Racing the West Cornwall Middle Distance Triathlon

Yesterday I raced the Middle Distance Triathlon in Marazion, West Cornwall. I got to Marazion the day before the race and prepared myself for the event. It was important to be organised with my transition kit and to have my equipment in good working order.

I tested my bike and it was making a crunching noise with each downward stroke of the pedal. I tightened the pedals and crank but it still was making this unusual noise. I did everything I could to fix the problem so hoped on the day it would be ok. My bike would need to be serviced back in London.

I got up at 5.15 am and had breakfast. I took my own breakfast, quinoa  with sultanas and seeds. I then packed up my gear and headed to transition to prepare. The pre-race brief was at 6.30am and the race started at 7am.

I was well prepared for the race brief and I was relaxed. My coach, Fran, had said to treat this like a B race. It was a training run and it was for me to learn how to transition, prepare for the race and get  race experience. I knew I wanted to do everything I would do in the Ironman and if anything goes wrong I could learn how to do things better.

The bike course had been changed because of road works. The swim had been tested for temperature because it possibly was too cold. In the end 13 degrees celsius allowed a full 1900m swim but it was going to be very cold.

The race started just after 7am with a run into the water from the beach. I entered the water and my face immediately froze. I was so happy my wetsuit actually kept my body warm. My feet  froze under the water. I tried to get in a rhythm but swimming against the incoming tide, the murky water, sea sickness and finding it difficult to spot the markers made the start of the swim very uncomfortable.

The swim got worse because the waves were splashing over my face after rounding the first marker. I was most comfortable when swimming with space around me and being able to see the markers. I tried following another swimmer but this made the water more turbulent than it already was and I swallowed even more salt water.

I was glad my arms were not tiring even though my technique was less than ideal. I was breathing erratically to sight the marker, spot other swimmers and stop swallowing more water. I was relieved to pass the second marker and be heading for home. This time the tide was behind me and I was looking forward to getting out of the water soon.

Everyone around me was swimming faster to get home. I started to tire about 200 metres from shore. It think it was more the elements around me rather than the length of the swim that was tiring me. I stood up as soon as I could and ran 200m to transition.

My hands were so cold and I had cramps in legs towards the end of the swim. In transition my left hamstring cramped once and putting on my cycle gloves was challenging with cold and weak fingers. I finished the swim in 36 minutes and was out on the bike after a 2 min transition.

The bike course had completely changed from last year. My coach did not know it was going to be a very hilly course.  I set my watch to alarm every 20 minutes and I ate my power bars and drank electrolyte or Carbohydrate fuel each time it went off.

Riding the first 10 km with steep hill climbs started to take it out on my legs. In my head I was hoping around the next corner the hills would stop but I was in Cornwall and it is hilly country everywhere.

I had not prepared for hill climbing like I was experiencing on the race. I climbed at least 70km of hills in the 84km bike leg. The wind was against me on exposed areas in the hills. On two occasions my quadriceps went into spasm I almost came off the bike. 35 minutes from the end my hamstring and quad spasmed on the same leg and I had to stop briefly to rest it before cycling slowly to finish. I eased pressure on the left leg by cycling more with my right leg. All these cyclists were passing me and I wanted to go faster but my legs did not allow me. The hard training session I did 4 days earlier had tired my quadriceps and now I was paying for it.

I transitioned into my running kit. Again my hamstring spasmed and as I ran out the gates both my VMO’s (inner quadricep muscles) were making my knees collapse. I walked briefly up a steep hill and then started running again.

I noticed the more I ran the less the quadriceps were cramping. I think my muscles were getting used to the running after the hard cycle. I found running downhill the hardest as it made my quadriceps work more. The first 10kms I was running well.

My run was more a shuffle than a normal striding run because of the tightness in my hamstrings and the care I was taking to prevent cramping in my quadriceps. I started the final 10 km of the run with a plan to finish strong. However after 3 steep hill climbs my legs were getting more painful. I knew what was ahead because the run was two 10km loops. I had to get through another 4 km and my legs were wanting to give up all the time.

I was starting to get dehydrated and the temperature was in the mid 20’s. I felt my body had been running for a very long time. It was in automatic mode and if I stopped I was afraid it would be hard to start again. It was mind over matter and knowing what was ahead that kept me going.

I liked having runners ahead of me to pull me along. I did overtake other runners who had started walking or were suffering from running and cycling too hard earlier in the race.

I had 300m to run and finish. This even seemed a long way off. I ran down the finishing straight and the people around clapped me home. It felt a relief to cross the finish line. I was feeling good and energetic but my legs were in pain.

I drank straight away, ate a Pastie and went to see my time for the race. If lay down I was afraid my legs would cramp and that is painful. I kept moving and planned to pack up transition and head home.

My total time for the race was 5.59hrs. I was happy with the time as it was a tough course and I had overtrained the week before. I had suffered cramps on the race but got through it. This was a great training run and I learnt many things which I can take into the Ironman.

My kit and transitions were good. Next time I would put more vaseline on my toes after the cycle to stop friction between my toes on longer runs. I would also have a plastic box to keep my transition gear together and dry.

The week before would be an easy training week. The speed work and faster than race pace training fatigued my legs and led them to cramping in the race. I would have one bottle of water, electrolyte and carbohydrate on the bike for variety when hydrating. I must try drinking gels for the run. On the swim I would  sight the markers better and then get into a my rhythm as soon as possible. Breathing to both sides gave me flexibility to see other swimmers and stop water splashing in my  face.

I must do more strengthening for hill climbing on the bike. I want to talk to my bike mechanic to get my areo bar position improved or get new bars completely. I would like to eat other foods on the bike leg. My bike must be checked at the place of the event by a bike mechanic to avoid any mechanical failures.

Today I have very tight legs. It is painful to get up from sitting, stair climb and walk fast. My right hamstring is painful to stretch. I am resting and eating well to recover and I have a massage booked for tomorrow.

I pushed myself hard on this race and it has been a huge benefit to test where I am for the Ironman. I have just over two months before the full Ironman. I must organise my life to have the time to recover when I increase my training. It is not long to go and I can not imagine I will be ready to double these distances in two months. It is a serious challenge ahead I need all the support I can get from friends and family.

My coach has said I get the week off to recover. He will contact me in 4 days to see how I am and then put a plan in place for the next step in my training.

I feel motivated and ready to take on the full Ironman. It still amazes me that I will run a marathon after a 180km bike ride and 4km swim. Recovery is important now so lets hope my legs muscles get better soon.

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