After failing miserably at the Fugitive Half Iron due to punctures I was somewhat uninspired to get this one done. It was last chance to at least complete a race and was supposed to be a wind down before the big event next month. Taking on the Olympic Long course was a chance to bed in the bike, get my swim head on and see how the run felt.
1500m swim, 80km bike and a 10km run. All short distances in comparison to what I should have done last time out, but it gave me a chance to banish some demons.
One of the things I hadn’t really thought about properly was the start timing. The normal early starts result in early eating and drinking to prime. With a 12 o’clock start it was a pretty leisurely breakfast then drive to pick up the other racer/participant in my ‘Idiot Gang’ – Pirate Paul. Now, where I race with Richard ‘The Duke’ it’s not really a race. The Duke is fit as a Stradivarius and about as posh. The Pirate is about my standard, born in Southwark to a sailors moll and only a tad more polished. The Duke is the madman that has talked me into/supported me for the Ironman, The Pirate is happy laughing at me from a distance until his ego kicks in and he signs up for stupid things….(3 tough mudders, a Paris marathon, a half distance Iron and the London Long).
We got into Excel in plenty of time and whilst I was warned, dear god it’s massive. We’ll ignore the slip of excitement in the carpark when I was lifting the bikes out the car. I’m old and they were heavy, something had to give. The transition really started the butterflies.
A quick briefing and we were off. A bit of a shock to the system when you get ushered down the steps and told to jump in and swim, no toe dipping here. I managed, for the first time ever, to do a couple of short bursts of crawl to get warmed up, then found a spot near the back for the mass start carnage. Multiple waves of starters totalling 13,000 people started over the course of the weekend.
The swim itself was relatively uneventful other than the obligatory kick in the face and losing the goggles from someone’s trailing arm. It’s really hard to draft when someone swims like they’ve been drinking all night so I resorted to getting a rhythm, swimming wide and getting on with it. The rhythm I chose was like a drunk octopus playing the bongos but it kinda worked. On the return leg I started kicking as I saw the large bouy only to find there was another further on. That added 200m or so was an emotional drag but not major.
My nemesis. Punctures every time I’ve been out recently so new tyres front and back, meticulous in checking the insides and cleaning off the debris and it seemed to work. No mechanical, no punctures and no reason to complain….apart from the brutal headwind as we headed west, through Poplar, under the Limehouse link to the turnaround point near St Katherines dock. The return leg back down the same route past the Excel and spinning around to complete 1 of 4 laps.
According to the ever knowing internet, the headwind was about 12mph. There’s some rule of thumb that says the wind will slow you by about half, so 12mph will take 6mph off you. To be fair though, it was a tail wind on the way back!
I’m pretty quick on the downhills, which I think means I’m inherently lazy. I read somewhere that as long as you are turning the pedals you’re adding speed, so I make sure I do on the downs. I streaked past people going into the tunnels and down the overpasses, looking almost proficient on the tri bars. Averaging 16.7 mph and topping out at 36 mph was ok, quads ached a bit but I did set a pace and stuck to it, HR sat at about 133 for the duration, so a bit high, but ok. I blow on the hills up so all the people I’d streaked past on the downs had the last laugh.
Ugh, what can I say. Into transition I forgot my gels so went back adding about a minute, then got confused and added some time looking around. Then finally started plodding. Runners ran past and I stuck to the plan, slow and steady jog. Then I got cramp in both calves. It hurt to walk, it hurt to run, so I did both. The pirate caught up with me on the first turnaround (again, psychologically seeing a turn and then finding out it was the short course turn was a bit demoralising). We helped each other out, run/walk from marker to marker, making sure the run pieces were near the photographer, the crowd and the start finish hall. It was pretty warm and I ended the day with salt marks all over my trisuit, along with a crippling pain in my lower right side. The same pain I have every morning before I have a glass of water, so guessing I screwed up my hydration. Finishing the run in 1:12 wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad.
I ate a fair bit, I stuck to the gels every hour and flapjack/nuts/pork pies as a constant graze. I didn’t bonk but did feel particularly sick after the finish. A plate of chips covered in salt helped, so next race I’ll be more careful upping the salt intake and making sure my hydration is dialed in. I managed one 750ml bottle on the bike and maybe half that on the run. Oh, and Gatorskin tyres seem to work!
Job done, onto the next…..and then to start a business doing event photos that doesn’t charge an arm and what’s left of my legs for the output.