After the problems with my flat tyre in Soria, Spain and only managing to get 40m into the bike, Mark and I decided that I’d fit in another local race before Slovakia. So the search began and I found a slightly short Half Ironman nearby, held at the Peterborough rowing lake, around 30 minutes away. It was perfect. It meant that I could recce the course. Although, later on, I realised I was recceing it the wrong way round … oh well, gave another perspective on race day and kept things interesting.
Arriving at the rowing lake shortly after 5am, not wanting to leave the car to brave the conditions, but also knowing that it wasn’t going to get much better till the start of the race at 9, I decided to leave and go register, collect my chip and set up transition.
Whilst setting up, I realised that I had forgotten both my Garmin’s. I searched the whole car and my bags but couldn’t find them. Thankfully mum agreed to head back and get them off the charger where I had left them…The benefits of local races, a supportive mother and allowing enough time.
Managing to only find the watch at home, I agreed that that’d do and to forget about the other one. The watch was the important one as I can do the bike on feel but I always like running with data, just to keep track of everything.
Heading into the lake, with only 10 minutes remaining, I warmed up and looked back to see whether mum had made it back in time. She had fortunately and so I swam back, put the watch on and headed back to the deep-water start.
Shortly after, the countdown began and we were soon off. I was over to the right this time, after being slightly late, but I made it to the front and was soon into open water. A small group of people formed to my left and I branched right, way over to the other set of buoys…my goodness, my sighting is terrible. I was all over the place. One minute to the left set of buoys and the next on the other side and about 5 meters over from where I was. This was not good! I was leading the initial sprint but after all the zig-zagging, a group of five or so formed along with another group of three or so and peeled away from me. I tried to keep up but unfortunately, with the sighting issues, which I don’t normally have, I was dropping further and further behind.
A few hundred meters in, I passed a not-so-pleasant bit of water (I think there must’ve been a sewage pipe). Trying not to take in any water, I accelerated through and made it out into the cleaner water again. Inevitably though, I was starting to feel ill. My stomach had become upset and it wasn’t pleasant. It did encourage me to get out of the water as quickly as I could though. So with that in mind, I picked up the pace, tried to get back into a rhythm, strong-stroked and focussed on breathing, entry into the water, pull, rotation and kick. I was going strong and I had caught up to the group of three.
I saw a space between two of them and accelerated into it. I was now boxed in and confined to the space that they left. I was keen to get out of it as although I was drafting I was sure that I’d be able to push a bit more and potentially break away too. So, I was just waiting for a little gap to open up.
Thankfully, before the first buoy, space had appeared and I went for it and broke out and made my way to the front of our group of four.
Reaching the first buoy, turning left and heading off to the next buoy I broke away and a gap formed, I was now in open water, swimming at my own pace, with no one else to break up my rhythm. I was also catching up on a person in front. I couldn’t tell how many were in front. It looked like there was one who was streets ahead, then a group of three and then the one I was enclosing on.
I then made my way back through the unpleasant water and onto the final stretch. Not long to go! Quick run through in my mind of what I needed to do in transition and as part of that to decide whether I was going to layer up or stick with just a tri suit. Oh, I was in two minds, do I potentially get cold and potentially suffer or do I take the time to put on an extra layer but then potentially overheat and have to leave it on till the run. Decisions hey!
Heading towards shallow water, I swam the final few strokes before stumbling to my feet and getting helped out by Marshalls. It was now time to decide! … No top, bare the cold…you’ll warm up and the weather’s going to get better too.
I ran into transition, unzipping my wetsuit on the way, hat and goggles now in hand, I reached my bike, stomped my way out of the wetsuit whilst putting my number belt, helmet and sunglasses on (I’m optimistic). I then reached down, threw my wetsuit to one side, put socks on (yes, I know … never normally do but it’s the first race of the season and I’m not rehearsed to cycle without them), unracked my bike and legged it out. I had a momentary pause when I heard my mum shout, reminding me to take my top, as that’s what I said I was going to do beforehand but decided to stick to my decision and made my way out, over the mount line and onto the bike. I hope I made the right decision. It was still drizzling and only around 9 degrees, so maybe it was risky but can’t do anything about it now. The bike had started!
Unknowing of my position, I made the first few turns, fairly cautiously before heading out onto the main roads with roundabouts every 50 meters. Watching out for cars, I made my way across them and alternated between being down on my bars and being upright, avoiding a back wheel slide out.
Taking a right at the end of ‘round about road’, I was out into the country and ready to settle down a bit, having taken a gel just beforehand. The winds were fairly strong at points but I was in race mode and where I would’ve potentially decided to sit up, I stayed down and rode through the gusts whilst watching the rider in front to see his swaying movements and areas that greatly affected his course.
I was feeling good and had made up a few positions; however, I had some other athletes come past too! I kept them insight though and although at times they distanced themselves from me, we were playing cat and mouse. The gap fluctuated depending on what section we were on and whether we were going up or downhill. It kept us all engaged though and it seemed we were fairly matched at this point.
We continued to stay with each other but were overtaking others at the same time and one of them was from my category. That’s one down at least!
We soon reached the biggest hill on the course, all of 20 meters or so, but that’s big in the fens haha, I decided to make the most of it and as I welcomed a saddle break, I got on up and pushed on through to the top. I overtook the athlete I had played cat and mouse with and we were soon playing again, but this time the tables had turned and I was in front for the majority.
We soon passed the aid station and were soon on lap two. Halfway round! I decided that I had to gain more time on the bike as I needed the toilet more and more desperately and therefore would have to allow for a potential stop when I reached transition. How annoying!
Now on lap two, and with athletes now lining the whole course, I was confused as to whom I was racing and who was on their previous lap or doing the Standard Distance event. I had absolutely no idea. We were all racing blind, in some sense, and therefore although amongst other athletes, it felt like we were racing alone. No more guidance and keeping control of distance on others, or getting contempt on gaining on others, but more of an individual push, trying to get the most out of yourself and pacing it out for the remaining 45 kilometers. I’m not saying that I rely on others normally when racing but I do use it as a metric at least, for a bit of guidance.
The lap seemed to go quicker this time and I soon made my way back around to the village, up the short hill, down past the golf club towards the final aid station and instead of taking a left, it was time to go right and head back to transition and down the ‘round-about lane’ road.
Although having attempted to go but having also failed, I soon made my way back into transition, potentially having eased off a bit too much, through to my racking area, racked my bike, put my trainers on (oh that’s where my Garmin was…in my shoe…how useful. I was just amazed I was able to squeeze my numb feet into my shoe with it in too) and legged it to the Portaloo’s.
Coming back out, I managed to head the wrong way and after receiving a lot of strange looks, I turned around and realised. I ran back past the Portaloo’s and re-joined the course. I was feeling good and ready to race again. I tracked my pace and all was going well…on target for a 1:15-1:20.
The run was four laps of 5 kilometers around the rowing lake with a slight loop added to the end of each lap. First bit through the woodland, before joining a wide tarmacked path, around the top, where you picked up a band, running back down along the other side of the lake along a thinner tarmacked path, taking a right at the aid station, following a very thin single path, where overtaking was near impossible, around the loop, before coming past transition again to either lap or finish.
I was feeling good and the miles just seemed to clock by. I received my bands every lap and made strong efforts down the straights, taking a gel just before the aid stations to then wash it down with some water. I was feeling good and the pace was strong.
Thinking back to my first Half, in Rimini, Italy, as I ran around the last lap, I definitely felt like I was becoming more and more comfortable with being able to race the half marathon at the end. In fact, the distance was disappearing fast and I was enjoying it too. The weather turned and the sun came back out and I was soon on the finishing straight, running around the final small loop before coming back onto the tarmac and around to the finishing stand. I had made it. Not only that but I had managed to finish 1st in my Age Group and 4th overall. Not a bad day out. Finishing with a new PB too, in a time of 4 hours 08.
Looking forward to heading out to Samorin for the Challenge Championships now and seeing what I can do there. Thank you for reading and thank you to all my sponsors too that help me with my journey and achieve my goals.
I’d now like to say a massive thank you to Mark @IntelliTri, who plans all my training and provides great and interesting sessions that continue to make me stronger and improve time and time again. I can feel the difference that we’ve made and with 4 new PB’s all in this one race, I think his training speaks for itself!
I’d also like to say thank you to all my sponsors, Apex and daysout.co.uk, for the amazing bike and their continued support, TORQ for all their great nutrition and help in the lead up to get some more TORQ gels after forgetting them…although I did remember the TORQ Energy, Bars and Recovery, the Stamford Endowed Schools and the LEAP Athlete program for their financial support. Cycle Transfer and 1LIFE, for their help. Susannah Beckett’s Podiatry for providing me with great shoes to run and cycle in, Runaround Sports, Worcester for their great run advice and fitting, the technique change has brought some extra speed and endurance and to Terry Wrights Cycles, Peterborough who managed to fit me in to fix my two punctures and the broken spoke I had before coming out here.
I’d also like to say a massive thank you to my mum for all her support and for traveling back to go get my Garmin before the race and cheering me on throughout the morning too.
Lastly, thank you to everyone at home and around the world, for the support, kind messages, training, advice, and the many other things.
Till next time,