A Tale of Two Halfs

by Elaine Garvican

Another year, another IM training cycle. The early May bank holiday weekend was spent Fudgepacking, dragging the boys up every 20% incline (and many 30%ers) surrounding Ambleside. It was fun, it was hard work, but it was also pretty cold and wet, which are not really conditions in which I thrive.

I like racing, so I tend to schedule a couple of half distance races in the build-up. Last year I suffered horribly in the cold at the Monster Mojo race, but this year’s race was a bit later in the calendar, and surely I couldn’t be that unlucky twice in a row? And even if I was, by the time the Outlaw Half rolled around, we’d be basking in glorious British sunshine, right?

Monster Mojo, (1.9/82/20) May 10th

I guess I’m a slow learner. The forecast for this race looked every bit as bad as last year. It was cold, although mercifully not as windy as twelve months ago. The lake is shallow enough to stand up almost anywhere, but the water just doesn’t get warm. I swam as hard as I could until my right hand clawed up again, then just tried to get it finished as soon as possible. The result was a disappointingly poor 36:46. You won’t find me in an ice bath anytime soon.
I really have no-one else to blame for the poor clothing choices I made in T1. I struggled into arm warmers, gloves and socks, but the still air lulled me into a false sense of security and in my chilly rush, felt sure that by working appropriately hard on the bike, I would soon warm up. The problem was, when I’m that cold, I can’t work hard enough to generate any kind of heat. My teeth were chattering and I couldn’t feel my fingers. For 40 minutes, I kept thinking things would have to improve, but my heart rate stayed low and my extremities stayed numb. Eventually I had to admit I was close to being DNF cold and stopped for help to put on some extra clothing. Although my lack of dexterity meant I couldnt unclip my helmet strap, do up the zip or re-clip the strap alone, after 5 minutes I was on my way again and finally starting to warm up, which meant I could at last pedal harder (2:38:31).
I was more than grateful to get off my bike though and run some life back into my poor frozen feet. I concentrated on holding good form and the run passed uneventfully (1:31:35). At the end of my 3rd lap (of 4), the run marshal tried to direct me to the finishing chute, and I pretended to be heart-broken at the idea of having to run round the lake again. I was overtaken a super-speedy Jenny Latham (2nd overall) but by the time I saw Lucy Gossage (overall winner) she’d long since finished, changed and was supporting!

In the end, I was 5th female and since the overall podium (both Lucy and Amy Forshaw are the same AG as me) were exempt from age group awards, ended up with the 35-39 AG trophy. I like this race, but I think it’s time I accepted it is too early in the year for me to perform well at.

The Outlaw Half, (1.9/90/21.1) May 31st

The end of May, though, that’s practically summer, right? By now deep into IM training, I was carrying a fair bit of fatigue, but I knew I was capable of a better performance. Imagine my delight at constant rain, strong winds and a far from tropical 10 – 12˚C. It’s like I’m cursed.

Still, this time I HAD learned my lesson. Nothing I can do about the temperature in the lake (34:40; hand claw making an appearance in the last third) but the second I got to my bike, on went a winter jacket and ski gloves. Yes, really, ski gloves. But you know what? I was warm.
I’d come out of the swim a long way back (something like 40th female and 9th in my AG) but that meant there were plenty of regular targets throughout the bike leg and it was quite fun to be passing people the entire ride. The course is flat, but quite exposed in places with a decent headwind but I was snug in my jacket and making good progress through the field, getting back to Holme Pierrepoint in 5th (2:46:37 and now 1st in AG). I’ll happily trade a few minutes in transition for a normal core temperature, so off came the jacket and on went arm warmers and gilet.

With the women starting in the final wave, the course gets quite congested and in places the run is certainly cosy and I doubt I’m the only one who would have liked a bit more space. In contrast, a headwind on the lake is like running into a wall and here, you take any shelter or draft you can find. I overtook one girl in transition and another fairly early on the run but by my second lap it was harder to tell who was ahead and who was behind. The final couple of kilometres were felt like running on a treadmill in a wind tunnel, but after what seemed like forever (1:36:46) I turned left at the carpet and crossed the line to be told I was 2nd overall and 1st in my AG. A good 15 minutes behind overall winner Suzie Richards, but 10mins up on 3rd and much happier that the hard work I’d been putting into training was starting to show. I, for one, am unconcerned with rumours of a non-wetsuit swim in Austria!

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