This year was all about the Standard distance. But having developed in the early Spring an acute on chronic Achilles tendinopathy which was failing to resolve, I had done no run training and virtually no running apart from my qualifying races’ 10km. So about a month before the race, coach Karl Zeiner was thinking it was not going to happen. However, having qualified and paid (a lot) of money, I decided nothing was going to stop me, even if I ended up with a DNF for a part or even no run. I was never going to be chasing a podium place anyway…..
Arrived in Rotterdam on the Wednesday (4 days before the race) and was pretty well rested before this. The course had two transition areas, which involved a lot of walking, despite being in a hotel that was bang on the course route. However, having had to walk a lot on the Thursday for Registration, swim recce, bike pickup etc, I had kept walking to the minimum on Friday/Sat, managing to see the men’s Elite race via bike on the way to racking in T1. The swim recce and registration and elite races were all in the pouring rain, but we had luckily managed to do a bike course recce in a short rain free period on the Friday afternoon. A video had been released prior to the race, demonstrating how technical the course was to be, including up a ramped flight of steps (which was fenced off until the race) but in reality it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked on the video, though was on a lot of cycle paths and therefore quite narrow in places.
On race morning, I was awake early (for a seemingly leisurely wave start of 10.45) and ahead of schedule going to T2 to drop off trainers, but after crossing the longish Erasmus bridge to get to T1 was not allowed through and had to walk all the way back over and around and across the other side. In the end we had walked 8km before getting to swim start (as had lots of others).
After days of rain we were very lucky that the sky had cleared and roads were dry and a lot of the time the sun was shining – the forecast midday rain did not appear – so I anticipated being quite comfy in just my trisuit, although lots of people were wearing underlayers, armwarmers etc. I hadn’t realised that we were allowed to wear additional clothing, but as long as it is under the trisuit, or transparent, or is a Team top it is ok – but I didn’t have any of those anyway, so was trusting to my Scottish hardiness. In the end, it was about 16-17 deg – just perfect.
Ankles were already achey by the time we were waiting in start pen, but I did my warm up to the ‘70s music being played for our age-group, and in the end about half the wave were dancing and clapping.
Got into middle of pontoon – water much colder than recce swim due to all the recent rain, but calm – with legs up underneath, one hand on top and was off as soon as klaxon went. Good swim – long first leg which I’d already lined up against the edge of a building so only had to minimally lift head to sight for first 500m. Made myself steady a bit after a few minutes, once the pack had settled. Alternated drafting and then not, when the draft went off course. Had someone on my heels quite a lot. Second buoy easily visible, then 3rd less so, so did a bit of waterpolo to get my head up till I had it lined up against a crane then back to low profile sighting. Did not stop/breast stroke at all until done (first time ever).
Very long run to bike (>1km according to mapometer when I plotted it but can’t have been quite as long as that) all on carpeted cobbles/tarmac which did not help my calves. Ran out in bike shoes and got going ok – managed all the technical bits out onto main course, catching up with some of those ahead of me when they slowed more for the corners – the practice round Pennywell Roundabouts paid off, and my LaPierre is fab at cornering. Got to the steps ramp having overtaken a few, who were coming up behind me, to find an American splayed on the ground at the top, and a Mexican half way up, but whom I was fast catching as I was ready in low gear, out of the saddle – fortunately the Mexican got up and through the narrow gap left by the American and I was right behind. If the Mexican hadn’t made it there would have been carnage for about 6 of us!!
Once on the main course, I rode to feel and just loved the constantly changing route – had to be focussed 100%, with bends, speed bumps, stray Dutch cyclists who think they own the cycle paths even with an oncoming race, and a lot of fast guys coming from behind. Just before the turn point there was an up and over ramp with a sharp Left turn just after – like something out of Glentress – and was glad I’d done some MTB skills. The only problem was the guys coming from behind who were determined to pass on a tight bend, thus making it impossible for me to take my own fast line – made worse by being on the R and having a very large L blind spot so I was worried about not seeing someone about to overtake. But I loved it and was really disappointed to only get to do 2 laps – though calves were beginning to play up a bit during 2nd lap and I’d backed off effort a bit. Had fuelled a couple of bites of High5 Peanut energy bar and Aldi Berry Hike bar at 30 and 60 mins, and a few sips of water.
Shoes off before dismount line and another reasonably long run into T2 (though nothing as long as T1, and last bit on wet/muddy grass) and set off on run. Took it very steady on first lap, thinking I could up the pace if legs held out – but they didn’t so I just pottered along. Mainly through a park on tarmac/hardpacked gravel/hardpacked earth and with a couple of short inclines which I walked each time. Took a couple of mouthfuls of water x2 on first lap but didn’t bother on 2nd as was not really getting that hot and sweaty – HR never out of Z4 as whenever I tried to push off harder, I had shooting pains up my calf, despite trying to focus on good form and not limp. Last 300m was up a cobbled street and Liz Richardson from ET was on the corner and ran up the pavement alongside shouting encouragement, which was very nice of her. Couldn’t manage any sort of sprint finish – which did mean that I was easily able to limp away from the finish area once I’d crossed the line, 31st of 34.
– Happy to have completed, despite low placing.
– Loved the technical bike route, which suited my bike and lack of aero bars
– Forgot to actively make a decision about whether or not to take analgesia prior to the race (when deciding a month ago that I was going to race whatever, that had been an option I’d considered). In retrospect, especially with all the walking pre-race and the long hard (as in surface) run to T1, neither of which did my calf/ankle any favours, I should have, as I was definitely limited by the pain during the run. And having taken something post-race, they felt a lot better than I expected the next day.