I settled down for the 56m ride and one by one I passed other female competitors who had exited the water ahead of me. I aimed to keep my intensity consistent throughout the ride, trying to keep a balance between doing enough to gain from my strongest discipline, but not give too much so that I wasn’t able to complete the run section well. As this was my first triathlon I wasn’t quite sure how to pace the bike but erred on the side of caution as I didn’t want to be blowing on the run. Having closed roads was a unique experience and added to the excitement of it being a race. The course was fairly tough having a 14km long climb up into the mountains. But this variable terrain served to break the course up into different sections and alleviate any monotony there might have otherwise have been. The memory of the swim faded away as I enjoyed chasing the mile markers and knowing I was hitting my pace targets. It was about half way through the bike course whilst I was calculating an estimated finish time, that I worked out my swim time must have been a lot faster than I’d thought. This revelation gave me a boost which stayed with me through the rest of the bike course and back into the transition area.
Again in transition I took my time making sure I had everything to ensure I could keep going through the run. I even put Vaseline on some hotspots on my feet for fear that the hot conditions might blister my feet. I didn’t want to be hindered by anything. Surprisingly still full of energy I ran out of the shade of the transition tent and back into the now 27 degree heat. A couple of strides into it and I felt an irritating sharp point under the ball of my right foot. I knew straight away it was a bit of gravel picked up whilst running barefoot through transition. I’d just spent a few minutes obsessively putting socks on and double tying my laces. There was no way I was stopping, especially as I’d got off to a great start with my legs feeling fresher than I could ever have hoped. I wriggled my foot around and the bit of gravel sat a bit more comfortably. I could cope with it as it was, if it became more irritating I’d stop and sort it.
I ran the first mile by feel as planned then checked my pace. I was surprised to see it well over half a minute per mile quicker than I’d anticipated my pace would be. Feeling easier than I’d dared hope and in a nice comfortable rhythm, I decided to stick with the pace and see how it felt after a few miles. With 13 miles to get through I didn’t want to go for heroics. But as I was checking to make sure I wasn’t going above this pace I judged that I was running at a sustainable intensity. At this rate if it became a bit too much, I had plenty of room to adjust pace and still do an OK time.
The run was best element of the whole event. It was a three loop run so the course got busier and busier as more and more competitors left their bikes and joined it. It was a great distraction to have lots of people around and the crowds had gathered too, so the support and the cheers spurred me on. Having three loops made it a psychologically easier way to tackle the distance. The first loop was exploratory and new as I had no idea where it went. The second loop was a focus on keeping the pace steady and I carried on running nice even splits. The third and final loop was the home run where I fought through the now severe burning sensation in my foot and an increasingly painful hip. The conditions had also become a factor and many competitors were struggling to cope with the heat but, as mentioned in the previous column, I seem to be solar powered and thrive on it! I saw runners who had blasted around the first lap reduced to a walking pace in the third. I was relieved to have paced myself well.
The run down to the finish line was exhilarating. I was so proud and excited to have got through it all. The finish clock read 5hrs27mins as I passed under it and was overjoyed to have broken the 5hr30 marker. After collecting my bags and cooling off in the shower, I met my boyfriend and went straight for a well earned ice-cream. I sat down and gradually began to feel the aches and pains that adrenaline had masked so well. But the happiness of achieving my challenge was by far the dominant feeling. “I did 5hrs27!” I exclaimed. “No you didn’t” my boyfriend replied. “You did 5hrs17”. Puzzled, he had to explain to me I’d forgotten to account for my start time being 10mins after the pro’s start, which was when the race clock started. That revelation that I’d gone even quicker was a feeling better than any medal podium top step I’ve ever stood on!
Race Splits: Swim – 36mins, Bike – 2:39hrs, Run – 1:50hrs