(previous Blue Lake reports are here and here!)
One of our favourite races of every season is the first Contact Cup event at Blue Lake in Rotorua (THE best triathlon spot in the country). In previous years, it's been a good test of our fitness leading up to our A race- the Rotorua Half Ironman, which is held in the same location. But we love it so much- despite what appears from those race reports, that we decided we had to do it again this year (even though we're building up to Tauranga, and even though we had our first half ironman just two weeks ago!)
Pre-race For the first time, we live near enough to Blue Lake to save on accommodation and sleep at home. Woop! Of course, this DID mean getting up at 5:30am. Not my favourite start to a Sunday. Usually I'm a box of fluffy ducks pre-race, but this morning I was tired and irritable and my tum was uneasy- instead of wolfing my breakfast down, I packed it up in an empty yoghurt pottle and waited until we were driving to eat it. I finally confessed to Phil that I'd started feeling off the previous afternoon. He'd felt unwell in the morning, so he'd skipped our cruisy day of training (2k swim, 1 hour bike), but I'd felt fine, and had a pretty good training session. It was only after a long lunch in the sun that my fatigue started to catch up with me.
Swim By the time we got to Blue Lake, I was feeling a bit more chipper. Although I wasn't 100% I decided I was well enough to train and, if I was well enough to train, I'd be well enough to race. Good logic, yes? I wetsuited up, squeezed in a quick warm up, and then we were off! I lost the main bunch of ladies pretty early on, but I felt OK, if a little breathless, and I had company around me. After the first buoy (250m) I found some feet, and I stuck with them for the remaining 1250! I might have been able to go faster by myself, but it wasn't worth the extra for a training race. I wasn't wearing a watch, but the time on my Garmin was 9:49 (in theory, 31:00) by the time I raced up the hill to T1 and found my bike, so I'm thinking 29:xx swim time.
Bike They changed the bike course on us this year, but the first 8ks or so was the same- up Tarawera Rd out of transition and around the Okareka loop. I found the first climb much harder than usual- adrenaline, I guess, but usually I'm pounding up it. This time it was more of a crawl, but I was gaining on the ladies in front of me, so I wasn't too bothered up. I've obviously lost some descending skills since I've been out of Welly, as I was a bit timid this time. There had been a car accident at the bottom of the tricky bit, which slowed us down a little- the lady ahead of me slowed quite abruptly so I slammed on the brakes. I passed three ladies on the final climb, and was pretty stoked when they didn't immediately catch me on the descent.
From the bottom of Okareka, we headed out towards Green Lake instead of going back for another loop right away. It's basically biggish rollers all the way out- fun, but just tough enough to make it hard to get into a rhythm- especially after a spin around Okareka. I seemed to be going along OK- I was keeping ahead of my friends, anyway. There was a man standing by a bright orange barrel a little way past the lookout- I saw the lady in front of me whizz round it and start heading down the hill, so I started to follow. The man seemed to gesture that I should head between him and the barrel, and I assumed the turnaround was at the bottom of the hill to the right of the barrel. Then I saw the woman who had been in front of me walking her bike up the hill I was about to head down, accompanied by a marshall. The marshall seemed to have left her post, stopping people from going down the hill, and barrel man needed to work on his "head back UP" skills!
Unfortunately, it wasn't so simple just to turn around. We'd just been hammering down a big ol' hill, and I was in my biggest gear. Turning back up the steep old hill just wasn't going to happen- and by the time I figured out what was going on, I'd had to stop short and clip out. So I jumped off, played around, dropped my chain and finally got into a much better gear. By the time I took off back up the hill, I'd lost two minutes, and all of my new friends had passed me and blitzed off into the distance.
I was a little disheartened, and it was awhile before I felt like I could be awesome instead, but I decided to dig deep and to catch as many of the women as possible over the next loop. I knew I was a better climber than them, so it was at least plausible. Seeing people behind me on my way back (including two I'd identified as people to beat) definitely spurred me on, as did realising I'd only been lapped once (the benefit of a 2-lap, rather than 5 lap, course). I was slow up Tarawera again, but stronger on the downhills, and not bad up the other side either. I was gaining on one of the women, but couldn't quite catch her on the way up, so I chased her out to Green Lake (where I made sure to get the turn right...)
My legs were jelly when I rode into T2, but it was time to run, and I knew I'd be catching the others soon!
As usual, I started off well. The run starts downhill and on the road before heading up a couple of steepish climbs on a gravel verge, and then heading onto a rolling forest track. I met Phil about 1km in- the same place I met him in 2008! But by the end of the second hill, I was faltering. I couldn't put my finger on it- my legs were OK, my HR was fine, but I was feeling much more fatigued than I usually would be at this point in the race. I walked the drink station heading into the forest and seriously thought about turning around and walking back, before deciding to give it a shot. There was a woman in front of me walking, so I jogged past her, which made me feel momentarily better. But as soon as we hit the shade I went from hot and shaky to shivery and shaky, and I realised my wee lurgy was catching up with me. I stopped and hit my stop watch after walking the first two short hills, but decided to man up and carry on. This carried on for the next few ks- I could run slooowly downhill, but was pretty much wheezing on the uphills, and feeling like pants. I decided I would just hang on as best I could and make up my mind when I got to the end of the first loop. I knew I'd see Phil and that he could help me make the right decision.
After nearly 40 minutes (I think), I made it back to the lake. I heard Phil cheering for me, and I beckoned him over to me, but the ground was hot and he couldn't run. I paused at the beach drink station, and realised I needed to quit. I could have continued, but it is not like me to reconsider starting again, and I knew it was the sickness rather than just heat and fatigue. So instead of heading back up the hills, I headed into the lake, and slowly walked over to where Phil was standing. I handed in my timing chip, chatted to Phil about the race, and moped a little.
Aftermath This is a standard, patented Kate Head-Cold, and they're notoriously up and down. I felt OK immediately after pulling out, but could barely stomach my scone down at lunch. I napped in the car on the way home, and headed straight to bed when I got here. I'm still feeling a bit off, so I'm drinking a lemon and ginger drink and planning an early night. Luckily, I've recovered very quickly from the Kate Head-Cold every time it's reared its ugly head this year, so I'm confident that I'll be right as rain for Tinman!
I was feeling a bit glum, not about not finishing, but about my general my performance. I remembered this time last year, when I had a solid race at Blue Lake, followed up by a good Tinman. This year, I've been disappointed so far. But then I remembered that LAST year, we didn't do a half ironman (followed by a 100km bike the next weekend) before the Rotovegas/Tinman double. Hmm- that might have something to do with it?