Monday, October 24, 2016

Ironman Vichy Race Report

Take 2: App crashed and take 1 was lost - this will probably benefit the reader mind you; less waffle I reckon 2nd time around!

Having arrived in Vichy the Wednesday evening before race day it was quite apparent that, well, it was bloody hot. It then came as only a little suprise to hear this would be a non-wetsuit swim... That despite me reading somewhere in recent weeks that Vichy has always been with wetsuit as whilst it's a dammed lake, it has flow.... So I was actually a bit put out, along with about 4000 other athletes participating in weekends events (70.3 on Saturday and IM on Sunday). Still it was what it was a lucky I'd packed a swim costume.

So despite the prospect of extreme heat and no wetsuit I felt kind of good come race day. Excited. I had a plan, I had my own personal sponges for cooling on the run, I had my lower back and shoulder taped up. I was ready (as ready as I'd ever be).. If we were lucky the weather looked like it may break at some point during the run.

SWIM

So my aim was to take it easy to steady given the non-wetsuit... Having discussed it with my roomies we all decided to seed ourselves in our original swim time, my thought was this would be somewhere between 1:07 - 1:10 swim with wetsuit so that's where I went to queue up. With 2 people jumping in every few seconds the rolling start was underway. Jumping in I sank a lot more then I expected (remembering "oh yeah I won't float up without a wetsuit".. Well, despite this being a rolling start to less busy... The first quarter up river felt like I was in a washing machine; I got pulled, hit (accidentally) and scratched.. It was a bloody nightmare and probably when I consumed the most water!! Going back down river felt better, more space at least but by now I was swimming wide. The swim is split into 2 out and backs, so apparently at half way I clambered out, stopped to tighten my timing chip which was loose and jumped back in, this time hitting my legs on the bottom of the ramp which caused the first small bout of toe cramping (more to come on that).... I'd seen my watch at 42mins but it felt long and Garmin said 2.4k so wasn't worried about time.. But did think a bit of wtf, and thought lap2 must be shorter... Ha ha ha... Off set for lap 2.... Not so much bumping but was definitely swimming wide again, not sure when the really bad leg cramp, from knee to toe,  started but remember on the way back up right leg went completely and I thought if the other goes I'm done for!!! And for a moment imagined how pissed off I'd be if I had to be rescued and not even finish the swim.. Lol.... So I carried on with anchor leg and it finally swam itself out. Concentrated on good catch and felt easy.... Turned top buoy for home then got poked by someone and so left leg cramped up so that was shit, "swam" with another anchor for a while before it eased and I staggered up right, took me a while to get my balance before shuffling ... Was rather dismayed at the time 1:29:something but tired positive thinking and figured it was what it was and hadn't died and figured it was probably long and same for everyone... And anyway regardless it was my longest swim ever time wise and I had drank that much I figured I was at least starting hydrated!! Lol...

Took time in T2 out of swim costume into bike gear, applied sun cream grabbed shoes and trotted off.... Wasn't fast but wasn't pressured... Time to ride.... 

BIKE

Straight out on the bike trying to put the swim behind me, it didn't take long to realise that I really REALLY needed to pee... Being on the Aeros can do that to you ... Having not yet learnt how to pee on the bike and having learnt from the race in Exmoor then better to go sooner then later, I gratefully found the special needs feed station just being set up a few km out from transition. Phew. Long wee 1 done... Back on my bike and into the swing of things, the usual then happened with streams of people coming past... given the volume maybe my swim wasn't as bad as it had felt... Happily on my bars with my wattage and HR zones written on some tape on the top stem, I concentrated on NOT pushing it and really enjoying the countryside. The first 50-60k went pretty quickly, for some time during this I had the person known as "orange socks" (because they were wearing long bright orange socks) ahead of me - for some time actually... They overtook, pulled ahead but then the distance remained the same about 300-400m up the road... And then I started gaining (this never happens on the bike)... During the orange sock distraction, club mate Jamie Rossiter arrived at my shoulder, which was great to see.... I think he started after me on the timing mat and we lamented about the swim. I consider Jamie and I to be similar swimmers (I may be off with that but think so) and so when he said he'd taken about 1.5hrs as well it I guess helped reaffirmed the positive for me (I had still been fighting the demons). Off he whizzed as I carried on my stalking of orange socks. MUCH to my surprise before aid station 2 or 3 (probably the 3rd one), I overtook orange socks - as I said much to my surprise. My joy was short lived however as I needed to pee again so stopped at the aid station for a welcome emptying of the bladder... lol... I really did drink a lot of the lake water!! Orange socks sailed by and I never saw them again! Back on the bike everything was going smoothly.. And then I got GRUMPY... really grumpy.. This was probably at the aid station just before the only real hill on the course, and as I was grumpily going up the hill that's when 349a Team mate Jules cycled to my shoulder. Apparently I wasn't happy (he told me after), apparently I was having a horrible time... I know this was in my grumpy zone and during training this was always an indicator to stop with solid foods and move only to gels. That decision was easy, gels only from now on it was and pedal on we go! The rest of the loop was entertaining, a bit more rolling and pockets of very supportive villagers. The drop down into the village were the course split into 2nd loop or return to T2 was very exciting and loud... HOWEVER with no signage and hence no knowledge of the split being so imminent it suddenly became a confusion of cones and whistle blowing Gendarme. Without a clue which way to go and not understanding anything I was being shouted at by the gendarme (partly because I couldn't hear him and partly because my poor brain coudn't cope trying to steer the bike avoid the cones, break the bike, stop the bike, AHHHH don't fall off get foot out just in time... And listen to him and translate what he was saying... ).. Effectively I headed for the middle just avoided crashing into cones and gendarme and falling before realising I need to GO RIGHT. A sign would have been useful I lamented. Bursting with adrenaline I clicked back in and started off again, thanked by my fellow racers who had been sufficiently behind me in the chaos to work it out based on what I was doing - so they whizzed by and my adrenaline fueled body decided with all that excitement.. Yes... I needed another wee,... Sigh... Stopping again at the special needs station (this time a kind volunteer held my bike), I was sufficiently calm enough to decide to take a painkiller for my now aching lower back and shoulders (injury 4 weeks out before race) and set off for lap 2. 

The second lap was so totally enjoyable I can only remember smiling :) Not sure if that was the painkillers or from the adrenaline or what. But I loved it. I was zipping through the countryside, HR and power completely in control. I was even catching and overtaking people, as well as people still coming past me, although by now the field was most certainly more ahead of me then behind. The drizzle which had happened on the first lap, about 2/3rds around the course had turned into a proper shower by the time I got back to the same area. The crowds were thus less, and the roads thus more slippy (I certainly had one rear wheel slippage moment going around a corner which was exciting). I had a bit of a sing song (as you, well I, do) and just took in the scenery - it was lovely. Coming back into the split area or course I knew which way to go and was excited to be nearing T2. No stops in lap 2 meant a negative split for the bike (not that I knew that at the time), and I eventually came in to T2 around 6hrs 20 - which was actually about 15-45mins faster then I thought I would. Really happy - just the little prospect of a marathon to go. Arriving back to Vichy it did indeed feel like someone had left the oven door open.... into the heat we went...


THE RUN

Honestly when you get to this, with all the training done it's not worth thinking "Can I?" But more like "I CAN!" ... my mental approach was to do lap one as a city sightseeing tour of Vichy in preparation for a half marathon (I can do a half, no problem, and this was flat compared to exmoor)... so once that was done, it was just a 10.2k run... no problem. Cough. No point dwelling, well apart from in transition to get changed and make sure my blistered feet (no new blisters just old ones) had some tape on to hopefully prevent deterioration and off I go. My plan (well my coach's plan!) was to go very easy, HR firmly under z3 (i.e. Up to not over 131) and only in z2 throughout. Instructions to eat if it started peaking, or in this case as it was like an oven, to try and cool down. So that somewhat dictated the pace and to be honest I had had some very happy very slow off road runs at home so put myself in the countryside at home mode and trundled off. For whatever reason I stopped at the portaloos at the first aid station after about 2k. I didn't actually need to go but was paranoid a little from my bladder issues in Exmoor and the experience I had had in Barcelona.... so I guess I thought better safe then sorry as I didn't know when the next loo was... needn't have worried whatsoever... so left there and started to trundle again and what was this DISASTER... my Garmin had stopped!!! Actually surprisingly I wasn't that bothered and figured I'd know my pacing was too hard if I started "mouth breathing" .... so let my Garmin have its own meltdown and settled in.... it did actually come back to life so a couple of k later I restarted and then got my cadence and HR back. Happily trotting along at about 6:30-6:45k pace with walk breaks through EVERY aid station... I wasn't really taking much aid in these but these were an appropriate place to get water on my head and cool down  ... much appreciated showers!!! Approaching the bridge and aid station at about 8k I had a HR spike and figured it was probably about time for some extra salt... weather it was the chewable from saltstick or the gel or the cooling water I don't know... but HR came immediately down and back in control.  Lap 1 was good and steady with this run/ walk strategy working well. Saw Alison which was fab to be told Anita and Jules had been seen and looked in good shape.... fully expecting Anita to lap me i was happy to see her as I completed lap 1, she was burning up the turf and on her way to second in our age group and a spot at Kona (awesome)... for a short while we had a natter .. she stopped under a shower but soon came back past me again. Super stuff from the Jones! I honestly have little memory of my half marathon, all a bit of a blur... basically heading aid station to aid station with the boast of pacing through the finish semi circle of joy each lap. I was consistent with nurtition, water, walk breaks and cooling. I had had a truly awful metric ironman 26k run in training and felt somewhat elated to have passed that point with no real bother!! With little idea of my actual time on my penultimate time through the finish arena I looked at the main timing clock and figured I was amazingly still inside my refurbed ultimate goal of sub 13:30 (i.e. Under my Barcelona time, days before I thought was out of the window and certainly after the swim).... Joyously I picked up band 3 (you get a different coloured band for each lap), so full of the joy of the rainbow on my wrist I headed out... the sun was beginning to get low but there was an outside chance I'd make it back before it was dark which was another unspoken aim. So off... only 10.2k to go. Now honestly I don't quite know what happened in lap 4. I kind of let myself off a bit. In Barcelona I had little choice but to walk all of the final lap. I could barely shuffle by that stage and I was in much better shape... except my feet. My feet hurt. Not terribly but enough.... and for WHATEVER reason (there was no reason not even wind!) I stopped in the portaloos at three different aid station. I have no idea what that was about. As Richard the wise said, it was probably because I knew I'd get to the finish inside my time... that and bad tummy issues before so paranoid was all it needed. So I did walk at times outside of the aid station on lap 4 which is why it was much slower. The crowds around Vichy were thinning but there was a group of English girls (think they'd done the 70.3 the day before) who were still by the riverside and adding to the atmosphere .... one of them even decided I should be running so got me jogging along again whilst she jogged with me carrying her pint - without spilling a drop! It was impressive stuff!! As I got slower the people around me also seemed to be turning into mush as I still passed people who had blown themselves up earlier in the day and were simple down to a shuffle of a walk... but still heading in the right direction. Coming to the last 4K I found myself walking for a short while with a couple of chaps, both English. So we chatted for a bit and one by one they left me... so there I was walking alone when someone came running past me. They only had 1 band, they had 2 and a bit laps to go. They weren't go fast but they were going... so bugger the blisters I thought, if they can I can. So jog started again and I started taking people again. Met the two chaps at the penultimate aid station as we walked up the slope to the bridge I asked if they were going to join me as I was going to jog the last k in..... Fin (I got to know his name later) duly said yes and so we jogged in the last k together, he disappointed with his day, 5th ironman and a worst for him... me extremely happy with my day (after what I still regard as an awful start!)... we entered the arena with another guy who whilst going much slower well we didn't pass as that just felt rude. So the three of us finished in diamond formation... with the guy then Fin and I together crossing the line at the same time. Unfortunately this completely confused the clock so my name never popped up! BT huge smiles, no idea what my time was but the sun was setting behind me. I counted it as daylight even though it was most certainly more like the gloaming! 

For once I felt utterly ok at the end, no wobbles! I grabbed my medal, had some pictures taken... took my tshirt and headed to the athlete area where my after bag had wet wipes, change of clothes, protein shake and most importantly my phone so I could text the best most supportive Sherpa in the world, Alison and arrange a rendezvous. Unlike my previous foray into this distance I also felt immediately hungry and filled my face with melon and pretzels. Met up with both a Jules and Anita and eventually got us all out there to meet up with the now long suffering best Sherpa in the world. To drop bike off with the "shipmytribike" guys as well as my bag of smelly kit and back to out B&B for pizza!!!

13:13:08 Ironman Vichy done.

Post Race thoughts:

I entered this ironman as a year ago, faced with major surgery (which I ended up thankfully not needing), I had a chat with myself which went along the lines of if I could never do an ironman again would I regret having only done one... the answer was yes... and so the desire to do another was formed. You always need a reason and I'm pleased and proud to have achieved IM number 2.... that should be enough...

I said about 4 weeks out before the race, when I was at my most tired ebb that I never ever want to do one of these again. I asked Alison to shoot me if I ever suggested it. I even said this during one of the laps "this is so stupid" and certainly at the end in texts "NEVER no NEVER again"... of course then comes the day after and I go... well maybe one more... maybe Roth should still be on my bucket list. But not yet, maybe never but f I were going to say yes to one more that would be it.

Second thought is this was the first triathlon I think I've done where I had what I'd like to call an inverse experience... typically I come out ahead on the swim get overtaken by hundreds (it fills like) on the bike, then by anyone who hasn't already got me on the bike, gets me on the run. This one was the complete opposite. Which was actually quite a nice experience. Whilst I still dropped in my age group during the event I did start taking people on the bike (a first!) and seemed to be taking people on the run (whilst also being overtaken myself) ... so this was a really positive experience!

Third thought.... practice practice practice your nutrition. Certainly a major difference between racing in Barcelona and Vichy is my nutrition strategy (incl water and salt not just fuel) was much more nailed down. This was done through trying a lot in training and getting to something that worked really well for me

Fourth; running slowly is fun and amazing... I really enjoyed my long runs and rambles in the countryside during my training. Somehow the experience transferred itself mentally on race day. Weird but helpful all the same.

It really was an epic day.... but it isn't just about the day but the journey of the months of training beforehand. Having the support of your family is a must, the Pope has had to put up with a lot these last months (ok years), she is amazing. My patient (and oh so wise ) coach who sets my plans only for to never have a green week.... sorry rich... one day!

Next year: not sure yet. My "A" race though is actually a holiday in a Greek island, date tbd.... my races will revolve around that :)

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