Etonman Middle Distance Race Report

So after a very much stop-start build up it was finally time to remove the Tenby sea water from the wetsuit and don it in earnest again.  I tore a calf muscle skiing in February and in short that led to 3months of zero running, a period of 4-6weeks of finally feeling I was back on track, followed by a pulled hamstring 2weeks before this race meaning another week out and just a couple of exploratory 30minute jogs in the week.  Not out the woods by a long way but it was serviceable and at the very worst I could look forward to a good swim-bike hit out that might serve as a pointer to where nearly 9months of training has left me.  With a lot of time for swimming and biking and working harder than before on both then hopefully in a good place.  Never knowingly over raced – probably as the aggro/enjoyment equation doesn’t often fall in favour of the latter especially over shorter distances than IM.

I needed a race before heading off to Frankfurt in 3weeks and the race in question was the Etonman Middle Distance at Eton Dorney.  Small-ish field of 100, fast course and not too far away with no need to re-register.  Beautiful day Friday with an evening stroll along the Thames Towpath followed by a night in the camper listening to, watching and cursing the wildest thunderstorm imaginable.  It was still raining when the alarm went off and was a million miles away from the cloudless sky sunfest I’d been expecting. Fortunately it cleared by the time I headed to the start.

Hurrah it fits!!
Hurrah it fits!!

Even more fortunately the wetsuit was in full working order and still fitted.  Swimming has been going well and pool times are significantly better than ever before.  I was expecting to break 30minutes with a bit to spare. The swim course was two simple clockwise circuits in the lake.  Sun was out which made sighting a little difficult on the traverse across and return leg down the lake but nothing too bad.  Ended up positioning myself relatively near the front and we were off.  A pretty rough start for such a small race – even more so when I found out I was 7th out of the swim so presumably it was just several people taking a dislike to me, felt like a lot more people  than that.

Never found a great rhythm and think I have a tendency to swim a little too easy for race pace.  Found a set of feet on the second lap and just sat there waiting to finish.  Now I’m a better swimmer it’s a lot easier to follow a pair of feet.  I’ve now done it pretty successfully for the past 18months after not being able to do it at all with a lot more company previously.  Got out, looked at the watch, saw a 3 and thought ‘Damn’ saw it wasn’t followed by a ‘0’ and thought ‘Double damn’. Swim time was 31:14.  Poor, but not disastrous. Maybe just a case of must try harder.

Out on the bike after a painfully slow T1 and the plan was to give it some stick and treat it as a bit of a session in case the run didn’t happen or was hugely compromised.  Supposed to keep it controlled and build every half hour or so – finishing well above 70.3 effort.  The course was 10laps of a big pan flat horseshoe around the lake.  When I’d initially found this out I was a bit miffed in that it sounded a bit mickey mouse…however, it turned out to be a lot of fun, never bothered me once and allowed me to build the pace.  The only negative was the three 180degree turns per lap.  Whilst the ground had dried out a bit following the storm I did see several people sporting ‘Kevin Keegan tattoos’ as a result of the wet tarmac/tight bend combination  – including the unfortunate Jamie Hinton who had led the swim by a country mile.

Set out a bit lively and saw the HR was a bit high but it didn’t feel like I was working that hard.  Mmmm…perhaps this bike strength training has been working and now allowing me to tap into the undoubted aerobic engine I possess.  Kind of scuppered the plan to build a bit as we went through but I just settled into making sure I got the calories in and stayed as aero as possible for as long as possible.  I’ve got an article backed up on a bike fit I had at Freespeed and I was amazed at how this new position meant I could stay down for as long as I wanted.  Granted I had to come out for the hairpins but certainly felt like I could have maintained the position all day long.  Nice.  Picked off a few people and decided I must be up the sharp end somewhere.  Then it was time to put the hammer down which I did on laps 8 and 9 allowing me the comfort of the final lap to get over it.  Raised the level and chalked up my 2 fastest 5mile splits with a lot less effort than I’d have expected to have to make at that stage – especially after going harder before than intended.  All in, really pleased with the bike leg. Came in at 2:26 to be told I was in 2nd spot about 3minutes down.

Cigar anyone?
Comfortably comfortable

Okay so 3 minutes sounds like a lot and I’m not really sure what the run is going to be like even if it happens.  What to do? I know, probably best to match your ability in T1 in T2.  Not sharp again – must switch on more in 3 weeks’ time where every second will count.  Started out and felt comfortable.  The calf was tightening but manageable – it’s been doing that ever since I returned.  Fortunately the hamstring wasn’t noticeable.  Just decided to run at a comfortable pace for two of the four laps and see firstly what that pace was and secondly what that would do, if anything, to the deficit.  Turned out comfortable was around 6:30 per mile and at the first out and back I was pretty sure it wasn’t about 3minutes anymore.  Bit of a headwind on the return leg and the pace suffered a bit but stuck to the plan of running comfortably for two laps.  By the second turnaround it was clear if I kept plodding on I was going to assume the lead at some point.  Which I did at about mile 5.  Attentions then turned to anyone behind and it was clear no one was running gazelle like behind either.  Batten down the hatches, one foot in front of the other, stay comfortable.  The run’s a bonus and one of the key objectives from today was not a bitching run split or burying yourself.  Kept the ego in check – partly helped by a rapidly tightening hamstring on the last lap – and rounded the back of the boathouse to the incredulity that I think I just won a triathlon. Run split of 1:27:48 without going to the well was a real bonus, given the way things have been since February.

One foot in front of the other. Repeat.

Results can be found here.

A lot more importantly than the position was the performance and what it tells me now the bulk of the hay is in the barn marked Frankfurt.  Strangely happy enough with the swim after having time to reflect.  Feels like there’s a lot more under the hood and better to find that out exiting Dorney Lake than exiting Langener Waldsee.  Still think with better execution I can break the hour – I definitely could have done two more laps at that intensity and pretty sure I could hold a higher intensity and still finish relatively fresh.  The bike was a surprise in terms of effort I was able to put out without it hurting, or without it tailing off.  Felt super strong throughout.  Not sure what 2:26 on that course means but I’m pretty confident I’ve stepped the bike up a level and it feels like it would give me the 10-15minutes I’ll be needing over previous IM performances.  Delighted with the new bike setup, so comfortable I was tempted to get the cigars out on several occasions.  Run?  Well we know I can run fast enough given my standalone performances.  This was solid and felt maintainable for a lot longer on the day.  Given I can add on nearly a minute to that pace and still hit my target IM run pace that’s got to be encouraging.  However, the hamstring hasn’t been happy since and that’s a concern.  All systems go on rehabbing/protecting that hamstring over the next 3 weeks.  Certainly feels like (transitions aside!) everything else is in place to hit the swim, bike and run I need.  Guess we’ll know soon enough.

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