Saturday, August 11, 2007

Race Report - Part III - The Race (at last!)

Alright already - here it is at last ;o)

The Swim

The water was cold despite the midday heat. Water a mucky coffee coloured, saline type solution. Certainly not the fresh water clean lakes that I'm used to! OK so the course was a straight up, left turn then back. So started off towards the right and pretty much up the front, figured what the hell everyone can swim around me ;o) The hooter went and everything was remarkably ok - for about the first 300m or so.

I was just beginning to think that the swim wasn't going to be as bad as I thought when things started colliding - from all angles... hands, fists, arms, legs, heads... FIGHT! Yes the fish frenzy had begun as the pack converged. On reflection I should have kept the foot down a bit at the start, started off fast then as it was so clear I got into cruising mode too soon I think. Talk about being led into a false sense of security! LOL! When the convergence happened I was swimming in stroke with a lady on my right, some people off to the left and was towing someone behind (they kept tickling my toes). Then from nowhere this girl just cut across me and the woman to my right leaving us nowhere to go - we both pretty much stopped in our tracks wondering what had just happened. In a bizarre kind of way that was actually quite funny! After quite a bit of interrupted swimming I decided to head back out to the right and just get out of the mess... must have got a bit carried away as a safety canoeist sort of waved his paddle at me to get back into the pack! Which I duly did for a bit more fighting and searching for feet to follow.

Approaching the turning buoys I felt really panicky all of a sudden.This was to happen again later in the race. VERY WEIRD sensation of claustrophobia and breathing problems. Managed to keep swimming through it my telling myself to relax and breath calmly. I finally rounded the turning buoys after what felt like an age. Decision for the way back was to keep to the right (which is now the side to get out) or keep to the left and stay in the pack (fight)... myself and a couple of others pretty much stayed rightish and away from trouble, problem being though I couldn't get on anyone's toes for some hydro-drafting. Swimming past a big boat parked up to the right seemed to take an age. Remember seeing a couple of people high up on deck waving down - for one strange moment I thought about waving back but figured it'd just put me off my stroke! On wards I ploughed with the end jetty not seeming to get any nearer.

All of sudden more and more people were gathering as the pack converged towards the exit jetty and me. About 50m from exit was when I started getting cramp in my right calf and foot. Now to say this worried me slightly is an understatement - so I pushed on to the end (quite literally through a few people) and was thankful to be finally in the hands of exit helper who was yanking us all upright! Wobbled slightly and was hit my an enormous headache. On reflection I think both the cramp and headache was a result of my body not really knowing how to regulate itself. My hands, feet and face being in the water were really cold - but body in the wetsuit was baking. Go figure that one.

As we ran/ waddled out of the water along the exit we were handed plastic bags to get the wetsuit into. I duly stripped off (with the help of one of the bag giver outters shoulders!) and waddled off... to the stairs. Yep a nice set of stairs to run up back into the excel centre - how rude is that... but then not as rude as the run/waddle all the way down to find my bike
Number on
Epipen in trisuit pocket
Socks on
Shoes on
Glasses on
Hat on
Grab bike
Go! Go! Go!... well not quite as the floor in the excel centre is shiny concrete - especially designed to skid on when wearing cycle shoes! So careful tip-toed out to the bike mount line.... finally.. GO! GO! GO!

What a novel thing to be doing - cycling around London around lunchtime on a Sunday with the roads closed just for you (ok and the other 5,000+competitors!). The bike is described as fairly flat but technicial..... I'm not sure what was flat about the climb up the flyover.. but wheezing down into a three lane tunnel all just for us was a blast! I was really aware and concerned about the temperature and set about being quite disciplined with my drink. I wanted to make sure I had pretty much had all the 600ml I had in my bottle on the ride.

I was just getting into the ride, really enjoying overtaking some people (accepting I'd be overtaken a bit) and having a blast when near disaster happened. ... Wheezing along, all tucked in with a high cadence going a marshal started to shout rather excitedly that we needed to slow down (I was just being overtaken by someone flying along on one of those bike with solid rear wheels that sound like a jet plane), really couldn't figure out why when suddenly it became pretty darn obvious. We were about to hit the turn point - quite literally. My one criticism of the entire event is they had no signs warning of the turn approaching. We had the width of a normal road to turn - the person who'd just overtaken me didn't manage it, got two-thirds of the way round and had to unclip coming to a rest against the curb with said rear solid tire sticking out in the road... I have no idea how I missed them. If I had been a millimeter to the left and hit it it would have been carnage as there were about 5 people tightly behind me coming around the turn too... PHEW! I was so surprised I had got to the turn I reckoned I must have flown it. Decided at that point I'd take my first gel, and a caffeine one at that and the next turn which would have been the 20k (ok 19k) stage before heading out for lap 2.

The second lap went pretty much smoothly - even enjoyed going up the slopes of the flyover and out of the tunnel! Had a couple of yells of encouragement from Paul and Angel which always helps! Got most of my second gel on board with about 5k to go... finally made it back into the Excel centre, climbed the rumble-strip ramp and hit the dismount line (nearly actually hitting someone who had dismounted then decided randomly to stay there and take their shoes off too!).. YEAH! Liked that and now knew I'd finish... no matter what...

Smooth :o)
Racked the bike
Helmet off
Shoes off
Shoes on
Cap on
Grabbed two gels stuff into pocket
Grab 500m bottle of water
Run... no ... ok ,.. shuffle... I'm off

At exit of the run into the outdoors again was my first opportunity to pass the finish line and spy the clock. To my utter amazement it read 14:00.... .my immediate thought was "eh! That can't be right" and took another look.... Yep it was 2 o'clock. So assuming we started on time at 12:10 I had a full hour and ten minutes to do my run and get under, what I thought was my rather ambitious time of 3hours! Wow!

Then I hit the outdoors and the heat. By now it was over 90 and the hottest day in the UK for a year! No time to acclimatise then! Just needed to get on... I thought "as long as I don't stop and walk, no matter how slow I run I can do 10k in under 70mins". My tactical water bottle came into it's own the first 2.5k, not so much for hydration but for cooling. Most of it went on my head with the odd bit going in my mouth. I ran a bit of the first 2.5k with one lady who was a lap ahead (and in a heat earlier then me!).... I think that helped a bit, to be honest I can't remember much of the journey as it was errr quite hard really. Finally made it to the half way mark of the two laps, rounded the giant Gatorade bottle and decided it was time for caffeine gel#2!! Managed not to barf the gel up (which was a bit touch and go for about 1k) and struggled on. I think the worst moment of the run (other then going past the bbq - eugh to the smoke coming off of that), was the run up the ramp back into the centre at the end of lap one. Talk about energy sapping. Hitting the outside for lap 2 I needed more water. By now there were
volunteer water dowsers at extra points on the course, helpers armed with vast amounts of bottles to throw at competitors just to cool you down - well needed! At some point at the start of my second lap some lady shouted out to me "you can do it" - I looked round, didn't have a clue who she was but she said again "yes you - you can do it". Well that felt like it must have been my fairy god mother or something as it gave me a real boost (ok so maybe it was the caffeine hitting). Hitting the Gatorade turnpoint for the second and final time it hit me..... "blimey I've got to do twice the bike and run for that 70.3 I've entered next year" (yes I'll talk about that rash decision in a later blog!).... perhaps the funniest moment on the run then happened. There was a lady in front of me speed walking. That was it I thought "I'll have her"... so set my sights on the speed walker (shows how slow I was going!).....just as I got to her she only started running! NOT FAIR! I think I finally did get past here but that really was a bit cheeky ;o)

Finally rounded the docks into the final section of the run - ran under the water spray for the last time and past the only place on the course that was playing music. I've no idea what was playing the other three times I past it but on the final lap it was Survivor and Eye of the Tiger. So with visions of of Rocky running up those steps I embraced the slope and sprinted up it. Passed Leanne on the way and told her the second lap was easier!!! Rounded the home straight where I got a cheer from the crowd (ok admit it was based on a little promting from me)... raised my arm and crossed the line!!! I had given so much in the last 300-400m I nearly passed out (luckily out of sight of the finish-cam). Some swift water on the head and I was feeling ecstatic! Staggered out where Dan and his friend were waiting along with Angel and Paul. Brilliant. At this stage I knew I'd gone under 3hours, thought it was about 2:50 but couldn't be sure as I didn't look at the clock at the finish!!

I'll be posting some pictures sometime soon - but for now if you really really want to see me finish - take a look at this link!

Oh I suppose you'll want the splits??
Swim: 00:30:25 very happy with that :o)
T1: 00:04:35 about what I expected although think next year I can save a minute
Lap 1; 00:35:24
Lap 2; 00:36:24

Bike Total: 01:11:47 totally amazed with this. This is where the sub-3 came from. No idea how I did this!
T2: 00:01:42 Great time for this, really happy with T2 :o)
Lap 1; 00:28:58 (ouch)
Lap 2; 00:28:39 (negative split, just about! LOL)

Run Total: 00:57:37 amazed by sub-60 in that heat! WOW!

Official Race Time = 02:46:04 37th in my age group from 93!!! Not bad for a first timer :o) Will look at the entire heat and find placing in that too...


  1. Well done, Karen! I loved the finishing clip as well. You rock! To come in under three hours is awesome! Good thing we got 6-9 months to get ready for a half iron distance, eh? Congrats again!!!

  2. I am so inspired!! Great job and great race!! I hope I can train up to that length some day!!

  3. Great job!

    Remember the jump from Oly to Half is a different animal. I find the half to be easier and more endurance based than the olympic. Start the base building as soon as you are recovered!

  4. Jules9:18 pm

    ....and start writing the Half blog now so we can catch up on the pre-stuff before and read the Half race report soon after it happens! SO jealous of 30 mins for the swim and in fact, 1:11 for the bike. Get your running sorted and you'll be scary(er)!