Well I suppose, the only consolation is that I couldn’t have been chicked by a nicer chick!
Anyway, reflecting on the race I’m disappointed, but it was a very tough race and tougher than I expected, particularly the run, which seemed to have more uphill’s than downhills!
I obviously felt cheated by not getting the proper distance swim. The shortened swim to 750m was a mess. It was just like swimming in a shoal of fish. Fish to the back, fish to the front, fish to the left and fish to the right! Nearly everybody finished at the same time, washed up on the beach flapping and wheezing.
Transition 1 was a disaster for me. The cold conditions and threat of rain meant applying an extra layer, in my case, arm warmers and top. I had problems applying the extra layers in Joey Hannon, so practiced in the comfort of my own bedroom being dry and having warm hands I was able to do it in 20 seconds. My strategy was arm warmers first, then top. The arm warmers were a nightmare to get on which took all the time, getting the top on was easy once the arm warmers were in situ. Deirdre and Gaby were racked near me and were both out of the water after me, but out on the bike before me and with their extra layers!
Once on the bike I felt good and motoring well and picking off loads of people and eventually catching Gaby & then Deirdre. I was going well until after about 10/15k on a hilly section poor gear selection caused my chain to come off and tangled up a bit. It’s amazing when you come to a full stop how many people pass you. I got going again and started going well and overtaking all the people I had overtaken once before. One of them was Deirdre and I was a bit confused that maybe I hadn’t overtaken her earlier, clearly I had, but for a moment I just doubted myself. Anyway I was keeping up a good steady pace and gradually picking off people as I went, including my one and only rival in the race, Leslie Wilkinson. I noticed Leslie was only wearing a tri suit, at that time it was still dry and I wondered whether I would have been better off in just a tri suit - would have saved me a lot of time. Shortly after that, the rain started coming down and it was cold rain too, and in spite of the extra layer the cold was getting to me. I started thinking of Leslie in his tri suit and keeping up the age old tradition of wishing plague and pestilence on your rivals I was hoping he was getting very cold and struggling to keep up!
Anyway the second lap was harder than the first with the cold and wet and general tiredness, but I thought I was still going well. When I got to the part of the course where the chain came off in the first lap I tried to make a better gear selection, but the gears weren’t shifting properly and I ended up slowing up the hill, though not stopping, but I was overtaken in an instant by a load of people. I got back in contention again, but had lost a lot of places, which I never really got back in the rest of the bike. The last quarter of the bike section was getting really hard with the cold and exhaustion. When I finished I was very tired and not looking forward to running 21k, but I had a flawless dismount and pretty quick transition.
I started the run quite well, but I felt I was running like a Zombie! Not with my arms flailing and wanting to kill people, but more in a Zombie like state – not quite human! Anyway I was keeping up a good pace for at least the first 2k. When I was coming back after the first turnaround I could see Leslie coming the other way, but he was stopped and massaging his thighs, obviously cramping badly. Once again keeping up the age old tradition of wishing plague and pestilence on your rivals I thought, great that will put a stop to his gallop! So I ran on, still Zombie like, but keeping up a good old pace. Then probably at about 3k Karma struck! I got really bad cramp in my left groin and I just had to stop still. Clearly I shouldn’t have celebrated when I saw Leslie cramping up in agony. What goes around comes around! Anyway I did eventually get moving again, but I couldn’t run like a Zombie on speed, I had to revert to running like a 57 years and 364 days old man who is a shite runner. Another 18k to go, mmmmm, it’s going to be a long one! At 10k I was still running, but feeling like stopping. When we started climbing the hills for the second lap, I decided I needed an injection of something and decided the gel+caffeine stashed in my tri suit back pocket was going to be brought into play. I tried and tried and tried and tried to get the gel out of the pocket, but for the life of me it just wasn’t happening. Eventually I had to stop running and concentrate on the task in hand. It still wasn’t happening and loads of people were passing me including Deirdre and Leslie (Karma again). Eventually I had to stop this guy and ask him to get the gel out for me. That was the last exciting thing to happen in the race apart from crossing the line and then eating two ham & cheese rolls!
It’s a funny thing in a race; like in life, there are loads of variables that have an impact on the outcome. I think to do really well in a race everything has to work properly, your body, your mind, your emotions, your gear, your nutrition and your plan, all in sync. When that happens, you are in the ‘zone’ or that state known by sports psychologists as ‘flow’. You don’t have to think about anything you just do it. There were just a few too many things that weren't working on Saturday for me to perform at my optimum, but a few lessons learnt. I definitely need to stop wishing plague and pestilence on my rivals – karma can hurt!
Great race report, Jim. I travelled your journey in my mind as i read it! Well done - it was a toughie.
It was also kinda therapeutic reading it as i began thinking about my own race and then decided i too would put my race into words.
First of all very well done to all my WTC club mates who raced on Saturday and to supporters too who offered great cheer at times when needed. Rose, you were brilliant. Thank you. And John, your family who I never even met we're great in their enthusiasm every time they saw my Wicklow colours. So thanks to them also. Thanks to the Gaby and John C who hung around in the cold after their own race to greet me over the finish line. I really appreciated your presence.
Now to the race.......,
This was my first time doing this distance. I was excited by the challenge and terrified also!!
To overcome the terror side of things I had familiarised myself with the course over the 3 weeks previous. That helped. I knew what lay ahead. I felt ready.
Driving down on Saturday morning it looked like perfect racing conditions. But as I approached Collinstown I passed two cyclists - their rain jackets were flapping in the wind. Wind? In the car there did not seem to be wind and the trees looked deceiving still!!
When I got out of the car the cold hit me. Feck! Back into the car for jeans and winter jacket!!
Ideal race conditions indeed! The lake looked grey and choppy. I had brought clothes for all eventualities and decided I would wear my winter bike jacket along with short sleeves underneath, gloves and socks. For the extra time it took in transition it was worth it cos the weather took a turn for the worse during the bike course.
A late race start due to negotiations over whether the swim would go ahead. It did. A shorter distance of 750m. Disappointed that it was shorter cos now it wouldn't be a 'real' Half Ironman but relieved it wasn't a Duathlon.
The water was cold but once swimming I don't remember thinking about it anymore. It was a mass start and a bit of a melee. It was busy and rough all the way around except towards the end. Think that was more to me veering a bit off course rather than it thinning out!!
Started off the bike well. Really enjoyed the first lap and worked hard. Arrived to end of first lap within my target time and was elated by this. I'm just loving this I thought to myself. The innocence!!! They were short lived thoughts cos things took a nosedive after this. Rain beat down mercilessly on us not helped by a wicked wind. I struggled on the 2nd lap. Though my upper body was warm enough thanks to the extra layers my feet (despite toe covers!) and legs (despite calf guards - worn for heat rather than compression!) were freezing. Cold quads and hills do not go well together. Like Jim, I found the last section tough - I was cold and miserable and just wanted the bike section to be over.
On dismount I must have looked like a drunkard staggering into transition. I could not feel my legs and felt I was all over the place. My bike seemed to be detached from me and it was like I was hauling some alien object! To onlookers it must have looked like I'd never run with a bike before!!
Anyway quick transition and out onto the run. I wonder did all my brick sessions stand to me at all cos running off the bike with frozen legs that did not feel like my own was almost surreal. Even in my pain I remember thinking this must be what it's like to have prosthetic limbs. I felt I was clomping along and my upper body did not feel it belonged to the clomping limbs!! Psycho!
Thankfully by about 2 km my feet began to feel my own and I warmed up. I abandoned my long sleeves to a Marshall. Feeling warmer and lighter and definitely more human I thought - great - now the race can begin.
Alas it was not meant to be. I just could not sustain my planned race pace. After struggling and battling with myself I decided to abandon my pace plan. I was using up far too much energy beating myself up and decided I needed to conserve what energy I had to keep going. After all I had another 15km yet to go!
Although sickened that I could not sustain my race pace it was a good move to let myself off the hook. With the pressure of time off I could concentrate on breaking the course into chunks and taking one bit at a time. My mind told me not to focus on how far I had to go overall - one chunk at a time, one chunk at a time.
But the mind can be cruel and despite trying to think positively a sneaky voice reminded me every so often how far I had to go and how difficult it would be!
The middle part had 2 laps with a long dragging hill - doing it the first time was hell - stay in the moment I told myself, stay in the moment. The sneaky voice kept whispering - you have to do this again, you have to do this again!!
I had many thoughts on this run. Alas some belied my general life outlook. Negative thoughts. Questioning thoughts. Nagging thoughts. Oh yes. I had them all. And in between I'd have a gel or one of those caffeine shot jellies. Must remember to eat!! It's amazing how you can have such sane and insane thoughts within a few seconds. Definitely schizo!!
Funnily enough despite the torture it never occurred to me to stop or give up. I suppose it's not my general mindset so I am thankful for that.
Crossing the finish line brought more relief than joy. Although people were congratulating me, hugging me etc I could not feel the buzz.
I felt so disappointed that in my eyes I had not raced well. Yes I finished. Yes I had stuck it out. But I didn't set out to 'finish' - I set out to race and do well. The disappointment of that cheated me of the finish line glory!
But time is a great healer!! Of course I've beaten myself up over and over. But i think we all have post mortems on our performance - it's what drives us on, it's how we learn and how we improve. But I'm more philosophical now. There are lessons in everything - put my learning into practice. That's the nature of racing, I suppose - some where you kill it and some where it nearly kills you!! But it is true what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!!
And yes I am happy that I did it and yes I am proud that despite a challenging course and tough weather conditions and being pushed to my limits that I was strong enough to stick it out. I just had a delayed joyous response to finishing!!
Bring on Athy - I'm ready to create a new race template!!