"Never Say Die!"
Arriving in Mallorca for my ‘A Race’ of the year, Challenge Paguera – the ETU Middle Distance Championships I felt nervous, but more so excited. My training took a little bit of a ‘blip’ in the summer when I picked up an Achilles niggle, but with the help of my physio Alex Drummond (www.drummondclinic.co.uk) and a whole bucket full of patience I had seen through the worst of it and was slowly building up my running mileage- with plenty of time spent working on my swim and bike.
We enjoyed a peaceful few days out in Mallorca, cycling the bike route, swimming in the sea and generally acclimatizing ourselves to the local conditions. However, following an evening of birthday wine and tapas on the Thursday before our race I found myself waking up to a hot sweat at 2am. I dragged my blanket out to the patio and set up there for the night, for intermittent sleep with crippling nausea. Once everyone arose at about 7am I felt even worse and wandered off in my PJs, only to find myself being sick into a bush.
Not a good sign.
Recceing the bike course in the car an hour later I could not focus, I felt hazy, sick and had to take several stops to throw up. I felt worse as the morning wore on, and so took myself back to bed with a cold flannel for company. A Spanish doctor came to our apartment and upon taking my temperature and asking me some questions deduced that I had food poisoning. He gave me an injection, a prescription for some tablets and told me that I was not to eat anything for 24 hours, and drink nothing but water and Gatorade. This is not what you want to hear the day before a race, but given my state at the time, all I wanted to do was sleep – and sleep I did, right through the race briefing and into the late hours of the afternoon.
It was clear that this race was going to be a challenge, and I decided to make the ‘call’ in the morning, unable to admit defeat so early on.
Waking up I felt nauseous and tired, but managed to eat a piece of dry toast and an egg and keep it down, based on which, I decided that I still wanted to take part, committing myself to doing the swim and bike. After all, I could ‘plod’ if I wanted to, and was not about to give up without a fight.
Standing next to Nikki on the start line, I felt completely displaced. Like I wasn’t really there, and more just going through the motions. Running into the water as the gun sounded, I managed to keep on Nikki’s heels and secure a decent start, sticking to the very left of the field so to ensure that we avoided the mass of athletes who had taken route in the middle. I could not push. Every time I tried to ‘kick’ nausea descended, and so I refocused my efforts – instead taking long, strong, methodic, controlled strokes, taking a route that kept well away from the main pack and was as calm as possible
Coming into T1 my legs felt heavy, but I was able to find my bag quickly and make my way out onto the bike.
Starting out on the bike leg I felt sick. My pre race commitment was to finish the bike leg, and at this stage, this felt completely undoable, it was the midday heat and I had absolutely no fuel in the tank. I normally pride myself on having a strong bike split, as a weak runner, I like to get as much of a ‘head start’ as possible – but these tactics were not in me. Instead I plodded up the ascents, and then continued to blast down any descents, making up for lost time, without having to take my heart rate up. The route was technical and hilly, but the closed roads were fantastic – and put a lot of supposedly ‘closed roads’ events in the past I have done to shame. Excellent marking, well stocked feed stations and smooth road surfaces made for a relatively enjoyable bike split, even if I was a little gutted that I couldn’t give it more gusto.
Now this was the telling point of the race – I spent much of the bike thinking ahead to how things would feel on the run, but until you start out it is hard to know how things are going to go. And, truth be told - I did not feel anywhere as bad as I had anticipated. Okay so I was not exactly moving quickly, but I was moving - and if I focussed only on the road directly in front of me I could just about see off the horrible feeling of ickiness. The crowd support was fantastic throughout – especially Nikki’s family and friends who had come en-force, and even though I was not feeling well, I was consistent and managed to sustain the same pace throughout. This got me to thinking that I have been missing a trick all year with my continuous need to blast the bike leg. It actually felt good to have something left in the legs! And I managed (my definition of a) sprint finish,
I went into the race hoping to just finish, but to achieve 3rd in my age group (30-34), 6th female age grouper overall; beating four pro ladies in the process, was quite frankly unreal.
This has really shown me what a) the power of the mind can do - medically, i shouldn't have got out of bed, let alone done a hot and hilly half iron-distance event. But fierce determination got me around, and provided me with a result I am incredibly proud of. And would have been proud of in full fitness. b) pacing the bike is not overrated. I had so much left me in my legs, which meant I was able to sustain a strong and consistent run. Something I have never managed over the distance before.
I have no regrets in my decision to race, yes, I do still feel a little under the weather three days later, but I would have felt a million times worse if I'd have admitted defeat, and defeat is far worse an emotion than any stomach upset.
Here's to my final race of the year, IRONMAN Cozumel on Sunday 30th November! I can't wait :)