The early start of half 4 was a bit of a shock, but good IM practise. A few bowls of coco pops (my preferred pre-race meal, easy on the stomach, lots of calories and I know I can stomach it!). I cycled to Joe’s at 5 and we left for Liverpool to rack early as we had to be ready to go at 7:40.
When we arrived we built the bikes and had a quick warm-up ride on the course. Having completely closed-off roads was a complete novelty and amazing in a city! Was I had checked everything was working, I had a quick toilet break, then downed a double dose of Immodium to help combat my recent stomach issues, a caffeine gel to give me a kickstart and a Biestmilch booster to seal the deal.
Heading into transition was a bit nerve wracking! There was me, the neo-pro, rocking up next to the likes of the Fraser Cartmell and Stuart Hayes, but thankfully everyone was welcoming and there was a good bit of banter before the start. Once the wetsuit was on, it was time to head for a warm up whilst the commentator got the crowd warmed up. The water wasn’t too bad, though Joe said the French guys were complaining and shivering! We thought it was tropical! 😉 We then had to get out so we could be introduced!
Another embarrassing moment, leaving me hoping that I wouldn’t embarrass myself! So one by one, we were walked into the water and organised ourselves on the start line.
We were going to go bang on 8, despite the best efforts of the kayakers to get the front guys back, so I ended up with a bit of a gap between me and the guys in front… not that it would have made much difference! Once the horn went, I went off hard, but controlled and then couldn’t see anyone after 50m! I knew I would be off the mark but boy do those guys swim quick! I settled in to my own pace, feeling pretty good. Soon, however, I saw Paul Skipper, who was harbouring a shoulder injury, up ahead and caught up with him and sat on his feet through the first buoy and the next, and then moved round. Halfway through the swim I caught a glimpse of a plastic bag below me… nice! A few metres later, and then I saw a load of them, and suddenly it sunk in they are in fact jellyfish! Ah. Best swim a bit quicker then! I had a good swim otherwise, I was swimming hard but felt comfortable, and I think I have finally cracked getting my wetsuit on properly. Coming out the swim with a low 21s on the watch was fantastic to see!
T1 was a painful affair! The run between the swim exit and transition could really do with some matting, but other than the the event was fantastically run. Wetsuit off, helmet, glasses and number belt on and grabbed my bike. Skip, who was on my feet for the rest of the swim had a better transition and was out on the bike soon than me. I also need to practise my mounts, far too slow!
The far couple of laps of the bike were a lonely affair. I kept Skip in sight for one lap before he broke away and the only time I saw people was passing them when they were going the other way. By lap 3, some age groupers were starting to come out on the course I had people to ride with, which seemingly made a huge difference, as I begun to push the pace and picked up my speed, knocking a significant time off the lap from the lap before. This is where riding with power could come in helpful, making sure that I don’t loose focus. I ended up pushing hard going from a 17 minute 1st lap to 15 minute laps, a minute above the top guys, and coming home in about 1 hour 4. I was pleased with my bike, I pushed hard for the most part, and I spent most of the bike weaving in and out of people, shouting to keep left. Those pesky age-groupers eh? 😉 More importantly felt comfortable. Who knows, maybe my position is sorted and I am adjusting to it. Guess I’ll find out next weekend at Roth! Definitely need to spend the winter getting quick though, although I didn’t get passed at all on the bike, apart from once by some vet on a halfords bike with toe-clips. Fair play I thought! Though once he has hammered it past me, he promptly swung back in and slowed down, so I passed him again. It wasn’t until the final lap that I finally begun to catch the back end of the pro women pack, having given up 4-5 minutes on most of them in the swim.
I entered T2 with Vicky Johnston thankfully, because as soon I had racked my bike and shoved my shoes on I headed off in the wrong direction until I saw her go the other way! A quick turnaround and out the exit to see what the legs have, and I pushed hard out of T2. I soon passed Vicky, and once the HR had peaked at 200(!) after a couple of minutes, I settled down into a comfortable rhythm and actually felt pretty good. My km splits soon began to drop and about halfway I passed Holly Lawrence. Shortly before the turnaround I saw a couple of guys ahead of me, as well as Anna Cleaver and pushed on to try and catch them. I got closer, but just ran out of road! My run (the Garmin file here) was 13th quickest of the day, negative splitted and within a minute of the main group.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with my performance. Going in I had no idea of how I would fare, and I am glad the body held up well. If I had been racing as an Age Grouper, my time would have put with 4th overall and just behind the winner, so thankfully I don’t think I embarassed myself too much! It’s a great format and I am definitely hooked! I’m planning on doing Berlin 5i50 in September if the legs have recovered from my July of Ironmans. I just need to do some speed work first!
So whilst down at the Aquathlon on thursday (race report to follow) I jokingly suggested I should try and get an elite slot at Liverpool on thursday after Joe suggested it as he was down anyway. I was half tempted but then forgot about it.
On friday I thought about it again, but not seriously, then Joe rang me and suggested why not. And why not? The pro entry gets paid for, I could get a lift down and worse case I would have a solid training session. So I sent an email off to the organisers with my recent results and when I had awoken from my nap I had a reply with the pro entry code and information! I was surprised to say the least! Somehow they thought I was good enough to race against people like Fraser Cartmell and Stuart Hayes!
So this afternoon we headed down to the pro race briefing where we went through everything, and then at the end the commentator came up to me as she didn’t have any information on me (how surprising!) and wanted to know about me for when all the pros get introduced to the crowd before the race…. aha! Now I realise how in over my head I am! So I told her about my IMs and my packed July and then she said “so is this your first year as a pro?” Umm! Anyway, it will be an experience! Plus, I think I am the youngest ‘pro’ there.
So tomorrow I am well aware that I am going be in for a complete hammering, especially on the swim. If I come out within 5 minutes of the front guys I will be happy! Hopefully there will be some feet I can draft off, and if I can get under 22 minutes I will be very pleased. Then it will be a case of smashing the bike and seeing how quickly I can run. I don’t have any expectations, I am just in it for the experience. It would be nice to see how many of the women I could beat, as hopefully I will out-bike most of them though I expect them to put a lot of time into me on the swim and run. But hey, I’m a long course guy so it doesn’t matter 😉