Monday, 24 May 2010

Big Gear Racing

Yesterday was my first race in 2.5 years and I did something I had not done since my training started 6 weeks ago... I changed into my big ring! Racing a sprint was a shock to the system all round and, although I enjoyed the experience, I think my body spent most of the time wondering what was going on...

The swim started well, not without much head bashing and at least one good elbow in face (as well as someone try to pull me back by my leg, but I soon put stop to that with a very vigorous kick). It is something I mentioned to Duncan last time we did our 3km open water swim, that it takes me about a km to warm up... Well in this race I didn't manage to. By the time I had started feeling like I had a rhythm and started moving it was time to get out of the water!

Transitions were fine - they were well planned and I stuck to them, apart from an quick on-the-spot decision to leave my top there - I would cycle in my bra top as temperatures were warm enough and I had no intention to start faffing with zips. First mistake on the bike: I thought (with my long-distance racing logic) that I should take the first 10 mins to settle from transition, have a sip and get comfortable. In the meantime I was overtaken and lost precious time, which in a sprint cannot be made up.

I was surprised by some fellow competitors, both in positive and negative ways. To me racing is a social experience as much as a personal one. I enjoy being out there with people who have the same goals, the same interest and are going through the same experience. For that reason I like to wave, smile or generally acknowledge others, be it when I am overtaken or when I overtake. I was surprised (and not in a good way) by the response I got and by the lack of camaraderie. I was also surprised (and annoyed) several times by people overtaking at inappropriate spots (let me say here the race was on open roads) or in an inappropriate, and for inappropriate read unsafe, manner. On the other hand I loved the support I got from other athletes, especially on the run, but also on the bike. The smiles, the nods, the few words of encouragement. That to me is as part of racing as going fast (especially as going fast was not happening for me) and I will not give it up. I guess I will have plenty of time to nod, smile and wave during my IM race.

T2 was swift and my run started with my legs wondering where the pedals went. After 14 minutes (note: turnaround point) they realised that it was time to run now and I managed to negative split the run, albeit at a slower pace than any self respecting sprint athlete would care to mention. Still... the forest we ran through was full of yellow butterflies, which seemed to follow the runners and the whole experience was just magical. I finished with lungs and legs burning - my body was wondering where all the lactate came from.

Did I enjoy it? I did, but I felt totally unprepared. I knew that I had no top speed, which is all that is required in a sprint. Saying that I also knew that my sprint P.B. is from the week before my first HIM, after 6 months of HIM training. Of course my HIM training was not HR based, it was long yes, but it was not anywhere near as slow (should I be saying "steady" here?) as my IM training. So my question to those of you out there in the know: Should I be training faster for my IM or should I be sticking to purely aerobic training for the next 12 weeks as I have already been doing? Keep in mind that I only have 6 weeks of proper training behind me. I don't have the luxury of trial and error with this one guys - so any tips much welcome!


  1. I think you should mostly just feel proud of yourself ;-)

  2. The first Sprint of the year is always a wake up call for the body. The next one will be easier.

    Training faster has its inherent risks especially injury or blowing yourself to bits. I'd recommend sticking to aerobic training or race pace, no faster. If you have the time go longer at aerobic pace - that can be a tough session. Or make certain that any above-race-pace efforts are done as intervals with plenty of rest time in between.

    Good luck Alex! Rob

  3. Thanks, Jen. As ever, you are wise!

    And Robbie, thanks for the more practical wisdom too. I don't think there will be a next one, in terms of sprint. I definitely would prefer to go longer at aerobic (and gain more confidence with the distance) for sure. And yes, last thing I want is to get injured! So... I'll keep it steady. :)