Monday, November 24, 2008

Contact Cup Rotorua: Race report

Another epic post. For this one, I recommend chocolate biscuits and coffee. Clearly by the time I get to the half-IM I'm going to need to break it down….

Pre- prelude- tiki tour, pasta and geeking out:

P had been up North since Thursday evening, but I flew up to Rotorua on Saturday afternoon. I was shocked when I got out of the car and felt winds as strong as those I'd left in Welly. That wasn't part of the deal! We stayed with P's friend Chris and his partner, and took a brief tiki-tour of the course before heading home to get ourselves sorted out for registration and a bike-course recon mission. I'd met Chris before but hadn't realised he was a bit of a cyclist/du/triathlete as well- it as great to have his feedback on bits of Tarawera Rd and the Okareka loop. Lucky bugger can pop over to Blue Lake on his bike for an after-work swim. Having said that, the dairy around the corner has an agg-rob every month, so I'm not sure how far my jealousy really goes…

After buying some post-race, we headed back out to the lake to register, pop into the water and do a loop of the course (which by this time had reached epic propostions in my overactive imagination). Kathy's Saint told us we were mad for adding more torture to the weekend, but I wanted to be sure I could do it. We arrived at the venue about 20 minutes before registration opened, and, as we unloaded our beasts (which probably weight more than they're worth!), P amused himself by mentally calculating the value of the U19s bikes. I amused myself thinking rude and judgmental thoughts about the U19s parents.

We headed out onto the loop. As usual, P waited for me to start, so I was ahead of him. Unusually, he didn't overtake me in the first twenty seconds. Then about halfway up Tarawera Rd (from the lake) he yelled out at me to slow down- turns out that in my desperate bid for survival on the hills, I was nailing the thing, and poor old sensible P was spinning away behind me wondering what on earth I was doing (I'll return to this theme later). The loop was gorgeous, but hard. And the descents were a real treat to a bitter Wellingtonian. The Rotorua definition of "pretty windy" is basically the Wellington definition of "lovely big corners and no need to brake!" The chip wasn't too bad either (last year it was fresh, which contributed to the slower bike times). Tarawera Rd was easier than expected, but the climb out of Okareka was much harder. I was prepared for it to go on and on, but I wasn't quite prepared for how difficult the first bit would be- it looked gradual enough, but the speeds I was doing were more like "a bit steep, but not too hideous."

We decided not to bother swimming, and went to registration instead. Definitely disappointed with the schwag. Although I no longer wish to support Orca for personal reasons, I love my tri-top from my first Contact race, and I'm quite disappointed that 2XU didn't come to the party (perhaps because the announcer couldn't stop saying "two ex-ell"). Also- a latex swim cap? And no treats?! Not even a shoe clinic voucher (although to be fair, I'm always happy to get a copy of Multisport in a race pack). Pretty sad for $80, Contact!

Gelato in town (P's lemon mascarpone was amazing), then we headed back to Chris and Nicki's for showers, piles of pasta, glasses of sav, and games of buzz. I had a sudden thought about transition times, given the three quite different races, and luckily I checked the race info, and discovered that transition closed at 6:50am. Just over 3 hours before our race. Goodbye sleep in and leisurely breakfast!

Prelude- how to arrive 3 hours early and still be running late:

We set our alarm for 5, and got up to try to quietly make porridge. I lost my hair-tie, didn't have any spare, and spent about 15 minutes unpacking and repacking my bag, shaking everything out, then scrunching it all back up again, but to no avail. So after forcing down porridge, getting ourselves together in typically disorganised fashion, we headed out to find somewhere that would sell hair bobbles at 6:00am. Fortunately Countdown was open, but they seemed to be out of hairties! Just as I was about to go for a packet of rubber bands, I noticed the one pack of hairties they had left- lime green, proper bobbles (probably that's a word for the weetbix kids out there) with wee plastic dolls on them. Charming. And so practical for 3 hours of movement and shifting headgear.

Got to the course, and bustled down to transition only to find it empty. It seems most people know that "Transition closes at 6:50am. Limited access afterwards" is code for "pop in whenever and rack your bike- there'll be heaps of time." D'oh! And we didn't even get an early riser's advantage- transition spots were organised by race number. So we had three hours to kill, and nothing much to do but wander, read in the car and swim in the lake. And before we knew it, we'd done it. And that was without any reading in the car, or any warming up. Just trips between the car and transition (lets see how many things we can forget …), watching the U19s race (a smooth T1 is clearly something that comes with age/experience…), trying to find Kathy and Paul among the other spectators (Kathy found us minutes before our race started), catching up with friends from Welly and beyond, and generally killing time in the way that only seems to be possible at events.

Then all of a sudden, we were struggling into wetsuits, discarding baggage, and lining up for our briefing, without having been in the water at all. Oops. We managed about 5 minutes after briefing- long enough to discover that the water was lovely and the bottom was rocky and then pop out, in time to squeeze the excess water from our suits, and await the starting gun.

Swim- a comedy of errors

The boys were off, and I tried to decide where to start. I was in place, and ready to go when the airhorn went off behind me, and we rushed in. I started swimming as soon as I could, to get my feet off the rocks, and felt the cool, clear lake water rush over my cap, onto my face and into my eyes.

Into my eyes?

Wait- that's not what's supposed to happen. Oops. Goggles down!

Oh no! Pushing your goggles down while you're UNDER WATER doesn't help. Bugger! Right, stand up on the rocks. Goggles empty. Goggles down. Time to swim.

Hmm- where'd everyone go????

After the goggle debacle, it took awhile to sort my breathing and get into a rhythm. Checked my time at the first buoy and was a bit disappointed to see 4:40 (I think it was around 250m). Turned the buoy, and swallowed a whole lotta lakewater, and headed to the next one. I seem to have trouble navigating the straight edge of a triangle swim- wherever I headed, I didn't feel quite on course, and I couldn't find a safe pair of feet to hang with. Made it to the next buoy at 7:35, and realised that the triangle was not equilateral. Then I headed back in. I knew I was aiming for a sight buoy, and that we’d run around a cone on the beach, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out where to go, so I blundered along in the general direction of the beach, until I got blown out of the way by the lead men on lap 2, and thrown completely off track. Bugger again. I kept on my merry way, pausing to search for the ellusive buoy and cone. A couple of times my pauses turned into actual stops. On the second or third one of these, I saw it. The Big Giant Yellow Buoy on the beach- strangely enough right in the direction that people seemed to be swimming in. I headed into the beach, not wanting to check my watch at the turnaround. Feet on rocks, running gammy, round the buoy and back in. Time was 12:12, for what was supposed to be 750m, but I was feeling marooned at the back of the pack and convinced that the swim was short again, so a super split was no consolation.

Lap 2 was less eventful, but not much fun. I couldn't find a good person to draft off, and couldn't find anyone to attack, so it just made in around at my own wee pace. They must have moved the beach on the way back, because that ruddy yellow buoy just never got any closer. My watch read 25:53 on the way out of the water, but that was little consolation given the deserted bike racks!

Bike- up and down and up again… and again… and again...:
T1 - no comment. Wetsuit off. Lap splits on watch. Glasses on. Helmet on. Race belt on. Socks on, shoes on, and we're off. Oh- bugger. Again! Buttons on my waterproof watch are different to the buttons on my garmin. "Lap" on the Garmin is "stop" on the swimming watch. OK- no time to deal with this- I'll use the bike computer for the bike, then reset the watch in T2 and start the run fresh, and just guesstimate total time.

The bike was great- most of the time. If you have to get passed, and then lapped, it might as well be by the best in the business. I've described bits of the loop a few times now, so I won't go into detail. Basically, my mind went like this:

Lap 1: Right we're up the hill. Not bad. Probably won’t be much fun the 5th time round. Oops, brake for the silly right turn. Where is everyone? Am I dead last? There were some bikes- but maybe they were leftovers from the 3-9-3? Cadence is good! Nice! Speed- well, not to worry. There's always the downhill. WHEEEEE! Holy crap- that guy blew past me like… like.. something really fast! Why can't I go 70km/h downhill? Better get into a low gear so I don't get caught out on that uphill. Where is the climb? Hmm- probably should have been pushing a slightly higher gear along there. Ah- here's the climb. And a line of people as far as the eye can see. And it gets nasty steep just up that corner. And there's some fast men zipping up it. Right- lets look at distance, not speed. Only 1k to go on the first loop. And only 4 more to go! Dooooooown we go again.

Lap 2: Hm. This was easier the first time. Why can't I push up hills like P does? Ah, there's the speedies again. No girls yet though. Hmm- this little extra bonus uphill will be boring by the 5th time round. OK- time to capitalise on the downhill. COME ON! Just go over 50 for one measly second! Oops- this corner's always just a tad sharper than expected. Hang on- better drink. Ick. Oh- there's everyone climbing the hill again! Let's see if I can pass anyone. I can?! Woo! Am I at the top yet? Passed again. No wait- you have your name on your bum. You can pass.

Lap 3: Average speed. No- don’t want to see that. How about distance then? This sucks. I suck. Bike sucks. Two and a half more laps. Only half way. What? How is she passing me? Can I get her back? Naw. Damn downhills. Wow- Brett's passed me already- legend! I wonder where P is?

Hey- no fair filming me from the lead motorbike while I puff away behind the leaders! Leave me alone!

Lap 4: Oh, hi honey. Yes, I'm delighted that you're zipping past me between laps. Simply delighted (actually, in all seriousness, I was glad it took P til the 4th lap to lap me, it was lovely to see him and I was happy that he seemed happy, and was riding his own race). Oh look! A girl for me to chase. Hm. She's not going so fast up these hills. I can do it. I CAN DO IT! I DID IT! Oh.. barely 200m down the hill, and there she goes. Ah well, I'll catch her on the next hill (I did. But she beat me overall) Hang about- how I do I get back to transition. Fuck it- I knew I should have listened to the briefing! Oh- oops, DRINKING. I need to do more of that.

Lap 5: Last time. Boy- I need to change down earlier each time! Lucky this is it. Boy, that headwind picks up each lap- bloody speedsters got out before the weather started to turn. Last time! I'll catch her- I really will. Right- lets nail it along here. What do you mean, NO?? Oh come on- did you have to tell the angry dude in the SUV there were only a handful of us left right in front of me? Oh- and thanks, I KNOW I'm nearly there, I'm sure I'm NOT looking strong, and just because a lot of others have gone before doesn't mean I'm some charity case in need of your pity eyes!

DONE! Boy- lots of bikes here. And all these people finishing. Maybe I'll just do one lap?

Nutrition: 1/2- 3/4 bag sports beans; about 250ml SIS drink (BAD Kate)

And because Mike needs proof, here's me coming through between laps- possibly laps 3 and 4?

Run- all alone in the big bad woods:
I hadn't realised how much it sucks to be at the back of the pack. Especially as a woman- no-one feels anywhere near as sorry for last man as they do for last overall. People pack up, and marshalls leave as you run past. People meander around the beach, forgetting that some poor suckers still have another lap to go.

When they cheer, it has a slightly patronising edge. No "woohoo!! looking goood!" for us at the rear- it's "keep it up! you're nearly there! you can do it!"

Well, DUH. I've just come off a course that's nearly half uphill, and I'm running 5:45 minute ks. I know I can frikkin do it! Just because I'm last out of the superstars doesn't mean I'm a charity case. And if I were- I'd still prefer an honest "WOOO!" to this crap.

This sounds awfully bitter, but I actually had a fantastic time in the run. It's just a gorgeous course! I am perfectly fine with my pace (5:48/k overall) given the hills, the beachy bits and the fact that I was pretty much alone with no-one feasible to chase. I saw P, and he didn't quite streak off in the distance (he was pretty quick, but he stayed within eye shot for at least a couple of minutes). I felt good, my pace felt steady and I thought I might be able to come in under an hour (I was wrong...) Although I struggled to kick it up a notch, I felt like I could hold the pace for a long time (another 10k?), and every k I ran I felt a bit better. On the second loop, I chased a lady down. I didn't quite beat her, but I gained a lot of ground, and she thanked me for keeping her honest.

Finally, it was out of the woods and along the beach (ick) to the finish line and to P (who had a fantastic race, and beat me on the swim, which is one for the books!). I was happy to see that I'd come in under 3:25, which sounds pretty abysmally slow, but it's a bloody hard course, and a quick google shows that those who finished around me are all capable of sub-3 standard distances, mid 1:40s half-marathons (etc etc)...

Run nutrition: one yucky gel, water at all drink stations

To come:
- recovery
- why I need to be slapped
- some lessons


Pip said...

I just left you a message on Facebook asking for a race report then flicked back to Reader and there it was. Doh!

What a hilarious post. I can sympathise with the whole feeling like a doofus while racing thing. You definitely had a strong run though. I hope I'll be able to hold a sub-six pace when I get to that point in my training.

So, what's on the cards for this weekend?

Kate said...

I know- I popped over to facebook just after posting and cracked up!

This weekend is our last "hard" training weekend. Nice quiet roads with all the Taupo riders away!

Anonymous said...

Oh Kate, that was BRILLIANT. Your running commentary on the bike for each lap is EXACTLY what mine would have been like, if I had had the balls to race it that is....

Enjoy your last weekend of big training. Wish we could come and do some with you! Will be seeing you in Rotorua for a better catch up - maybe a few glasses of bubbles afterwards to celebrate!

SUB6 said...

Great report, even if there's only ONE pic :)haha ... love the honesty of the report. The Saint reckons the HI bike is easier so that shouldn't be a problem in Dec. It's going to be an awesome day! :)

Juls said...

Hi Kate, I'm feeling 'amped' after reading your report. It was a great race to do in preparation for the HIM. You'll feel better pre HIM with a good taper.