East Fife 2010 race report

Apr.18, 2010, filed under Race reports, Triathlon

It’s strange to think that this will be my fourth year of triathlon. It started about as badly as a triathlon season can start, with acute ITB syndrome bringing my training to a complete standstill at the beginning of February. I missed Tranent this year, although I had entered and despite the best efforts of my physio (when I suggested going ahead with the race she told me I’d be bloody daft).

So East Fife 2010 was my first race of the season, and it came 10 measly days after getting back into training. I’d been running three times — each of those less than the 5km I’d do in the race — and on the bike twice since the aforementioned knee injury kicked off: I wasn’t expecting a fast race.

It struck me first of all how easily the old rituals came back. Talc in the cycling shoes to make them easier to pull on with wet feet. Talc and vaseline in the running shoes because life’s too short for socks. One spare suit, a spare sports bra (I forgot my bra at East Fife last year, and it was nearly a DNS — Kathy to the rescue), spare number belt… I try to take spares of everything, because that means I can’t possibly have forgotten something. I hadn’t raced in 6 months, but it all came back as if it were still the end of last season.

East Fife always gets good weather. Three years of racing at this event and it was sunny every time. This year was no different. I was so glad I packed my sunscreen.

Registration was at 8am but my swim time has improved since the first year of racing, and this year my heat wasn’t off until 11am. I nommed bananas, drank water, fretted over my transition layout because I was sure I had forgotten something and patted myself on the back for assuming they wouldn’t be allowing boxes in transition. I don’t know why they insist on that — well, I do really. But it’s not in the rules.

At the race briefing the call went out to ask if anyone was racing on a 650cc. No. Nobody was. That’s not strictly true. Somebody was. Somebody who had pumped his tyre to the point of exploding the tube and had neglected to bring a spare. Silly, silly man. I offered a patch, but apparently the tube was well and truly Bunberried. I did manage to help the gentleman who had forgotten his race belt, however.

I was well impressed by the novice race this year. Triathlon is an odd sport: the competitors span a range that goes from “comfortably plump, riding knobblies” at one end to “terrifyingly gaunt, carbon monocoque and sperm hat” at the other. At these regional events I have far more admiration for the novices for whom this is a real challenge than I do for the £5k TT bike semi-pros who are too self-absorbed even to have a good word for the marshals. When they give the spiel in race briefing about not being rude to the marshals, you can bet your arse that the novices are not the ones who need to take heed.

A considerably improved swim time gave me plenty of time to watch the earlier heats — in previous years a slow time and inexperience has seen me in pre-race mental prep mode so early I didn’t get a chance to chill and watch the earlier heats. Sitting on the step watching the novice heat come out I was simultaneously impressed and fascinated at the way they tackled T1. For those of you who don’t do triathlon, T1 is the transition from swim to bike. It’s an often-dizzy, high-pressure effort to get from being wet and horizontal to wearing a helmet, race number and shoes with wheels underneath you. Most sprint athletes do without socks (see above) and a seasoned athlete can get through this quick change in considerably less a minute.

The novices were taking the time to dry themselves off, put on board shorts, shirts, have a drink and a biscuit. Good on them for making the effort, but still, as one guy from the Edinburgh University race team commented, was there no sense of pressure?

Spare a thought for the entrant who had a tube explode while his bike was in transition, after the race had started. We were watching the novice heats when there was an almighty bang. Every single athlete present went on full alert like a swarm of meerkats, each wondering if his was the unruly steed. Note to self: do not pump tyres to very high pressure in the cold of early morning if expecting the rest of the day to get scorching.

Eventually it was time for me to head in and get prepped. Now this is possibly too much information, but my crowning achievement for this year has to be the fact that I was so chilled about the whole affair that I only went to the toilet three times before the race started. Oh, if you had seen me a couple of years ago. I sometimes wonder how big the carbon footprint of my racing career is in terms of toilet paper alone.

Cupar pool is not my favourite venue. The race is a great wee race, but I really don’t like the pool. This year was the worst yet — the water was so murky it was more like an open water race and the sides of the pool so slippy that I gave up on tumble turns after two attempts. Under strict orders from my physio not to try to break any records I let the guy behind me past on the second length (really, though, chaps, you should give people a chance to settle into a rhythm before asking to overtake), then found a nice tempo drafting him.

Until, of course, his pacing failed. Drives me nuts, that does. I try to swim a negative split (finishing faster than starting). Failing that, I swim a steady pace. I have yet to participate in a race where the other swimmers in my lane have not underestimated their swim time and they go off like a rocket, thumping my feet to get past, only to get tired at about 400m, at which point I overtake everyone.

This time I had just got past the traffic at around 500m when I breathed in half the pool. Because it was a busy heat, 6 to a lane, the water was very choppy and I took a wave to the face just as I was breathing in. I can normally swim that off but it was a lot of water and eventually I had to pull up to the side of the pool for half a minute to cough it out. By the time I was fit to go everyone had gone past me and I was furious.

This incident affected the rest of my race much more significantly than I was expecting. Not only was I having to look after my knee, I was limited in how hard I could push because my airways were reacting badly to the chlorine from the pool. Hence I was overtaken by other girls on the bike, for the first time ever in my racing career. Hence the run was so tough, with a point on the third lap when my airways closed off to the point where I was making odd whooping noises when breathing in. I don’t have asthma, but that felt like what I imagine an asthma attack might feel like. It was horrible. Running through that restricted airflow was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

Bike was okay, given the lack of training. Could really do with having that road resurfaced. My bike hates it. The run was harder than I expected, although not sure why I was expecting it to be any easier given the lack of training. Overall, 34 seconds slower than last year which either means that I now have superior base conditioning or last year’s performance was shockingly awful.

I’m not fast enough to justify a sperm hat or a carbon monocoque, but by gods I want both. But then I’d have to shoot myself for being overly pretentious. Still, if anyone fancies sponsoring me, I wouldn’t say no.

Dalkeith next, on the 2nd May. Apparently it’s not continuous wave format this year. If it turns out that it is, however, expect much ranting.

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