Thursday, December 23, 2010

Challenge Barcelona Maresme Race Report

and so the hooter went off..... 


Well the hooter went and it took me a millisecond to realise, in fact I think it was the main pack to my left running that made me move. Knowing that it was hardly worth a sprint to the sea with such a long day ahead I kind of 'ran' Phoebe still in to the water and was grateful for the one practice of a 'run'/dive start in Lanzarote during my September break! I pulled off the dive without any mishap and somehow found myself in free water.....

......This was largely due to the fact the main bulk of my wave had started to the left with what they thought was the racing line....

.... Actually the current was slightly right to left so I soon found myself with the bunch although surprisingly clear water. We had a 200m swim out to the turn buoy, I tried my best to contain my excitement but still swam too hard. One slap in the face nearly lost me my goggles but that was about it - getting to the buoy with only a couple of people ahead I figured I'd better steady off a bit, not worthy of such an advance position (oh and of course there was another 3.7k to go).... We turned the buoy for the longest straight line swim I had ever done, the thought of which made me smile in water. I settled in to a steady rhythm with no feet to really follow whatsoever. This is what makes the Challenge races a little different from a mass start - with the pro's off in front, the women next then a 10min gap to the men it would mean no feet to follow...I was pretty cool with that... afterall you do this by yourself right..... There was one or two peeps clearly out in front and then a little shawl of tri fishes.... Lucky for us the sea was pretty flat and the very well spaced buoys were not too difficult to spot, although to be honest we could have done with more of them. I was not always getting as tight as I would have thought was ideal to the buoys - it was pretty difficult to spot the next buoy so easy to drift off the line. I had a little chuckle as I swam past my hotel about a mile from the start, this meant I should be spotting the turn buoys soon.... There were a few boats down this end of the swim which were needed.... It was too easy to spot the top turn buoy in the left and not see the right buoy which we had to get around first (it was like the bottom of a rectangle with a 100m gap between the two).... The boats did a good job of herding me around the correct buoy. Doing the turn felt good. I felt really at ease and was holding a nice effortless swimg.... All those horrid swim sets my coach had me do about pacing were paying dividends. So I set about the swim back.... Having done my longest ever straight line swim i was immidiately about to emulate it with an even longer swim!!.... It was soon after the turn that the first swimmers from the wave behind came past, to be honest I had expected them sooner, I tried to hook on some feet but these boys were quick!!.... damn the organisers for not giving me any feet to follow ;).... The way back felt good, spotting a few jelly fish was just surreal, the waters were so clear and still it was just wonderful swimming out there.

During the way back I set about the second most important task of the swim, after getting the pacing right that is.... And that was trying to have a pee!! Now this was an area of my training I had focused on during the summer (I kid you not the boys at the lake took the piss a lot with week after week of failing to do this...) ... Anyhow, the trick for me is to slow the stroke rate down and go for it... Well I did but I didn't if you get me.... This was very disappointing!! Ha ha ha.... I gave it a couple of goes but failed and then got a little paranoid that if I tried too many times that I'd come off the pace too much!!!

Finally got to the end of the straight and it was a turn left and start to spot the exit some 300m away.... By now I knew I needed a pee so was figuring how I'd achieve that without going to the portaloos, which in my mind was an unacceptable delay... hummmm.... Distracted slightly then, I spotted what I thought was the swim exit which was lined up with another buoy, keeping the buoy to my left me and close to another swim fishy swam on, it was then that I saw a few peeps off to my left and heading to somewhere else to exit...uh oh... Yep... Although I had spotted the transition tent the actual swim exit was 50m to the left... Damn! And knowing the tide would be pushing me right this made the swim in quite a bit tougher and further... I was a little annoyed at myself and still needed a pee!! I dug in to the exit ramp and figured to solve I other issie that I'd have to do a "Leanne" (so named after my friend Leanne who pee'd in her wetsuit once whilst running in to transition) ... So I upp'd my stroke rate and got a bit excited about having completed the swim.... I had been hoping of a time between 1hr 10 and 1hr 15... And maybe faster if conditions were good and I had some feet to follow. On the swim in anticipation and excitement was rising.... I had little idea if I'd actually be able to stand without getting that giddy head thing let alone run.... As it turned out I didn't ... I even managed to exit the water fairly smoothly without just being chucked up the beach in a heap! Stood up, starting jogging and stripped my wetsuit top down no probes whilst pulling some really rather unattractive faces to the support crew!!

A very unattractive squint at the crew....

With lots of cheering and the sound of Kirsty's vuvuzala ringing in my ear I jogged around to the transition tent, stopping short to have a quick pee in my wetsuit (I know gross!!!! But needs must) .... I did strip my wetsuit off outside the tent and shake it out... I thought it perhaps a little wrong to do that in the tent and cover everyone and their kit in my wee!!!

Happy that the swim was done!

I know when I came out of the water it had felt like a tough swim, but I think this was largely down to the swim in ... The last 300m felt long and harder then that because I had swam off course and then had to correct against tide... However overall I was happy...

When I lapped my gamin my swim recorded as 4km in a time of 1:13:43 .... Official race stats 3.8km 1:13:54 .... Good pacing I'd say about where I should have been if only I could have swam tighter to the buoys and hadn't gone wrong at the end.

Anyway I was happy and excited about getting on the bike!

Well I did what need to be done outside the transition tent, whipped off the wetsuit and moved inside. There wasn't a ladies section so much - but we were all down one side of the tent - not that anyone really cared about stripping off.... I had chosen to swim in a sports bra and swim shorts which was a good choice. Stripped off the shorts and put on the bike stuff... made sure my bike top pockets still contained the emergeny stuff (couple gels, pain killers and epipen!)... Glad for the bottle of fresh water I had stashed in T1 - so I could rinse my face and mouth a bit from salt and more importantly to sluice myself down a bit (there was no way was I going to risk additional chaffing from having had a dry land pee in my wet suit!! HA HA!).... Sun cream applied I put on my helmet, gloves and shoes and clip-clopped out to my trusty stead.

Having bagged me (well more like been allocated) an end slot on the bike rack I was surprised and glad to get a big cheer from the support crew who had dashed from swim exit to the bike rail.... WHOOP!... To say I was a little bit excited was an understatement.
Max racked and ready day before the race!

I grabbed the Max and turned to give the crowd a cheeky wave and made my way out of transition!

Swim job done and out onto the bike...

T1 = 7min 40something... I had never planned for the transitions to be fast. Having never raced this far before and having not really raced this season I figured I would have a nice relaxing time in transition and didn't bother with worrying about the time. I figured anything under 10mins would be acceptable... so .. happy with that....

Oh my 112miles of bikey bike bike on a pretty flat and so unrelenting course. As soon as I got on my trusty stead I knew something was up!! Somehow either getting in the water or getting out I had pulled something in my right butt cheek... talk about ouchy.. this only manifested itself when I started to pedal. Not good when you're thinking "uh oh" in the first mile. Still I headed around the first few kilometers of the course which are based in town before heading out to the "course proper"... I was amazed to see the support crew had some how managed to dash from their transition position to the course by the time I zoomed through (clearly taking care on the speed humps!)... to be honest I may have missed them had it not been for the defeaning blast from the Vuvuzela which alerted me to their presence ;)

The "in town" part, start of the bike course
My plan for the bike was built around keeping my HR ubba low (other then the small climbs at the beginning and end of the long loops), to not worry about speed - just focus on nutrition, hydration, cadence and heart rate. Having a pain in the bum though was very distracting.... Figuring I'd see if it warmed up or not my back up plan was to stop and lower the saddle.... Another kind of expected failing in the first 8 miles was my Garmin. Having worn the HR strap in the swim so I didn't need to bother with fiddling with it in transition meant, like earlier in the year at the mishapped Half Challenge race, that I didn't get a HR for about the first 30mins... so officially I had a pain in the bum and was dead. Not a perfect start to the bike. 

Still having expected the HR to be playing up I just got on with it based on perceived effort (ie I wanted to perceive no effort!!) and got about riding the familiar bit of the course (it's the same course as the half Challenge at the start except you go on further to the turn point). The bum pain was not settling and making me wonder if this was going to ruin my day... I didn't want to stress about it but as it was I couldn't get on my drops or my aerobars so something had to be done. So I stopped.... yes stopped!! When I got to the first aid station I pulled over... a man at the station checked that I was ok, then a support motor bike stopped and asked the same (they are well organised at this event!)... I got my tool kit out and lowered my seat, only a fraction, probably no more then 3-5mm. BUT BOY WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! Immediately my bum wasn't pulling so I could pedal fine and better still I could get down on my bars, despite that I did something I never do in a race and took some precautionary pain killers.


In order to combat my tendancy to forget to eat regularly I had an alarm on my watch go off every 30mins and this worked really well, alternating between a third of a bar and an energy gel with some carb drink or electrolyte drink in between. When I made it down to the far end the first time (approx 22miles) I found Jules and Fionna waiting! Great to see some friendly faces at the far end of the course! It was quite empty down there! The great thing about the race is it runs alongside the main train line... well great for supporters as they can get between spots really easy!! At the bottom turn point there was an aid station well stocked and ready to hand off whatever I wanted; spot my rookie mistake;

Bottle pick up at 22miles....
Heading back up the course I soon realised I now had a tail wind as my speed picked up (I had been wondering about that) which gave me reason to smile. I then got back to about half way back on the loop (which is also the turn point for the Half) and was happy to see more Team Doris supporters in the shape of Elaine and Hannah.... Did I already say my support crew rocked!?

Girls at Party roundabout; Leanne had clearly got bored with her t-shirt and Dan had disappeared for breakfast (no lasting power!)
By the time I got back towards Maresme and the "party roundabout" I had bagged 44 miles, had no bum pain, was pretty much where I needed to be. As I approached the roundabout I nearly got blown off by KirstyDawn's vuvuzela again - made me laugh anyhow!!

On the way out on lap 2 something began to feel - well weird really. I couldn't quite place it. I felt like power was dropping, but couldn't figure it out.. maybe the headwind was stronger. I felt so strange I began to think something was wrong with the bike... and actually I then started hearing weird noises from my front wheel.... So I did the unthinkable again and STOPPED!! Yes got to that same feedstation half way down the long loop and stopped to have a look at my front wheel. The kind man asked me again if I was ok (as I poured water on my brakes - no idea why I did that)... I said "yep everything is fine" as I picked up the bike and spun the front wheel... he must have thought I was a right weirdo. I then figured out the strange noise coming from the front wheel was actually the noise of the wind cutting through the spokes... ha ha ha.. humm.. I'm such a loser... so got back on .. but still felt odd.

I got down to Jules and Fionna for the second time of asking now 66+miles into the bike and so halfway. As I got near to them I shouted;
"Something's wrong"
to which Jules replied
and Fionna replied
... "it's not that I'm doing that ok".... From a food/ nutrition stand point I was sure I was about on the money. I had a sensation that I just hadn't experienced whilst training... couldn't figure it out and felt a little confused, a little concerned and began to doubt. It was then some form of miracle happened. As I made the dead turn and passed through the aid station I asked for some water and instinctively just poured it down the back of my neck and through my helmet. This wasn't a planned move. I hadn't even thought about doing that. I just did it.

"UH OH" ... I thought... "I AM BURNING UP"... Humm having had heat exhaustion once before I know it's a pretty unpleasant thing. And I knew as soon as I poured the water on myself this was the problem. I was just getting too hot under my helmet!! Thankfully though I caught it in time - later found out that it was around 30degrees (over 86 c) ... yep folks that would do me in. Anyway... the tri gods or my guardian angel took care of me... so from then on at every water station I grabbed a bottle and poured half on me and half in my aerobottle. I could also unflip the lids on the water bottles really easily so could add some squirreled away emergency salt tablets into them. Once I got this sorted the rest of the bike was, well not a breeze but more comfortable.

I stopped another couple of times... once to pee (although I didn't actually need to go - don't you just hate phantom pees!) and once because when I grabbed a gel from my back pocket my epipen went flying.... couldn't risk the wasps around not to have that - so had to stop and wonder back up the course!
Head down and getting tired - 90miles done.. heading out on the final half loop of 22miles
Only once during the bike did I allow myself to think about what was to come.... I wouldn't recommend that - unless you want to have a comedy moment to yourself.... I thought "shit after this I'm going to run a marathon! A marathon! That's a fucking long way (scuse my language mother)... I must be bloody mental... How on earth am I going to do that.... this is mad" ...cue mad laughter .. ."ok you've had your little joke - don't think that again Doris ok?!" ... and then that thought ended!!
Popey at the Party Roundabout - is that some Union Flag bunting?

The last half loop of the course was a lot lonelier then the first two big loops.... I think the majority of the field overtook me on the bike! At least it felt that way. The marshalling was good - I did see a bike train come past me a couple of times and I did see the marshal do everyone in one of them with yellow cards... which was good to see....I also saw some people in penalty boxes...  No drafting means no drafting... really pee's me off when I see people "cheating" like that, it's not difficult to keep the distance (well I don't find it is but then maybe it's because I'm s-l-o-w!)

I had figured that I was probably capable of doing the bike in 6hours... but also figured that 6 hours would probably be a little risky on my first long distance effort, particularly when I'd only ran 2 hours (12miles) in my longest run. I figured a reasonable time for my bike, if I paced well and were to feel relatively "fresh" at the end was somewhere around the 6.5hour mark.

I was very happy to see my lap time coming in then on 6:28:small change..... Job done.... Needless to say I was ubba careful coming down through the town and into transition - this wasn't a day I fancied coming off my bike on a speed hump



Whilst the support crew were taking a well deserver refreshment break;

I re-racked my trusty stead and sauntered into the transition tent. I had planned a complete change of kit (apart from bra which just forget about trying to change one of those!),a thorough covering in sun cream, a drying of feet and some vaseline application to toes followed by clean pair of socks (nice feeling)..... had the delight of a transition marshall/ godess appear from nowhere and apply sun cream to my back!! Had a quick natter to a couple of English ladies in there who were getting changed too, grabbed my gel bottles (not that I would need that many), hat on and sunnies back on and away I went.

Again I wasn't bothered about the transition time so another 7min 40something time.

Dan had said to me the day before something like "it's really weird, but when you get to the run... you will actually be glad to be running".. I thought he was crazy.....


... but he was right! As I trotted out of the tent I settled into a rhythm of sorts I guess this was the ironman shuffle!!! Surprised myself to be comfortably going along with HR in the easy zone and pace at what I had trained at around 9:45 per mile... I had a little chuckle to myself.... I knew if one thing was certain that I would not be able to hold that pace for 26.2 miles but I would until I couldn't.... I just didn't expect that I couldn't only 4 k up the road!!! HA HA HA!

So the thing about this ironman distance thing is that, as I was discovering and as I was expecting, weird things happen. Your body just does stuff which you just don't know or expect - I guess the more experience you get the more you get to know. Still....the course was nice even 10.5k loops.... the first 1-1.5miles were busy and fairly vibrant - not just the lovely finish area but there were bars, restaurants and people - so quite atmospheric. This could not be said for the top end of the course. From the aid station at half way to the top turn was barren and derelict. Nothing to the left and a train track and sea front to the right on the way up and merely reversed on the way back. I wouldn't say it was soul destroying... but it was part of the experience. It was on the way up out on my first loop that I experienced my second "body surprise" of the day (first being the weird sensation on the bike).... I had got the the aid station, had my walk through and got back into my 9:30-9:45 pace no problem. I actually felt remarkably fine at this point.... and then my tummy just went... well "WAHHHHHHHHH" I think would describe it... I jogged along and thought "well that's not right".... now it wasn't the sort of discomfort and dread when you think you're about to crap your pants (I had been expecting that may happen what with all those gels!! HA Ha!)... Nope it wasn't that sort of cramp... it was just weird and really not very nice. So I slowed to a walk and it went... "Hummmmm" I thought... "OK I'll try a jog again".... did that... and no sooner..."WAHHHHhhhh"... my pelvic region really wasn't terribly happy with me... so I walked again.. Really couldn't fathom it... and then it came to me.... OHhhh maybe I need to PEEEeeeeeee.... See... your signals from your body are really srewy on this long distance stuff!... I hadn't actually gone since wetting myself on the way out of the swim!! HA HA.... ok but where to go... I was in the barren wasteland of the top of the course and there was no cover in sight... hummm... only choice I had was to walk with haste to the 5k turn point and aid station and hope there was a portaloo (or failing that a train station with a public loo!).... or bare my big white butt and scare everyone (this was not an option!)... .So managed to get to the aid station and like some holy coming there indeed was a portaloo... occupied.... bahhhh... so I waited (and waited... and waited... why couldn't they have had 2 loo's)... anyway after about 3-4mins this guy came out and apologised (clearly from the noise he had bigger problems then I - but didn't he know what this delay was doing to my lap time... LOL)... Anyway... suffice to say BOY DID I NEED A WEE... I was really a little taken aback about how much I needed to pee but hadn't sort of realised - I guess this is what comes from being folded up on a bike for 6.5hours!! Next time I shall hit the portaloos in transition - just in case!!

Job done... I headed back down the track... by the time I neared the feed station half way back Jules and Fionna had got there to offer some welcome encouragment! 

My plan was to walk the aid stations which I duly did.... about half way between that and the finish area I came across Elaine and Hannah.. again welcome support.... Winding my way around the transition area, bike racking and a variety of little slopes and trip hazards I finally had the reward of running through the finish zone... 

1 lap done, only 3 to go... ek...
 ....THIS WAS FAB! Despite the fact you know you have to go do that lap all over again (another 3 times) it was brilliant to have this little bit of cheer as reward for 10.5k done. The crowd were great and it didn't take me long to hear then spot Kirsty (and the Vuvuzala), Popey and Pikey... Yippee... Clearly I had to milk the crowd a bit to get more applause ;)

Making my way out for lap 2 I heard the male winner go down the finishing shute... the three things I thought... 

"WOW!"...."At least I got a lap of the run done before he finished" and "Lucky bugger!"... 

On the way out I got a big cheer from Dan and Leanne with Dan telling me with all seriousness (he is quite a good actor) that I was "looking strong"... ahem... 
Any excuse to walk and high five was fine by me...
The next lap was somewhat unremakable.... mainly because I don't remember much about it!! My run pace by now was nearer 10:30s with slighltly longer walk breaks at the feed stations. I was pretty much determined to carry on the jog/ walk through feed stations until the half marathon was up... I had already lined up in my mind my own little reward for doing the half marathon of having some coke and bit of banana. I know at one point I was on for a 2:10 - 2:15 half marathon. I don't know what happened then for that to become more like 2:30.... I think things were fine (as they can be) for 15k, then they kind of weren't.

It was time to remove the sunglasses......

Each lap though I had fab support. You guys just don't know how great it was running from group to group. Elaine ran with me for a bit attempting a hand cam run interview.... well she tried that twice. Jules and Fionna convinced me I looked "great" and but I think the pictures tell a different story!!

Half marathon complete I became aware of more then just my buddies shouting at me from the crowd of onlookers.... I was getting "Go Doris Go" (like how did they know that was my name?) as well as the more obvious "Go Karen you can do it".. (do they know the competitors numbers and names?)... kind of confused me at first as I thought I ought to know these people but when I looked at them I didn't have a clue..... Anyway - in transpired that due partly to the support crew and their matching t-shirts and due to my hyperactivity on the Friday (talking to anyone who would stop for a milisecond near me)... meant I had a lot of new "friends" to encourage me on... Brilliant :)
"Honestly Karen you look great" .. Half Marathon done!
I was always thinking lap 3 would most likely be the most challenging.. still a long way to go, within touching distance but a long way left... so it was at the start of lap 3 that I "jogged" (I say that losely) passed this guy who was looking a little beaten up... I asked if he was on his last lap ... He wasn't... he had 2 to go also... so I said same here come on... let's run for a bit, walk for a bit... let's do it together... apparently we made a good couple as some peeps asked me afterwards where my husband was ROFL!!!! 

Between us (I can't remember his name for the life of me) we encouraged each other on.... after the top turn I had been ahead of him a bit when I had a mini melt down... not emotional just totally whacked... anyway he ran up to me and gee'd me on... trouble was once I started jogging again I couldn't stop (it hurt too much!)... So I ended up jogging through his next walk break. 
Evidence of attempted "jog" in lap 3

It was coming under the railway line (a small slope which was now resembling a mountain) for the end of the third lap, that my left knee had a sudden nasty painful moment. I had a really really big scare there... No way did I want a "incident" now... Shit what would happen if I strained a calf, tour a hamstring..... shit shit shit.. it wasn't so much doubt but fear that crept in ... Fear that something out of my control would ruin my day. I went through the finish zone for the penultimate time. Tried a jog and figured that actually the speed I was going was such that I may as well do a fast walk - I had the presence of mind to work out my run speed versus my walk speed would only save me something like 15mins of time...but actually the whole thing wasn;t about time. I wanted to finish, enjoy it and be injury free...If I stayed focused I could tab out the last 10k in an hour and half (15min mile pace)... I made my decision. It wasn't failure, it was strangely sensible and completely acceptable. I decided to speed walk my last lap. Despite Dan telling me I looked really fresh (ha ha ... he is such a good liar) and that I looked like I could run... my mind was set... Stay injury free, start eating a bit more food (I was starving!!) and walk it in. I told the guys of my decision and said "have a beer I'll be an hour and a half!"

From there on in I was truly on my own. The support team were congregating back at the finish area, the sun was down, most of the competitors were finished or finishing and the crowds were dispersing. Somehow though this all seemed highly appropriate; to be alone with my thoughts, my reasons for doing this, to remain focused on my walk pace... all seemed to be a good beginning of the finish. The barren area had become a dark wasteland interspersed (!) with the occasional traffic cone with flashing light on top (there were no street lamps around the top end of the course). Some point in the last lap my "husband" caught me and jogged past checking I was ok... I confirmed I was fine and told him to see it home - I'd be right behind.

I can't begin to articulate all the feelings and emotions flowing through my body on that last lap. For the first time I began to think of the enormity of the task I was almost completing. And then when  negative thoughts of possible torn calf muscles crept in I banished them away to the wastelands nearby. I saw some fellow competitors I knew heading out on their final lap as I was heading in... we high five'd each other, whispered words of encouragment and continued on. I thanked and clapped every person still out supporting on the course. As I came into the beginning of the end, winding my way towards to the transition tent and beyond and Irish guy from my hotel jogged past - he, like I was about to finish... As he came past his Dad and Uncle who were jogging with him shouted back some encouragement... I thought "heck I can't end this walking... if they are in their 60s and running in flipflops I'll be buggered if I can't give this a go"... so, for first time in almost and hour and half I asked my legs to jog for one last time... the last 800m started off as quite painful and ended up being some of the most jubilent metres I've ever staggered along!

The crowds had dispersed somewhat by the time I hit my home straight... but the people who counted were there! With a terrific VUUUUUUUUU from the vuvuzala my arrival into the finish arena was announced.. .I looked up to spot the girls and almost didn't see they had split up with half the group at ground height for high fives on the way in.....
Jubliant can't sum it up... Just thinking about those seconds as I finished brings a tear (or several) to my eyes. I crossed the line in a state of disbelieve as I stopped and thought about what I, little old me, had done today.

I went down the slope was hugged and kissed by some guy, handed my medal and my finishers t-shirt then I burst into uncontrollable tears.

With big shoulder shudders I just stopped and cried. The poor Spanish marhall lady looked at me really concerned and said "Medical"... I looked at her and smiled and just said "no I'm just emotional!!"... ha ha ....  she got it right away and smiled (or she just didn't understand and thought I was a loon!)

1 comment:

  1. awww... you have such a great memory after SO MANY MONTHS :-) HAHAHA! I loved your report. It always brings back such memories from my own races. I hate that our body makes us stop and use the loos, but the alternatives are not good. and how nice to have such a great video of the finish! made me tear up!!

    So, when is the next one? :-)