The short version is: I came, I raced, I qualified. Hoorah!
However, there is a slightly longer back story to this. Training was going well and things were coming together. I was off on fieldwork and had picked a hotel that would offer training facilities (my work is great like that). On the Tuesday morning, I went round the hotel golf course – and aggravated my hamstring insertion. It was exactly the same problem I had at the start of last year and I had slightly let my exercises slide, focussing on getting my running and cycling in. The difference was: this time I knew where it came from and what I had to do. For the rest of the week, I laid off the running, cross trained, rolled on the tennis ball and started doing my exercises and lots of stretching. I really needed to be able to get round the course. Finish the race – and for pride’s sake, not come last.
We travelled up Friday night, registered. The venue of Althorp House was absolutely gorgeous and the transition area looked fab with it’s bright purple carpet. Then we went for a quick car spin round the bike course. From the car, it looked horrendous; riddled with potholes, narrow lanes that would meetings with oncoming traffic interesting in a race situation. I resolved to take the first 5k easy, and when the roads got better go for it. The evening at the hotel was pleasant enough, my leg had loosened off sufficiently that I felt confident I would make it through the race.
It was cold. God! Usually, I wouldn’t dream of racing in +2C, still suffering visions from Hypothermia Gate. But at least, it was dry and so layering up would be the right strategy. Windstopper tights over tri short and Sigvaris Sport compression calf sleeves, a warm baselayer and a Windstopper jacket on top, hat and the plan was for 2 pairs of gloves. In case you haven’t gotten it yet, YES, I’m a frostbite.
The gun went and from the first step all I could think of was to focus on my leg, to relax, focus on technique to keep as much pressure off my hamstring insertion as possible. Needless to say, I found my run rather dissatisfactory. Approaching transition, I’d gotten rather warm and ditched the idea of a second pair of gloves. Transition was a right shambles and I was thoroughly annoyed.
Throwing caution to the wind, I went for it on the bike right from the start. I was soon going past a number of women, most of them just clad in little more than a tri suit, one even in a sleeveless top and bum hugger shorts. Internally, I was shaking my head – not doing your body any favours. I was flying round the bike course much better than I expected, getting good power through the pedals and catching up more and more people.
Into T2 and – semi-shambles. Need to practice that before Horst or any other race. Onto the 2nd run and my focus immediately went back to my leg and keeping it in one piece. Soon, women I had passed on the bike passed me back. Normally, I would’ve put up a fight, but my worry was to make it to the finish line. So I let them go, hoping my efforts would still be good enough to qualify.
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch. It wasn’t too far off what I had thought I could do – 3 min. That’s alright then, I thought. Although I had been warm during the race, I now really wanted my warm clothes, hot coffee and one of those hog roast rolls. With apple puree.
My club mate came back with the results. Turns out, I’d finished 2nd in my age group. YES! Qualified! Relief! And I even got a little certificate telling me that. Phew! However, packing up my bike, my mind went over all the things that could be improved: transition, transition, transition. It’s free time, and I’ve wasted it. My leg held together, but I really need to fix it. So the decision was to lay off the running for a week and instead cross-train, get a massage, stretch.
And then I’ll turn my thoughts to the next race at Oulton Park. Another opportunity to practice those transitions and see if and how much progress I’ve made since last year.