Fresh from two good races in the previous two weekends, I arrived at the Stockton event in a positive frame of mind.
We had travelled up to the North East the day before, so with a 1pm start time, I had a relaxed Sunday morning and got myself to the race venue with about two hours to spare.
After racking my bike and getting everything set up for transition, I went to say hi to Rodge and wish him good luck in the race, then I went off to warm up. At this point alarm bells started to ring, I didn’t feel great, definitely a bit sluggish, but I carried on, thinking that I’d be fine once I got going.
The race consisted of a 2 lap 10km run, 40km bike and a final one lap 5km run. It was a mass start on a wide open road.
What followed from here was not good! I struggled to get going on the first run. I tried to stay focused on running at a steady pace, but I was aware that my energy levels felt really low, it just felt like there was nothing there. I was also struggling with stomach cramps, and a horrible stitch. The first lap of the run seemed to take forever, and my heart sunk as I passed transition to embark on another lap.
When the 10km run was finally over, I headed into transition, where everything went according to plan, and headed off, with some relief, onto the bike course. It was 5 laps around Stockton town centre on closed roads. Although flat and fast in places, there were a lot of bends, roundabouts, and dead turns.
I became aware that my calves were started to cramp up towards the end of the bike, but it was manageable by standing on my pedals and stretching occasionally, until I bent down to undo my shoes at the end of the last lap, at which point my left calf seized up completely and I couldn’t move it. I ended up getting to the dismount line with my left leg extended out sideways, and my right foot still in my shoe. I somehow managed to unclip my right foot and get off my bike in one piece, I’m still not quite sure how I managed it.
The final 5km run was awful. My stomach started cramping up as soon as I started to run. I struggled round with a mixture of jogging and walking. I was very grateful when the finish line finally came into view, along with both my daughters cheering madly, and a puzzled looking husband, who later confessed he was starting to get a bit concerned about where the heck I’d got to.
So, on reflection, I am disappointed with the outcome of the race, coming virtually last! But I know I can do a lot better than this. Mulling everything over, I’m not sure that I can identify any pre-race mistakes that I could correct, I felt well rested and well prepared, I may never know!
I have decided to remain positive and turn my attention to training and preparing as well as I possibly can for my next big race, Outlaw Half Iron Distance at the end of May. (Wendy Drake)
This race fell on the same day as the London Marathon. I was originally due to be racing in the capital guiding elite blind runner Haseeb Ahmad. London was being used as the IPC World Championships and was also the qualifying event for the Para-Olympic games in Rio 2016. With only a few weeks before the race, devastatingly for him, Haseeb picked up a stress fracture and had to withdraw and miss out on the opportunity to race for Great Britain on the biggest marathon stage there is. Wishing him a continued speedy recovery – he’s an incredible person.
I was obviously disappointed for us both and found it ‘funny’ that I’d only just taken delivery of all the wonderful Nike, Great Britain Kit (which I subsequently sent straight back!)
So, I decided to head to Stockton to watch Blythe Fourie compete in her 1st senior race at 11am and then race along side Wendy in the Standard distance at 1pm.
Blythe’s very much concentrating on her swimming and doing very little biking or running, so there was no expectations in terms of a fast time, high placing etc.
We did however have objectives – which she subsequently achieved. This included racing her own race, good pacing, good cornering and gearing, slick, smooth & fast transitions, drinking & fuelling on the bike, running with commitment all the way to the line and most importantly – enjoying herself. There were over 400 athletes that took part in the Sprint race that day and though Blythe was the youngest in the entire field she had the fastest transitions of all the competitors – something she’s worked very hard on.
So having watched Blythe perform well, it was time for the Standard race. I knew that athletes Alex lawton & Richard Anderson would be very strong over the 10k/40k/5k course, so I decided I was going to try to go head-to-head with those two in particular.
We set off on the run and a line of around 7 or 8 was quickly established. Just before we completed the 1st lap, two athletes had broken away and had around a 50metre lead over Alex, Richard and myself, with 3 or 4 close behind us. We continued for the 2nd 5k and then came into transition with only 1 second separating us. I had a good T1 and got out onto the bike in 3rd. My plan was to stay controlled for the 1st 10-15mins of the bike then start to push the pace a little.
All going to plan at this point and I was feeling good but coming up to complete the 1st lap of 5 both my calves started pinging. I backed off to let them settle but any signal to them was encouraging them to cramp – and cramp-up they did! Unfortunately I ended up in excruciating pain to the point where I had to clip out of both pedals and drag my feet along the ground whilst sat on the top tube. I then veered into the barrier and hit the deck – bit dramatic I know but I’ve never had pain/cramp that severe in my life and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was quickly seen to by a paramedic who did a great job – as I led there (still on the course) I was absolutely gutted as I knew my race was over.
Three days later and my calves are still very, very sore – so I’m convinced I made the right decision not to continue. On reflection I’m bike and run fit and felt strong on the day but I did have my race flats on for the 1st 10km that was run entirely on a hard surface. I ran it hard and with my running style and lack of specific conditioning on that type of surface my calves were over loaded and I subsequently suffered for it on the bike. This may or may not be the case but the body needs to be well prepared when you throw a lot at it and unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get that particular type of conditioning.
Both Wendy and I were disappointed with the outcome of our races but it’s unrealistic to expect excellent performances time after time. The main thing is to honestly reflect on the race and stay positive – something many athletes struggle with. Blythe on the other hand was very happy with her race and has a really interesting season of racing to look forward to. (Rodge)