St Mary’s Loch Triathlon
So, I’m still doing pretty well at following ‘the plan’. I had chosen this new standard distance race as prep for Aberfeldy middle distance. It’s well-timed at three weeks before the big one. It’s also organised by Paul McGreal at Durty Events, so I knew it would be fun and scenic! 🙂
Saturday had seen the ‘Durty Tri’ – the off road version of our race at the same location, which I had forgone for more specific training. My friend Marie was competing but had all her kit stolen the day before. Somehow, she managed to get a whole set of everything together (my contribution was the loan of a wetsuit), raced and came second. Another friend of mine, Elizabeth, won – so with mates 1, 2 on the podium on Saturday, I felt anticipation at trying to join them on Sunday!
Although Saturday’s weather forecast looked pretty good, Sunday was dire. Heavy rain all day until 4pm?! At least it wasn’t going to be windy. Andy was doing this race as well. I had persuaded him to do it instead of a more local race, informing him that it would be fun (true), there were lots of people from the club going (true), and the course was really flat and fast (erm …).
Looking at the route profiles and descriptions on Saturday night, I found it wasn’t so flat on the bike – especially with roadworks meaning we had to do two laps of the first bit, which was up and down a moderately sized hill and back! The run was definitely flat, so that was something.
My good friend Chris picked us up in his “popemobile”, aka a really practical car for going to races in. Both bikes fit in upright without any need to deconstruct, and the back door opens up like a roof for getting changed under in the rain.
At the race HQ, welly boots were a definite advantage. I practised my smug look as I waded right through all the muddy puddles between the car park (a field) and transition (a different bit of field). I wasn’t so smug at forgetting about the possible midge factor.
After the usual nervousness of getting ready, it was time for briefing. I was waving my arms around and practising dry land swimming, whilst everyone else stood stationary. Straight into the water, and some people were oohing and ahhing about how cold it was. I was thinking it was like a warm bath! There wasn’t much time for more warm up before the hooter went and we were off.
I was determined to put in a decent race effort on the swim. I realised a few races back that I’ve just been cruising the swim and losing valuable time. I’ve also been making more of an effort to attend 5:30am swimming sessions with faster people than me, and didn’t want all that hard work / torture to go to waste!
One of the GREAT things about this race from my point of view, was that all the women and super-vet males went in wave 1, with everyone else about 10 minutes behind in wave 2. This meant I was near the front of the pack for the swim. I was doing some great drafting as we rounded the first buoy. I tapped someone’s feet and they sped up, but not for long and I soon struck out away from my little group. There were 3 or 4 people in front but I couldn’t bridge the gap and swam the remaining 1.5 laps on my own.
I was delighted with my time of 24:25, which included the run up to transition.
I was in and out quickly (11th fastest overall), even with putting socks on. After over-taking one or two people on the road, Paul shouted to me that I was second ‘girlie’ at the turn :D. The one up at the front looked very fast though. Since we turned around three times, I could check where everyone was. I was confident of a top 3 finish.
Because we were set off first, we also had clear road up at the front. A few of the supervets passed me, but not many. I didn’t have to worry about drafting, or getting caught up with middle-of-the-pack men who like overtaking and then slowing down. Really, did I mention how great having our own wave was?!
Coming back into transition a car was coming the other way up the rough drive. I hesitated. They stopped for me to pass just next to a big puddle. I went into it with a BANG! Yep, immediate burst tube and flat tyre as the water was hiding a big pothole! Luckily it was right in front of the dismount line, so I jumped off and bumped my way back in.
This transition was more clumsy. Although my average bike speed was disappointingly slow (I need to sort that out) I did feel a bit weebly wobbly standing on one foot trying to get my running shoe on. So I must have worked moderately hard. Eventually I was on my way again.
Looking at the results, I was 4:40 minutes down on the leading lady at this point. I was close to 8 minutes clear of the next person though – I didn’t know I’d got that far away!
What I hadn’t realised about the run was how technical it would be underfoot. Although it was flat, we were soon off camber on narrow paths, sometimes grassy and sometimes stony and uneven. It also twisted this way and that through the trees.
I had been really up for doing this run fast after my half marathon success the week before. But the first thing I was thinking was how heavy my legs were feeling. Then after a couple of kilometres my calf started hurting. Uh-oh! This was the same thing I’d had at the end of the half marathon, but I had thought nothing of it since then. I carried on and it didn’t worsen, but never went away.
A couple of guys overtook and pulled away. Then there was an open gate through a field and what looked like a trodden path across the grass. But we had been following red and white tape markers. I hesitated. There was a stile to the left of the gate. It had tape all over it. There was an orange arrow pointing across it and away from the field. And there was a Southern Upland Way sign (we were told at briefing the route stayed on this path the whole way). I leapt (slid) over the stile and was in woods – still worried, but then I saw more tape and knew I was right. My adventure racing skills extend beyond reading a map and choosing a route – I’m also good at arrow-spotting of all kinds :-D.
People cheered loudly from a boat out on the loch, which was fun!
As the path joined a fire road, the guys who’d overtaken appeared – they knew they’d gone the wrong way but hadn’t lost a lot of time. To my surprise, the lead lady was also just in front. She had also gone the wrong way, but had perhaps spent longer getting back on track. I slowly, slowly started closing and just made contact as we turned at the 5km point. I paused for a cup of water and to eat a gel and she opened the gap back up. All the way back along the fire road, I was making no ground.
Andy (boyfriend) and Tom (clubmate) both passed going the other way and yelled at me to catch up. It was encouraging, but secretly inside I was feeling tired and heavy and my calf was hurting. I couldn’t up the pace. However, Tom told me later that I looked the more comfortable. We got back onto the rougher, uneven section. I suddenly noticed that the girl in front was less at ease on this section and I was doing better on the little downhill slopes. I decided to capitalise on my off-road experience and go for it. I ran past and held my pace.
I was concerned I had seized an opportunity, but too soon. We still had a way to run. I didn’t dare look back until the next stile, but when I did, she had vanished. I couldn’t believe it. I just needed to keep this up until the finish. Another stile, another look. I was on my own, and the finish was in sight about 800m ahead of me! Wow. I made a final effort, Heili (erstwhile support of Glen and I at the Bowhill duathlons) cheered, and I crossed the line.
After the Slateman finishing order debacle, I wouldn’t believe I had won until someone who knew for sure confirmed it. Anne was on finish line duty, taking our timing dibbers off us. “You’re first lady” she said. Woweee!!!
Much excitement, and I loved climbing on the very high finish podium to collect my silver plate. My first Scottish race win of the year! Even Andy had forgiven me for the hills and my course mis-descriptions as he had fun. Full results here.
The only tarnish to the day was my calf – which immediately seized up after I stopped. The last few days have been a cycle of it getting sore when I sit down, easing off when I walk and generally being a pain. At my pre-booked sports massage with Kirsty, she confirmed it was fatigued, very stiff, but not torn or knotted. Next race only a week later and Aberfeldy (the important one) two weeks after that. She said I would risk injury if I did the weekend, but it was my call ….
And the call (after consultation with my coach and Andy and a full consideration of many factors) is that I will race the Scottish Standard distance champs near Aberdeen. This race wasn’t on the plan and was a late decision a few weeks ago. The competition is likely to be stiff and I may have to alter my usual approach to account for my calf. So I have set my expectations accordingly. The non-stop summer racing continues … but gingerly!