Midlothian Sprint 2010 race report

May.02, 2010, filed under Race reports, Triathlon

avatar I happily confess I didn’t want to do this race. An extended bout of insomnia, a lupus flare, injury issues and sheer despondency over my training progress this year left me severely lacking in motivation. However, one of the defining characteristics of the institutionalised triathlete is a tendency to get on with it despite a total lack of motivation; indeed, in some cases, when the state of one’s health would preclude it if one were of sound mind.

Six o’clock this morning therefore saw me dragging myself out of bed and turning on the kettle and coffee machine. It wasn’t warm. The wind had changed direction to come from the north and I was concerned about rain. I don’t mind rain on a warm day. On a cold day it puts a serious damper on transition times because squirming into a Gore-Tex jacket with wet arms is not the easiest thing in the world.

Registration was between 7am and 8am and Dalkeith isn’t too far away so we were out the door at 06:50. I’m always amazed at how many people are up and about at that time on a Sunday morning. What are they doing? Why are they there? There’s an entire world that seems to exist in the realm of very early weekend mornings and while it’s incredibly sparsely populated, it is populated, which never ceases to surprise me. The cars with bikes on the back were obviously up to the same mischief as us, but what about the others?

If you know don’t tell me. I prefer the stories I imagine.

We got there about 7:20 and the car park was already looking full, which Frood found remarkable: the last time I did this race we turned up half an hour after registration was due to open and there was no one there except for a couple of other triathletes looking lost and confused.

I made a dash for race registration for body markings and timing chip. The freebie this time was a mug, which pleased Frood no end (not). I’m in my fourth year of triathlon now, and have developed some very strong opinions on what constitutes a good race. One of the criteria is the quality of the freebies, and by quality I mean relevance. It’s not cheap to enter a triathlon — you’re looking at around thirty molluscs for a sprint, fifty to sixty for a standard, and the longer distances go up into three figures — and 95% of the athletes taking part are not competing to win. They don’t expect to go home with a prize and probably never will. All they get for their money is the opportunity to race and whatever freebie is on offer. If I’m stumping up that amount of cash it’s nice to be given a memento that’s a bit more appealing than a mug with a logo on it. Galway last year was great, with a technical t-shirt for every competitor, including some in girlie sizes. Haddington the year before last gave us multi-tools. Even the ubiquitous water bottle is at least something you can use on the bike. I’m hardly going to stop for a cup of tea in transition and, even if I were, we’re not short on mugs at home. I’d prefer to keep my swim hat rather than get a mug, and that would be cheaper for the organisers, too. Just get a bunch of swim caps printed up at about 20p a shot and let us keep them. I like getting to keep my swim cap. It’s very handy to have race caps when training. Wearing one dissuades slow people from getting in the same lane as me.

Being given my own swim cap would also have prevented the horrible, awful moment at the start of the swim when I opened the cap to put it on and found a mass of someone else’s thick, black hair, swarming over the inside like some sort of parasitic worm colony. That I have a phobia about unattached hair is beside the point. Just EW.

I turned it inside out.

I took a chilled attitude in the swim. In past years I’ve become impatient when I’ve been close enough to touch the feet of the swimmer in front, but I’ve learned to relax and take advantage of drafting. I had a slight moment of panic when I was hit in the face by water on an in-breath and it looked like I was going to do a repeat of East Fife. I reacted more quickly this time and could therefore swim through it. I had also made a decision to try to be “in the moment” for this race, and not let how I was feeling at any given time push me into assumptions about what that meant for the rest of the race or even how I was performing. That helped a lot, and when the indication came that I had two lengths to go I was genuinely surprised.

This attempt at triathlon Zen failed on the bike. Dalkeith has the long descent with the vicious surface and sunken manholes that nearly had me off three years ago and gave me the Fear. After Cupar I thought I was over it: sadly not. I couldn’t make myself take my fingers off the brakes on that part, especially as there were some new, very nasty potholes and lacking any depth perception meant I couldn’t see how far away they were. The second lap was better, but even so I was overtaken by athletes who were braver than I was.

Back into T2, which had me struggling to get my running shoes on because I’ve got a gammy foot right now, and then more application of Zen to the run on the back of an article in the latest Runner’s World: concentrating on my breath and on my posture, acknowledging when thoughts about painful feet and tight hip extensors and people overtaking me — not to mention fretting about this year’s Galway — intruded and then focusing on the breath again. Sounds great in practise, but when the breath is laboured it’s also a great way to remind yourself that you’re suffering.

Still, I was in pretty good shape when I crossed the line, not the wheezing heap that I was in Cupar. My times, as dispatched to me by text message while I was still on my way home (which, I have to say, almost makes up for the mug) were:

Total: 01:22’47
Swim: 00:14’33 (including run to mat — I made it 13’36 for a PB)
T1: 00:01’26
Cycle: 00:38’52
T2: 00:01’15
Run: 00:26’39

The cycle and the run are suffering from injury-induced lack of training, but if I’m honest my run hasn’t improved all that much in the four years I’ve been competing and I really don’t know what to do about that. My goals this year, up until I had to take time out, were a sub-13 minute swim, a consistent 35 minute or less bike and a consistent sub-25 minute run. I think I can make my swim goal, but even this early in the season I’m having doubts about the other two because they’re not showing much sign of improvement.

It was a good race though. As it turned out I enjoyed it. The pool was cold, the weather was cool and dry and I didn’t feel under any particular pressure. I suspect that’s the right combination for having an enjoyable race, if not for breaking any records: but then, as I don’t enter to win because I know I’m not fast enough to win, enjoying a triathlon is as much of an achievement as a finishing in a new fastest time.

Now I get beer and home-made pizza. Nom!

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