Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Vitruvian

After going on about it enough, last Saturday I had to actually do the thing.

I've never really trained for anything properly in my life so this was always going to be something special. To be honest it was barely in the spirit of Rubbish...I had done a solid year of intensive training, had all the gear, at least some idea, and hadn't got drunk the night before.

Babs and I drove up to Rutland water on the Friday evening to register and rack our bikes. I had that classic feeling like the first day of school where everyone seems to know what they are doing, knows where to go and has all the right stuff, apart from you. It was all a bit overwhelming and I started to wonder if I was perhaps a little out of my depth...
Luckily Babs is a seasoned pro with all that stuff and sorted me out by telling me at regular intervals to stop being such a pussy.

Whilst racking our bikes, I noticed that mine was about the only one without tri bars. In fact it looked like a shopping bike next to most of the other filthy time trial machines. I started obsessing about that fact and decided that this was going to be my excuse for dismal failure.

Having sorted our stuff and got race numbers and info packs we headed off to our B and B. This was just down the road in a lovely village called Oakham. Kevin was our host. He was a maths teacher and whilst looking like a paedophile, was actually a really charming man. We ate Pizzas and then got our heads down by about 10pm.

Babs drifted off instantly into the sleep of the just. I had I fitful night of staring into the abyss.

Alarm went off at 4 :15. I put on my circus strong man costume. Breakfast of coffee, porridge,toast and peanut butter, and last look at the race maps, bottles filled up with energy stuff, into the car and back to site.

I had time for a last minute panicky faff, getting into my wetsuit, loading up tube bag with gels, putting on hat and goggles then it was time for the race briefing at 6am.
It was still dark and there was an electric atmosphere as hundreds of people in wetsuits and silly hats listened to them telling us not to die and not to cheat.

I was in the first wave of men 18 - 34. Before I knew it I was wandering into a cold lake with 200 other blokes. Bit of gallows humour amongst the condemned men, last pep talk from race marshall, hooter goes off and the bun fight starts.

Everyone had told me to take it super easy on the swim. I really tried not to go off too hard, and to stay calm. Failed dismally. By the first buoy I was completely hyperventilating and having a panic attack. Every time I tried to catch my breath, someone would swim over the top of me. I was freaking out. Kept trying to calm down and swim a bit, but I'd manage a few strokes and then have to tread water again.

I was dreading one of the safety canoeists spotting me and pulling me out, so as a last resort I decided to give myself 30 seconds to completely stop moving and pull myself together. Thankfully it worked, and I started swimming again, taking it steady and controlling my breathing, I managed to catch up with the main pack, which calmed me down and then just got my head down.
I kept telling myself to enjoy it, and as the sun came up over the far bank, and I was cranking along quite happily I realised I was actually having fun.

The run out up to Transition one was hilarious, with a big crowd shouting encouragement, and the joy of knowing that the swim was nailed and I could get on my bike.
Wetsuit off. Helmet on. Sunglasses. Race belt. Shoes on. Grab bike, run out of transition, jump on bike. Huge grin plastered all over my face.

The ride was two 42k laps around the lake. Bit hilly, but after Ventoux, British hills are lame.
Seemed to spend the whole ride eating energy bars and watching someone else ride my bike really fast. I kept waiting for the inevitable crash as I was flying along. Way faster than any training rides. I kept a regular systems check and decided that as long as I kept stuffing my face, I would just keep pushing hard, as it was always going to be my best discipline.

At one point I was having so much fun, I let out a huge WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO thinking there was no one around for miles and I was pushing the boundaries of human achievement for a hobbit on a shopping bike. It was exactly at this point that some aero helmeted super athlete flew past me so fast I felt like I was going backwards.

Amazingly the crash never came, and having expected to take 3 hrs 30mins, I came into transition two in 2hrs 45.
Bike racked. Hat off, shoes off, trainers on, gels stuffed into circus strong man suit. Run out of transition area, past the cheering crowds and along the path round the lake.

To be honest I'd only ever run 21k a couple of times and I'd only practised going straight out for a run, after cycling twice.It was at this point that I wished I hadn't been such a dick.

The first kilometre was like a joke. I was running like a heavy toddler with a head injury. My brain couldn't process the idea that I was going to have to keep that up for 20 more kilometers.
Things settled down after the first 5k though and I just got on with it. Second 5k were positively enjoyable as I necked energy gels and rushed on sugar and endorphins. I was annoyingly smiley and chirpy with my fellow runners and felt invincible.

The wheels came off at 10k. The thought of having to run another 11 was really hard to get my head round. It was at this point that I understood why everyone doesn't do this, and that it really is quite hard. I stopped messing about, put my head down and tried to ignore all pain reports.

The last kilometre was awesome. As I came round the last bend, I could hear the tannoy shouting people home and the crowds cheering. It was the most amazing feeling to realise I was going to finish soon, and I could stop bloody running.

I got some sort of crazed god complex in the last 500 metres and wound it right up to a preposterous full tilt sprint, past the cheering (probably laughing) crowds with the chariots of fire music soaring in my head...

Over the line, and punched the air like a twat, only to realise that the line was actually 100 metres further on, and the crowd were shouting and pointing at it. After crossing that one too, I did the proper wobbly knees marathon finisher, collected my medal and wandered off to find out my time.

I had been trying to add up the 38 mins which I knew the swim had taken with what my watch said for the bike and run. A pretty easy sum, but every time I did it I seemed to get a very un-Rubbish number, I put it down to the fact that I'm crap at maths and must be a bit confused.

I was pretty sure that I had beaten 6 hours 30 though , which would make me well pleased and Babs a tenner as she had backed her own horse.

Checked my time in the tent and found I'd done it in 5hrs 21mins!