Sunday 22nd of May saw me at Grafham Lake near Bedford for the UK AG Middle Distance Champs (70.3 or 1/2 ironman distance if you will) which was run as part of Nice Tri Events Grafman Triathlon.
My winning streak of good weather, literally going back to my first forays into triathlon in 2012, continued and a dodgy weather forecast improved all week for near perfect day.
Race hooter sounded at 8 a.m. and the 'rolling' start commenced with those with the fastest predicted swim times into the water first. This was probably the worst of all worlds as it just turned in to a mass start through a narrow entrance point and I've never received such a kicking. Lots of poor souls stood in the shallows groping for goggles that got knocked off.
It took 2/3rds of the first 950m lap for the field to thin out and I wasn't having the best of days. I couldn't find any rhythm and every time I got my head down to work hard I'd start veering off route, all a bit frustrating really as I felt I had the fitness for a PB swim but just couldn't get going.
A quick out of of the water (on a flint beach with no carpet, thanks for that) and back in again to start the second lap which continued in much the same vein of mild frustration. I wanted sub-30 minutes and I was just over and about 7 minutes down on the quickest swimmer in 42nd place. I took 45 seconds and 13 places back with a good T1 but then made an utter hash of getting my feet into my shoes (which were mounted on my bike) in the first few kms of the bike course. I had to come to a brief halt to sort it out and people flooded past. Not very pro.
Finally underway proper on the bike I made quick progress on the rolling course with multiple dog legs, allowing me to see competitors ahead of me coming the other way, and was into the top ten in short order. I steadily cut the deficit to the lead riders from 6 minutes at the first check, down to 3 minutes at half way and finally 40 seconds at the final turn with just over 10km to go. I continued to hold the consistent power I had done for all of the bike leg (which felt scarily comfortable) and took the lead with 5km to go and built just enough cushion that I could be sure of being first of the bike (yay, it has been a while) and out of T2 on to the run.
Everything I'd done in the week on my injured ankle seemed to pay dividends and it was causing me no problems. Although I new I was well short of run fitness after a 5 week lay off being in the lead meant I had to go for the win. I set off at 4 min / km pace, so a 1:24 half marathon, knowing that I'd have to run at least that fast to hold of the chasers but also aware I hadn't done a single km at that pace for quite a while.
The run course was fairly friendly with lots of changes of terrain to keep things interesting and with nothing more than rolling climbs. Non-the-less I was shot after 8km and gave up the lead shortly afterwards. I was passed in quick succession until I was down to 5th where I remained for the rest of the race. Two of the runners who passed me were shifting at such a pace that even had I miraculously been able to hold my 4 min / km I'd have finished no better than 3rd overall. The final 12km were a big mental battle to keep running as I was really hurting and expected people to come flooding past at any moment. I adopted a 'never look back policy' on the run which served me well.
In a bit of change for me I had some support at the race in the form of my parents who cheered me down the finishing shoot for 5th place and first 30-34 year old earning me an Age Group gold medal (which is actually all there is available to me in the UK in the absence of an Elite specific middle distance championship).
I was absolutely stoked that my ankle had held up, that I'd finished and with a decent result as well! It was also great to nail fastest bike split and be first off the bike, no prizes for this but has a feel good factor. It may therefor come as a surprise that I have pulled out of my next race, IM 70.3 Staffs, to concentrate on training but pushing for the fitness to be competitive there will almost certainly lead to me over doing my ankle so I'm going to concentrate on prepping for my July races.
Thanks to all the usual suspects for their support and a special shout out to James Pittam PT physio, Kate Buckton, for here advice on my injury and also to Alan (www.atperformance.net) for pre & post race massage.
Thanks for reading and hope you're all enjoying the good weather.
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.