Monday, 16 May 2011

1:03:46 - Eton Super Sprint

Swim 400m - 5:24
T1 - 1:33
Bike 20km - 36:26
T2 - 1:19
Run 5km - 19:03

Over the Weekend
Under 30: 8 out of 74
Overall: 59 out of 1,517 finishers

Not quite there, but a good showing.  I'm happy with the race and of course, plenty of takeaways to work on.

The story begins on Saturday evening when I took the bike outside for a scrub down.  Half-way through de-greasing the chain, I ran out of de-greaser.  'No big deal, it's just a training race, bike does not have to be tip-top.'  Removed the wheels, wet the bike and spray on the cleaner.  A few minutes to reflect on Sunday's race, then back to the bike.  Wash off the suds, toothbrush scrub to the grimy bits, wipe it down and wheels back on... 'F&@%!' Axle snapped!  Worried for tomorrow's race? No, I was in too much shock and disbelief at what just happened to think that far in advance.  I mean, my lack of force usually gives me problems locking the axle back in place, and I know I've been consuming lots of whey, but this was just ridiculous.

After the initial shock wore off, yes, anxiety and panic struck: 'Is Cycle Surgery still open at this time?  Maybe Evan's?  They usually close at the same time.  But how would I get the bike down there, walk it down?  That'll take forever.  Maybe I can borrow a bike from a friend?  Alan is out of town, who's next?  No one with clip pedals, what's the point if I can't compete well?  Ok, breath deep, start time is 3.30 in the afternoon, let's head upstairs, relax a bit and worse comes to worst, I can sort it out tomorrow before catching the train.'  The last thought, the most rational, was great because as soon as I got upstairs, I realized there's an extra axle from the turbo trainer, problem solved.

Saturday night was quiet, hanging with Natsuko and in bed before 10.  Sunday morning lie-in, brilliant.  Up just before 8, hung around the flat, sorted out racing kit, some lunch and on the bike to Waterloo for the train to Windsor.

Hour on the train, 20mins on the bike and I arrived at Eton Rowing Lake.  Cloudy, but no rain, good enough for me.  Registration, a bit of time watching prior waves go through their race and finally time to prepare.  Tri-suit, belt with number, racing chip, wet suit, bike racked and set to an easy gear, cycle shoes open, cycle drink ready, run shoes open and run drink in a light, easy to carry bottle, check.

In to the water early, cold, 16C, but not too bad once I got a warm-up going.  The starter called for our attention and quickly directed it to the one guy still standing on the ramp waiting to get in the water.  He had no wet suit.  The lone wolf, crazy and scared, the crowd of wading red caps shouted words of encouragement, or were they jeers?  Either way, he finally got in and the look on his face was priceless, like a punch to the gut from one of the Klitschkos, he just didn't know how to react.  Eventually we re-focused on the race, listened to the race explanation and BANG, we're off.

Typically I shy toward the outside to avoid the crowd and work my to the inside as the number of people up front thins out.  Not this time.  I found myself in an awkward spot, the center of all the action, as we were about to take-off, and I had no time to cower to my normal spot.  So, I sucked it up and swam the first 50m in white water of feet and hands.  By the time we hit 150m, one guy had broken away, 10secs ahead of me and I was alone as number 2.  We finished in the same positions, he pulled further ahead and no one had caught me.

Out of the water second, I saw the first place guy take off from T1 and wouldn't see him again.  Shortly into the first of four bike laps, I was passed, 'uuuhhhh, will my bike ever improve?'  Just above 8min for the first lap, 'not bad, at this pace, I'll be below the 35min target.'  Second lap, the wind was a real smack in the face.  Not sure how I failed to recognize it the first time round, but it felt as though my legs were stuck.  Two more went past, I'm in 5th.  Second half of lap two, with the wind no longer a factor, I caught fourth and was feeling good.  No sooner did the wind pick up again as two more people went past, 6th.  Tried to stay with them but couldn't.  I was tough on myself, won't get into it here, but some choice words were had between my ego and legs.  With a lap and a half to go, the plan was to keep 3rd through 6th in my sight and give them a run like they've never seen.  One last time into the wind, and I fell yet further behind before coming back in the final stretch to match 5th as we dismounted our bikes.

Rack the bike, off with the cycle shoes, runners on (as I slipped these on, took notice of a lonely pair of firey red runners in the next position, 'try and catch me, I dare you' went through my head), lose the helmet grab the drink and my favorite part of tri, running hard off the bike.  Within the first km, I ran myself to 4th and with a most annoying noise in my ears, spent the next 3km wondering if I could meet the 1.03 target and where I sat in the wave.  It came clear as I hit the 1km to go mark, passed 3rd and saw on my watch that 1.03 wasn't going to happen, but sub 1.04 was still on the cards.  A bit more leg speed, I was exhausted in pain but feeling happy with the effort.  200m from the finish, guess who went blazing by?  Those same red running shoes I prodded just 18min earlier.  He was flying, I had no chance.

Across the line, huffing, puffing, maybe sick, maybe not, "What's your number?" 'Huh?' "Um, 55," I replied.  "Oh, your 4th, he just pipped you for 3rd," said clipboard lady before turning to Mr. red shoes to gather his information as the 3rd place finisher.  'Wait a minute, huh?  Pipped?  Was she serious?'  I said nothing and walked to an open patch of grass to pace, gather my breath and thoughts and reflect on the race.  But, the only think I could think about was this lady, "Pipped?  Really?'  I'm not often mad, and in my four plus years in London, I've never once been annoyed by the subtle differences in English vs. American terminology, but this time was different.  'Ahhhhh, what a comment.'  After a few minutes, I gathered myself and as usual, turned my frustration with her on myself, 'Well, had you not blown the last 200m, she never would have been in a position to make the comment,' good point.  That I could accept, and it was time to move on.

We were the last race of the day, so had to gather my stuff quickly as the organizers tore down the transition area.  Short ride back to the train station, hour on the train, 20min bike to the flat, drop my stuff, change into proper cycling gear and back out the door on my trusty steed.  Yes, 2hr cool down on the bike, but I figured with all the riding to and from train stations, I'd complete the day with an hour ride to relax.  Wow, was it worth it, legs feeling much more 'clear' now than when I first arrived home.

- transitions were quick, much better than previous races at this venue
- swam well, just better than expected

Takeaways/ Improvements
- BIKE!  While it was decent, I need more power, plan for this off-season: hills, hills and more hills
- run, hit the gas harder in interval sessions, those red shoes will be a great motivator for years to come

Sorry for the text overload (not sure which was more tiring, the race or writing this post!), pics to be added once available.

Great Sunday, looking forward to tomorrow morning's stretch and the week ahead.

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