In the months building up to the race
I started highly motivated, training well, consistently and losing weight. Then in about October 2012 the training started to get less consistent and the weight loss got put into reverse.
My bike hours decreased a lot – my bike broke while I was on holiday in Lanza over Christmas, the winter was cold, snowy and icy. I was also uncomfortable with my saddle (chaffing) and so tried three different ones in each of my last three long rides. In the end I stuck with the third one (which I used to use before I bought my new ones) but it still chaffed. I don’t think I did any interval training since October (well maybe a couple of gentle ones, but none worth talking about). I did get myself some rollers and they allowed me to get the odd hour in but again, just an easy ride, not many intervals. In March, my time on the bike reached a whole eight hours.
Swim wise, I started going two times a week but didn’t seem to improve. The swim sessions I was given were complex, and so hard to remember, and had target times that I rarely could meet. In the end I gave up on that and just tended to swim slowly, without any direction or purpose. Also, they tended to be relatively short swims, just a couple of k.
Run wise, I was saved by my regular long run with Ashley. If I hadn’t of done that then my run volume would have been low, rather than just questionable. The runs with Ashley started off at ironman pace but gradually got faster and faster so that I struggled with the pace on the last few. He’s improved so much more than me! But while we regularly ran 21k, I didn’t do any runs that we’re substantially longer than that. Also, the weekday running turned into a gentle run. Very few intervals or tempo runs. But I was running at my best. I got a PB for 10k and the half-marathon so something was going very well.
So going into Lanza, I was nervous about by swim as I was a lot slower than before. I was confident I’d get around the bike but again slower than before. I was nervous about the chaffing issue though – that would be mentally distracting as well as painful. Run wise, I was confident – but only if my pins and needles/numbness issue was solved.
Before the race
We got to Lanza late on Thursday. The flight was delayed a bit and we got to the hotel around 10pm. The reception was closed but we knew that there would be a note in the window explaining how to find the room (we’d told them a week ago that we would be late and they had sent an email back explaining the procedure). So I dropped Catherine off with the bike box and bags and then spent about 10 minutes finding a parking space and running back. I got there but there was no note. No room. Sleep in the car? Er, no/ So I then ran back to the car and drove back, picked up Catherine and the bags and then set off to find a hotel. Fortunately we did but only for one night. They didn’t have a room for the weekend. Friday morning was spent worrying about finding a bed, registering for the race, building my bike and testing it. In the end, we called the original hotel, they were very sorry and now we had a bed. Everything else went well.
I woke up at 4:45, had a couple of boiled eggs and then set off for transition at 6am. As I started to walk down, it started to drizzle. As I queued for the toilets, it started raining harder. As I put my wetsuit on it rained harder. I then gave my bag in and walked down to the swim start
I started about 8m back from the front. So there were probably 25 people or more people directly ahead of me, and more ahead to the sides. This was much further back than before, but I was expecting to be slower than before. As soon as the helicopter turned up we started and it was a walk in to the water because of the number of people, and not the run I was used to. It started to get pretty surreal. If you imagine people standing on a crowded tube train, they get quite close to each other. That’s what waiting to start was like. if you then get those people to waive their arms around, people will get hit. And that is what the start was like. I think when people are uncomfortable in the water they start to swim breast stroke. I don’t because I can’t, but others seem to. So I was not able to swim front crawl because of the people breast stroking in front and beside of me. It turned into a bit of a doggy paddle because if I did swim front crawl I swam over the person in front of me. The people behind had the same problem in that they kept swimming over me because I was going so slow. It was very frustrating.
I had started on the far left (shortest route) and after a bit of this I followed some others and dipped under the rope and swam parallel. I then swam back over the rope and carried on around the buoy. Did I feel panicked? Yes, a bit. I couldn’t go forward as I was being blocked. I kept on getting kicked from all sides and people seemed to be pushing my legs down as they swam over me. Going under the rope for a bit was the safe route for me. I still went around the buoy and didn’t cut any corners but it felt safer. The rest of the swim was done at an “easy” intensity. I actively drafted a bit, but not that much. When I got squished between people, I just increased the intensity a bit to get ahead.
After the first buoy, I remember the smell of petrol fumes and a lady on a motor boat whistling at people to get the other side of the buoys. I am not sure how I know that the whistler was a lady, perhaps I heard her shout at people too? Perhaps it was my imagination.
The rest of the lap was pretty uneventful, just easy swimming, occasionally looking up to see how far the turn around buoy was. I saw the clock say 30:44 as I got near the edge of the water but I knew I would be slower so that was fine.
The second lap was pretty uneventful too. No whistling, no petrol, no fighting, no jellyfish and less bubbles. I did get to see a few schools of little fish in the depths. I overtook someone in a yellow cap (male pro) and at the end of the second lap someone in a green hat (female pro) but I think she made it to the timing mat before me. Again, the pace was easy.
Time was something like 62:40 so I had slowed (47 seconds) but that was expected.
On the run up the beach, I took my goggles, hat and top half of my wetsuit off. I took time to change in to cycling bib shorts as they are more comfortable that my tri shorts and I was nervous about chaffing. Then a good dollop of white sun tan cream and I was off to my bike, carrying my shoes, helmet, glasses and bike computer. Its quite a run. Then I get my bike and run carrying my shoes until just before the exit where I put them on and then got away. Another long run, transition is definitely getting longer each year.
Time 7:35 – this reflects the huge amount of running involved, and a bit of a delay putting on the cycle kit.
Immediately outside transition there were people weaving all over the place trying to get into their bike shoes but after dodging them I settled in to the ride. I worked by power to start with as my HR is normally quite high after T1 but it was only a little higher as I had taken it a bit easier in the swim. After I got settled on the bike, I notice the constant stream of people going by me. I am used to that but it is demoralising all the same.
After three km or so I heard a crashing sound to my right and I looked around to see a man on the floor. He had been riding a mountain bike on the pavement and hit a bench. Weird.
At the second roundabout there was a policeman telling us to slow down around the roundabout. As I did, there was someone sitting on the curb with a bit of road rash. The ground was still wet from the rain. After doing the El Golfo loop I also saw a man being attended by an ambulance, he had a lot of road rash.
People kept overtaking me until I got to Teguise. I guess the flood of people turned to a trickle once we crossed Fire Mountain but after Teguise it reduced noticeably. I was eating and drinking regularly. By this stage, I noticed that almost everyone beat me up a hill but I then gained on them again on the crest / downhill part. The view at the top of the island was superb again. On the climb to the view point, I noticed that I lost about 50m to a few people on the steeper bit but gained 100m on when the gradient eased off.
The downhill started cautiously. The road was rough. The wind was strong and gusty. I had three people ahead of me. And an ambulance was tending someone who had fallen. None of these is conducive to going fast on my aerobars. So I didn’t race down to the LZ1 but went reasonably quickly. The LZ1 was with the wind and I think I worked consistently along it, swapping places with people as we had our own good and bad bits. The drag up to Nazerth was fine, a few people overtook me but I overtook them again on the rough road (must have seen more “escaped” water bottles and broken bike bits than on any other road – it wasn’t just the water bottles that came off but the bottle carrier and the co2/spare tyre mounted to it).
Mentally I was fine. I knew I was not as quick as I wanted to be but had no chaffing issues. I tried to eat a gel / half power bar every 20 mins but I didn’t have a clock visible so had 4 gels left at the end (so missed four). That’s roughly 20% down on energy in.
On the ride back towards Conil (on the LZ30) I noticed that my power was down at times. I haven’t checked that yet but I think I paced myself ok for the whole ride. It was very difficult to resist the urge to push to push the intensity yup a bit and stay with people going by me. I used a combination of HR and power to keep me in check. A few times I accelerated to get myself ahead of a slower rider. On the downhills, that worked fine. On the rolling bits on the up hills, it was probably a mistake.
Perhaps a couple of people overtook me on the last up hills and so that suggests my pace was about right. In other words, I hadn’t slowed hugely at the end.
Wind wise, I think it was normal (i.e. windy) but I think that the wind might have started a bit earlier in the day.
Time was 6:57:48 and so pretty much in line with what I expected.
Off the bike and ran really slowly with it in my bike shoes, got rid of my bike and then carried on running to my bag. Got to the running tent and changed into a different pair of shorts and top. Before putting the top on I got suntan creamed up, and then put top on. A quick loo stop, and a stop for some Vaseline to help the chaffing, and I was off.
Time 9:43. Again, it’s a long run – and I changed and went to the loo.
I started great. I saw Catherine after 400m and was running at around 5:10 per km. Hr was around 140bpm. Great. I walked the first couple of aid stations as I was thirsty and wanted to drink enough. Exactly as planned.
After 23 mins I started to get pins and needles and stopped after the 4k aid station to massage my foot. I took my shoe off and an English “lady” sitting on the bench asked if I wanted her to stand on my foot. Then she asked if I wanted her to poke a stick in my eye. I put my shoe on and carried on, slowing a little because of the discomfort. Soon after what would have been he turn around for the second lap, I took my shoe off again and massaged. No better. I ran a bit and it still felt bad. I stopped again to massage it through my shoe, I swapped the timing chip to my right leg just in case and, again, made sure my shoe laces were loose. After a whole I walked for a bit but no better.
I made the turn around at the end of the long first lap in 1 hour 2 mins. I then decided that there was nothing I could do about my foot and so I would just have to bear it. The return lap was 56 minutes. I haven’t looked at my watch yet, but I slowed on the run back (no massaging feet though) and my Hr was lower. I walked the aid stations getting water and the odd banana and orange quarter. I saw Catherine at the end of the first lap and it was great.
The second lap was a struggle. I walked a good chunk of the way. My feet were not painful any more but I just didn’t want to run. And when I did I was really slow. I decided to steer clear of the fruit as it was not making me feel good, a little sick but not much.
At the end of the second lap I decided I wanted to get sub-13 hours. 11k to go and 78 minutes to do it in. So I ran more and walked a bit less. 36 minutes on the out lap. So that gave me the last 5.5k to do in 42 mins. So I ran more still. My hr was still very low and I still walked. With about 1.5k to go I picked up the pace to 4 min per km. Or at least that is how fast it felt. The reality was a little different. The run / walk took 35 mins to get me back to the finish. Slow in real terms, but I finished. And I was chuffed to have finished.
So what went wrong? If you ignore the pre-race training, nothing went wrong until the run.
The pins and needles was the first thing to go wrong. As soon as I felt them, I saw that my pace had fallen from 5:10 to 5:30 or so per km (with my correspondingly falling). In the past, I have managed to get my feet better again by massaging them and loosening the laces. So I tried that twice, spending a few minutes each time. That was the right thing to do. But it didn’t work. After that I lost the mental game.
The second lap made me realise that I was not going to blast round the course. I hadn’t planned for mental toughness on the run. I had planned it on the bike, but not the run. My mind partially came back to me on the third lap. I had a realistic goal and I worked at meeting it. But I was not completely there as I walked long stretches. I was lucky that the pins and needles had gone by then though. In trying to go for sub-13 on that last lap, I had fallen for the simplicity of round numbers. I knew I had the time to run / walk it and so did. If at the start of the third lap I had said I wanted to be sub-12:50, I believe I would have done that too.
Also, I probably didn’t have enough proper nutrition in me. I missed four gels on the bike (which was probably ok) but made do with oranges and bananas for some of the laps before moving back to gels.
Mostly though, my mental game for the run was not up to scratch.