The day started off very strangely. Just before going to bed, we'd heard about the earthquake in Japan and Tsunami warning, but only in a vague sort of way and, as there had been a similar warning earlier in the week (when the 7.2 quake hit Japan), I sort of dismissed it. Then Pip and my sister both sent texts asking if the tri was on, and I started to worry- as I saw it, if the swim was off the rest would be too, as the whole race is coastal. But there was nothing much we could do but wait, so we went to bed, ready for our 4:45am wake up call.
I woke again at about 11, to see another text from Pip, which very clearly suggested that the race had been cancelled, and seemed to assume I knew. It said it had been received at 10pm, so I didn't want to reply, and instead just sort of lay there in the dark, in a sort of semi-waking state, feeling baffled. Nothing weirder than preparing for a 4:45am wake up call you don't think you'll need! [we know now what happened- somehow my phone had sent Pip a text saying "cancelled..."- it didn't even show up in my sent items!? I almost wonder if it was the text that was cancelled?]
After a strange night's sleep, 4:45am arrived. I woke quietly thinking that if I could confirm the race was off, we could just crawl back into our nice cosy bed. But I couldn't figure out how to tune the radio (it was on Radio NZ, but I was thinking maybe Newstalk ZB) and I couldn't find our hosts' laptop either. So I woke Phil up, told him everything, and we slowly got on our way.
We listened to Radio NZ in the car, and soon enough heard the tail end of the Tsunami warning. Basically, we heard "stay out of the water", and assumed it HAD to be off. We arrived at transition, but far from being a ghost town, it was bustling. Asked a marshall what was going on, and she assured us it was business as usual- though I think all participants expected the swim to be off. So, we got ourselves set up and ready!
The swim was still on- we now know that the concern was not a ginormous wave, but something to do with currents, and we were swimming right in the harbour where it wouldn't be an issue.
We started 5 minutes after the men, which was great. In a deep water start, too often there's no time for us to get in position and choose our lines once the blokes have gone, which can be quite irritating! 5 minutes gave us heaps of time, and meant much less catching went on, but meant we were still close to the action for the rest of the race. Thumbs up to the organisers for that one.
I felt really good in the cold water, and definitely felt like I was in the thick of the pink caps heading to the first buoy (350m, I think). I had some good feet to the second buoy, and stayed with a couple of ladies for the rest of the anticlockwise box. The course was great too- the buoys were all between 200 and 400m apart, so the next one was never too far away, but they also weren't so close together that there was complete chaos at each one.
I had no idea how long I'd taken when I finished, as I was racing with NO DATA at all, but there were still plenty of bikes in transition. Still, 25-29 ladies was pretty empty, so I knew the swim had been ok, not awesome.
Time: 31:32 (including T1- and the big run from the beach to T1, so 28ish actual water time?); place (women only) 83/120-something.
With my gorgeous race tyres and great new fit (I wish I had pics for you, Mike and Westy), I was looking forward to the bike. Our training ride the day before had reminded me how sneakily technical the course is in places, and how easy it is for Wellington's wind to sneak up and bite you! It was a calm day, and an early race, so my race plan was simple. Drop the hammer and GO!
However, no sooner had I dropped and GONE than I was passed for the first time. Then the second. Then the third. Then by the guy on the MTB. Then the larger woman in the Contact jersey. I checked my RPE- legs were working hard, gear was high, lungs were going OK. I honestly didn't feel like I could go faster- well, not for 40 more ks, anyway, so I let them go, and tried to relax into my own race. I gradually made up a little ground as I headed around the bays, and felt like I was flying, but still there were many others flying faster. I leapfrogged with another lady (who I definitely felt should have been slower than me) for quite awhile, until she passed me saying "looks like we'll be keeping each other company!". I wasn't bothered, and thought it could work well, but next time I took my turn in the front (we were WELL legal), I lost her, and didn't see her again. MTB guy continued to perplex me- we kept leapfrogging for the whole ride- my frustration at being beaten by a MOUNTAIN BIKE only matched by the satisfaction he probably got from beating the poser in the aero helmet! I felt like I was making good ground against the people I was with in headwinds, but losing in tailwinds, despite being in a comfortable aero position.
The turnaround came a little later than expected, but soon enough- the flat, windy (both in terms of wind and corners) 20k had sped by, and it was awesome knowing all I had to do was go back! I felt like I could make up some more ground on the return journey, as I was feeling good, but it was here that I started being passed by the NZL-bums! Now, I often aim to race with, or pass, NZL-bums, but sadly, I recognised these bums as belonging to women in the 45+ AGs, not my own! I also got passed by a girl in a lifestyle sports suit, who I totally lost, and didn't see again until the run.
Just before T2, I had a rather frightening experience, which left me feeling a bit dazed. I was slowing slightly as I approached a zebra crossing (it didn't look like anyone would cross, but better safe than sorry), when a taxi decided to do a u-turn into my path. I slammed on my brakes, swerved just about into the kerb, and both feet came flying out of the pedals in panic. Just missed making contact. Shouted some pathetic abuse (I'm ashamed to say the word that came to mind was "D!ck!" I mean REALLY? I couldn't do better??), and luckily the people at the cafe next to me took up my cause and added a bit of shouting themselves. It was really quite absurd- the roads were closed, there were cones EVERYWHERE, and cyclists all over the place. Unfortunately, didn't get any numbers, but fortunately, he stopped for a pick up at the hotel slightly down the road, so I hope the company can identify him that way. (I've complained to Wellington Combined, no response yet).
Got passed by a dude as all this was occurring, and made it into T2 just behind him. I think he must have had a mechanical, as he was not the sort of guy who should be 5 minutes behind me! Super long run with the bike around the side of T2, and the site of the chocka full bike racks was, as usual, pretty dismaying, but that feeling didn't last for too long- it was time to RUN!
Time: 1:27:27 (incl T2); place 99th (RIDICULOUS!!!!!!)
The run course is flat and fast, though headwinds can slow you down. 2 5k laps, 2.5k out and back. I've run around the bays hundreds of times, and it was good to be home! This was definitely where the data-free thing became most interesting to me. I honestly did not know if it would be good or bad- on the one hand, I felt like the Garmin would let me sit at 4:55ish a k even if I could push harder, but on the other hand, knowing how fast I was going could encourage me to push harder. The course is marked every 500m (permanent markers), so even a regular watch would have been OK.
I felt good on the run- steady, and easy but like I was going pretty fast. Every so often, I'd take stock and pick up the pace a little, but I think I mostly just sort of kept plugging along at what I (now) imagine was about a 5:00-5:05 pace. This was definitely catching me up to people, but it was difficult to tell who was in my catch-zone and who wasn't, as there were people on their second laps, etc. I did get passed by a couple of ladies clearly on their second laps. As they mostly went on to record sub 43 times, I'm OK with that!
I realised as I started my second 5k lap that some of the women who'd passed me on the bike were in my sights. I'd caught some pretty early on (including the NZL bums), but there were some I thought I'd never get. That gave me something to focus on, and I'm fairly confident that it pushed me towards a negative split in the run (I'll never know). They looked pretty unreachable as we started the 2.5k "out", but were a lot closer when I saw them on the way "back". I still wasn't quite sure, but I kept quietly picking people off, and making my way closer to them. I saw Phil with about 500m to go, when I was just a wee way behind them, and he ran alongside for awhile. I passed them pretty easily, and finished probably 30s to a minute ahead (not sure entirely who they are, so can't quite tell). I realised as I finished that that last 500m was probably the only part of the run where I'd been puffed and thought "oops, should have worked a little harder!"
Very annoyingly, there was no finish line clock, so I had no idea what my overall time was. After making my way through the area and drinking some absolutely revolting sports drink, I checked the actual time with Phil. It was 10:11am at that point, 2:51 after I'd started (in theory), so I guessed my overall time was probably a little under 2:50. Not as fast as I'd have liked- I wouldn't have minded a PB- but about what I was expecting. A wee bit of guesstimating had me thinking 30 on the swim, 1:25 on the bike, 50 on the run and 5 in transitions, and I think I was about right!
Time: 49:47 (yay- finally sub 50!); place 69th lady.
Overall: 2:48:56; 85th lady.
I think I did everything well, but that I need to work on finding better feet in the swim, and I need to find some way of improving my cycling. I just don't get it, but I am going to keep at it.
The Garmin-Free experiment was mixed- I enjoyed focussing more on my RPE, and it certainly helped my transitions (they were only slowish because they were quite long), but I really think that I'd have run faster with it. I'm convinced that I could have squeaked under 49 with a bit more focus. Of course, what would really have made me run faster would have been running with runners of a similar speed, and that won't be happening until I pick up the cycling. While it's satisfying to catch them on the run, there's nothing particularly special about passing someone who is simply slower, and that's how it normally is for me.