Yes you can, just put your head down and do steady strokes. Don't think about the distance.
Shit, that looks like a long way over there. I feel sick. I should eat something, but ... Shit, that looks like a long way over there. Shit. Shit. Shit.
It was a grey, chilly Saturday morning at Lake Hood. I was standing at the edge of the lake looking across at the orange buoys and, in particular, the one in the far distance. In just over an hour I would be in the water starting my training day, which also happened to be the South Island Half Ironman.
1.9km of swimming lay ahead of me and the location of the buoys was freaking me out.
I had been a little bit tense that morning because, even though it was just a training day, I had managed to load plenty of expectations onto myself. There was going to be a lot going on and to think about afterwards but ultimately it would be invaluable in testing strategies for ironman.
Because ironman is not the day to be trying out anything new.
The plan for the day, then, was to do a good swim, practice a smooth transition to the bike, a good steady bike leg, practice a smooth transition to the run and then complete one lap (of three) of the run course before pulling out.
The expectations on top of that were plenty. In the swim I wanted to see some improvement in my time from last year, to show for the hours I had spent in the pool over winter. That wasn't going to be so easy, though, when my mind wasn't completely cured of its swim demons. In the bike leg I had also added the expectation of a faster time, especially as my bike was now sporting a pair of Fast Forward F6C carbon fibre deep-rimmed aero wheels. Scotty at Scotty Brown's had very generously agreed to let me trial them for the event and had promised they would be so fast, and I would like them so much, that I would wet myself (and then buy them!). So, obviously I was keen to see exactly how much of a difference they would make.
But before I got onto the bike I had to get through this blasted swim.
Wetsuit on and one of Coach Dave's gems of advice was to get into the water extra early and have a bit of a warm up. It would help settle the nerves and I could check out the best spots to sight off from water level. So I did this and, just as I was getting into the water, a speedboat idles past, heading out into the lake with two huge yellow buoys on the back. Within a couple of minutes the boat had dropped off the buoys, placing them in position on the course - in a spot much, much, closer than the permanent fixed orange buoys I had been freaking out about just 20 minutes earlier.
Duh, what was I worried about? I can do that!
Before you know it the gun's going off and we're away. I wait a little for a bit of clear space and then start swimming. All through the swim leg I periodically stop and breaststroke to get my bearings again (definitely need more practice at sighting while swimming!) but the most encouraging thing all the while is that I'm not hyperventilating and I'm not at the back of the field. There are actually people behind me.
On the outward leg of the second lap we almost have white caps on the lake with a good stiff southerly in our faces, which also results in the odd gobful of water when you least expect it. After commiserating with a bloke who was breaststroking alongside me and looking much less comfortable I decided I had done enough stuffing around and put my head down and went past him.
Because I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.
46 minutes 42 seconds after the start I haul myself out of the water and feel good enough to run the short distance into transition and to my waiting bike. Behind me I can hear Pete call out that I had a PB and, indeed, I had taken 6 minutes off my swim time from last year. However that was the least of my concerns at that particular time.
|Game Face On|
I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.
As I'm heading out on the bike I look down at the bike computer and make a surprising discovery. My heartrate is 174 beats per minute. Significantly higher than my intended heartrate for the bike, which I had planned to have in the vicinity of 145-147. Damn, better try and drop it down a bit, at least get it back below 160 which is the top limit of my training zone. 13 minutes later it finally drops sufficiently for my bike computer to stop incessantly beeping at me.
The bike course was a 3 lap out and back route of 15km each way. The advantage of an out and back course is that you generally get hammered and helped by the wind equally each way. And it certainly was the case this time around. On the outward leg we fought our way into a strong southerly, which was on our backs for the inward leg. Throughout the bike I concentrated on keeping my heartrate within the training zone and keeping the cadence relatively high. On top of this was maximising the time spent on my aero bars and making sure I ate and drank regularly.
There wasn't much time, then, to actually switch off and get into any sort of riding "zone". I had a steady stream of "stuff" to think about - cadence, position, heartrate, food, drink. And then there'd be someone up ahead of me to focus on and pass.
Because I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.
The day was cold and drizzly and so I didn't really warm up properly. I also started to get the dreaded tingling finger at the start of the third lap. However 3 hours and 11 minutes later I rolled into transition. Faster than the previous year by a minute but the improvement would have been greater given the weather conditions and the fact that the course actually measured 91.8km rather than 90km (almost 2km longer than last year's event). Those wheels seemed to do their job.
I spent a leisurely amount of time in T2, racking the bike, taking off helmet and changing shoes. However I wasn't worried as my day was now over. The important stuff was done and now I just had a 7km run do around the lake.
I started running and for about a kilometre all was good. Then the course headed off the tarmac and started a 4km stretch off road around the back of the lake. And it was not fun. My head had finished for the day and a little voice that sounded awfully like Dave's was on my shoulder saying "just do 100m of the run if you want and then stop".
Why on earth did he have to give me that out?!
I plodded on, mostly walking around the back of the lake but not really caring, and thinking about various options. I could stop, turn around and walk back. I could finish the lap but skip the extra kilometre down the cul-de-sac just before the end of the lap. Or I could stop being so pathetic and just do the whole lap as planned.
By the time I got back onto the tarseal I was starting to feel better and ended up completing the full lap, albeit in a very slow time of around 55 minutes. That was fine, though, and I stopped running and handed in my timing chip.
All in all, then, it was a really successful day and plenty was learnt from it.
I was stoked with my swim. Still slow but a definite improvement on last year and on target for a 1 hour 30 minute ironman swim (which I'd be really happy to achieve).
The first transition went perfectly and I was feeling really good there.
The bike was great, despite the conditions. I didn't improve the time hugely but it does seem that the course was almost 2km longer than it should have been. Also, the winds were stronger than last year and it was colder, so I expended a reasonable amount of energy staying warm and keeping the bike in a straight line. That, and the fact that I was pushing my cadence pretty hard, contributed to me holding the aerobars in a death grip for a good portion of the ride - something I don't normally do. As a result I ended up with a numb/tingly finger. Something to remember for ironman - light hands on the aero bars and remember to move the hands and fingers around more.
Even better though, in my age group I was third fastest in T1 and third fastest in the bike leg.
Not that I'm competitive at all ... yeah right.