I guess my race report could be titled ‘How Not to Race a 70.3’, however as I often say, to finish should always be your first and last goal, and while I salvaged that I have to say it was one of my ugliest races I have done in a while. I never expected it to be pretty with a lack of consistent training (heck a lack of training full stop) but there are no excuses there.
I could have done more training and especially evening sessions but life just gets busy at times, I get lazy, and I usually chose to spend that time chatting with my girls than go out and train. To be honest though, despite this I was more concerned about the swim and bike legs and I did expect the run leg to go a whole lot better, and truth be told, that is probably the only part that I am really disappointed in.
I know I can run better than I did. So I started by breaking all the rules and trying a whole pile of new stuff on race day that again I say you shouldn’t do but I figured I had nothing to lose. I had borrowed Kirsty’s bike (ridden once), and used a new saddle, racing suit, nutrition, goggles and running shoes (none of them used before). I have to say though that each one of these was awesome and didn’t cause me any issues whatsoever. Go figure. So what went wrong…
We went for a short ride Sat morning and I should have worked out then that something was up. We had barely got 2km on the ride and already I couldn’t breathe. I was in granny gear and we hadn’t even turned the corner to go onto Buderim Ave. I put it down to having Brett’s bigger cluster on my race wheels (of course we didn’t worry about changing it) and just figured I was seriously bike unfit and was going to have to suck it up in the race. Sunday morning I felt fine.
I didn’t have my usual pre race Milo and toast however as I had been carbo loading for 2 months solid I figured I had enough load on board to supply our whole wave start so it really shouldn’t matter. I was racing awesome until about 50m into the swim and then I couldn’t breathe. Now I’ve been short of breath before with my dodgy lungs and can deal with it fairly easily. I’d taken double the usual stuff prior to the race and done all the right things so just slowed down (I pretended there was a speed slower than what I was swimming) to catch my breath and expected it to get better but it just got worse.
For the next 5 mins I was barely able to breathe. I had gone from breathing singles, trying breaststroke (well my version of it) and even stopped swimming to try and breathe. I went from the front of the field to behind the back and nothing was working. There was still no air getting into my lungs. I was for the first time ever in all the races I have done, right on the verge of pulling out. There was no way I could keep going like this and I knew that being in the water was not a safe place to be at this point in time.
There was a big argument going on in my head from ‘you have never dnf’d before so don’t have one now’ to ‘you are in a dangerous position and need to get out’. I knew I wasn’t panicking, the wetsuit wasn’t too tight, it was all purely lung and I’m sure this probably only went on for another 4-5 mins however it seemed like forever until I was finally able to breathe again and could get moving.
The rest of the swim went fine and even getting out of the water in 42ish I was happy as I thought there might have been a lot more time damage. Once on my feet and running though the breathing struggles started again and I knew this was going to be an ugly day. Transition didn’t help with breathing although I got to sit down as I was cramping badly in my feet so couldn’t get my wetsuit off.
The nice TA officials gave me a hand while telling me “this isn’t Ironman you know” and I jumped on my bike. Again though I couldn’t breathe. Going up the mountain (well okay small hill) was a struggle and it took till I was on the flats on the motorway to be able get down on my drops and breathe comfortably. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the cycle however every time there was a slight rise / bridge / overpass I had no breath and spent the next few minutes controlling my breathing to get it settled again.
I kept telling myself “what you tell yourself is more important than what you believe” and self talk was coming loud and fast “ you are breathing well”, “your lung function is fine”… Whatever I needed to say I said. It was great on the cycle to see the Amigos and others and that always lifted my spirits. It was also good to have Nana not too far in front so I had someone to chase down (yes I’m picking on a 53yr old lady) and I knew Lou was hunting for me. Once the bike was done I knew I was on the home straight and my favoured leg.
Again though I knew in the back of my mind that this was not going to be pretty, and running any hill was going to be very, very ugly. And the run was ugly. Any rise of any sort saw my breathing out of control and I slowed right down (no walking allowed) to catch my breath and then attempted to pick it back up again. It was taking everything I had to keep running (well shuffling) and I’m sorry to the spectators who were cheering me on as I could often only offer a wave so I could focus on just moving forward.
On the way back on the first lap I had given myself permission to walk the big hill so I didn’t run out of breath. Parko however ran past me just as I was about to walk, slapped me on the backside and yelled at me “no fxxxing walking allowed”. I was attempting to explain why I was going to when he told me to ‘fxxxen toughen up and keep running”.
Now honestly I don’t think many people would say that to me, except for Parko even though I’m known for telling people (nicely) to toughen up. I needed that. I needed him to yell at me and I responded. No walking happened. Eventually I finished. I did walk in aid stations long enough to quickly drink a cola and a water (usual run nutrition for me) and then I started again. I have never walked aid stations before in a race on my own, but to be able to run the rest of it, I knew I had to do that this time.
So at the end of the race, it was a very ugly day at the office however I see a lot I can salvage from it. I am so glad I didn’t pull out and that is the closest I have EVER come to pulling the pin on a race. In all honesty though, I should have gotten out of the water until my breathing settled.
My gamble paid off, but it was a terrible gamble to make, and not one I would encourage anyone else to take. I was very happy with my bike – it was controlled (not fast) but at all times I felt in control of what I was doing. Shows I can actually focus for 3 hours if I need to. The run I remain disappointed with.
The positives are that I ran (shuffled) the whole way, including the hills, and even though I had every good reason to walk, with a bit of external and internal motivation I kept moving. I would have liked to enjoy it more, run better and thank all the spectators, but I was too inwardly focussed. That needs to change, no matter how I’m feeling. And I know I can run better, the time was very ugly, but I also need to do the work to get a better time. . So at the end of the race it’s back to the drawing board with the docs to work out what went wrong. And next time, I’m going to nail that run. Mez