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Thursday 30 July 2015

Dambuster Triathlon Race Report: Smug Fast Triathletes. And Me.

I’d set my alarm for 6am. I hated early starts. Then I realised that transition actually closed at 6:15. Insane. Absolutely insane. Not only do triathlons run on a Saturday but they’re insanely early. Obviously for the type of buff slick athletic type people you see on the front of magazines. The sort that like to get up early and go for a 3km swim and then don’t even sit around looking smug, but go for a bike ride as well. And then probably a run. I’d have pushed them all in the hedge except I couldn’t catch them. Smug FAST triathletes. 

I’d sighed as I’d reset the alarm for 5am. 5a-bloody-m. Ridiculous. That’s practically red-eye flight time.  It’d be much nicer to start it about 9am. Give me time to have a cooked breakfast, get the bike in the car and rock up at transition. The lake might even have warmed up a bit. And not just because of triathletes peeing in it. 

Smug Fast Triathletes. Bet they're holding their pee in ready for the lake too ...
However I resigned myself to being partially asleep until at least the start of the run and got myself in zombie-mode to the start of the race. It was about 6am and already I could smell the portaloos. I made a mental note to look at doing something competitive that involved nice smells. Like competitive baking or flower arranging. And I bet THEY didn’t involve getting up with the sunrise. Or getting kicked in the face. Unless it was REALLY competitive flower arranging. Like at the Women’s Institute and there was a fight over who got the big red peonies. Or something. 

I found myself a nice catch-22 situation. I couldn’t go into transition unless I was wearing my number. But my number needed to be left on the bike ready to be put on for the cycle leg of the triathlon. But what if I thought of something urgent last minute? And my number was on the bike instead of me? I consoled myself by wandering in and out of transition multiple times like I was on an invisible retractable leash. 

I was sure I’d forgotten something. I couldn’t remember WHAT I’d forgotten but I was sure there was something. Oh yes. I’d forgotten I didn’t like ridiculously early starts and people in wetsuits at 6am. Screw you lot. I’m going back to bed. Or I would have done if it wouldn’t have taken me about the same amount of time to load everything back into the car as it would to actually do the race.   

Transition area. So nice and peaceful before all the triathletes started cluttering it up with bikes and kit ...
There was no baggage store and we were told over the tannoy to just leave bags ‘under the trees’ in the open area of the park. I guess with all the £5,000+ bikes here, the thieves weren’t terribly interested in the £3.50 I had in change in my purse. Or my £1.38 off Tesco voucher. Despite the possibility of a free KitKat.  

The portaloos got progressively worse and the stink radius was getting wider and wider. At this rate they’d be able to smell them in Oxford by the end of the race. Apparently nervous triathletes have even worse tummies than nervous runners. And waiting in the queue hoping for a half decent one was like Russian roulette but with poo-up-the-wall and half-used toilet paper tubes instead of bullets. At least with Russian roulette you had 5 chances of not getting shot, with these toilets your desperate wish was to relieve your own stomach and come out without someone else’s diarrhoea on you. It was like hoping for a lottery win.   

And just to add to the fun, let me set the scene. You’re wearing a trisuit that does up at the front, a wetsuit that does up at the back and a jumper over the top. And you’re trapped in a small plastic cube full of other people’s poo that smells like nothing on earth. I made it out stomach relieved but mentally traumatised and with a form of PTSD which means I will never be able to go near IKEA’s plastic wardrobes without flashbacks and trembling. 

The smell wasn’t the worst thing though. Oh no. The very worst thing was seeing the end of the long zip from my wetsuit trailing down the shit encrusted hole in the portaloo. I just about managed not to cry and throw up on myself as I hauled it back out of the loo just to realise the soap and water had run out. To top it all off there was no loo roll. Not even a half ripped up toilet roll tube. But on an unrelated note Tesco receipts are quite soft. 

I made a vow that day. If Krypten factor comes back on TV, I am going to enter and WIN that. After managing to survive this, being trapped at the other end of a zipwire above a bit of nice clean mud will hold no fears. I will win that and I will be victorious. Especially if there’s a challenge involving rubber suits and being trapped in a loo. 

Looking out across the lake, it was as smooth as grey glass. Calm and beautiful ... or it was until the first wave of male triathletes got in, started weeing and stirred up all the mud on the bottom. Apparently the water temperature of Rutland Water was about 16 degrees that morning but after 3 or 4 waves of male triathletes by the time I got in it would almost be body temperature and probably about 50% urine. There would be fish bobbing to the surface. And probably a slower swimmer or two. 

Thanks to Coach Mary’s open water session, I’d practised beach starts and had already ripped off the skin on my feet practising so wasn’t worried about that. There was no more skin to rip off. However, too scared to position myself at the front in the swim next to The Proper Triathletes, I’d gone a few rows back and ended up behind people tiptoeing into the water as though they were going for a Swan Lake style swim start.  Very graceful ladies. Now get a bloody move on. 

I started drafting as soon as possible which was good but the pack of swimmers split and I lost the faster pack. The gap looked too big to make up and I had to decide whether to break out on my own or sit back and draft a slightly too slow swimmer and save my energy. I decided drafting was the best plan for me as it avoided my usual open water race strategy of:

1. Go-Off-Like-A-Rocket
2. Windmill-My-Arms
3. Get-Smacked-In-The-Face
4. Drink-Lake-Water
5. Panic 

It worked. I didn’t end up in my usual panicked state, didn’t drink any urine-laced lake water OR get kicked in the face (was this a PROPER triathlon??) but I did end up with a slower time than I’d hoped for.  

Another reason I might have been slow could have been the amount of time I spent gurning at the camera instead of getting a bloody move on ...

As I headed out on the bike, Coach Mary, Loz and PhysioTerrorist Julie gave me a cheer and Coach Mary shouted that a friend, Jo had exited the water about a minute in front of me. “Go catch her!” 

I loved the ride. In fact, although cycling is one of my weakest disciplines (I have 3 weak triathlon disciplines), it’s the part of a triathlon I enjoy the most. After the claustrophobia of the water and the feeling of being in a dark enclosed body of water, being out on the bike is like open horizon freedom. The route was familiar and importantly I knew where the hills were. The big 3 hills of the Rutland Ripple felt smaller and not so daunting in the race and I was overtaking a lot of people here and could tell that I was picking off the faster swimmer, slower cyclist combinations. 

Hooray! Out of the pee-water!
I was really surprised to see people were walking, pushing their bikes, up the 2nd hill in the Ripple. It is a sharp hill and a nasty surprise if you hadn’t recced the course especially after just having to push up the1st big hill half a mile back. I didn’t have the heart to tell any of the walkers that there was another big hill coming up immediately after this one.

There was a good game of cat and mouse going on with 2 other lady cyclists near me and we were exchanging positions regularly and jockeying to be in front. I was stronger up the hills but they were stronger downhill and on the flats so it was good - ensuring I kept pushing on the flat sections. I wanted my speed to be over 18mph average even with the hilly course so it was good having them around, making sure I kept on it and didn’t slack off. We flew over the ripple and I thought we overtook Jo (who was out of the swim in front of me) just after the roundabout at about 10 miles which was a nice boost.  

 Most of the vehicles were fairly sensible and gave us plenty of space apart from a white van who boxed me in behind a man walking and pushing his bike up the hill. “C’mon shift!” I growled at the van as I didn’t want to lose my uphill momentum. Luckily White Van Man found a space to overtake and moved allowing me to go around the walker. 

Just past that bloody Range Rover
Just as we were coming into the entrance for Rutland Water I was overtaking a male cyclist and a Range Rover roared up from behind and decided to overtake us both on the wrong side of the road on a blind corner. This exemplary example of a Range Rover driver then decided to park in front of the barrier to chat to a marshal completely blocking the road and bringing me to a stop just before the race finish. The marshal appalled told him to “Move! Move!” and made him drive on while laughing at me bellowing at the driver “EXCUSE ME -MOOOOOVE!! (and having spotted the marshall and being aware of being DQ’d for improper conduct had added as an afterthought) “MOVE In a NICE way!!!” and waved me through to the end of the cycle section and transition.

At work I have, what I am reliably informed is called ‘Resting Bitch Face’. In other words I’ll be sitting down in my office, trying to work out the proper wording to use in a quotation and will unintentionally give whoever is in my line of sight a death stare. Apparently. I’m completely unaware of this as I’m thinking about pneumatic training and how much discount someone should get while apparently giving a colleague a Medusa.  

However, it appears on a triathlon run I have ’Happy Run Face’. Multiple people actually smiled at me and I actually got some waves from runners coming the other way. It was nice but I couldn’t quite understand it until I realised my ‘Oh-My-God-I-hate-Running-After-Swimming-and-Cycling’ grimace was being mistaken for a smile. And my flailing arms were being mistaken for cheerful little waves. Never mind. Better ‘Happy Run Face’ than ‘Resting Bitch Face’. I didn’t want to be responsible for someone’s DNF after they mistook my RBF for an actual attempt to deathstare them out of the race. 

Obviously before 'Happy Run Face' kicked in ...
The run was hard. It was warm and I wasn’t entirely sure exactly where we were running to. This always concerns me and I’m much faster on a route I know. I suspect I have a secret fear that the race directors will extend the course an extra 4 miles and I’ll not be able to complete it. It also wasn’t the ‘pancake flat’ run I’d been told it was and while not being mountainous there were several large bumps which my tired legs told me would be MUCH more fun to walk up. “Shut up legs”. However I did see Jo coming the other way on the run which was nice so gave her a massive high five – obviously DIDN’T overtake her on the bike then! – and exchanged a few words with some other runners. I even managed a gurn for the photographer. The out section took forever but as usual the back section felt about a third as long as the out. I even managed a decent sprint finish and a negative split. 

Oh my God I'm going to DIE. And throw up. And cry. 

I hit almost all of the targets I’d set myself for this triathlon but training on your own is very good for creating a mini ego bubble as you don’t get to compare yourself to anyone else. I go for a bike ride around my local route and think “Ooh I did 17mph on that ride – much better than when I started on the road bike 4 months ago! I am getting fast!” And then you enter a race like Dambuster and you realise that it’s only fast for you. People were flying past me like I was on my granny shopper with a basket and Yorkshire terrier on the front. I was over 18mph on the bike which I was very pleased with but I was the bottom half of the pack. My swim was good – for ME. But I was near the back. For the run I was top 10 in my age category ... but not overall and not even in the females. It gave me a wobble when I realised. Huh, I’m not particularly good after all.

This is good. 

What would be the point of taking up a sport and training for 6 months and being near the front? Not only would that devalue the work and effort of the ladies who have been doing this for years, but it wouldn’t be worth my effort either. It would like starting running and being able to do a 5k in 18 minutes. Where would be the challenge? 

So time to work a bit harder. I hit my goals, didn’t die and now I’ve got a brand new set of FASTER targets. *Shakes fist at Coach Mary*

Dambuster targets
Target Swim: 28 – 35
Actual Swim: 31:14

Target  Transition 1: 2 mins
Actual Transition 1: 2:04

Target Cycle: 1:19 – 1:30
Actual Cycle: 1:23:25

Target Transition 2: 2 mins
Actual Transition 2: 1:20

Target Run: 38 mins – 45 mins
 Actual Run: 45:11

Position overall     491 of 754
Position female     78 of 163
Position 35-39 female     15 of 23

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