Monday, February 14, 2011

Race Report: (The Inaugural) New Plymouth Half Ironman

I had planned REAL hard to write a "pre-race" post for this one.

There was so much to say- my fear that I could be, not only last in my AG [quick google stalking confirmed that this was very much a possibility] but last overall [a random google stalking of some of the older ladies confirmed that a number were AG reps and super speedy cyclists]. And the fact that the race course was basically an extended version of my FIRST EVER [proper] TRI back in 2006, which led to a whole heap of reflecting and a strong sense of deja vu throughout the weekend. Well, deja vu minus the dehabilitating nerves I suffered last time.

But with two computer-less days in Wellington for work, and a race and weekend away to get ready for when we came back, I just didn't quite get round to it. So you're in luck- not too much navel gazing (yet).

2 triangular laps. Slightly bumpy, but no major tide issues and no white caps. We met one of the race officials the day before the event who emphasised that this was a true Half IM, with a swim of exactly 1.9km. Given their measurement of the other disciplines, I think they probably got it right. I got into a good pack of ladies for the first lap, but it got a bit frayed on the way back to the beach, and the second lap was far patchier. Still, although I wasn't up with the lead pack, there were a reasonable number of red caps around me (as well as men's blue caps and teams' green, purple and black). Made it out of the water in 37:15, and up over the timing mats at the beginning of T1 in 38:17.

T1 The race was designed to be a bit of an ironman prep race, and so utilised the "tent" approach to transition. I was a little sceptical, but it turned out to be great! I loved having someone there to help me, even though they didn't give me a huge amount of assistance. I was also stoked to see so many ladies in the change tent- was such a relief to know there were still bikes in the racks! Managed to get in, get my bag, wetsuit (etc) off, get socks, shoes, glasses, helmet on, bits and bobs in pockets. Got the gloves on while running to the bike, and was outta there in 2:12, which isn't great, but isn't bad when you compare it to other people's transition times (Phil did a 1:54, for example).

Bike Wow- what a course!

It was tough, but it was gorgeous, and, above all, it was FUN. I'd started the morning feeling pretty unenthused, and just generally not in the mood to race, but had a great time during the swim, and my enthusiasm picked up on the bike. I realised after the first 6-odd ks of climbing that I could ignore my average speed and just keep trying, and so I did. I possibly did too much "fun having" and not enough trying, but that's really what worked for me this time.

The last 18 or so ks of lap 1 were fabulous. I was smart enough to realise that I wasn't going 40km/h by myself, and cleverly deduced that I'd be suffering on the way back. Was the tailwind worth it? Hell no. But was it fun? Oh yeah! I saw the bike leader (team member) at 31km, first lady around 37 (?) and saw Phil at about 40km, then made my way to the turnaround at Rahotu (in 1:35). I could tell from the people coming the other way that the tailwind pushing me along was pretty strong!

At Rahotu, I made a fundamental and totally stupid mistake. Especially stupid since I'd PLANNED not to make precisely the mistake I made. I'd started the race with two bottles of Replace, and planned to exchange one for a bottle of water at the bottle drop. But I'd only got through 2/3 or so of bottle one, and I wanted to get moving [or something], so I decided I could get through 45km with one a bit bottles, and not to worry. That ten second decision probably ended up costing me a good 10 minutes. *bangs stupid muppet head against wall*.

The ride home was, as predicted, an absolute sufferfest. I did a pretty good job of ignoring the numbers, and just trying to keep working. I felt as if it was working, as I was PASSING PEOPLE. ME! Passing people on the bike- practically unheard of. I didn't do a very good job of keeping aero, but I tried to use my drops on the downhills, and I focussed on my road position. The last thing I wanted was to make myself uncomfortable for the long route home.

Making it back to Okato was a major landmark on the way back. That was where the sweet talk wind started, and I hoped where the gruelling headwind ended. Of course, it was also where the gradually downwards rolling hills ended on the way out, so where the gradually upwards rolling hills started on the way back. I'd kissed goodbye to 3:20 and even 3:30 by this point, but hoped that 3:40 would still be in reach. Anything under 3:47 would at least be a non-PW!

I felt pretty OK for the whole of the ride. Slow and sore, but not AS uncomfortable as I've felt recently, which has got to be a plus! [for those interested in the bike position sagas, I've bought some longer clip on bars, which I'll put on before the Standards in Wellington] One of the highlights was definitely passing a lady who'd passed me in the first 3km- and STAYING past. Sweet! And passing a fair few men too! Unfortunately, I ran out of drink somewhere around Oakura, with 12 hilly ks to go (at one point we climbed, with only very slight respite, for something like 4ks). The sun was well out by this point (I guess it would have been 11ish), and it was baking hot.

Made it back into T2 at 3:39 [yes, if you've done the maths, it took me TWO HOURS to get back], and was out in 1:37- stuffing around with my Garmin cost me a little, and there was a bit of messy pocket re-sorting which seemed to take longer than usual. I'd seen my arch rival (she doesn't know it...) out on the run, and wanted to catch her. More than anything, I wanted a DRINK!

Run UNfortunately, the first drink station was not until 3.5km into the run (it was a little longer actually). For the second and third laps, there was also an aid station at Ngamotu beach, but this wasn't open to first lappers. I realise my hydration woes were entirely my own doing, but I do think in a half IM it's good to have an aid station shortly off the bike- by the time I started the run it was nearly midday, and IT WAS HOT as Hades.

I started running at a reasonable pace, but it started dropping quickly. Each km ticked by slowly, and the small hills reduced me to snails' pace. I was basically just running for the promise of water. Stoked to arrive at a group of kids with hoses and buckets, but the relief was shortlived. By the time I walked through the first aid station, my average pace had dropped to 6 min/ks- slower than both my other halves this year. I'd hoped to finish each lap in 40 minutes, but it was 42:54 by the time I made it through the beach aid station, and I was feeling pretty grim. I knew by this point it was a case of survival, not speed. The one high point? I passed my arch rival, and left her in my dust.

The second lap was all kinds of hell. I was a bit headachy, and hot and shivery, and really need to wee. I shuffled up Bayly Street, and just couldn't put any PUSH behind my stride. The 2.5km before I met the hose kids was interminable, and the 1km between them and the drink station was at snail's pace. My average speed was hovering around 9 km/h- that's just a number I don't see any more, especially not on the flat! I could feel my shoulders burning, and sprayed myself with sunscreen a couple of times, but I suspect it just sweated or rinsed off- it certainly did f-all good, as I'm a stripy lobster now!

I promised myself I could walk/run the third lap, but I mostly didn't- I took a walk break up Bayly Street (immediately out of transition- it's short but horrid) and another about 2km in, but after that I found a couple of friends to chase, and just sucked it up. I think the promise of finishing at LAST combined with some of the hydration sinking in a bit gave me a bit more pep. Thanks to the wrist scrunchies everyone could see that I was on my last lap, and I got some lovely shout outs from the volunteers.

I finally made it over the line in 6:34- my slowest Half IM so far, and my second slowest run (2:12:54). But I'd picked it up well for the last lap- my overall time was slower (it was longer because I needed to get to the finish line) but my pace dropped from 6:44/km for lap 2 to 6:30/km for lap 3. Not bad for a zombie!

Comments: I'm actually pleased-ish with this race. I didn't come last in my AG, or last overall, not by a longshot. I placed about halfway through the women (14th overall) and 5th in my AG. I was also 68th overall- yes, it was a tiny field, but I beat a decent enough number of both men and women. The time was utterly pathetic- even given the hard course. Candice Hammond did a 4:53, and Phil did 5:15, so it doesn't seem to have been objectively harder than Karapiro, and I was 6 minutes slower. But I'm pleased with myself. I raced well on the bike, and I kept going on the run. 2:12 is slow for me, but it's fast for someone who feels like death warmed up! I've been very lucky with my racing so far- no super stupid moves, and no major dramas. Now I've really seen how much more careful I need to be with my hydration- it's about time I learned that lesson.

And an epilogue:I'm really glad we did all three races this season, but I am also SO glad that we are all done! One thing I've realised over the past few weeks is that I am not really ready to race long. Not even half-distance. I think Westy has known this for ages, but I needed to learn it for myself. I've struggled with realising that Phil's teenage fitness means he CAN do things I can't do. But after three years, I think it's time to be honest with myself. The big thing is the bike, of course. I LOVE riding, but I don't love riding long, and I've put SO much into improving this with no tangible results. I'm horrifically uncomfortable after 2 hours on the bike, and I finally know that that's NOT normal! Racing long is doing nothing for my weight, and precious little for my self esteem.

So this season, I'm DEFINITELY taking a break from the Half IM distance (not like last year when I promised a break, but ended up doing three Halfs instead...) I don't know what I'll do yet, but I still like the idea of getting better at the sprint and standard distances, and I truly think I could. I also like the idea of bike commuting to build some serious base, and maybe doing some more running again...Hmm- the world's my oyster!


Rachel Harris said...

I love your epilogue. Be true to yourself and what you really want to do, and everything else will flow. :-)

Good on you girl, I've enjoyed tracking your progress this summer!

Debi said...

Great race report. Good to hear about the course since it's a new one. Sounds like a very tough day at the office - respect to you!

valen said...

great RR. Seems like an honest enough half!,
congrats on your over-achieving and hope whatever you decide works for you,

Nadia MacLaren said...

Oh that course sounds hard, I might have to put it in the maybe list for next year...

Of the 3 you have done this year, what was your favorite?

Well done on the race!

Lisa (bakebikeblog) said...

What a wonderful race report - thankyou for sharing it with us :) And seriously - can you mail me some of your swimming speed!! I am envious!

Westy said...

I'm glad you've realised 90km is a long way to ride :-). Ask your average Joe Bloggs and they would think you're crazy to ride 90 (let alone run and swim). But Kiwi chicks are tough and they expect a lot of themselves... in Europe the women fields are very small for half Ironman distance (maybe 10% ish)
It's a good plan to go back to the shorter distances... you'll still be getting fitter though for any halves you may do in the future.
I think that was actually your best result yet... swim good, bike good, lost it on the run due to nutrition (why does our brain go mental in a race?) Forget about the time, you were beating people, you finished despite the toughness... and you beat arch rival... thats like Bozone beating Cam!

Enjoy the rest

Casie said...

I've been there, the shivers on a stinking hot day. I learned my hydration lesson hard and good. I trust you've learned yours.

Have you seen a bike fit specialist? (Sorry I can't recall). It took me a few goes, but I'm finally pain free on the bike - the way it should be. I hope you get there, regardless of if you're racing long or short.