Thursday, January 23, 2020

A race too far? - Race Report - Dambuster Triathlon, 18 June 2011

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It’s difficult to know where to start with this particular report.  I’m not sure how or when coach Mark Shepherd and I made the decision, but since the turn of the year the Dambuster Triathlon has somehow been my big ‘A’ race of the year.   I guess the reason for this was simply that it was my last chance to qualify for Beijing and the Age Group world champs.

As you no doubt are aware, my Christmases came a little early when I qualified for Beijing in the sprint category at the Speedy Beaver tri in May; but in my own mind I always really wanted to qualify for olympic distance.  And so Dambuster it was...

I’m not sure how to say this without it sounding like a massive cop-out cum excuse, but in the last week I think it’s fair to say the vast increase in my training over the last six months has caught up with me.  Partly this is my own fault for not taking better care of myself and getting regular massages / check-overs with those that perhaps would have spotted the on-set of problems.  Regardless, I came to the weekend with my legs in a less-than-ideal state.

My adductors have been incredibly tight and causing issues when really pushing on the bike, and allied to this my neglected glutes and hamstrings have also tightened - to the point on the right leg where I was getting significant knee pain (knee joint being pulled out of shape by over-tight ITB and glutes).

But that’s enough excuses for now...

Awaking at 4am this morning it was pouring with rain, which made it very tempting to climb back into the hotel bed! But thankfully by the time I arrived at Whitwell to rack-up, the sun was peeking through and the ground was drying up.

Racking was easy enough - although I will never understand why some people can’t grasp the concept of people next to each other racking on opposite sides of the bar! Yet again, I had a numpty next to me who (despite his name sticker being on the far side of the bar) insisted on jamming his bike right in next to mine...  grr.

The Swim

Anyway, into the water pre-start and it was a positively balmy 18 degrees C; not too cold at all (although I did choose to wear a silicon cap under my race-issued one). The start came and I got away cleanly at first, but soon ended up in a tussle.  From what I could see after 400m or so, I was leading the chase pack, about 20m behind the lead guys.

I steadily caught some of the guys being dropped by the leaders and then WHAM! A foot right in my face and it smacked my left goggle lens right into my eye.  Ouch. But worse than that, the impact had caused a pressure increase in the goggle that was making it severely uncomfortable. But no way was I going to lose time by slowing down to fiddle with it, so it was time to man-up and just get on with it.

The next issue came around 1,000 metres as my goggles (as they always do!) started to fog.  I use anti-fog almost every time I swim (I did today) and despite this my Zoggs Predator Flex fogged to the point that I literally couldn’t see the turn buoys until I was right on top of them.  Zoggs and Aquasphere - I hereby challenge you to prove to me that I can wear a pair of your goggles for a full 1,500 metre swim without them fogging!

As such, I resorted to holding back and swimming alongside someone I thought would at least be able to see where he was going!  This worked to an extent and I crossed the timing mat out of the water in 23:08.  A reasonable time, but I reckon without the kick and fogging I could have done 22.

T1 was suitably rapid (watch out for my upcoming article on T1 advice!) and I was out onto the bike quickly and without any of the dramas I had at the Dambuster duathlon earlier in the year.

The Bike

As is often the case at Dambuster, the first leg of the bike was into a strong headwind and kept speeds pretty low (for me, anyway!) but I was just about getting into a rythm, even though I could already tell that my legs were not 100%.

I got passed by a couple of similar numbers to me (through which I assumed same age group), which wasn’t a massive surprise but hardened my resolve to ignore my legs and push on.  Onto the “Rutland ripple” and the side wind was fierce - so much so my bike was weaving a lot and I bottled out of staying on the tri bars and instead opted for the base bar until the descent flattened out a little.

Then it happened.   The event that pretty much ruined my day.  Just as we were starting the climb out of the ripple and into the village of Preston an HGV came alongside me, overtook me and then... practically stopped.  He had decided not to overtake the bikes ahead of me and so there I was, stuck behind an HGV on a road with a double-solid white line in the centre.  There was literally nothing I could do.  I was stuck like this for a good 3-4 (maybe more) kilometres until we finally got to the roundabout at Uppingham.

As the HGV was stuck behind slower cyclists from the wave before mine, there was no drafting to be had and in fact I think I spent more time on the brakes than anything else.  It’s hard to guess just how much time I lost, but I’m conservatively guessing around three minutes, maybe more.

The cherry on the cake came from the Renault Megane driver also stuck behind the lorry who then decided he’d rather be in front of me, despite me riding about 5 feet off the truck’s tail.  Genius.

Anyway. finally passed the lorry at the roundabout and I got the hammer down as best I could and started overtaking the slower cyclists ahead.  The two guys who has passed me in the mile or two prior to HGV-gate were nowhere to be seen; long gone.  What pissed me off even more was that I was then overtaken by one or two guys who just made me look like I was going backwards, such was the speed differential.  Really quite depressing, especially since I should have been 3-4 kilometres further up the road.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, except my lower back and glutes started joining my quads in their cries of pain around 32-33 kilometres in.  It’s really fair to say I did not enjoy the last 10km of the ride one little bit.  I started to struggle to even close down guys from the previous wave on road bikes - guys I would normally have eaten for breakfast.

In towards T2 and I managed to get my cold and numb feet out of the shoes and did a good flying dismount and charge into the transition area.  As with T1, I made up a few places with an extremely quick change into my run gear (40 seconds, in and out).  I was not impressed, however, to find that the guy next to me had dumped his soaking wetsuit on top of my run shoes. Brilliant...

The Run

Up till this point, the Kinesio tape I had applied to my right leg (in hopes of alleviating knee pain) had done a reasonable job, but once onto the run I could feel the leg going tense.  There was bugger all I could do about it, so just carried on but my pace was disappointing.  In my mind, I was aiming for 4:10 per KM pace, but in reality I was struggling to hit 4:25.

I continue to be completely confused by my lack of run pace.  I honestly cannot understand why I just can’t run faster! But there you go, I felt like I was giving it 100% (bearing in mind it was a 10km run, not a 5km sprint), and I had nothing left in the tank.

After 6km or so the sole of my left foot started giving me pain, but again there was nothing I could do about so just carried on.  I think I overtook the grand total of about eight people in the whole 10km run, four of whom were walking!  I really, really need to find a better run pace.

Anyway, two laps of the dam later and it was time to head home.  I won’t pretend I wasn't mightily relieved to get into the last 400m or so to the finishing chute and put a little spurt in to overtake one or two guys on the way.  I got a shout-out from the commentators as I ran over the line, so that was nice!

My immediate thoughts post race were ones of frustration.  I felt that things really hadn’t gone my way in the race and that my lack of preparation (in terms of my body being knackered) had really let me down.  I also discovered that my left foot pain was being caused by a massive burst blister - no doubt thanks to wet run shoes caused by my idiot neighbour dumping his wetsuit over my run kit.  Thanks buddy.

A few hours later and my thoughts are perhaps more considered:

* Despite getting mauled in the swim and not being able to see the turn buoys, I still did a 23:08 swim time. Well above average for my AG, even if not what I was hoping for.

* My bike time of 1:11:29 was actually 30 seconds faster than my bike time at the duathlon earlier in the year.  Without HGV-gate, I would have certainly improved further, despite the leg and back pain.

And the run time?  Well, I’m still trying to find a positive in that... but you can’t have everything.

In the end it looks like I came 27th out of 111 finishers in my Age Group; not the top-20 placing I was hoping for. And so it looks remote that I will have qualified outright for the olympic distance at the world champs in Beijing.  Who knows what might happen with roll-downs etc., but at least I have the comfort that I can still choose to take up my sprint place.

So overall, today was a pretty humbling experience.  It’s clear that I still have a long way to go to become the amateur athlete I want to be, and it’s also clear that I need to take better care of my muscles, joints etc as I continue to ask more of them.  Luckily, I have a good team around me and hopefully we can all learn these lessons together and get me closer to achieving my goals.

As for the rest of 2011, well Beijing is the obvious target now.  First I have to afford to get there(!), but assuming I can then my preparation is going to be 100% focused on my weak points so that I can have a properly ‘balanced’ race.

In the meantime, I’m planning to put the fun back into racing with an appearance at the local triathlon in July.  No specific training or taper, just hit it hard off the back of a full training week - old school!

till next time.

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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs


  • Martyn Lewis Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    Sounds like a tough race!

    Im married to a sport masseur so that always helps!

    As daft as it sounds, try licking the inside lens of the goggles this tends to work outside as well as in the pool. this stopped my predators steaming up!

    good luck with the recovery!


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