The Swim shortened for reasons stated to be due to the weather conditions. However there was some debate about the reality and the need to have a shorter course. The swim became 950m buoy to buoy, not counting current. I seeded myself at the 30 min mark well in advance this time. I had made sure to get to transition early and had myself sorted out well.
I got my portaloo visit in early and then my bag into the white bag and myself into my wetsuit. I had applied a very generous layer of chamois cream to avoid soreness from the bike or the run due to the wet state of the roads and the forecast downpours. I will have to look around locally for a supply of cheap flip flops as walking around on the loose gravel in the car park and the pebbles on the beach was uncomfortable. I took my bag to the truck and handed it over early, just as it started to rain. I wandered over to the Brewers Farm place in the hope of finding team mate Matt but no luck. I had given in my bag already so no longer had access to my phone. So unfortunately I had no way of working out where anyone was. Maybe next time I will think to arrange a time and place.
Due to road closures not being in place until later on as they had been planned around a full swim and estimated times for that, the starts were delayed for around 30 mins. This resulted in everyone (apart from the Pros who got to warm up) standing around for around an hour, in the cold and rain, getting slowly colder and colder. By the time the Pros went off I was beginning to shiver a bit. I took on a gel as the Pros went off, estimating that by the time I shuffled forward and got to swim it would be around 15 mins later. This was spot on more or less.
I was unable to see Matt or Sam or Emily at all as the flock shuffled forwards towards the start gates. I was in the left gate unfortunately, due to where I had been stood to watch the Pros. This meant that I was on the outside of my group of 5 starters. When we did go, however, they were slower in making it to the water and I was able to run at the Buoy with no hindrance. I ran to knee depth, kicking my feet out to the side, then I could feel the ground dropping off, so dove into the sea and was swimming straight away. The swim off of the beach was a bit lumpy causing problems sighting. I was sighting every two or three strokes to try to find the buoy, then swimming a bit then the next sighting I was having to search again. I became aware of the current pushing off course so made a few 30 degree turns every-so-often to try to get back on a reasonable track. This also brought me in on another swimmers hips. He was swimming strong and roughly the same speed, so I sat in on his hips pretty much out to the first buoy allowing me to conserve energy, sit in his draft and shelter from the current to some extent and with both of us sighting individually there was less chance of drifting too far. There was lots of space at the first turn and this made for an uninterrupted turn. I left the sighting a little too late after I had initially sighted the second buoy and begun to swim off. When I did sight I was off course again. I quickly tried to correct and aimed for the next yellow buoy as the orange buoy was hard to spot amongst all the boats out there!
The sea was definitely calmed down on the second leg and made for a relaxed swim compared to the current and lumps in the first straight. I made my way around the second turn buoy and tried to find the exit sighting point which was the ROKA arch. No chance. A black arch in the gloom against a drab back drop was near on impossible, so I went for the yellow buoys again and tried to keep parallel as best I could. All in all, the last straight was the best aligned out of the three. I felt the current bringing me back quicker and was able to pass a few groups. I swum until I was scrapping pebbles with my finger tips then used the volunteers to get up the pebble drop off and out of the water. I jogged off the beach and around the paths to the transition trying to keep my HR down as I stripped my wetsuit to the waist, then pulled off swim cap and goggles. I was amazed at the number of people not making any attempt to remove their wetsuit on the run in to transition. There was also a fairly large scattering of goggles along the route!
Straight into T1 and to my bag. I found it first time thanks to Sams' instructions on walking through transition as many times until I knew it off by heart. Unpacked my helmet and visor, race belt and opted for the wind proof gilet. I stepped myself out of the wetsuit and then retrieved my helmet after some one managed to kick it as the ran past me. Quickly rolled the wetsuit up with goggles and swim hat and pushed them into the Blue bag then hung it out the way. Stepping back to the bench I stepped into my race belt as from previous experience, I know cold fingers and any sort of buckle or fastener don't work well. I pulled on the gilet that I had made sure to unpack and open out the day before when I packed the bag. This made it relatively easy to get my wet hands and arms into the sleeves. I grabbed my helmet and ran around the horribly long route to fetch my bike, putting my helmet on as I made my way out of the tent.
The ground was still scattered with gravel and it was uncomfortable on the bare feet. My shoes having been clipped to the bike already. I found my bike first go, again due to having practised the Transition route till I knew it perfectly. I grabbed my bike and went off to the mount line.
Lessons learned from the swim;
-Check the current
-Swim drafting is a really big help
-Racking the bike on the handle bars makes for a quicker departure for my bike
-Muc-Off chamois cream does not last long during the swim and is gone when needed on the bike and run
-Find a supply of cheap flip-flops!!
Out onto the mount line that was close to the turn out of T1 there was a group of people literally stood on the line climbing on to their bikes.... I had to literally weave my bike through them to get out. Then I jogged about 9m down the road and did a postman's mount. I had tried flying mounts and it wasn't working very well on the TT bike, even though the road bike causes no problems. So I elected to set the left pedal (and shoe) forward and the right one back. Not the way I normally do it. This allowed me to step onto the left pedal once up to a good jog, push down to create drive through one pedal then at the same time swing my right leg over. I'm now stood on the moving bike on the left pedal. Then just a case of placing my right foot on the right pedal, pushing down and starting to pedal. I did it smoothly and was away in a straight line with no hiccups. I pedalled down the run out to the road, nodded to Sam as I went past him then tested brakes before we hit the left hand turn on to the main road. Brakes fine and working, so engage power, coast the corner then gently accelerate along the road.
Wet cold feet into wet cold shoes was a problem. I did struggle a little bit and probably slowed a bit. However I did eventually manage and with out crashing. Once I had them done I checked the Garmin edge and found it had already started the course. This confused me a bit. I don't know if its normal for it to maybe recognise its on the course and start the counter, but it seemed to have done so. I played with the buttons and eventually got it to do what it should. This done, I then hit the button on the forerunner to end T1 and start the bike leg. At some point during fiddling with the Garmin I saw something black bounce off my right foot and thought it was my gel bottle going off on its own for the day. I checked it and it was there. I then checked everything else was there. All present nothing missing from the bike. I just assumed it was a bottle from another bike passing me and carried on.
By now I was about 3/4 along the sea wall section of road and was good to go. Still pedalling in a conserved fashion and looking to target the planned power. I reach up to pivot my magnetic visor down into place... NO VISOR. I suddenly realise what had hit my foot ! Too far gone and probably mashed by now I carry on and hope I don't have any issues. From the first round about I attempt to keep to power. However the fever of the race and wanting to do well push me over the planned power more than once. I'm loving getting in the aero tuck and whooshing past others with the thumping rhythm that only a disk wheel can deliver. I push up the first hill and probably burn more matches than I should have. I try to bring myself back to plan and am somewhat successful but still getting carried away. I carry on until the 10 mile point and Moreton when I see I have been out for around half an hour. I stick to feed plan and pull out a bar. I have learnt from previous frustration during on the bike fuelling, that trying to open these bars with cold fingers whilst riding a race is not easy. SO this time I have already torn them open a bit before storing them in the bento box. I get it out and begin chewing with minimum fuss and use the straight road out of Moreton to consume the bar. I now feel more inclined to stick to my power plan and look to settle into a rhythm on the bike.
From miles 11 to 16 I sit steady, keeping to the plan as best I can and sitting in a pace line that seems to be developing. I
do have to back off from time to time when I see I am over cooking a bit. After the hard right-hander into the forest area I try to keep right through the feed zone, but it's chaos on the narrow track and bikes and volunteers seem to be doing what ever they like. I have to slow quite a bit on one occasion as the road was blocked pretty much. Out of the feed zone and the rolling climb on the single track road is taking speed off quite a bit. I worry about it for a while, even thinking I have a flat. I don't and I realise the surface is not that great and it is uphill so the road is just slowing me down and making me work the disk wheel harder than a normal wheel would.
A few sharp rises get me out of the saddle for a minute or so, which is good because my hips are aching. Towards the end of the forest straight I am still worried about speed and checking the power. I realise I am over the power and that I should just stick to the power plan. I back off and get back on plan. Others pull away and I resolve to race my race. Out through the winding turns through over shadowed tress I slow to not hit debris or slide through a corner. I know what this section is like having driven it so am happy to take care here. I drop down the hill into Puddletown high street and am amazed that people are flying past me trying to overtake into this blind left-hander with drains on the inside of the turn...…. One guy brakes hard and only just manages to stop on the left of the road before the corner. I ride through Puddletown and then right and out up to the twin roundabouts over the A35. Once over it I am sat a little back from another guy who seems to be sat at a similar speed, so I sit there and lay down the power on the road out to Druce. Through the left hander and onto Higher Waterston. By this point the other guy has pulled ahead but I let him go and try as best as I can to keep to plan, remember to drink and try to ease the aching hips. They are becoming more noticeable and I begin to become concerned why they are aching so noticeably.
The next section of road all the way up to Kings Stag at the 32 mile point is seemingly endless. During this part people pass me and push ahead, I pass them later then we repeat. Some seem to stick together more than others. I take on some gel from the bottle in this section and keep regular drinks going. As I approach Kings Stag I am nearing the 1 hour 30 mins point and pull out energy bar number two. I have to sit up to sort it out so lose contact with the other 2 or 3 people I had been hanging around with. I munch through the bar as best I can but its slow going trying to breath and chew at the same time. This probably means I am pushing a little hard so I check the power and back off a little to try to solve the issue. I'm done eating by the time I leave the two tight turns through Crouch Hill and then put the power back down again along the straight out to Sand hills. I pass a few people but am wary of not pushing too hard as I know I am going to be into a head wind soon and the hips are still aching as is the lower back now.
My guts are also starting to be an issue. I feel a little tight down there and I have some wind..... Between miles 35 to 36 I am sitting up more and more to try to relieve the hips and back. I seem to be riding slower for more effort and it worries me. Again checking power I realise I am over power again and that the slowing is due to an incline I had not really noticed. I feel a little relieved that I am not about to blow the doors and I remind myself that my nutrition is spot on plan, so its not an issue. I am struggling though still and don't feel as good as I should. I use the next mile or so to think about what I am feeling and what the issues are and analyse them. This takes me through Glanvilles Wootton and onto the left hander at middle marsh and onto Tiley Knap. I realise that I am pretty much on plan, more or less, (aside from the over eagerness at the start from miles 1 to 9) that I am on track for fuelling and that the general struggle I seem to be feeling is more than likely caused by the residue affects of a weeks sickness. Probably still a little weak on the endurance front and the lungs probably are not at 100% performance. I tell myself that actually I am doing okay, all things considered and just keep playing it sensible, stick to plan as much as possible and get ready for that climb.
I conserve myself on Tiley Knap and wait for the little bump intending to use that drop into the base of the big climb to get some speed. However, I am into a head wind now and the gently climb and find I am putting too much effort into it. I drop a gear and try to spin a bit more. Over the small rise and I am not flying down the dip as quickly as I'd hoped for. It is actually taking some effort to keep accelerating. I get to the bottom of the hill and see the line of people climbing it in their different methods. I know what's coming drop to the small chain ring in time. I begin dropping through gears in the cassette as the gradient increases and speed is chopped off quickly. Just past the fisheries and I am into the biggest cog on the cassette and sitting at my planned power. For the rest of the hill I concentrate on keeping the rhythm, control my breathing and avoid the serious amounts of countryside that appears to have been washed out of the fields and down the road. I keep checking ahead for debris and for other riders who seem to be stopping, zig zagging, dealing with punctures or other technical issues. It is hard. I did not think it was going to be this bad, but I am feeling the effects of the ride so far and the last week of sickness. I tell myself two things; one I am not having coughing fits or wheezing so I am still good, and secondly to keep pedalling, keep the rhythm and don't stop. I pass a volunteer (the only one I saw on this bad section of road) carrying a broom. I wonder how on earth she alone is going to be able to deal with the amount of debris on the road here. As I go past she calls out to me that I can enjoy the down hill bit. I call out a thank you as I push slowly on up the hill. As I near the top there is a road on the right. there is a van of some sort and about half a dozen riders with their wheels off. All apparently with punctures. It does not surprise me in the slightest. The looks of demoralisation on some of the faces says it all. From the top of the hill down to mile 46 is supposedly downhill, but with the head wind and occasional gusts I don't get to really use the TT bike to its full potential. On one exposed part I have to revert to the bull horns instead as the bike is starting to wobble in the wind. When shelter protects me I push and get aero. Otherwise I stick to the power plan as much as possible, checking it to not over cook on the exposed head wind sections. Just before mile point 47 I get to the left turn towards Frome Whitfield as I get into the final 10 meters or so two bikes come screaming past me on the right side and cut across into the corner. I have to slow as I was forced into the inside of the road and had no vision around the corner. I remember a discussion with Sam at this point about how the course is not too dangerous, its some of the people riding it that are. Although he was not referring to this section it is more than apt for these two lunatics. I ride on and see people pass me who I had passed ages ago. I question myself if I have burnt too many matches too early and have not left a reserve. I pass them again and realise that they are probably just better at sticking to their race plans at the early stages of the race than I am.
Out into Fordington and then through the roundabouts on the B3143. I know how this goes having seen it the day before on the drive. I drop my gears and then whizz past all those who were caught out by the twin roundabouts and the climbs after them. I smile knowing I did the right thing to drive the course. I cross the A35 and over the round about onto the A352, dropping down the hill. Again, I know where we are going and kill my speed for the roundabout, especially on the wet road. I see the rider in front of me pull away a bit and know he is going way too fast. I then watch as he fights to keep his bike upright and on the road. He just about makes it around, but only just and had his outside foot unclipped and skimming the kerb. He comes to a complete stop by the exit and I ride past him, thankful that I had killed my speed.
Off down to Whitcombe and then the right turn out towards the last hill. I am feeling the strain now and fatigue is in and taken root. I keep an eye on the power and console myself in the fact that I am going slow, but this is the slow climb into the last up hill effort and the power is on track, more or less. I see people fly past trying to make up time then round the corner into the last part of the climb. I drop down my gears all the way to my 28 tooth cassette cog and spin calmly past the majority of them still trying to grind up the last hard part of the climb. I peak the top and am all the same out of breath and panting, but I tell myself the lactate build up wont be as bad as for those who tried to go up it in too big a gear. I go over the junction and enter Coombe valley. Again I know how this bit is going to go and I select a gear that will allow me to continue to turn the pedals with out spinning out, but let me keep my legs switched on in order to stop them switching off when i'll need them soon on the run. I know this section is ruled, no aerobars and no overtaking. But there they go, flying past, on the aero bars. How I did not see someone in a ditch or hedge, I will never know. Maybe they came there before and had practised the decent at speed numerous times till they knew it like the back of their hands. Maybe just luck. I took it controlled and avoided a crash. Maybe lost time. However the race is all the way to the end of the run, not whoever gets to the bottom of the hill the quickest. Maybe I just need to get better descending skills...
From the bottom of the hill it was a gently downhill to the sea front, against the wind, then left onto the straight road into T2. I wondered about looking out for my visor but didn't see it and realised it was probably in more than a few pieces by now. I dropped a gear or two lower and increased cadence in preparation for the run. Controlled through the last corner into the run to the dismount line. Looking ahead I planned and executed removing my feet from the shoes and the dismount. Achieved this perfectly and avoided hopping off into a massive puddle. I turned into the transition area and easily found my spot. Reassuringly there were not too many bikes in my rack. I then tried to run to the tent. However, barefoot, with cold feet on that gravel strewn carpark hurt a little and it was not the fastest liaison to the tent and I did wonder if I should have left my shoes on... I remembered to hit the button on the Garmin on the run to the tent. In the tent I found my bag again easily. Thanks to those words of wisdom from Sam I knew the route I needed to take and where to stop precisely. Bag open and contents, except run gilet, out and on the bench. Helmet off and in, bike gilet off and into the bag, race belt around. I then got the bag back on the hook and went to get my feet into the trainers and socks. I had to sit as my feet were so cold and wet, getting the socks on was difficult. I also wanted to make sure I removed as much debris from the trip across the car park as possible so it would not haunt me after in the run. I got the socks and trainers on and grabbed the gels, shades and visor an headed out of T2, pressing the Garmin button as I hit the timing mat.
Nutrition; Spot on pretty much. I had about 100cl of fluid left in the bottles, all bars eaten, and one gel left in the gel bottle as I had forgotten to take it at 15 mins onto the bike.
Lessons learned from the bike;
-Pay attention to the power plan all the time during the first 15 - 20 mins. Not just later on when I start to feel the results of the over powered efforts. Pacing starts from the mount line!
-Start with the visor down. Its one less thing to do and will stop it catching the wind and being lost...
-If it feels like its getting harder than it should be, then I am probably on a climb and I need to check the power rather than push harder because I have not noticed I'm climbing.
Coming in off the bike I still had had the aching in my hips and lower back that had persisted from the bike. Noticeable in the run to the tent to transition and then out afterwards onto the run course. My mind was taken off of it for a little while as I sorted my shades, visor and sweat wrap and gels out. However I found it difficult to settle into the run and the aching made getting a good run form position a little difficult. It was still present half way along the run into town on the first lap when I passed Sam. It slowly eased off noticeably as I warmed up and started to sweat on the run. I do not remember it being so much of an issue when I passed Sam again on the run out of town. My pace was fairly good, at the 5min/km mark. I think I kept that for most of the first lap. I think a lot of stuff in my guts had been blocked in place due to the TT position and going out onto the run I was struggling a little with wind and a feeling of tightness in the abdomen.
I got to the turn around at the eastern end of the run lap and made the turn, heading back to lap two. There was a noticeable increase of runners now as more and more people fed out onto the run and the rain having finally stopped also saw more public about. This steadily increased as a problem for the rest of the race as the sometimes narrow run course became clogged with runners and members of the public randomly crossing or stepping out in front of runners without caring to look. I had decided not to use the feed stations on lap one as I felt okay on nutrition and had confidence in my bike nutrition. My guts were also still having issues so I preferred to not give them more to worry about if I did not need to.
Getting into town again I passed Sam and he told me Emily was about 400m in front on the course. This gave me reason to push a bit more and gave me something to think about as a short term goal as if I could catch up or pass her coming back the other way it would be an opportunity for some encouragement to each other. I pushed a little harder than I had been running at that point. Just before passing through onto the harbour side stretch I saw India Lee fly past me. I remember thinking to myself how the Pros can keep that pace after having just done the same 90km bike ride I had done! India disappeared around onto the harbour side and I did as well, just a little later.
Onto the run up to the turn around on the Harbour I saw Emily running back and called out to her. Not much of an encouragement but I hoped a familiar face would help her. I ran up to and around the turn around, a break in the tempo that was hard to build up out of again. From there it was down to the feed station which I ran through again, especially as the sun was heating the area up and making the place smell of fish !! Running back out to the east I went past Sam who told me Emily was only a minute in front of me on the road. He then jogged along a bit and advised me to push with the wind and take shelter against the head wind. I took this advice on and did just that. Pushing up to an average pace of around 4:50/km all the way out to the eastern turn around. I made it up to where Emily was and took a few strides next to her to try to offer some encouragement, but I was feeling the effort and the fatigue of a week being ill so was not too great myself. I pushed on past wanting to try to keep the pace on.
I made the turn around a second time and looked for shelter. I did my best to hop from one person to another all the way back. I decided that at the next feed station, back into town, I would slow a bit to take on one of my caffeine gels and then drink some water at the feed station. This I did and threw some water over my head to which also helped. I ran on again and past Sam again. More encouragement here which helped immensely, then back into the harbour area to the turn around. I am sure it had moved further along the road by a meter or two. There was also a dancing traffic cone there which was different!
Back through the smelly fish feed zone and some water for me, both to sip and over my head. Then past the finish line split for the last time before I could make use of it. On past Sam again and he confirmed my last lap. I was now trying to plan my last lap. I wanted to speed up but I did not want to go too early and suffer against the wind on the way back into town. I increased the pace again from that I had been doing against the wind and think it was around 5:10/km - 5:00/km. I stopped for water to cool me down on the run out and then carried on out to the eastern turn around for the
final time. Coming back off of it I fell in behind someone else running at the speed I would be able to maintain if I hid in behind hip and that would be a reasonable pace for the last part of the course. I carried on behind him until the next feed zone, when I decided to get more water to cool me as I was stumbling a bit and thought heat might be building up. He walked as well which was great. However he took off again pretty quickly and I lost him. I got going again and felt better for the water. I pushed harder to try to make a fast pace to the end and maybe catch the other guy again if he was out ahead. I didn't see him again however I was making good pace now and there were a lot of other runners on the course now so passing people gave me a boost. I didn't see Sam again on this straight into town, but carried on telling myself to run to the harbour strongly, then rest a little bit at a slower pace due to the wind whilst I ran to the turn around. I turned out onto the harbour and headed up to the turn around. In the end I don't think I dropped that much off of the pace. The turn around seemed to have got further along the road again, and off I went back towards the finish. The progress through the last feed zone was difficult now due to the layout and the numbers of people zig zagging around feeding and binning litter. I was trying to push hard now to the end and I had to slow and wind around people, shouting to make way in an effort to get through. I think some of them were on a parkrun in their minds.... I got through but had to accelerate hard again as the speed had been lost.
Down into the finish chute and I sprinted hard to finish. I did not feel as empty in the tank at the end as I had done in Stafford. I think this is due to the layout of the final km or so as it was congested, twisty, narrow and killed my ability to really get the hammer down through the last part. I had taken two gels out on the run but only needed one this time. I felt tired on the run due to the sickness the week before. My guts feeling odd did not help and the aching hips hindered me for a while.
I am happy with the end result of the run but think I could have produced better still had I been in top form. The advice and encouragement helped.
Lessons Learnt from run;
-Fueling to plan on the bike helps a great deal and reduces the need to have to try to recover nutrition on the run.
-Sticking to bike power plan as mentioned earlier in bike lessons, would maybe have improved my run ability.
-Find the wind and push with it, shelter from it (Thanks Sam !! ),
-If its hurting, take my mind away from the discomfort and hurt and focus on something else,
-I can probably push harder earlier on in the last couple of kms.
-My run technique on a single run session and that on the run section of a 70.3 are not the same. I could try to concentrate a lot more on switching to my normal run technique, especially in the last part of the race, to see if that helps with speed, pace, perceived effort and finish time.