Challenge Almere – Swim like a brick, bike like a moped, run like a gazelle

Finally starting to recover from this morning events, and while I begin to piece it all together in my head, I’ve had the afternoon to reflect, regather, and compose myself.

First things first – if you’ve seen my Facebook video from this morning you’ll know that upon finishing the race and shortly afterwards I came across quite disappointed. That would be true. It’s obviously never nice to be on the receiving end of a beating when you know a podium was well within your grasp.

Though while I know I could have performed better on the swim this morning as well as transition, there was absolutely nothing I’d have changed with my bike or my run – and that’s exciting.

A sleepy start:

bored-cat_FotorThe alarm buzzed at 6am and my body had welcomed the lie in. I’ve been struggling with my IBS for the last couple of weeks, a mixture of stress and bad decisions. I wasn’t sure how this would impact my race but I couldn’t use it as an excuse before I’d even started!

We ambled down to the start and I was apprehensive. This isn’t my preferred distance – it’s snappy, fast and there’s no room for mistakes. I knew I was on good form, but I’ve been clumsy in races in the past, and I wasn’t going to let that stop me today.

It’s weird racing without a support crew. Floating through transition, not having anyone to communicate with, nobody to settle the nerves. But I made my way through my check list and before I knew it, we were in the starting pen.

The snake pit:

20180624_11318I hated the swim from start to finish. It was absolutely savage out there. We were instantly into the back end of the long distance field – and it was carnage.

I seeded myself quite early to try and get a good start going into the bike, as I know I’m a weak swimmer. But I just couldn’t pick my lines at all. All the spray and other athletes made it absolute carnage out there. I couldn’t see the buoys at all – let alone aim at them, so I found myself weaving around in the busy lake, trying to string a time together.

I couldn’t find a rhythm and I knew all the extra distance was going to add up against me, though I didn’t know at the time it’d be the decider. Finishing at 2.1km, not my finest.

Onto the bike:

DSC_9168I knew coming out at 35 minutes I’d be 11/12 minutes down on the rest of the field. The pro men had come out in 48 on the long course, so age groupers in our field would have done the same. This meant I’d need to do something exceptional to even put myself in contention for this race.

I got my head down and attacked the bike. And my legs didn’t disappoint! I was ticking over around 290-300W – and with the tail wind I was clocking approx 53kph! That’s 33mph in old money – quicker than my car will go!! I didn’t feel strong but I was battling and my legs had brought the boom.

I stuck to the nutrition plan and made my way through the field one by one. The string of riders went on forever – not once did I find myself with open road to ride, which scared me. Normally by 70/80k the athletes out front begin to die down, just how bad had my swim been?!

I knew I’d make all my time when we turned back into the head wind – though I also knew I’d be battling guys in packs of 5/6 athletes up front. Keeping motivated and sticking to the plan, I was still reeling people in. I was pushing through the pain, I had to keep the power up to contend.

T2 infinity and beyond:

IMG_98742I came off the bike in around 2:14 – on a windy day I knew this was solid, but there was a lot of bikes in transition and plenty of guys still up the road.

This was where I really wanted to test myself and apply everything we’ve been working on this season. I set out hard, picking people off one by one, and the first lap felt great. 7km down and I had to stay strong. As the legs started to feel the pinch – I powered on.

I was racing hard knowing everyone tracking me at home would be behind me, willing me not to stop! Little did I know my tracker had broken and my results weren’t being shown.

KM by KM I kept the pace strict at 3:50. It looked like a 1:20/1:21 was on the cards after all. And with 5km to go I stepped on the gas. I had to back myself from here and believe I could bring it home. I’d raced the bike/run to the letter so far, I wasn’t about to let myself down now.

It was a long way out, but my mind was calling the shots, and my legs were going to obey. They didn’t have a choice.

Flying past people with the odd grunt or grumble for them to move, the last km ticked by. I was in that euphoric state where my whole body was hurting, tingling, but I was somewhere at the back of my mind. The lights were on, but nobody was home. I was in robot mode – with one job to do. Run.

I crossed the line with 1:20:23 on the clock. A 4:19:58 overall and a new personal best – despite very long transitions and a howler of a swim.

A full list of the results can be seen here! And yes, I came out of the swim 263rd….

Reflections:

20180624_11491To run within a minute of my half marathon Pb, after holding 290 watts on the bike for over 2 hours, is one of the most promising results I’ve had this season – and in my triathlon career. As the disciplines start to come together – I know there’s a big result in there.

It’s easy for me to get hung up on the swim, beat myself up because it’s not there yet. And cling to them 3 minutes, because I know I had that in my legs. But I’m still new to it, and this is a long game. It won’t change in the 4 weeks to Barcelona – but we’ll certainly work on it through the off season.

When Joel was a pro his all time power pb for this distance was 292W. I’ve just done that and there’s more to come… I even managed to string a tasty half marathon on the end – and this wasn’t even one of my main races for the year.

There’s plenty of work to be done, and over the next couple of weeks, months & years I’ll work tirelessly to iron out the weaknesses – and strive to be the best possible version of myself.

Despite my frustrations today was a massive success. To overturn a 12 minute deficit and finish 6th in the Age group and 11th overall against some phenomenal athletes – is something that will motivate me right through the winter, I’ll be hunting for them 3 minutes to the podium! If I wasn’t slightly disappointed with my result, then I wouldn’t be the athlete I am. I want more.

In 4 weeks time I’ll be on the start line of Ironman Barcelona, which is where I’ll end my 2018 season. I’ll leave nothing to chance, and no stone unturned in the preparation between now and then. Every race I get hungrier for results, and hungrier to see how far I can stretch myself. And every race I get that little bit closer to the ideal race.

October the 7th. See you there.
Until then – watch this space!

Challenge Almere Half – Testing the Limits

Tomorrow will be the penultimate race of my 2018 season. It’s been a crazy one, full of all kinds of ups and downs. I barely feel like the season has started and we’re already at the end! 

99_m-100832874-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2235_068632-19178258It’s been a whirlwind week, burning the candle at both ends has really taken its toll on my body and my mind, but I think I’m finally starting to move through that and feeling rested again. 

Some of you will have seen the social media storm I uploaded yesterday. I had yet another double flat on the bike which ended up in a €80 taxi home and another £40 tyre to add to the credit card bill. 

In a lot of ways that relaxes me – it wouldn’t feel normal if everything didn’t go wrong in the few days immediately prior to the race. 

But in other ways it leaves me very stressed, anxious. I haven’t had much trust in the bike this season, it’s let me down more times that I can count. My form has been the best I’ve ever had, and my legs have come ready to party. But the machine just hasn’t played ball.

And that’s completely out of my control! 

32_m-100832874-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2235_025566-19178191In tomorrow’s race I’ll be applying myself to the full in every moment. I’ll give it my all and the pointers indicate that there’s a big performance in the legs. If the bike gets in the way of that, I’ll have to adapt and do what I can to get round, or add it as fuel to the fire for Barcelona. 

The course is flat, potentially fast, and probably windy. I’m excited to sink my teeth into it and mix it up in yet another stacked age group field.

I chose this race 4 weeks out so that I could test the legs and test the limits. I want to know just how far I can stretch myself, before it all caves in. This season I’ve always said in these big races, I’d take the risk and roll the dice. Risk finishing at all, for the chance to perform at my best.

For this reason, I’ve decided after all the faff with the bike, wheels, tyres and inner tubes. That I’m going to be racing without a puncture repair kit. I’m going to carry an extra bottle of fuel meaning that I should be able to complete the course with entirely my own nutrition.

I’ve chatted to Joel, and we’ve agreed, this is the strategy we’re taking. So if my tyre does go flat, I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to panic. I know that’ll be the end of the race.

Yes, I’ll probably spit my dummy out, and yes I’ll probably throw a strop. But it’s just fuel to the fire, and if the bike happens to be the limit – we’ll reconsider the strategy we’re using.

There’ll be more races in the future – and I have no doubt it’ll come together at some point.

DSC_8950I’ve got a game plan, it doesn’t differ too much to normal, and I know exactly what I’m capable of. 

At this stage all I want is a smooth, event free race. Do what I know I can, and finish with a smile beneath the grimace. 

You’ll be able to track me on the challenge website by clicking —> Here <—  and I’m number 2121 – doing the middle distance. If it doesn’t work, challenge also have an app! and the website is http://live.challenge-family.com.

Same old story – don’t panic when I’ve left the water last – panic if I’m doing well!! 

I’ll see you on the other side, and hopefully do a live race report on Facebook shortly after I finish, don’t miss it!