Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Ironman Switzerland!

Well the 22 July came round quickly enough and soon I was on the way to Zurich with three friends. Some dramas naturally ensued including a forgotten passport (not mine thank goodness!) but soon we were ensconsed in the Hotel Ibis counting down the days to the big race. Of our group which included my friends and another 6 or so more IM people, only Marc and I had ever done an Ironman before. It was nice to be calm and relaxed for once and able to offer advice and help to those people less experienced. Dealing with other peoples worries meant I didn't have time to stress myself though generally I did feel very calm about it all. Of course I wanted to do well but knowing that it wasn't my 'A' race for the season and that it was technically supposed to be classed as a 'long training day' meant I felt little pressure and could actually enjoy the build up for once! It was also nice being at an event with other people! I haven't ever gone with friends who are also competing to an event before and it was a nice experience to share that with them; we'll always have the memories between us!

So, race report.......

The race, as most IMs do, had its ups and downs. The swim was awful! So much biff! Even I, who am pretty comfortable in the water and fairly experience in the OW wasn't that happy. Within about a minute, one man had grabbed my wetsuit and purposely pulled me back and dunked me under the water. I understand people bashing you, swimming on your legs etc, it can't be helped, everyone is trying to find space, but to purposely pull me back and then dump me was really wrong and also a bit panicky as then it was difficult to get back up from underneath as the melee was then swimming over the top of me! Was SO furious but just thought, 'I must keep calm, it is SUCH a long day, just take a breath and carry on.' Then a few minutes later someone ripped my cap! This was such a nightmare, I tried to leave the remants in place as it was holding back my hair but by doing that it was breaking the goggle seal and water was pouring into one eye!! You couldn't see the buoys really anyway so it was nearly impossible to sight but now blinded in one eye, I had no chance! Ripped the hat remains off at the swim in/out half way point and readjusted my goggles so I could at least see. Better for my eyes but now my hair was swishing round my face so couldn't see anyway! Just jumped on some feet and tried to stay there praying they were going the right way! Considering the hideousness, I was reasonably pleased to be out in 72.

I went off far too fast on the bike - the first 30kms are totally flat and I got down on the bars (never used the before the race - hmmmmm) and hammered it. As I am doing the Double in 2 weeks I was supposed to just be having a steady training day but I got the race head which is NOT what was supposed to happen! Went through the first lap in 3.13 ish which for me is reasonable - the Beast and the following drag after it were horrible and the descents didn't really make up for it as they all involved roundabouts or tight turns so couldnt' keep any speed up (not that I had any as I was on the brakes! ) Really started to suffer on the second lap, my RHS lower back was killing (stupid girl, too much time on the bars with no practice will do that to you!) so much that I even thought maybe I was super dehydrated and had damaged my kidneys!! So on the second lap I was much more sensible. I thought about the Double, came off the bars and concentrated on spinning along as best I could. Considering I was surprised my time only dropped off by 20mins, I thought it would be MUCH worse!!

Wasn't really sure what to do about the run. If I had really been doing a training day, I would have walked it - good training but nowehere near the impact of running a marathon. But part of me did still want to do well and having done very little running I really wanted to see how I'd go off the bike. So I started out on a 9:1 run/walk ratio including stopping during the run sections if there were any uphills or aid stations. Which meant I got to walk quite a lot really. After about 2.5hours, it was too challenging mentally to do the 9:1 thing and my run pace was dropping off so I switched to 4:1 run/walk including stopping for uphills and aid stations as before. So now I got to walk even more. Considering this I was running well in the run sections of it and was chuffed to record a 4.34 which considering my stand alone is 4.06 I was pleased with! I felt I could easily have continued in the 4:1 vein until 30, maybe 35miles and then I probably would have needed more walking but I am pleased with that. So, 12.43 overall which is a PB by 43mins!! Bike and swim times almost identical to IMDE (despite a bike puncture there but I think IMCH bike course is harder), the saving really came off the run which was 4.34 instead of 5.17 so that part of (insubstantial!) training has paid off!

A good race though I just really hope I didn't go too hard and have left my race in Switzerland and not at Lichfield in two weeks time. Only time will tell! Hopefully it was just a really good last training day and confidence booster and now with lots of stretching, massage, good nutrition and hydration and rest, I should have a good race at the Double. I do feel ok and things are not that sore - the people I went out with are hobbling like crazy people whereas I can walk up and down stairs quite normally and even run for the bus! Hopefully this shows my body is more conditioned than I thought. They can't even believe there are people out there willing to consider doing double the distance they have just completed!! It has to be said, biking through the night is really now what I am dreading. Lights practice this weekend!

A huge thank you to all the people who offered good luck messages and support before the race and to those who tracked my progress during the day! Knowing there were people out there following me and willing me on really helped me to keep going and achieve what I did! Overall, a good day at the office! :)

Monday, 19 July 2010

My first DNF!

So I suppose it is only fair to mention my first DNF. I thought this would be a really soul-destroying, confidence-knocking experience but it actually wasn't at all. Far from it! In fact, once I had made the decision I felt only relief so I knew I had made the right choice and felt proud of myself that I now knew my body so well that I know when to push on and when to call it a day. It actually gave me confidence that on other training days where I have decided not to train and then panicked about losing fitness, where actually probably all decisions made for the right reasons!

So I headed to Lincolnshire to undertake the 156miles Flatout in the Fens race. I met up with some of the Pirates (athletes from the Runners World/Triathletes World forum) and set off for a long day in the saddle. I rode with the Pirates through the first aid station at about 20miles and was have a good day and feeling strong. Unfortunately after about an hour and a half the group I was riding with turned off to complete the 112mile course and I had to continue on my own on the 156mile course. Now it was a scorching, sweltering day and also England's QF match against Germany. I think both of these factors meant a lot of people had dropped down from the 156mile ride to the 112 and, as such, it was extremely lonely out on the course. I kept trying to remind myself that it would be like that in the Double, I'd be out by myself for ages and would be alone but actually I don't think that will be true. There will be around 70 athletes over a 16mile stretch so there will always be people about and you get to see your loved ones every hour or so for a good mental boost. I hadn't realised how much being around other people affects your mental state - normally I like to train on my own (certainly for running) and thought I worked best like that but now I realise that actually, for these huge distances, breaking it down with someone else works an absolute treat! Also, I hadn't factored in the fact that Adam leaving only 24hrs beforehand would affect me so much. When the Pirates left me to continue on their own route I actually felt totally abandoned and alone which obviously shows where my head was at.

So I continued on to about the 50mile point when I decided I would call it a day. I rang race control but was told no-one would be able to help me get back from where I was and could I make it to checkpoint 2. I said yes probably, how far was it? And was told 20-odd miles! That was ridiculous and I think really contributed to my downfall. To have an aid station at 20miles and then nothing until 72miles, especially in that heat, was absolutely ridiculous! I think if they had had an in-between one where I could have re-fuelled, had a chat with some people and re-focused I would have gone on to complete the day - I wasn't very impressed it has to be said! Anyway, I finally reached Checkpoint 2 to overhear the marshal going, "yep, well she's not here yet and anyway, what does she think we are, some kind of taxi service?!" I could tell they weret talking about me and despite not being particularly impressed with that attitude, I was inwardly amused when she got off the phone and blushed scarlet when she realised I had overheard the whole conversation! Anyway, it turned out I would only be picked up when the sag wagon got there in about 3 hours!! I though, thank goodness I didn't have some kind of medical emergency! Instead of waiting for 3 hours I decided I may aswell ride on as it would probably only take me that long to get back anyway!! So off I went. However, within 2 or 3miles there was a train station and I thought, blow this for a game of soldiers , let's see if I can get back by train.

I called the Trainline and managed (after an expensive and convoluted journey) to get back within 10miles of the start after an hour or so on the train. I was worried about getting the bike on but I had no problems and after I slumped down into my seat with a bottle of coke I knew it had absolutely been the right choice (despite the train conductor calling me a wimp!!! I genuinely think he had no idea what I had been doing - his idea of cycling was apparently a 7mile commute to work!!)

On arrival at the station I tried to get a taxi to collect me and take me the last 10miles but after some random bargaining ritual it was still going to cost me £27 quid which I couldn't afford so I set off to try and find the way back. After a frustrating jaunt through the town where I managed to end up back at the train station, I finally got comprehensive instructions and found the way back to the start. Physically I felt find on the way back and pushed it along for 10miles TT-esque which was a great confidence booster as I knew it wasn't that I wasn't physically capable today, my head just wasn't where it needed to be. It takes a huge amount of mental strength to do 156miles by yourself and I just couldn't find it today and I didn't want to try either. I almost felt that by dredging up the reserve I would need to complete it would almost use up some of the mental strength I am building to have to deal with the double. I want to be mentally ready for the Double, not mentally fatigued and I think completing the ride today would have had the most detrimental effect on this area.

So, whilst it was an unfinished job, it was a decision made for all the right reasons and one that has actually given me confidence in my ability to make good decisions about my body and also not required me to dig into the precious reserves of mental strength that I will so definitely need in a few weeks time. In hindsight (which is a wonderful thing!) I should probably have stuck with the pirates and completed the 112miles but I still managed around 90 by myself in the heat so, all in all, it was a good day's work!

Monday, 12 July 2010

So looong!

Unfortunately this does not refer to any of the training I have been putting in but more to do with the fact that it has been nearly a month since I last posted! How can this be?! I guess it has just been such an eventful month that time has passed without me even realising it. I have now been without my wonderful fiance for over two weeks and I miss him terribly! :( I have also celebrated my 29th birthday and had my first DNF!

So, where to start in all of that? This was no doubt have to be a multiple entry as I try and deal with all of things that have happened. Adam's leaving was, by a mile, the thing that has influenced me the most over the last month so I'll start with that. He flew off to undertake a tour of duty on 25 June and I have missed him like crazy since then. Most days I am fine, I miss him but I am ok but then other days things will set me off for no reason. He can call most days but sometimes when things happened in theatre there is a blackout of all communications and I don't hear from him when I expect to. That is the worst, you feel tied to the phone every evening just hoping he might phone and it wastes all your time as I would be devastated if I missed his call. He managed to finally phone on Saturday having not being in contact since the Tuesday and luckily I had just settled down to my mid-ride cake on our Saturday club ride. Hearing his voice I just burst into tears and left the rest of my tri club thinking I was a loon!

I have been training better since he left though I am still so far off schedule to where I would have liked to be. But that, I suppose is life! Next year when training for the A2A things will throw me and I just have to face them, stay calm and do what I can without getting too stressed. Mentally I can't cope at the moment with anything really long or really tough so I trying to look after myself, get some good sessions in when I feeling strong and seek out the company of others when I am feeling not so strong. I was really worried about the state of my running especially seeing as I fly to Switzerland in less than 10 days so I got on the treadmill on Wednesday and just ran for 2.5hours covering just under 15miles. And it felt easy! That was such a relief and confidence builder and shows I have more residue fitness than I thought. So I just need to get a few more consistent sessions in between now and leaving for Switzerland, have a great steady day in IMCH and then let the taper commence! I do feel that deep down it will be ok and am mostly surprisingly calm. I think Ad's going away has shown me that actually my sporting achievements, whilst something I am extremely committed to and proud of, are really just a distraction and a hobby, they are not the things that matter in life. And, like everything so long as I try my best in training and in racing then, come what may, I should be proud.