Monday, 20 May 2013

Race report

I feel like I should write a race report for both the tri junkies who love to read it (Hi Nicky!) or for my own memory which will probably fade too too fast. I've tried to think of how to write it a few times but failed to make it interesting so let's just go for a bit dull and satisfy my memory and the tri junkies. If you want the more emotive summary or you've arrived here from the good people of Freedom from Torture then try here.

The start:
Grey skies. What? This is Mallorca! Drops of rain, as I take the rain cover off the bike. In Mallorca! Seize bike pump with little delay. Realise I don't know my PSI. Envious of girls who are asking their competing boyfriends what their PSI is. Fail to attach pump to valve correctly. Jon and Mum watch. Jon and Mum offer advice. Jon and Mum watch. Girl who wants pump after me is enlisted to help. I babble about being useless; she holds bike. Done.

The swim:
One of the first to test the water. Water tested, goggles tested, wetsuit fitted a la Swim for Tri - all the tips. Pee in wetsuit. This sport is glamorous. Pose on beach in wetsuit. Take start position at left (course is a rectangle) about 8 deep of 500 odd girls. Not odd, but odd. Want to wish someone good luck... Don't. Gun fires, am pushed in back. I push back. She pushes. I push. Our feet aren't even wet.  Then into water with head up strokes because it's just limb on limb for about 100m. Then normal breathing. Then bilateral. Just keep swimming. Around me, girls stopping, treading water, breast-stroke, backstroke, floating on back. Just keep swimming. 9 buoys. About 900 metres. Turn. Finally some clear water. Move tighter to buoys. Then BAM. The 18-29 year old men, green caps are on me. Their catch is harder and brings you down. Time to kick, create some white water, send them around me rather than me down. Just keep swimming. Shore in sight. 1500m. Just keep swimming and kicking. BAM. 1900m hands touch sand and I am out in one easy breathless but not quite dizzy movement. Time doesn't feel great but it was more about survival than technique. Amazingly wet suit is down to regulation hip height as I exit. Even over my watch. God bless Tri Glide and the practice with Jon last night. The wetsuit zip, not the TriGlide. Left wrist, downwards or get it wrong. This year, no volunteers to help with wetsuits.

Transition 1:
A 400m odd run to road. Yes, odd. Huff puff. Toilets are before change tent. It was laboured in briefing that wetsuit must not come below hip height outside of change tent. Decide not to risk it and go straight for change bag. Put timing chip in mouth as I remove wetsuit. Learn later how important a decision this was. Grateful so grateful that I wrote sticky labels and attached them inside  my bag and glasses case with step by step instructions of what to do in transition. No need to think. P20 doesn't apply nicely when you're wet. Slap chamois cream. Use toilet. No queue! Misplace bike shoes in toilet trip. Hobble 500m in shoes to bike. Calmly hobbly extra few hundred metres with bike. Cross my first ever mount line. Deep breath, approach from left, pedals at ten and two just like we taught my step son and notice that all the great and glorious men in front of fumbling with their shoes. Really! Spot Jacobo, give him a shout and vamos! I am off, on my weakest leg.

The bike:
Fuel fuel fuel. The alarm goes every 30 minutes. Stick to 30kph and cycle lane to keep out of everyone's way. Seriously I used a cycle lane in an Ironman event! See first repair on corner outside transition. Ow. Man with one pedal off in first 20km. Ow. Punctures, forlorn faces. I can't help but stare in shock and fear. I pray. The climb, I am fuelled. Head down, take the right tight line. Be grateful there is cloud on the mountains. Push and pull. Hear the men climb past you. First few kms. Find rhythm. Grateful for the encouragement as men pass: the friendly calls, the references to Vegemite, the friendly hand gestures - it all meant so much. As I pass women I offer the same. What? I am passing. Amazing. Use my size and steadiness and climb. In the saddle always, never stop, never unclip. The road is open to civilian cyclists. The worst offenders climb with us. One drafts another female; she talks to him - do they know each other!? Incredulous at possible outside assistance, but then she unclips for a rest. He drafts me. I push on.

First chat with Dana from Bahrain. She asks the course ahead, and I describe it. I am delighted that I am only 800m out in telling her the summit is nearly here.

Col de Femenia. I love you, I have cried and bled here. This time just a punch in the air. Thank you for the spectators there and the graffiti on the roads even if it is all for Colom (so that's two drug users in the field I'm racing in?!) But it's a false summit and we wind upwards more and more.

The descent: more cautious than in training. On first hair pin, a gent kindly but firmly tells me not to cut the corner, behind me are six more. I take the tight tight line so the men can see my road position and keep clear of the novice. It seems to work well. I am down slower than in training but not a foot down. I pass someone off, bleeding. Can't take eyes off the road for long but I am full of sympathy and fear. Then Caimari, little old men sit in the garage under old man caps and watch. Selva - a small climb, Inca, a bit more of a climb. Great words from Brits and Irish as I take them on the climb, they take me on the descents. "This is the last one," we reassure ourselves. No, there is Muro. Not really a hill or an incline just a street at 90 degrees that rises straight out of the road to the sky. It's straight into the highest heart rate zone. I am all over the road (sorry boys) and shouting "I hate this hill". It's over as soon as your vision starts to leave but you can't go back through the gears because your legs are having seizures for a few minutes after.

Then it's the headwinds all the way back up. Struggle for 30kph. Pass girls. Fuel. Somehow somehow I am more than one hour off my expected arrival time. As I beep over the last timing map I hope that these splits reach Jon. A man passes and gives me the greatest gift; he points a hidden 80km marker. All along I have asked myself, if the bike breaks could you run in socks: 50km, 42km, 20km, 10km could you run in socks? When I reach the old factory marked Palace I well up. When I pass my hotel street my eyes are liquid. It is over. The girl who can't cycle can cycle.

Transition two:
The magic round about is chock full of Aussies. And others but I can only hear my Aussies. And the northerner in there! I can barely make eye contact as it's so busy. I slow too early and am encouraged closer to the mount line. Somehow I come off without falling over. Practise in the car park the dat before made perfect. 500m running again, lose sense of direction without marshalls to guide me into third lane of transition. Bike racked. Helmet off. I swear no one studied the rules more than me. No DQ on this race. I see Dana again. She asks me if I will wear calf guards - the mark of all the pros. Inside I am laughing to be mistaken for someone who has appropriate kit!

The run:
Three laps of 7. I don't quite work out where they begin and where they end. I want an arm band. Instead I get sun and the loud chants of my cheer squad - six sets of eyes cheering and shouting and filming. One of them looks particularly amazed at my performance! I run with Dana and have a nice chat. She  distracts me from the massive pins and needles in my feet: the tarsal nerves rear their head. I am aware that I will do serious damage today. And then, after a loop or two, Dana drops me and I walk an aid station and my nerves stop the screaming and I plod on outside of pain. I think. I can't remember. I remember pulling faces at Jon but smiling at everyone else. I remember cheering the ladies still a lap behind me. I remember smiling at Sandra from Italy who descended that mountain so well. I remember cheering for anyone who walked to run again. I put sponges under my tank top, in my bra, on my back, on my hat. I ate oranges and stale coke and powerade and other things it's better not knowing about. I got three arm bands. Does that mean? Wait - the sign for the finish chute is confusing. I'm asking the marshall if I can finish - yes I can finish! And then 75m of sand and beach and I am ecstatic and whooping and skipping. I don't even look for my name on the arch as I cross the line I just know I have finished. And then I stop my sportsband.

The end:
Jon somehow calls out to me, throws me a flag. I walk backwards. There is no medical. I am still walking backwards. I feel like I need medical but I am not sure why. A fellow athlete comes up. Why am I still walking backwards. He takes a photo of me "all the way from Australia". Somehow I get water and I walk backwards for a very long time until I get a medal.

The thoughts:
I never raced for a time. I always raced for a finish. I knew I wanted the swim to be done in an hour and that any gain was made for the bike. I knew I had to make the bike cut off. I had no other maths calculated than the cut offs, which were on my bike to remind me. I swam 41 minutes, which was a wee bit faster than predicted. I rode in 3:59 - a full hour and then some quicker than predicted. I ran 2:10 which I was happy to settle for. In terms of how the day went and preparation I could not have done a single thing better. My only "if only" was, if only I ran faster. And that was only once I started looking at my results! But I had deliberately not set a run pace.  I wanted to finish, strong, happy, and having done everything as well as I could. I felt I did that. I didn't rush blindly (see my transition times!) and I didn't do anything that bothered or panicked me. I raced my own race. Yes - some 2600 people were quicker than me - but there was at least 400 slower. And there were the DNFs and DQs - I had seen my first withdrawal as early as T1. I could not have asked for a better start to triathlon. I feel confident strong and capable. I have learned so much, been incredibly humbled but also so thrilled. Bring on the next one.

And you can still support Freedom from Torture via my Justgiving site here - no amount is too small. Thank you.

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