Yes this did happen over a month ago - who said I was fast at getting my reports in... not me ;)
The first question of the day concerned was how on earth do you get about 5,000 cyclists to start an event in an orderly fashion?! Well I have to say the start of this was incredibly well organised. Essentially the road was cordoned off and into two lanes (also with barriers), and there were start times every minute per wave... with alternate sides of the road going off... so with I guess over 300 people per wave and a wave start pen of about 100m this lead to a busy start area! Jules and I having stumbled out of the hotel on the start line could see people and bikes for as far as the eye could see! We shuffled down the road to find an entry barrier about 200m down the road which we could get in... timings worked well and we entered exactly when our Wave letter was being called and fortunately found ourselves pretty much at the very front (give or take 6 people), which given the slight incline and need to clip in p.d.q. was quite a relief :)
We headed to towards the starting gate and didn't have to wait long before the horn went and the tape went up (well sideways to be honest) to release us.... as you can imagine this was HIGHLY exciting... and this was reflected in my HR which my garmin was telling me was 206... WTF... like yes - that was wrong or I was dead already... ha ha .... we set off at a nice excitable pace and soon caught up with the rear markers of the previous group. It quickly became obvious to me that (a) I had had breakfast far too late (my porridge was threatening to erupt out of my tummy) and (b) that Jules really was race fit and I really was not.... I clung on to his wheel for a bit but soon dropped off on the first incline.... he looking svelt like and me feeling more like a giant sea lion... bloated, full and a bit big to be flapping my flippers on a bike... STILL... I caught up with him and was having fun... then there was another hill and I was dropped again... and so the pattern began!!
The weather wasn't helping my cause too much, although it wasn't actually raining it was blowing a complete hooley .. in to my face (ok and everyone elses but I had bigger thighs so reckon was catching more then the majority).... I got to admit after the first mile of enjoyment I settled in to a sensation of utter DOOM... what the hell was I thinking doing exactly 3 training rides for an 81 inclement ride in the highlands... oh how I laughed (mwah ha ha ha).... my spirits were briefly lifted about an hour in to the ride, cycling up through a woodland suddenly the ghostly sound of a piper could be heard in the wind... it was somewhat magical and took away the feeling of porridge heave for a brief moment.... on reaching the brow of the hill the pipers came into view and have to admit I shed a tear ... not sure what it is about Pipers but often the sound will make me cry (no it's not just the noise of them).... must be genetic or something I am a bit Scottish after all.... ahem...
.. moving on...
My watch alarm was going off every 30mins, which I had set up from the Ironman last year as a reminder to eat.. by the time in went off for the 2nd time, I really was ready to rip it off my wrist..... like I was going to eat anything when my belly was fighting to digest my breakfast (still) and my HR had been showing over 180 for the first hour (WRONG - don't know what is going on with my Garmin at the moment).... and settling in to 150 (err right... I was huffing and puffing a lot).... still I knew I had to get something in me so opted for small regular drinks from my water bottle, had one with carbs and one with electrolytes and swamped between the two - this helped I think.
After about an hour and quarter we exited a woodland area and found ourselves at the bottom end of what on a normal day would be a very picturesque loch... Loch Rannoch... but on this day I couldn't think anything but "sod me that wind is evil and WTF I've got to cycle around this monster.... woe is me".... We literally almost halted the wind felt that strong trying to blow us back... There were white tipped waves of at least several inches... it was around this point that I said to Jules that I was dieing and that, given this was supposed to be a training ride for him that we ought to split up... he hesitated and chivalrously said no as this was to be a social ride together... I quickly told him I could blow up any minute at this pace and he was hardly even getting a workout (given he was having to sit up in the saddle for me to catch up every few minutes)... so semi-reluctantly but with a secret smile of a dog off the leash he pinned his ears back and went off. To some relief to me and my heart rate!! I spent the next few miles trying to stick to any peleton coming past for brief few seconds of relief from the wind, whilst allowing my HR to lower and my porridge to go down.... about 30mins later we turned the head of the loch and 30miles done... everything then quickly got better, faster and easier as I literally got blown back down the other side of the loch - did I mention that it was a windy day!?
Before I knew it I was approaching the 40mile marker and my spirits were feeling much better - "already" half way and finally feeling in control and not about to barf or anything - I'd even go so far as saying I was now fully enjoying it !!.. There was a pit-stop at 42miles which I decided to utilise... Quick stop in the porta-loo... I grapped a banana (I had my own gels and bars but figured how full and sick my tummy had been feeling a banana sounded good)... stuffed the banana down and then decided to eat a lovely looking morsel of flapjack .... as reward for not feeling sick anymore and being half way you understand. Now Jules and I had had this conversation earlier about the "hill".... King of the Mountain section... he thought this came at 40miles and I thought 60miles.... now as the feed stop was at 42 I thought he must have got it wrong... imagine my surprise then having stuffed my banana face with a morsel of flapjack too when I crossed a timing mat about .5 mile after the feed station... UH OH ......
Sure enough ahead of me was a 10minute climb.... ohhh how I laughed again... the challenge here was not going to be the climb but keeping my banana down!!! ha ha ha.... The climb wasn't too bad, several rises with slightly flatter bits for relief... I managed to overtake quite a lot of people - I'm not a particularly fast climber so not sure why, surprisingly too I managed to come 5th in my age group on this section (must be the power of banana yes?!)... Surprisingly got to the top without losing my stomach contents and despite the chilling wind was dripping with sweat down through my helmet! Nice work Karen!.... Tempted at this stage to remove my outer showerproof jacket I soon decided not too having unzipped my layers a bit and heading down hill only to freeze!
Having "summitted" the hill the ride became a fast largely down hill or flat affair... for me some descents were scary fast, I am still nervous about downhills for some reason since coming off my bike last year, although by the end of this event I have to say I was more confident and not riding the brakes as much. I saw one rather nasty looking accident, the guy just being loaded into an ambulance in a neck brace - later this was reported as a serious (although non fatal) accident . It did freak me as I cycled past though as I had to check it wasn't Jules... relief that it wasn't but the guy didn't look too good at the time. I got into a relatively good tempo and managed to hook on to several packs on the way back (this is not hard given the number of people on the course)..... We were skipping along at a pretty descent lick - partly because of the wind coming in from behind and partly from the fact we were group riding - by now it became a rather enjoyable affair and I was in fact overtaking quite a lot of people and feeling rather comfortable (by now I was even eating on the required 30mins intervals :)...) .. I knew from my coach and from Jules that somewhere around the 70mile marker there was a left turn with a short but sharp 1:4 climb... paranoid that I'd be caught out by this I elected to stay in my compact gear at the front with a nice gear on the rear - I was literally spinning down the hill ... I caught a guy and got into conversation with him about the turn ahead - he said it was about 3-5miles away!! ha ha ha... so I changed up to the big ring and had a great time on the fast straight and ever so slightly downhill road from Aberfeldy.
As it happened the dreaded sharp left turn was pretty obvious... having spotted it I quickly shifted to small rings and turned the corner - yes it was steep ... quickly up and out of the saddle I hoofed it up the only danger coming from the guys in front who hadn't been as prepared and were 4 abreast almost stalling up the hill... A little encouragement from me in the form of "come on fellas"... (I usually find a girl shouting at men to hurry up a hill makes them find an extra gear)... ensured I didn't crash into their stalling rear wheel as they found enough puff to get up and out of my way.... I stupidly thought this would be the last significant hill of the day and proceeded to put the pedal to the metal as I knew I was now in the last 10miles.... HOWEVER there were a few little cheeky climbs waiting which became real thigh burners!!
The final ride in to Pitlochry was brilliant, I cruised up the hill with nothing to prove. I had hoped to do this event in around 5hrs 30 which I thought was optimistic given lack of training... I did however manage to come in in 4hrs 52 (including the 4mins at the pit stop)... which I was somewhat chuffed and amazed at..... to be fair I do think the drafting involved in the mini peletons which formed helped a lot!.... My coach said I would have a lot of endurance this season off the back of the IM last year - I hadn't believed him but as I crossed the line I did... although I don't want to fall into a false sense of security and think I can get away with this event distance again without the proper preparation!!
Having crossed the line some nice person removed the timing chip from my wheel and someone else gave me a bottle of water and hung a deserved medal over my neck.... I dismounted and somewhat staggered up the road towards the hotel to find Jules just finishing his run, having done a brick session after finishing in a staggeringly awesome 4hrs 28mins and that having been hindered by my slow arse for the first 1 and quarter hours!!
Reckon we both deserved our medals!!
All in all I rate this event as first class - excellent logistics, excellent support on the route (mechanical, marshalls, food stops and supporters), good road conditions (being closed roads was brilliant), atmosphere was great and the medal nice and chunky!!
10/10 on all fronts :)
Some interesting graphs;
Heart rate - I tried to flatten out the abnormal readings at the start so not sure if this is a true reflection or just dodgey readings.... you can see where the king of the mountain section was about mile 43!
And you can distinctly see my speed go up around mile 30 when we turned the head of the loch and got a tail wind!...
You can also click here for the official event route
Pleased to see I came 31st from 110 in my age group and somehow 5th from 110 in my age group on the KOM section! ha ha ha ... Even more pleasing was that I took people in the 2nd half of the course (overall I was 2218 from 4200 competitors but placed 2012 for the course section after KOM) proving my endurance was indeed better then I anticipated!
Time of Day