- Carry a folding spare tyre
- Practice nutrition more
- Warm up before the swim properly, ignore the others routines, you need to get your breathing dialed in if your at all asthmatic
- Pay it forward – the Good Samaritan who helped me, didn’t need to. Pay it forward. (And should you ever read this – Thank you, your support made me continue and dig in!!)
So, things happen, you get by. Don’t let a technical ruin your race. Don’t let a ruined race ruin your day. Tomorrow is another day, I learnt I’m not ready cardio wise, I have 7 weeks and another warm up race to get my house in order. I need some time in the saddle, so late nights and early mornings. 7 weeks training out of a lifetime…0.1%. Like Team Sky, marginal gains.