It feels like it’s been a long time since my last race. I could pretend this was because my physio had drummed into me the message that I should spend time ‘building a base’ whilst letting my hip recover and not always interrupting training with another hard race. But really it was because there had been nothing on for a month! 😉
I had been anticipating this, the last race in the Bowhill duathlon series, for a while. I had won the previous two, but knew I would still be under pressure for this one. To make me even more nervous, The Adventure Show from BBC Scotland would be there filming for their next programme. Gulp.
By the time we got to race morning, I was more than a little nervous. To compound this feeling, Glen was a bit late arriving, then we headed off down the A1 … which does not go to Bowhill! After a rapid correction including a sneaky back road that Andy knew, we got there not quite early enough for the good car park, but only just down the drive 🙂 .
No sooner had I started queuing to register, than the camera crew asked me to go over for an interview when I was ready. They had lots of questions, and I talked a lot! As soon as I walked away I started thinking ‘why didn’t I mention ….?’ Since I definitely remembered telling them that it was important to warm up for such a short race, I headed out on my bike to ride up the hill and down the last technical section, plus a bit of the start climb to keep warm. This also helped me to calm my nerves and ignore irrational thoughts about my back tyre going flat.
I always find the mass bike start tricky but soon got into a rhythm climbing the hill. I didn’t really appreciate someone riding into me sideways, but I stayed upright. Twice I jumped off and ran steep bits before going on. There were lots of muddy sections, as usual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t wet enough to have washed away or got to firmer ground underneath, and it was not cold enough for it to have frozen. So we were often riding through a sticky gloop that grabbed at my tyres and pulled me this way and that.
I felt more anxious than usual descending. I’m not sure why; perhaps it was a heightened sense of not wanting to crash out or maybe my head was just not quite in the right place. Still, I attacked the hills and passed a few guys. At the end it got technical through the woods. I walked a short section but was then riding again. At a tricky corner, I was just about to put my foot down and scoot, when someone yelled ‘well done, keep going Rosemary!’. It was just what I needed as I thought ‘I can do this’ and rode on down :-).
Into transition I knew I was first girl, but didn’t know what sort of lead I had. The film crew were there interviewing me as I tried out using a little shoe horn for the first time and got it back to front! They asked if I felt confident about the hat trick now, but I said you never know until the finish, and I meant it.
Off I went, determined to run well. Despite what it may seem, I *have* actually listened to the physio. Injuring my hip has been a good thing. It made me go back to basics and build up properly. Although I’m not totally fixed yet, I’m well on the way and I’ve had several weeks of consistently running a lot more often and a lot further than I have for many years. Our Ötillö race entry is also helping motivate me to keep going out in the dark and cold. Slow it may mostly have been, but it has really improved my running.
The course goes up and down, then up a lot more before coming back the same way. My feet kept falling into soft muddy sections, which dragged you in just when your muscles were burning from the effect of cycling! Up we went, clambering over fallen trees and picking the best lines. I didn’t walk a step, even when it got tough. I never knew whether there’d be someone behind me spying a weakness!
I collected my lollipop at the top, waved at the cameras, noted my time and started descending. The next girls I saw going the other way were Caroline and Elizabeth. From pervious form and races, my guess was that Caroline was moving up the field and had just overtaken Elizabeth, which turned out to be the case. Last year, Caroline caught me on the descent and I couldn’t respond. This year I estimated I had about a 4 minute lead. Would it be enough?
Through the trees again and a clubmate came past, nimble like the deer I had seen racing across our path earlier. I decided it was time to take a few risks and let go a bit, so I did my best to keep up with him. He was slowly pulling away, but I was actually having fun and it was enough to keep me motivated. I also got in a mini battle with a guy in red and yellow. He’d catch me on the downs only to drop back on the ups!
The final hill is the sting in the tail of this course. I allowed myself one or two glances over my shoulder to see if there were any Caroline-shaped people coming behind, but it all seemed clear. I wasn’t taking chances though and pushed on, even managing a sort of sprint finish. Hurrah!
Deziree from The Adventure Show was there for a post race interview, though there was an awkward moment where it seemed like I was supposed to talk but I hadn’t been asked a question! I just started anyway, but who knows whether I made any sense. Pretty soon Caroline came in, followed by Elizabeth. It’s always nice to have a podium of friends 🙂
I hadn’t really noticed the rain and snow when I was racing, but got cold much more quickly than normal. I dived back to the car to strip off wet things and get warm and dry, though my lips stayed purple for ages!
The post race analysis of results made happy reading. My bike time was almost the same as last year, but my run was more than 8 minutes faster. This is over a 9.6km course. Somehow I placed better (out of everyone) on the run than on the bike (by two places). This is unheard of for me! I’d like to have biked faster, but maybe I had left more in the tank to do well on the run. It can be a balancing act between the two disciplines. It’s a fabulous feeling to think maybe I could discover that inner runner again, instead of seeing it as an inherent weakness.
I’d like to thank everyone at Durty Events for putting on the series again and keeping us all happy with never-ending mud supplies. Also to Glen for taxi services and various photographers. At this race in particular, I noticed loads of people cheering me on by name, even people I didn’t recognise. Thanks to you all, as it does make a difference! A great race, lots of fun, I lived up to the pressure of expectation (my own, mostly) and I left much more chatty than when I’d arrived 😀 .
The first race of the year! This weekend it was also the Strathpuffer 24h race which I almost got sucked into with a last minute invite … but I resisted.
And so I turned up at Bowhill ready to try and repeat my performance from the short one. Speedy Jo was busy showing everyone how it’s done at the Strathpuffer (winning the female pairs), so I knew I might be the one to beat today.
For some reason I felt more nervous than usual. I do get a bit stressed before the start of such short races! My tummy was playing up a bit and a short warm up ride was needed. I coaxed Glen out of the car and onto his bike – he had had one too many alcoholic beverages at his mum’s birthday party the day before – and off we went. It was cold and when it wasn’t muddy it was frozen and icy.
It was nearly midday and I had timed it quite well, taking off my last two layers sufficiently late not to get cold before the hooter went. I started off to the side because I am nervous in a mass bike start as it is, without all the snow and slidy stuff on the road. I soon found my place, though it was hard overtaking on the climb when there seemed to be just one line through the snow that everyone was following. If you got stuck behind someone going just a bit slower than you wanted, it took too much effort to get off the line and plough through to overtake!
A small group of us from the club had come and been round the course the week before. Although some of the tracks were easier to ride because they were now more solid, I knew the first descent was all churned up by heavy forestry machinery. Last week it was just muddy and slidy. Today all the ruts and ridges were frozen and covered over by a layer of snow. I couldn’t see what was going on and caught my wheels, falling off once and nearly repeating the trick further down.
Luckily I escaped and got going again through the woods. As I took a sharp turn onto a slippy looking road I was surprised to see Kirsty McPhee overtake me. At the last race we had played leapfrog during the run but I had been faster on the bike. Yikes – this wasn’t in my plan! I had wanted to get a nice cushion on the bike and see if I could hold it on the run! I accelerated past again and it was just the incentive I needed to work properly hard. I didn’t look back, but as we came into transition, sure enough she was hot on my heels just 3 seconds behind 🙂
I had a quick transition, easily spotting my place in the racking thanks to my bright red new shoelaces that were a Christmas present from my mum. I left before Kirsty, praying that all my recent run training would make this part less painful than last year …
The run starts with a long, rough climb with squelchy bits. I was lucky that a club mate was right next to me. It was the motivational pull to keep me going as the path got steeper and I stuck to his heels like glue. I even went past near the top and descended the snow covered track the other side ‘somewhat competently’. At least, it felt like it, and not many people over took me.
Off the tricky bit and although we could catch glimpses of the house through the trees that meant we were physically near the finish, but we still had a big loop round by the lake to do. I concentrated on doing ‘triathlon arms’ rather than ‘adventure race arms’. This means I had them high and pumping, trying to drive me onwards, instead of low and energy conserving!
I hadn’t looked back and every time I heard footsteps and heavy breathing behind I was trying to gauge whether it was a man or a woman. Not far from the end, as we did a sharp turn, I glimpsed over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone. I couldn’t be sure though and kept pushing on. It was like doing a Parkrun – I was beginning to feel a bit nauseous! I did want to do a strong sprint finish, but my legs weren’t having it. I got to the line, dibbed and turned round.
I was clear. Woohoo! In the end I had in fact won by just over 3 minutes. I was delighted. Kirsty held onto 2nd and my friend Caroline was 3rd.
It’s hard to tell how times compare when course conditions change. So I had a look at the top 10 fastest bike and run times last year and this. Everything was a little bit slower this year, but my run was nearly a minute quicker and I placed much higher. Things are moving in the right direction! Full results here.
I had five goals for this race and met 3.5 of them:
1) Sub 65 minutes. Total time = 1:04:12 – CHECK
2) Top 25 overall on bike. 12th – CHECK
3) 5:15 average per km on run. 5:18 – just missed it!
4) Enjoy the run. Sort of, it wasn’t total hell anyway – HALF!
5) Win. – CHECK
The final of the series is in February and The Adventure Show TV crew will be filming. Just a bit of added pressure!
A month ago I did the medium length race in this series and came 3rd. I wrote all about it for 220 triathlon magazine, due out in the shops next week. I can’t wait to see it! This month everything was back to normal. I got a lift down with a friend from my club. We left Edinburgh in an unexpected snow storm and were wondering whether we would ever make it before the race started!
Favourite quote of the journey: “Well, I like wearing my tights because, er, because they’re tight”
Favourite tune of the journey: something funky from Austin Powers!
At the venue there was no snow in sight, it was even sunny on occasions :-).
Apart from standing on my already rather ripe and squishy banana, my pre-race prep was uneventful. Soon I was on the start line, the hooter was going and we were off! This time I didn’t wobble. The bike leg was good fun, but in contrast to the last race, I lost sight of the two leading women fairly early on. I’m not sure why – but I didn’t quite have my normal race mojo. However, I’ve been concentrating on run training recently and was also a bit tentative (even more than usual!) on the downhills. My hip is still a sore from my heavy fall a month ago and I didn’t want a repeat incident. Having said that, I still had fun and loved the single track through the trees. Then the marshals gave me such a cheer I even manged to get up the final steep bank. Success!
My transition was terrible! I fumbled with my shoe laces and changed my mind about what to wear on the run. Eventually I set off again. A key aim for me in this race was to test my running. Last time I felt like I plodded round but this time I intended to race. The first part of the course undulated but we were soon heading up and up. We picked our way along a narrow mossy bank and wove through tightly packed spindly trees. Great fallen tree trunks across the route added some spice and made my legs ache even more! We turned round at a memorial stone with a lollipop as evidence we’d been there!
This course was an out and back, so I could see where all my competitors were. Shona and Jo were already well ahead and the next two girls were about 3.5 minutes behind. I wasn’t sure if this would be enough and it spurred me on! I did my best on the tricky technical bits, felt like I swooped through the trees and made a conscious effort to pick the pace back up on the ‘easier’ sections. I struggled for about 10 mins at one point, but then got my second wind and really surged for the last 10 minutes. Sprint finish as a matter of principle!
I was 3rd lady again, with 1st about 5 minutes ahead, but I also held my lead over 4th. Overall, I was very pleased with my efforts and cheerfully collected my finisher’s creme egg and another podium beer for Andy 🙂
Success for our club – Jo was 2nd female and overall series winner, Chris tied for 3rd in the senior male series and Glen (my lift!) finished well inside 10 minutes of me 😀