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TOPIC: Groomsport 2013

Re: Groomsport Sunday 04 Sep 2013 22:10 #2108

  • desh
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I promised a race report on Groomsport so here goes. This is a shorter version of a bigger opus but the family friendly version is in the last sentence.

So Groomsport 2013 half IM.

As for accommodation we have a cousin in Groomsport and Mandy gave her house to us for the weekend so we travelled up on Saturday afternoon in the wake of John and Rose (John doing the big one), quick spin, registration, big family dinner and moderately good sleep. Lots of supportive messages posted from clubmates on the forum or texted (ok there was only one) were a great fillip.

The race start was 12:00 on the Sunday so drifing off to sleep I thought about John off at 06:30 for the IM. He hadn’t told anyone about it and probably best to leave it that way – go in under the radar and blast it as I would soon learn.

Race day. Looks nice out. Can’t sort out the porridge but i make myself swallow it. Kids start waking up and it’s cartoon time. Marking items off the checklist. Ten o’clock open the race chip. Panic! The strap is there but is the chip? Transition opens at 10:30 so a quick goodbye to the family, bag on back and off I go. I’m one of the first to arrive and by the time I’ve calmed down and been told the chip is there on my ankle I notice that it’s not as warm as it looked out the window earlier and that my long sleeve tee shirt over the my trisuit is maybe not enough. 10:40 I’m all set up but a wind is getting up. Then the rain starts. By 11 yes I’m shivering. Refuge in the gents. 11.15 into wet suit to get warm. 11.40 family are down waving. Chat to another guy doing his first half. 11.50 we’re invited into the water for the warm up. It’s not very cold but i’m bloody freezing. Get out chattering. 12:06 we’re on the beach, the hooter sounds and we’re Go!

Those first few seconds of any race, do you ever wonder about them? The pictures show the slow mo and you know that you were there – somewhere, somehow, but those first few seconds – well i mean that is really something isn’t it? You there suited up like super-spider-lycra-man. Anyway the absurdity of the moment strikes me as the hooter echoes and I lurch forward with this surging mass of black with a moronic and faintly panicking laugh. For what else can you do?

So into the water. There’s a bit of a churn at the start but then it settles down. There are 3 laps – originally there was to be 2 but after a race the previous day where the water was choppy they decided not to go out too far. So 3 laps around 2 buoys, back into the beach and over a chip timing mat. I was all programmed for 2 x 950m laps so only now am getting the head around 3 x 660s. Lesson: things change so adapt! After all this was better, right? First lap was ok. Coming around the first buoy there was a heavy chop coming in on top of us, and I swallowed a good bit of water. Got my breath back and rhythm. One two one two. Hard to sight buoy 2 but every 5 strokes look up so i don’t do my usual swim left. Round 2nd buoy and follow the possie into the beach. Out of the water big cheer. Past Jen and kids and up to chip sign and just as I’m thinking maybe I’ll take a breath suddenly there’s a ‘c’mon Des’. It’s Rose! Hi Rose I mouth weakly breaking into a trot back to the water. No hiding now...

Second lap I have a good rhythm. I’m heading straight for the buoy straight out and when I sight can see swimmers coming around and heading for the second buoy. All fine. Getting closer now when yes, I swim straight into a swimmer coming back. Head to head. Full stroke. Surfacing I apologise, swim on. Wait! Am I concussed? Is this safe? I’m still going, round the buoy but as the tide comes at me this second time I wonder if I’m not tiring. Round the second buoy wondering about the stats on acquired brain injury for American footballers and whether there’s any history with swimmers. Mind you I’ve probably had it for years. Into the beach not running up the sand now but still managing a smile – photo says a grimace. Round we go back down to the water no pretence of running now, just moving, moving. Off we go, three of us together now matching strokes. Half way out I veer right, not being caught out again. Tiring a little as I come around buoy one but keep going. Buoy two up ahead. Round that. Beach beckons – this is endless – staggering up and into transition repeating to myself it’s over it’s over!!

In transition the bump on the head is obviously kicking in can’t get the wetsuit off and struggling a little until my daughter calls over that I’m at the wrong bike. Wrong row, wrong bike, wrong helmet! I had wondered where my shades and arm warmers were. The armbands are new but on they go and I’ll be glad of them soon enough (Jim’s hypothermia in Galway etched in the brain). Shades - these are new but they’re to stop my contacts being blown out of my eye on the bike (yeah I cycle that fast!). Now I’m moving towards the road. Only 4 minutes in transition but since my watch said 42 minutes coming out of the water I know I’m in a good position getting onto the bike.

There are 3 laps of 30km (well 31 to be precise). I cycled the first 6km last night so it’s nice to have the familiarity of road underneath you until you get into your stride. Of course after 6km the heavens have opened and if I was wet before ... but all is good. Slugs of water, get the first third of a bar into me. Riders are passing me but my cadence is good and I’m past the 2 traffic lights which make this an interesting course! Ronan gave me a great tip to cut bars into 3 and take them every 20 minutes or so. 20 minutes is 10 km if I’m moving well – or slightly over so I have my garmin primed to beep at those intervals. First lap goes smoothly except this isn’t the flat course I had understood, it’s a series of ups and downs and it’s hard to get down on the bars or to get a rhythm going. Plus the last 10 km by the coast (what a view!) are into a headwind. When I come through by the area known as the Stables for the end of lap one I look out for my food bag I had asked a steward to leave out for me but I can’t find it. But i do spot someone looking like John C struggling up the road towards me on the run. What? He started 5 and a half hours before me. How is this possible? John I yell and I think he waves before i am past him.

Two kilometres up the road I’m suddenly exhausted. Two more of these laps to go! Maybe I should just jack it in. Not even half the race gone. But that won’t do. Lap two caught at the second traffic light. Suddenly everything has stopped. Get going again. 40 km in and it’s time for a pit stop. Down a side road just getting back onto the bike when a motor bike marshal passing slows down to take a closer look. Can you be DQ’d for taking a leak? Already I’m rehearsing my lines in case he comes back and asks: I was just checking the brakes, stretching my calves... Back on the bike and off again. 45 km half way there. Slowing a bit though. First lap was 28.3 average and now down to 27. Into the headwind and past the stables again. No sign of the green bag so just as well I stuffed the bike with bars though the stomach is beginning to say no. Stop for water. Ask the marshall to pour it into the water bottle as I don’t trust myself.

This is the last lap. I’m having a serious case of déjà vu. Get caught on the first light this time. The last lap clocked the average at 27.3 for the first 60 km but now 10 km in it’s dropped to 26.4. KM 65-75 are tough but at least no one is passing me now and on the nice bit of road from 70 km or so I pass one then two people. Then i’m on to the coast road and i’m working hard getting the average up to 26.7, 26.8 and coming into transition i see it’s 27.1. job done. It’s a tricky little hill down to T2 but i’ve got rid of the bike and got the sun visor on. Pour a gel into me when getting the runners on. Stuff 5 gels up my legs, into race belt and off i stagger.

The run route is 2 laps in a figure of 8. You run away from transition out the coastroad before cutting in through a caravan park then across 2 beaches, across what can only be described as cross country stones, then a long beach in Ballyholme before you double back from Bangor direction on the main road. Lap 1 I’m doing a 5.15 average. This is okay. My plan was to take the first km easy-ish and then get a good pace going. So 2nd km through the caravan park I’m just below 5km/hr average. Then trouble! For some reason my legs are not moving well over the beach and then over the cross country bit. It’s a 6.30 average. By km 4 I’ve taken another gel and take my second pit stop. Thankfully the route is now very empty. I pass one straggler then 2. Coming out on the road after 5km or so I’m pretty annoyed. At this rate it will be well over 2 hours before I’m finished. I did my last half marathon in March in 1.37 and had hoped for 1.50+ for this. Then as we get onto the road a runner passes me, a woman running smoothly. So I jump onto her heels and for the next 5 km or so we run side by side, gradually picking off people. I look at my garmin 5.05, 5.03, 5.01, this is more like it. It’s strange running beside someone you don’t know but we manage it well and it definitely helps, even stepping on and off pavements so the other isn’t blocked. With 2 km to end lap 1 we get chatting and I learn this is her final lap. Oh gods! Her name is Aoife and in fact she wins for the women in a time of 5.15 so there you go! As Aoife veers left to take her well deserved acolodes, I start on lap 2. I am now back to 5.50 pace and feeling it.

And then coming down to the first of the 3 beaches, the sun in my eye, disaster strikes! I run into a rock, that is my foot connects and I enter space. Was it a dive or was he pushed? Whatever I land on all fours on thankfully scrub and scamble to my feet. A mother and daughter wince sympathetically as they pass me but I am hobbling now and my ankle and knee feel out of sorts. But I’m still moving. Make it back into transition, grab some more coke and a few jellies and it’s cross country time again. Time is now back to 6 minutes and I’m more aware of the rocks and not turning my ankle. And now I’m starting to pass some people. Only trouble is they’re walking. At any moment i expect a young mother with a stroller to saunter past. This bit is tough. I take my 3rd gel and then I’m on the long beach.

At this stage Ii come across my kids just back from a movie with their cousin and looking for me on the route. Lily is trying to tell me a funny story about a dog snapping at a triathelete. If I could speak I would say that’s not funny which reminds me I haven’t said anything about the dogs in these parts. Groomsport and Bangor is a big place for dogs. People seem to like them or else everyone comes here with their dogs on Sunday so throughout the run (which is over 3 beaches twice) you have people standing still holding their dogs until you’ve run past. At my speed this is like slowing down a movie frame. Time is moving verrry slowly. And of course not all dogs are controlled. No one has come near me but the idea the sheer idea of a dog running after me makes me want to stop right not. I’m thinking if a dog starts running at me how big does it have to be before I can’t kick it off. I’m thinking what if I can’t lift my legs. Can you run with a dog connected to your ankle – maybe a little one wouldn’t be so bad. But there’s no way I can outrun a dog. By the time I clear my head I’m back onto the road again and the last water stop. A guy I passed out on lap one is now beside me. He says something funny. I laugh thinking he must have said something funny. Breathing is harder now so I relax the shoulders and straighten my back. We jog together and then 3 km to go he moves away from me. I’m on my own again my pace has been slowing to 6.06, 6.14 and it’s 6.28 approaching the last stretch.

I absolutely wanted to break the 2 hour mark on the run but I’m not going to do it. Coming up the final hill into Groomsport I think if I sprinted would that do it, but there really is nothing left. I summoned up Eamonn’s knees up lenthen stride going downhill and it helped adn now going up hill it’s shorten and push. And then I’m in the village. The route overshoots transition, passes down a steep hill onto the sea front where it all started with the swim. Lots of people down here passers by looking at me strangely. A glance at the watch tells me I’ve notched over 2 hours. Can’t be helped. The finishing line is coming towards me and Jenny is there. I’m past and through and drop on one knee (like the rugby players do I tell myself).

The time is 6.19 something. I shake hands with a few people but I’m slightly out of it. John and Rose appear and we hug. John came second and he’s in before me looking relaxed and ready to go out for some more. Rose has been around all day and both as always are congratulating me rather than John. We both agree it was a tough and slightly lonely course but also great in its own way. They have laid on free massages so I take my place in the queue and start on the recovery. At the top of the hill a pub has some free food so I call in there on the way back to the car. Then back to our digs, a shower and out for a very welcome meal with the relations. And now I can wear the half ireman jacket we got last night. I eat a few dinners and drink a kegful of water washed down with spongecake, strawberries and cream for dessert. The texts are coming in too. How did you go? How did John go?

So to recap the times were: swim 42:38, T1 4:19 (ouch), bike 3:29:38, T2 2.28, run 2.00.38 overall time 6.19.38. My target was to finish within 7 hours but my real target was less than 50 mins for swim (achieved), less than 3.30 for the bike (achieved – just), less than 2 hours for run (not achieved!) and a total under the 6.30 (achieved). So happy days all round.

Lots of lessons to learn including spending more time on the bike and having contingencies for food. But year’s goal done. Two weeks on still wondering how it came to pass but I think confidence is key. Confidence in your training, in the fact you’ve done these distances before and confidence from being in a great Tri club where all you get is encouragement.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me during the year and to the coaches - incl Coach Conor F for great swim lessons during the year. And finally in homage to John C. I had joked that he’d join me on the run for a recovery jog little knowing it would more or less happen! And to you other IM legends racing last weekend and this weekend, I doff my cap!

:)
The following user(s) said Thank You: michaelp

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Re: Groomsport Sunday 05 Sep 2013 08:28 #2111

  • ConorF
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Great report Des, you were well under your expected time overall.
We might see you training for more hours next year, full distance is not that difficult :whistle:
Well done, a great achievement.

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Lift your legs, they'll fall themselves

Re: Groomsport Sunday 05 Sep 2013 08:59 #2112

  • helenm
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Des, you had me on the edge of my seat there - especially the dogs
!!! Great report & result. Way to go.

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Re: Groomsport Sunday 05 Sep 2013 10:10 #2117

  • Paul Evans
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Brilliant report - well done ! you met and overcame all your physical and emotional hurdles - great racing - chapeau :)

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Re: Groomsport Sunday 05 Sep 2013 12:31 #2126

  • Oonagh
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Best race report I've read in a long time! Well done Des, super stuff

Now what are the chance you'd take the next leap next year...I know of a great wee race in Austria...?

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Re: Groomsport Sunday 05 Sep 2013 13:13 #2128

  • DaveMcD
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Congrats Des on a fantastic result and a fantastic race report to match. :woohoo:

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