I’m so tired I can’t see straight. So I apologise in advance for my lack of narrative focus and absence of grammar. The screen is burning my eyes.
This weekend, we ventured to the other side of the bay to take part in the USM Geelong long course triathlon. A big thanks to Rob at Triathlon and Multisport Magazine for facilitating race entry in exchange for some writing (I’ll be sure to keep you all posted when the article comes out so that you can go out and buy a copy).
So we’re maybe six weeks away from Ironman, but we needed one last big training race before the event. The boys were both going to race the Olympic distance, but Jarrod is nursing his Achilles so he sat this one out. I had the option of Olympic or half-iron distance. I chose to race the half-iron distance for the following reasons:
1) I bought a second hand TT bike a few weeks ago and wanted to practice a longer race on it (*Huge thanks to Felicity for selling me her bike, and to my parents for splitting the cost three ways with me – it’s changed my life!)
2) I’ve never done an Olympic distance and was a bit scared
3) Since we booked our flights to go to Vegas for Matt and Jarrod to race there in September, I thought I should at least race in the hope of getting lucky in the roll down.
To save you reading my whole race report, I will give you a summary:
1) The Olympic distance seemed to work a treat for Matt, who finished 1st in his age group (30-34). JACKPOT.
2) The long course was fantastic and I achieved my ‘C’ goal (beat my swim time from Canberra, my first race). JACKPOT.
3) I achieved my ‘B’ goal (have a comfortable run without any stomach cramps and GI distress – apart from a couple of stitches). JACKPOT.
4) I achieved my ‘A’ goal – the pie-in-the-sky-only-gonna-get-it-on-your-best-day-ever goal (to equal or beat my finish time from Canberra 70.3). JACKPOT.
I don’t really know what constitutes a race report, as I’ve only ever done one big race. And when I reported it, I just wrote down whatever I could remember. I hope that works for you.
Day before the race.
To build some tension, here’s some info on the pre-race antics: I got a lie-in on Saturday, but the boys had to go riding for hours. I remembered what life was like before Ironman training; I did some washing, cleaned our bedroom, packed our bag for the weekend, read my book, painted my toe nails (“it makes you swim faster” – Lee Bethune. FACT), cooked breakfast, cleaned up some more, oh, and still had another FOUR HOURS before Jarrod got back from his ride. I was jealous. I missed the big bike ride. I remembered that real life, i.e. life that doesn’t evolve around training, actually contains a lot of chores, housework and domesticity. Basically, a lot of things I’m not cut out for.
Later, we headed down to Geelong and I racked my bike in transition. Then we met up with Meg and Luke for a bit of a swim recce. Post-swim we all sat down to dinner. I made a really lame meal of ‘ready roasted chicken from the supermarket’, microwave rice, and brocollini. Not my greatest moment in the kitchen (see note above re: domesticity). Luckily, lashings of chocolate ice cream substituted for poor taste-constitution of dinner.
The alarm went off at 4.30am. Straight to the kitchen, I smashed the usual bagel with jam and a black coffee. I panicked and paced. Jarrod dropped me down at the start line. I had been really relaxed until now. My stomach started to feel like it had a washing machine inside it doing that tumble thing that washing machines do before they step it up into spin mode. The weather was perfect. Cloud cover, little wind, not cold, not warm. The sea was calm.
Not much to say here except that I didn’t panic, and managed to stay with a group the whole way. This helped my navigation and overall time massively, as I usually swim off in the opposite direction and have to correct myself every couple of strokes. But here I feel like I got sucked along in everyone else’s bubbles. This felt like progress. Massive progress.
Swim time: 00:35:12 (about 4 minutes quicker than Canberra. I’m stoked. Could have happily called it a day here!)
Transition was straightforward. I decided to try racing without socks for the first time. It paid off as I had my best category rating in T1!!! Perhaps I can become a ‘T1 specialist’…
The start of the bike course is uphill, then winds through the botanical gardens, then stretches out into a bit of what felt like a false-flat. It felt really windy. But I might just be making that up to make my time sound better. It seemed really hilly. But I might just be making that up to make my time sound better. It was a bit technical. But I might just be making that up to make my time sound better.
In all seriousness, it was a fantastic bike course. Lots of different elements and terrain which made it easier to break down mentally. I got stuck singing the White Stripes Seven Nation Army over and over and over and over in my head.
I felt like I rode significantly harder than I rode at Canberra.
Bike time: 2:48:55 (Canberra was 2:41:03 but the course was short at only 86.5km instead of 90km. But average speed at Canberra was 32.23km/h. At Geelong it was 31.97. Let me refer you back to all of my excuses above…)
Running’s really hard, isn’t it? I don’t ever remember one running event or race when I didn’t constantly curse in my head over and over about how much I hate running. It hurts. And straight off the bike, you feel like your feet are attached to the ground by elastic bands.
The first half of the first lap was horrible. I got a stitch after about 3km (at almost the exact moment when I thought to myself “great, I’ve made it through the crucial transition into a higher heart rate without getting a stitch”. That’s the instant it started. Like when you think about how you don’t have a foot cramp when you’re swimming, and you get a foot cramp. The power of psychosomatics).
Soon, the stitch wore off, but was replaced with heavy, aching legs, and sore, blistered feet. The decision to go without socks was not my best. I burnt a painful blister in the sole of my arch.
Running through the botanical garden stretch of the first lap, one of the gazelle-like pro-females that I recognised from training regularly on the Tan, ran past as she lapped me on her second circuit. I tried to stick with her cadence for a while to pick up my pace. She’s so fast and gazelle-like. I wish I was her. Actually, I wish I were just the same height and weight ratio as her. Wow. I ran in time with her feet until my heart was close to exploding. And then, after maybe a kilometre, she disappeared into the distance, blazing a trail for the stumpy little tree-trunk legged (very non-pro) athletes like me.
But it did the trick. I picked my pace up from then on, and decided to deal with it. By the end of the second lap, with just 6km to go, I ran past a supporter friend (Lee, of “nail polish makes you swim faster” fame) and she yelled the most motivational encouragement you could ever imagine:
“COME ON PIPER! YOU LOVE RUNNING! RUNNING IS YOUR FAVOURITE!”etc.
It was like a firework up my backside and I took off. Stupidly. As then it started to really hurt, but I had to run past all my friends and my husband supporting near the switchback to the finish, so I couldn’t slow down now…
I high-fived some tiny children on the sidelines (as that’s where I get my secret energy from – the smaller the hand offering you a high-five, the more of an instant energy boost you’ll get), and tried to get through the last few km’s.
One final sneaky incline, and then it was downhill all the way to the finish. And it hurt every step of the way.
Run time: 1:42:30 (Canberra time 1:48:27)
Overall finish time: 5:11:19
I don’t think you can really compare race times between events; there’s so many variants in terms of terrain, weather etc. But I have judged myself against my Canberra result this time, as it’s the only marker I have at the moment. My overall goal for this race was to feel much better than I did the first time. And that happened. So I am really pleased. It was a great day; I enjoyed myself and was able to race as I had hoped to. But I realise that will not always be the case.
Two final things to top it all off:
1) I went to the roll-down on the off chance I might get lucky with a slot. And guess what? I did. So now I can race with the boys in Vegas.
2) The day after Geelong, it was also one year since I married the man of my dreams. So it was cause for a double celebration.