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2004 Race Reports, Page Three

UK Half Ironman, Sherborne, Dorset. 22nd August 2004

Out from T1
Back to the castle, get that knee out and lean it over
Totally knackered
Game over

My build up for the race wasn't the best in the world. I was going well right up until three weeks to go when I sprained my ankle. That meant my taper wasn't a gradual reduction in training but a rehabilitation exercise to get my ankle ready for the race. I did no running in the last three weeks and not as much cycling as I'd have liked. On the Wednesday before the race I was bitten on both calf's by an insect while swimming at the lake. The doctor put me onto antibiotics to reduce the infection and hopefully take away the amount of swelling I was getting. On the Friday before I was plumbing in the sink and hurt my back and knee. Nothing too bad but it stayed with me until the race started and put a few doubts in my mind about fitness.

We drove down on Saturday to rack the bike and leave the bags in transition. While there I had a good look around to familiarise myself with the course and transition. This is the first Ironman event I've done and the change tent and bag hangers had me baffled for a while. A marshal walked me around the change tent, bike racking and run exit and explained how it worked. After that I was happy and had it all straight in my mind. Early Sunday morning we set off for the castle and arrived in competitor parking around 4.30am, we were third through the gate! At 5am transition opened and I put my bottles on the bike, checked the tyres to make sure they hadn't exploded the day before and all was fine. I then got numbered and I was ready to race with two hours to go.

It didn't seem long before they were calling the first wave of competitors to the start line. I knew that was my queue to get myself ready. It seemed a long time queuing to get into the lake and everyone was nervous but not at all serious with lots of humour from everyone. Once in there was a 150 metre swim out to the start line. I liked the idea of that as it gave me a chance to check the goggles and warm my arms up. For some reason, despite getting in towards the back, I found myself about 10 metres from the front and roughly in the middle. Probably not the best place to be but I was beyond worrying about seeding myself at this point, after all, how bad can it be? Well, once the klaxon went off I found out. It was mad. Totally 100% ridiculous. I've done a lot of open water swim starts this year so it didn't worry me at all and I remained calm. After about 2 minutes of punching, kicking and being kicked I stopped to look around. There were about 20 people around me all stopped just laughing at the chaos. It was so crowded it was almost impossible to lay flat in the water without laying on someone. Once past the first turn (about 100m into the swim) it opened up a bit and I found some clear water. I was swimming in the centre of the lake, quite close to the marker buoys. For once I remembered to check my stroke from early on and settled into a nice rhythm. The swim out to the turn around buoy was quite uneventful and I only hit a few people who were swimming through. Someone was drafting off me but as I don't kick it didn't bother me. After the turn it got busy again but I swam out towards the reeds at the lake edge where it was clear. It seemed quite soon that the last turn to the swim exit arrived and I spotted a pink elite swim cap which made me feel quite good (as they left in the wave 20 minutes earlier!).

The one overriding problem I had in the swim was cramp in my legs. Whenever I got into a busy area I did 10 seconds of kicking to speed up and get out of their way. Every time I kicked I got quite bad cramp in my quads and calf's, not a good sign and I had to stretch my right leg out to ease it off. At the lake exit I was pulled out the water, a nice touch as it's a metre high step to get out. I'm not sure I'd have done that on my own. Running up the shoot to T1 I took the wet suit off and held it while running into the bag tent. I collected my bag, ran into the change tent and suddenly realised this was going to be complicated. I had to empty the bike bag out onto the floor before I could put my wet suit in. I was in the middle of the tent with my stuff on the floor in no particular order with people running all around me and marshals shouting "keep moving through the tent". OK, but can I change first? So I picked up the bulky things first, helmet on. Shoes on then off again as I'd put my socks into them. Socks on, shoes on, number belt on, gloves on - RUN! Someone took my bag from me and I ran to row 'O'. I was racked in 'P' but I knew not to run to P as I'd go too far. I spotted the bike  as there aren't that many red bikes and I grabbed it and ran. Running out the bike exit, into the bike mount and off I went. The first part done. Phew.

My game plan was to take it easy until at least over the first hill. That comes in the first mile and isn't steep or long but I know my heart rate goes mad once I get on the bike so the plan was to go over the hill very slowly and settle down. Once over I took a little drink and settled into a nice easy pace. The outward journey is very simple, it's basically flat and straight with one of two small bumps to stand on the pedals and push up. After Middlemarsh (at about 8 miles) there's one hill that I think is the hardest on the course. I took the same casual attitude to that and gently rode over it. After that I started to feel bored. There was a fair crowd of us all cycling around together. I thought I'd just push on through this crowd and see if there's a bit of space in front of them where I can do my own thing and not worry about others around me. I did that and felt pretty good, breathing still nice and calm so I pushed on a bit more. Still feeling good so I decided to ditch the 'take it easy on the bike' plan and go at a fair pace. Not Olympic pace but pushing on a bit. I seemed to be passing quite a few people and at the turn point where the climb to Giant's Head starts I met a team mate, stopped for a quick chat then carried on pushing. Craig Walton came past at this point at a stupid speed which made me feel quite slow but I carried on. Got to the top of Giants Head still feeling good and took a gel. I don't know what speed I did going down the other side as my speedo decided not to work but I over took quite a few and carried that speed up the other side which was nice.

After the turn to start the second lap I pushed on a bit harder. It was so much fun and I was really enjoying myself. I took a second bite of a Go Bar and started my second bottle of drink. Towards the end of the outward journey I found myself in lots of clear space. There were no other cyclists around and I felt quite alone. At the turn point to the climb I came across about 40 cyclists and passed all of them. At the top of the climb I got quite bad stomach cramp so stopped drinking Go and started on water. That gave me the burps and the cramp eased. To this point I'd had two gels, one Go Bar and two and a half bottles of Go (800ml mixed at 6%). I felt really strong so figured I didn't need to take any more gel and stuck to the water. The end of the lap came around quite quickly and I started back to Sherborne. I didn't know what my race time was as I didn't take a stop watch but working on the start time of 7.20, guessing my swim time and bike time I knew that getting back into T2 at 11.15am would see me start the run with enough time to get in under my 6 hour target. I arrived back to T2 at 11.05am.

Feeling quite pleased with myself I ran up the shoot into T2 and felt the bottom of my quads cramp up quite badly. I've never had this before but I've never done a half-Ironman before so didn't panic about it. I changed quite quickly and set off towards the hill on the run. The course took me around a little loop I hadn't spotted in the morning, it seemed they'd added a loop to make up the distance but it gave me a chance to check myself over. I felt tired, not about to blow up but still tired. I felt quite happy with myself as a quick calculation said I had 2 hours 10 minutes to complete the run and get under 6 hours - no problem I thought, I've never run a half marathon over 2 hours. I'll take the first lap easy and I'll be fine, thinking I'll finish around 5:45 or so.

At the foot of the first climb my stomach cramp suddenly came back. The cramp in my legs had gone but the stomach pain was quite bad. The hill gets a bit steeper as you climb and the steeper it got the worse the pain got. With every foot fall I had a sharp jolt of pain through my belly. At the steepest part of the hill I had no real options other than walk for a bit to try and ease it. I was gutted. My second objective for the race was to run the run and I'd failed. I felt I'd let people down. People like Michele (the Mrs) and Mike (team mate). Walking to the top of the hill I saw Mike running down the other side, he shouted "well done Andy" but I felt ashamed that I was walking. With a little extra thought I wondered why Mike was only a bit in front of me but then realised he was probably on the second lap of the run. I got to the top of the hill and run on again but the pain came back as soon as I did. I stopped for a wee to see if that eased it and Ben (another team mate) ran past and shouted more encouragement. There wasn't much to wee but it did help so I ran on to the turn around point. On the way back I took water from the feed station. I'd figured that I might have over done the gel intake so water would dilute it and might ease the stomach pain. I drank two cups of water and within a couple of minutes I was burping really badly (which was quite painful in itself). Running back down the hill I felt better, but another hill comes up quite quickly and as soon as I started up that the pain came back. Not only had it come back it was now spreading to my rib area and made breathing difficult.

I stopped running again and saw Mike running down the hill, shite - I've let him down again. I was thinking I don't deserve to be in the team. The climb to the top of this hill seemed to go on and on. The people at the feed station were mad, shouting "COME ON, YOU'RE IRONMEN". Where did they get their energy from? Running back down the hill was better and I managed that quite nicely. I was starting to get annoyed with the way things were working out. I wasn't that tired, running down hill was fine and fairly swift. I was making up loads of places running down but seemed unable to go up without stomach/rib and now pec pain. I made places going down then lost them all on the way up. I got chatting to a very nice lady while running along Pinford Lane, I don't know what we talked about but she made me feel better. She was very jolly and just seemed to ease my sadness.

Getting back to the start line I had a quick glance at the finish line clock which was a bad idea. It said 5:10 which meant I'd have to run a 50 minute 10k to get under my 6 hour target. That took the wind out of my already limp sails and the race suddenly became a 'just finish' exercise. I ran around to the start of the hill and walked up it again. To my surprise, there was Mike again running down the other side, again shouting encouragement. How confused was I at this point, he was only 10 minutes or so up the road and not a lap ahead. The stomach pain was still quite bad and I asked another fellow walker what was the cure. He said I should drink more water as I'd over done the calorie intake. I'd been drinking water at all the feed stations and it hadn't helped much so I decided with three quarters of a lap to go I'd start on the coke. I downed a cup full to immediately realise it was still fizzy and burped a huge amount of gas up. Mixing in some running with walking it wasn't long before I was going up the last hill. Chatting to someone else about finish times he explained that they'd started the clock at the start of the first wave so I have to take 20 minutes off to get my time.

OH MY GOD! That gave me 1 hour 10 minutes to run 10k, not 50 minutes as I thought. I started 'running' up the hill but I was running at the same speed everyone around me was walking. So back to the quick walk I was trying to get around as quickly as possible. Jogging back down the hill and I stopped dead in my tracks with an attack of rib cramp. After a bit of reaching for the sky to stretch it out I ran on again. It was getting harder and harder to keep going. I still felt OK in myself, not like I was hitting the wall or anything like that but my hamstrings were starting to cramp up when ever I put in a bit of effort. That capped my speed at a slow jog. Walking past the last feed station while drinking my last coke I put in the last slog to the line. I knew there was a hill to run up to the finish line but there was no way I was walking that with all those spectators around.

Up the hill and into the finish shoot to see the clock - 6:21. I was one minute over my 6 hour target but I didn't really care. Mike was there and congratulated me on a good race, Michele arrived with a big smile which made me feel loads better. With all this around me there was no way I could feel low about myself. I collected my medal and finishers T-shirt and started to give a run down on the race. I was feeling about as big as a mountain and on top of the world. One spectator asked if he could take a picture of me next to his son, how good did that make me feel? What a brilliant race.

Swim - 1900m T1 Bike - 90k T2 Run - 13.1miles Total
46:46 4:08 2:57:03 1:52 2:11:18 6:01:09
Weather: started cold but warmed up and became a nice day, dry and fine. Finished in 972nd place out of 1479 starters.

Team Outrageous Midweek Sprint Triathlon, Race 6. 1st September 2004

Arrived early to the lake and built up the racking for transition. That's an interesting build up to a race, carrying loads of scaffolding and building up racking, gives your swim muscles a good workout! Once the race came about we all marched around to the other side of the lake for the race briefing, this is a change to the usual procedure as the sun goes down earlier now so we had to kick off exactly on time so it wasn't too dark when the final runners were coming in.

HOOT and we're away. Within a few metres I realised something was wrong. I started to tire really fast and by the mid way point was struggling quite a lot. Arms tired (not because of the racing but because everything was tired) so all I could manage was a plod along speed. At T1 I found my bike easily as it was one of the only ones left! Out on the bike course things remained poor, but I did pull back some places. On the run things kind of exploded and I just ran around at the only pace I could sustain.

I was still tired from Sherborne and my body was telling me it's not in racing mode today. Although I felt fine it wasn't until I started racing that I realised just how tired I was. One last thing, the bike course was altered because there was a burst water main and workman had shut some of the road, that took the bike course down to 17.8km which is why the time is faster than the other mid-week races.

Swim - 550m T1 Bike - 17.8k T2 Run - 5k Total
11:15 included in bike 32:30 included in run 24:25 1:08:14
Finished 52nd out of 66.

Sevenoaks Triathlon, 12th September 2004

Getting the pre-race speech - I can't count but it's OK

Up early (I seem to start all my reports like that!) and first at the venue. Registered and racked in what I'd consider to be the best spot, right at the end of transition by the bike mount point. We watched a lot of early swimmer go off as that's one of my favourite parts of these events, I never get to watch the swimmers at mass-start events. After a while it was my turn so I got ready and headed for the pool. There was only a short queue so not much waiting and in I got. "Two minutes to go" was shouted so I wetted the goggles and got ready. What seemed a few moments after the 2 minutes warning came the 10 second warning. 3-2-1 Go. Pushed off the end and settled into my stroke. Things went quite well but I seem to go into a dream state when swimming and forgot to count the lengths. I swam on as they give you a "two lengths to go" board. On I went and the lane marshal stopped me and said "You've done two too many". Well where was the board? She said she'd made a note of it on the timing sheet but I'm not sure if I'll get the time back.

Ran out to T1, bike kit on in what seemed like record time and off I went. The first part of the course is up hill and I knew I'd struggle a bit at this point but stayed with it and sure enough the down hill section came along and I recovered nicely. The bike went quite well, started fairly steady and then built on it and over took quite a few towards the end of the lap. Back into T2 and I thought I'd try the 'leave your shoes in the pedals' way of dismounting for the first time. That went well and I didn't stop or slow when changing from bike to running to my racking point (which was about 5 metres). Dumped the bike, trainers on, helmet off and away I went. That must have been the fastest T2 I've done all year, I'll have to do that more often.

Down to Knowl Park and away on the run sees you running down hill for the first mile which gives you a change to get into your run. I'd walked the run the week before so knew it'd change to up hill and stay there for what seems miles on end. That part was hard, I slowed right down but kept running. At the top of the hill you go down a really steep slope and run back down the hill to the alley at the bottom of transition. Ran/walked up that bit and on to the finish line. Game over.

Although I didn't go all out for this race it was nice to have the strength to stay at it. I'd guess (as the results haven't been released yet) my time is around 1:40 so not too bad. Looks like I'm over Sherborne so can now get back to proper training.

Swim - 400m T1 Bike - 27k T2 Run - 8k Total
7:40 included in bike 54:22 included in bike 40:07 1:42:09
Swim time is for 450 metres. 89th out of 242 finishers, course PB by 5 minutes.

Team Outrageous Alcatraz Qualifier. 19th September 2004

Yeah, I won (something)

5-4-3-2-1-HOOT. Off I went, trying desperately to get onto someone's toes to draft as I've practised in training. I forgot to put on my new Aqua Spheres which didn't help much as my pool goggles have no visibility when you're trying to look out the top of them (i.e. forward). So I chased the bubbles from others and didn't have much success. By the first turn buoy I gave up trying to draft as it as affecting my usual stroke, too much sighting - not enough swimming. I settled into it down the back straight and kept out the weeds. Fridays sighting lap really helped here as the weed has grown to surface level over the summer making it possible to swim straight into it, putting you off your stroke. By the second turn buoy I was convinced I was last. I didn't see anyone next to me or behind, just a couple about 10 metres in front. I figured this field would be quite strong as there was a lot at stake but I didn't expect to be last. I carried on, trying to catch the two ahead and my arms were starting to ache. I made the island in 19 minutes and thought about the leaders who'd be getting out about now. Around the island I was just a couple of metres behind the pair and decided to cut the corner heading back to the swim exit point. If you hug the bank you end up swimming in an arc, going the direct route must save you around 100m and I figured I'd catch them easy. However, my plan was flawed as there was a buoy to go around closer to the bank and I had to cut back across to get around it. To my great relief there were still bikes left in transition as I swam up beside it so I wasn't last after all. Got out the lake in 32 minutes which I was pleased with, still on for a PB.

Fumbled around in T1 trying to put socks on and headed off on the bike. I tried something new for this race, instead of SIS Go I mixed up 40% Lucozade topped up with water and dropped in a couple of Nuun electrolyte pills. I've been suffering stomach cramps with Go so time to switch. Took my first sip and it was still a bit fizzy so dribbled most of it down my face which turned into a sticky mess almost immediately. It was easy to drink so I took a long swig. My routine on the bike is to start steady and build. I used my HRM for this race so had a bit of feed back from the old ticker to go by, it was reading a bit over 170 so immediately gave up on that plan. It's usually around 160 when pushing along on the bike. I had no idea why it was high but I felt OK so pushed on at the same rate, that 'just before lactic in the legs gets bad' rate. Got overtaken just before the big hill to overtake him on the way up as he'd stopped to walk which was quite amusing. Didn't see anyone along the top of the hill then over took someone going down Vigo at quite a rate, then bunny hopped the speed bumps on the way down. I was starting to quite enjoy the bike by now, HR was starting to lower and legs coming alive (there always seems to be a while before they get going). By the time I got to the A20 I was motoring along over taking people and getting nice and aero on the bars. The rest of the bike leg went the same, I don't recall being over taken at all (without getting the place back) which is always good. Took a long drink before the approach to T2 which could have been a bad idea, would have back fired with Go!

A reasonable T2 and out onto the run. Stomach felt good and other than some very minor sloshing from that last drink it felt really good, very encouraging. Settled into a nice pace quite quickly and over took a few which is very rare for me. Glanced at the HRM - 175 - jeez, that's really high! Carried on at that rate but by the turnaround point it was starting to hurt. The run became a salvage operation - don't give up, don't stop, keep trying. HR continued to rise despite trying to relax, even tried slowing down but that did nothing except feel odd. I have a happy pace where it feels smoother so stuck to that. The second lap was a real struggle. HR was now in the 180's (I have a theoretical maximum of 184 so this is very anaerobic). 'KEEP GOING' I kept telling myself, almost there. The 'beach' eventually came around and I knew it's just around the corner, got to the finish and put in a 'sprint' but I don't think anyone noticed as it was so crap. I felt awful after the race and had to grab a quick sit down. I've not felt this bad after a race before!

About half an hour later the presentation ceremony started so we all gathered at the race briefing point. Mike worked his way through the various age groups handing out places to the Escape from Alcatraz race next June. After that was done its' the eight random places pulled from a hat. My number was 4th out the bag and how excited was I! I'm going to Alcatraz, I'm going to Alcatraz.

I data logged the race and here's the graph:

Alcatraz race HR 

My HR was way to high for the whole race, I've put this down to doing too much racing in too short a time. I've done 11 races this year, 6 of them in the last 2 months. I'm now going to take a bit of time off before starting to build for next year.

Swim - 1500m T1 Bike - 40k T2 Run - 10k Total
32:33 included in bike 1:24:23 included in run 50:47 2:47:45
Lovely weather, slightly cold to start with but warmed up to a lovely sunny day. Very slight wind on the bike leg.

The Ballbuster Duathlon. 13th November

More hills

We arrived in good time which turned out to be a good move as an accident on the M25 caused gridlock on the roads around Box Hill. Collected my T-shirt, put my things in transition and started to warm up. Warming up being appropriate as it was very cold. The car said it was 1 °C and there was a thick frost on the ground. I was planning on racing in a long sleeve T-shirt and a tri suit but luckily I took my cycle jacket and running bottoms along. After a quick visit to the loo and then a 10 minute delay to the start to allow people stuck in traffic to get there we were off.

I started right down the back as I didn't want to be dragged along at a faster pace by faster runners. After about a mile I started moving through the field and getting into my usual long run pace. It was quite interesting running along listening to what the others were saying, the race gets a lot of respect with the overall theme being 'save something for the second run'. My heart rate was merrily sitting at 165bpm which was my aim and I was quite surprised at the amount of down hill there is on the lap. That's a problem for me as I've had some trouble with knee ligaments over the last few weeks which is irritated by down hill running. We got to the first turn point, a sharp left, and a strong feeling of instability was the first sign that something was going wrong in my left knee. Carried on, past the half way drinks station and on to the bottom of the zig-zag hill. Heading up the hill was quite nice as I seem to be quite good at it and over took a fair amount of runners.

Got to the top and ran into T1, running shoes off, bike shoes on, helmet on and off I went - for about one step. In the time it took me to do the change over my knee has decided enough was enough and it was very stiff and sore. I hobbled, literally with a lot of leaning on the bike for stability, to the bike mount point and got on only to be knocked off by someone riding into my back wheel! I didn't fall though, only unclipping quickly to put a steadying foot down. Cycling seemed to be very knee friendly and it stopped hurting almost immediately. Jolly good I thought and off I went. Back down the long down hill section made me very cold, especially around the nose and it became very sore towards the end (and is now bright red and sore!). The feed station seemed to come up very quickly and then to the bottom of the hill. Same thing happened here, I overtook a few more people. Got to the top and set off for lap two and then lap three.

Back into transition for T2, run shoes on and off again for another 8 mile run. The knee was very sore and I was concerned about all those down hill sections again. A couple of friends said not to run if it hurts. I said I'd see how it goes and stop if needed. I got to the top of the hill and although it was sore it seemed fine to run on. Once over the crest of the hill and down the other side it started hurting a lot. I only pushed on for about 100m before throwing in the towel and turned around for the walk back to transition.

Although slightly disappointed I didn't finish, recording my first DNF, I'm glad I didn't carry on. I don't know what damage I could have done by running 8 miles on sore knee ligaments, the last thing I want to do entering the winter base phase is to tare them and undergo a long rehabilitation program. I enjoyed the event and can take a lot of positives from it. My running is stronger now than it was at Sherborne and my feed strategy worked well with no cramp or loss of energy.

Hero of the event, for me, was team mate Emmeric. He missed the start and had to run through the field but still finished 7th! I'll definitely do this event again and now have lots of things to work on for the winter months.

Run 1 - 8 miles T1 Bike - 24 miles T2 Run 2 - 8 miles Total
1:04:00 - 1:34:28 - DNF DNF
Weather was cold and frosty. Car said 1°C just before the sunrise.
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