Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon
A Scottish Championship event for which I dragged myself to the start and in which I got a surprise.
This was my main target event for the year. In the run up most things had been going well. I got a pb at my club time trial. I was consistently doing harder swim sessions. Even my running was going OK, except when I slightly pulled a calf muscle ‘practising’ a half marathon.
The race was on Saturday. On Friday 9 days before, I noticed a slight sore throat. I thought nothing of it, though it was still there on Saturday when I went up to Aberfeldy to ride round the bike course. By Sunday I was struck down and barely made it out of the house to get food in. Yes, even when ill I thought the most important thing was to get some food so that I could cook and eat healthily for the rest of the week. How else would I get better?!
Unfortunately, this bug was more like something I’d expect in the first week of January. I got headaches, sore throat, a cough, croaky voice, wheezy, gunk in my chest … hmm … lovely. By Thursday I did feel a bit brighter, though on Friday I felt worse again. By now we were up in the area, sightseeing, but had to abandon plans and go back to the B&B for a lie down. Yikes!
I was determined to race anyway, so I registered and got ready to go. There were some advantages to being ill though.
- I was very rested – no training in the previous 7 days!
- I stopped worrying about my calf
- No energy or enthusiasm to get over-stressed about the race the week before or succumb to negative performance pressure
Race morning began very early. Too early. 5:15am is not my kind of time! We drove the length of Loch Tay to the swim start in Kenmore. By the time I had got kit out of the car, walked half a mile to the transition area and racked my bike, I was short of time. But I needed to go to the toilet and the queue was huge. I waited for a bit then gave up in a panic about getting my timing chip and missing the briefing. I got my chip and found Andy. He insisted I went back to the toilet. He was right, I suffered with tummy craps from at Celtman last year from not going when I needed to and it wouldn’t be good to get that again. Slowly the queue diminished, I went as quick as I could and then raced back down to the start. Andy filled me in on the briefing; “go round those buoys anti-clockwise”. And then I was getting in the water.
It wasn’t cold, but it was a bit of a swim out to the start line. After waiting a while the hooter went – some people had barely got in and were a long way off the start! Just like some other races I’ve done this year, it was rough and crowded. I was a bit surprised, as the start line was very long and we were heading all the way over to the other side of the loch. I expected to have more space! After the turn west at the first buoy we were going into the wind. It got choppy and harder to breathe, and still it was crowded. My goggles were nearly knocked off and someone else almost pushed me under.
On a different day in a more combative frame of my mind, I would have done better on this leg. As it was, I just swam and tried to survive. I could feel I was a long way down the field when I got out. Looking at the results later, this was indeed the case. Times aren’t much to go on as course lengths can be so variable from the quoted distance. In this event, it was definitely short, but my relative position told me I hadn’t had a good day in the water.
Later it turned out neither Andy nor Chris (my two supporters!) had seen me get out and they were having a bit of a panic. The organiser even checked the chip times to confirm I was on my way. On close inspection of Andy’s photos when we got home, we found one with me in it!
I had a slightly slower transition than usual as I ate a banana to keep me going on the long bike. This is the first time I’ve done this length of triathlon so it was a bit of an experiment.
I enjoyed the start of the ride and got up the big hill alright. Everyone was sorting out their positions at this stage so about equal numbers overtook me as I overtook. Over the top of the hill and round the back of Schiehallion (a big mountain!) we were suddenly exposed to the wind. Some very strong gusts made me wobble and almost lose control of the bike. Small twigs were flying off the trees and bits of dust were getting my eyes. I slowed down and took the sharp winding descent rather cautiously.
The effort from the climb induced a minor coughing fit, but as soon as we got to the bottom I knew it was time to get my head down and get my average speed up!
This section of the race is very long and potentially monotonous. It’s a 35km lap of Loch Rannoch. The road is almost flat. The views consist of trees and water. By now I was riding almost alone. I tried to keep anyone who went past in sight for as long as possible. I also kept looking at my speed. I was consciously trying to keep it at about 34-36km/h. This was taking a lot of concentration as I ‘naturally’ seemed to want to go at about 30km/h! But I knew it was a test to see if I could make my legs hurt like this and still run afterwards. I managed to drink and eat well here too – chomping on some bars every half hour. That liquorice allsports Mule bar was the business!
At the bottom of the return hill my overall average was 30.7km/h. I knew this would drop as I climbed. From my recce I also knew that even though the hill was steep, it was short! Pleasingly, I overtook quite a few people who appeared out of nowhere in front of me on the climb. But it was still blowing a gale and the going was much tougher than the last time I had been this way. At the top I was down to 29.4km/h – I had time to make up!
And so I descended back towards Aberfeldy at speed. The rain was coming down hard now and felt like needles pinging off my face. I scrunched my eyes up and hoped nothing would jump out in front of me! Coming back into town after a fast tailwind assisted run alongside the river, my average was 30.4km/h on a slightly long course. Before I got ill, I had done ‘dream day’, ‘realistic day’ and ‘bad day’ target times. 30km/h was my ‘bad day’ target time so I was pleased to be over that, at least.
And so it was time for the run. I started stiffly, with tight hip muscles and suddenly noticeably cold and numb feet. I tried to keep a rhythm and an eye on my pace. My new watch came in handy here! It bleeped cheerfully after every mile and slowly I could see the distance add up. Lots of things went through my mind on the run. Like: This road is quite dull and I would rather run up a hill. I should keep my arms high and my feet light. Where are the leading women coming the other way? Is it gel time? Where was that drinks station? Hmm, I wouldn’t fancy a marathon like this. Are girls with numbers 600+ in a relay even if their number isn’t red? Ow, my calf is sore again, but it lasted a while. Maybe this distance on a road isn’t so bad after all. Oh, this run suddenly seems so easy (mile 8). I am dying, can I stop yet (mile 9)?…
Finally I was back at the road junction where we turned towards town and the end was almost in sight. I had looked over my shoulder a few times and was fairly confident no-one was chasing me down from behind. I still worked hard to the finish. As it turned out, the next girl after me was having a blistering run – so I’m glad I never let up!
In the end, I was disappointed with my swim time, thought the bike was OK and was thoroughly relieved to have survived the run in what for me was a respectable time at an untested distance in a race like this (1:40 – though I measured the route a bit short at 20.3km). My overall time of 5:15 was close to my ‘realistic day’ target.
Waiting at prize giving, I thought I was 5th. So I was very surprised to hear my name being called for a Scottish Championship medal for third! This is because one of the girls I thought was ahead was actually in a relay, and another wasn’t eligible for the champs.
Yay! 🙂 It had definitely been worth taking the risk of racing when not 100% well, even though I felt awful the next day!
If I had had a good run up, I am confident I could have gone a bit quicker. However, the result would have been the same as Eleanor Haresign, Allison Stewart and Jen Stewart are all great athletes and finished in times ranging from 4:41-4:51. Something to aspire to – though first I need to work out how to find 5 minutes on the swim, 15 on the bike and 10 on the run! 😀
One question I had for this year was whether this distance would suit me. In my second year of triathlon I am still working out what I am best at. Well, so far I was definitely better at this than the standard distance and I did quite enjoy it. So there’s a good chance I’ll give it another go.
Next up – another championship race – this time the off-road tri, which I have entered for fun. It will be too short, but we get to swim across to an island devoid of roads for the rest of the race – how cool is that?! One thing is for sure, I will be attacking that swim if nothing else!