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Oct 07

Portaloos, pork pies and being chased by waves of men – its Emma Watts Vitruvian race report!

So this was my 3rd attempt at a half iron man distance triathlon. My 1st was Grafman in May last year which was just a ‘get round’ then my 2nd at Steelman in July this year. I’d had a strong swim followed by a strong bike leg but fell apart on the run. Despite being able to comfortably run half marathon distance on its own it had proven to be a real challenge after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike. On reflection of the day there were a number of things I could work on but a big part was nutrition. No one feels like eating on the bike and Steve Cannings was right Haribos were never going to get me round the course that day.

I’d got in touch with Jamie Moss from Keep Yourself Right in Ashby and after a lengthily discussion about nutrition he gave me some good advice and recommendations. I just needed to put these into practice and find another half distance triathlon before the end of the season and that’s when I entered The Vitruvian.

We drove down the day before race day and pulling up to Rutlands waters it was a lot bigger than I expected. The Sat Nav had taken us to the wrong part of the water and after being stuck in traffic on the A1 I wasn’t sure we would make registration that evening. But we did, registration went smoothly and I racked my bike which is something I have never done the night before. The transition was huge, so much so it was split into two sections A and B, I was in B and was at what seemed the furthest point from both entry and exit points.

Registration done it was time to carb up, I had chicken pasta at a local pub with friends Rach Brothwell & Steve Hall who had come down to support then headed off to bed to try and get an early night. I didn’t get the best of sleeps and was soon woken by my alarm at 4am. This was a critical part of my nutrition for the day, I’m not one for breakfast on a normal day and was even less keen at this time but I tried my best to force down as much of my overnight oats that I could. This was washed down with a double measure of instant coffee. Two things had to happen that morning, I needed to fuel up and I also needed to visit the bathroom – there was no way I could attempt a Portaloo!

Back at Rutland waters there was a lengthly queue to get in. My plan was to eat again at this point but I felt sick, nerves had set in, it was pitch black, freezing and I most certainly wasn’t ‘feeling it.’ After checking my bike in transition it was time for the race briefing. As it drew to a close they announced the first wave should head over to the beach, that was my wave and it suddenly dawned on me I was moments away from starting another long distance triathlon. My nerves panged as I waded in the water to acclimatise myself, it was cold but not as cold as I thought it was going to be. I let the water in my wet suit, forced my face under then got out again. The swim was a triangular two lap loop that started on a pebbly beach with a run in start. We weren’t hanging round long then the horn sounded and we were off.

It was carnage and trying to run on uneven pebbles was painful, I must have taken about 3 or 4 steps before I found myself loosing my balance and falling into the water slightly earlier than I planned. The swim was busy and I found myself boxed in and being swam over. By the time I got to the first buoy I was still fighting for a comfortable space and thought to myself this was going to be a long swim. Taking the first turn I took a blow to my cheek which I was surprised hadn’t happened sooner, it stunned me for a moment but I took a breath and pushed on. It was a long stretch to the next buoy and I managed to break off from the larger crowed group but doing so I hadn’t realised I’d gone wide and drifted off course. It turns out the swim measured about 200m long anyway but I’d manage to add more on to this.

Back on track and after another turning I came to the end of the first loop where we had to exit the water, run 25m on the jetty and enter the water again over the uneven pebbles.

I heard shouts from Steve Hall on the jetty then I was back in the water again, now in a much more comfortable group. That was till I heard the horn sound again, looking over my shoulder I saw a sea of blue hats and flailing arms coming towards me and realised the men’s over 40’s wave had just been released. Great here we go again I thought. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and the second lap went a lot better, I managed to draft a few feet and soon I was getting out starting the run through transition to my bike. I couldn’t feel my feet at this point, it was a long run into transition and I was already starting to feel cold. I took my time in T1 putting my arm warmers on and even a gillet before heading out on the bike.

I started the bike being overtaken by a lot of people, I wasn’t feeling strong and the wind on my body was making me feel really cold. We drove part of the course getting to the hotel the night before so it was no surprise when I hit two big hills. I tried powering up to them then standing up but in the end like most people ended up spinning up them. The two biggest hills done (for the first lap) the course took a turn and started a gradual descent this is where I passed our hotel and wished I was still warm & snug in bed. Now the course had levelled off I started to think about nutrition, my plan was to start eating early on so the opportunity to eat was now. It was still early, about 7:30am and I really didn’t feel like eating but thoughts back to my struggle at Steelman I knew I had to. Discussions and trial rides found that pork pies were my most manageable nutrition on the bike. Pulling out a pie I bit into it and let it sit in my mouth before starting to chew then taking another bite and another. It wasn’t long before Mark Gollings overtook me and gave me a shout then shortly after Ric Longcake cruised passed. At this point I was still cold and couldn’t feel my toes but seeing familiar faces and encouragement gave me determination to keep pushing on. The wind was strong for the rest of the undulating course; it was definitely a harder and tougher than Steelman.

Before the end of the first loop I’d also managed to stomach about half a flap jack bar and of course there were Haribos which went down much more easily. There was one last incline to end the first loop, a sharp turn to transition, straight through it and straight back out again. Back to the hills which seemed longer the second time but by then the sun had started to come out and finally I started to feel warmer. Hitting the gradual descent the second time I smashed the rest of the flap jack in and was feeling good, however still feeling  apprehensive about the run later on. The rest of the bike went quickly probably due to it being warmer. I managed half of another pork pie and of course a few more Haribos. I didn’t want to force any more food so far into the bike from fear of a different problem on the run; I really did not want to stop for the loo!

Back in transition I still couldn’t quite feel my toes but racking my bike taking off my arm warmers and gillet I was looking forward to warming them up on the run. I stuffed my caffeine gels in my sweat band and I was off. The run was an out and back course twice which I started with jelly legs. There were a few inclines through the trees early on, I noticed my right calf was a little tight but I was feeling okay.

After a few minutes I looked down at my watch to realise it was doing its own thing and I had no idea what my pace was. This was something in my plan, I wanted to monitor my pace to stop me burning out too soon like I had done previously. I’d purposely biked to Cleethorpes half marathon the week before to  find my pace off the bike and now it was all falling apart, the markers were even in km’s and I’m used to running in miles. I fumbled with my watch but had no idea what it was doing, this messed with my head and I felt like it was all going wrong already. At this point I realised I had to just run judging how I felt.

Again like the start of the bike I felt like everyone was overtaking me, it was hard not to speed up as they passed but I stuck to what felt a comfortable pace. By the 2km marker (not sure what this is in miles) my calf was still tight and I made a decision to stop and stretch. Again, I couldn’t help things were going wrong again but to my relief when I set off running I could feel it easing off. Not long after that I passed Mark & Ric running towards me side by side, my first thought was thank god they didn’t see me stretching at the side. We cheered each other on and I carried on trying to stay steady. I got to the first turn point which I’d worked out was about 3 miles, this was my queue for my first gel washed down with a few sips of water.

Running again I started to analyse how I felt and I felt good. I relaxed into my pace and told myself I could do this (PMA) still no idea what pace I was running at but not feeling as bad as had previously gave me a lift. I soon found myself back at transition ready to start another out & back. I saw a few people in front of me turn to finish when it dawned on me I had to do that all again. I had no idea what time I was on but shout outs from Nicola Hall, “your looking good” gave me a boost.

Starting my second outing I took on another gel as planned and pushed on a little bit. With over half of the run in the bag I felt comfortable and managed to take in some of the pretty scenery around the waters. Heading out again I saw a few more Lincsquadders including Chris Jackson, Julian Hesp, Jonathan Bower and Neil Hall. I caught up with Mark Turner who had his wife Janine and son George supporting on the course. It definitely helped being an out and back course and have the opportunity to encourage each other.

Coming back through the trees for the last time I had two inclines to get up then I was on the home straight. I caught two blokes in front of me and we all said we were on our last lap. Running together we increased our pace till we could see the finish. I felt good so kicked out a sprint overtaking them crossing the finish line to the words ‘you are a Vitruvian’.

I’m pretty happy with 8th in my age category and 51st female out of 156 but most of all happy with my new half iron man PB and conquering the run.

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