My first target race of the year.
This big event is well organised by Always Aim High events, with great scenery, smooth roads and a tough challenge of a run. I recommend it!
I was my usual somewhat nervous self as I racked my bike in transition. To add variety, a TV film crew were there and did an interview as I was one of the favourites for the podium. The guy was nice – he has worked with Open Adventure before, filming the Terrex. My transition area looked sparse, but the less stuff there is there, the less there is to go wrong!
Swim in Llyn Padarn 1km: 19:57 / 5th female / 37th overall
Off I went down to the lakeside for the start of the swim. I was a bit apprehensive about the cold water as I hadn’t practiced yet this year. My one chance to do so the week before was scuppered when I sliced through my nail with a chainring. Don’t try this at home – it hurts a LOT 😀
We weren’t allowed in the water until a few minutes before our start time. I was only able to swim to the line, get my face used to the cold and we were off! The swim passed by OK, except when someone randomly veered across my path. It was hard to spot the red turning buoys as I was in the ‘red hat’ wave … As usual, I struggled to find good people to draft and at the end I was crossing open water to a group ahead. My time was merely ‘alright’ – afterwards, I thought I could have done better. Somehow I find it hard to race this part of a triathlon.
Transition 1: 1:34 / 6th female / 38th overall
I did a good transition – much better than last year.
Bike round the edge of some mountains 49km: 1:33:39 /2nd female / 87th overall
I set off enthusiastically on the bike. I knew there were a few other girls ahead, but I had no idea how many. I passed one quickly. I caught the next girl, called Jane (we all had our names on our numbers), halfway up the 5km climb of Pen Y Pass. Then a crazy coach driver decided to overtake just before a narrow bend – only to find a bus was coming down the other way. He pulled in sharply, taking out a cyclist in front of me. I gasped, but he had been aware enough to stop and steady himself against the now stationary coach. A little group of us all had to wait a few seconds until the two vehicles had inched past each other.
After that the cycle was straightforward. On the long downhill I was spinning out of gears. Jane passed me again here. She was on a time trial bike and I suspect she had an advantage on the flatter sections. Without drafting, I kept her in sight until the turn back uphill to the Ogwen valley. I overtook again and was motivated to push as hard as I could on the downhill and flatter bits, taking more risks than I normally do.
As I was in the first wave this year, I had a clear run back into Llanberis. My time was comparable to last year – a couple of minutes quicker, but roadworks had shortened the route. The difference was that last year I had felt invincible, and this year I didn’t.
Transition 2: 56s / 3rd female / 24th overall
Even better than T1 …
Run in slate quarries and wooded trails 11km: 55:37 /6th female / 102nd overall
Onto the run. I was determined not to walk a single step – and I didn’t. Surprisingly, half way up the zigzags in the slate quarry I overtook another girl. I could see she was struggling a bit and gave her some encouragement. I still didn’t know what place I was in – was anyone else still up ahead?
I had noted where on the route my halfway point in time had been last year. I got there a couple of minutes quicker and thought I was on for a great run time. My shins started cramping a bit, but I kept on at what I thought was a good pace and I felt relaxed. I kept aiming for the next runner in front (there were quite a lot as our course joined that of the sprint course).
I kept checking back, which I don’t normally do. I wanted to see if anyone was catching me. Last year I was caught 10 minutes from the end and couldn’t make the gap back up. This year, I saw another girl bearing down on me with about 800m to go. I picked up the pace a bit, rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill and crossed the river. 400m to go, but I could hear her footsteps getting closer and closer. I gave it everything I had, but sprinting really isn’t my thing! About 200m to go and she came past – it was Jane again. I was spent, eased up slightly and collapsed over the line just 4 seconds behind her.
The TV crew came over and wanted to interview me. “You’re third!” they said. I was anxious about any girls who might be in later waves with faster times and tried to explain this. We had been asked to email in if we thought we would do a sub-3h:10 race, but I knew not everyone had responded. The lady went to check the situation and came back telling me “you have to be in the first wave to count for the podium, so you’re definitely on” … OK, I thought, and did my interview.
An hour later at prize giving I still had some misgivings. And rightly so. As they announced the results it transpired that someone else from wave three was in third place … as my mind clicked and whirred I realised what this meant. Yes, she had finished in time between me and Jane. In fact, she was just one second ahead of me. The winner of the women’s race, Rhian Roxburgh, stormed round and was over 5 minutes clear of all of us, despite having had a baby just 5 months ago!
Andy was racing too – here’s his report.
I shall gloss over my mood for the next day or so! I was disappointed I had not done better in my target race. In some ways, thinking I had come 3rd only to find I hadn’t was as hard to deal with as coming 4th by such a tiny margin. However, as I was told by more than one person: the occasional setback will spur me on to improve. And my actual time and overall position wasn’t too bad – 61st out of 660 finishers.
Bad luck cost me those vital seconds, a pause behind the coach here, a fumble with my shoe there, easing up before the line (something I never normally do). But I do not want to leave a race to that sort of luck – if I had been a minute or two ahead it wouldn’t have been an issue!
Now I’ve waited a week and thought about the race, I’ve decided things just didn’t come together on race day. It’s almost like I peaked two weeks early at the Shropshire Open 5 when I felt wonderful!
It has also been a lesson in how what else is going on can affect performance – it’s not just all about the body.
- My training diary for the week before says ‘tired’, ‘tired’, ‘tired’ … I’m not sure of the cause, but work has been busier than usual and this probably had an impact.
- The week before the race my back started playing up. On Saturday I was panicking and icing, using Ibuprofen gel, contorting myself on the roller and sleeping on the floor to get things back in shape! Although it was fine on race day, I went from focused on Monday, to distracted and worried by Saturday night.
- I was disappointed with my run time – only a minute faster than last year despite big gains in speed (2 mins off my 5k time). It’s possible I needed to eat a gel or something on the run (though I didn’t feel it at the time).
Well, I have already moved onto thinking about my next race! It’s not a target for me and doesn’t particularly play to my strengths. It’s a standard distance tri, so the bike is shorter relative to the run, and it’s flat. So I am not focussing on position, but have a few other ‘process goals’. My mum is going to be supporting me, and I’ve got a role ready for her too! That will be on the 16th June.
In the meantime, I have already cheered myself up by doing hill walks, hunting for vague footpaths, going on my bike club chaingang ride in the sun and pottering down to the beach with friends. I even took a dip in the North Sea without my wetsuit – acclimatisation has happened quickly this year!