This was probably the most nervous I had been going into a sprint race for a long time. I have been training for an Ironman and due to a niggling calf injury that had bothered me the previous year I have just spent my time building up distance slowly and easily. I had also manged to injure my shoulder in November doing single arm fly in a Masters swim session (don’t ask!!) and after a layoff and rehab was also still trying to find my rhythm in swimming as well. This hadn’t been helped by missing a lot of the club sessions due to work travelling and coaching.
I knew I wouldn’t be competitive with no speed work having been done and purposefully left my bike aero helmet at home as a reminder that this was an opportunity for a good training run out……though there is always that little voice in the back of your head saying, “you never know maybe it will come good on the day”.
We had a good turn out in the youth race so there was a lot of support for them, and added to the enjoyment for the day
, then a long wait until our adult sprint heads started. This mainly involved working out what colour our swim caps meant for our starting place and eating between talking rubbish.
Once it got to my heat I was going 5th in the lane and had Susan behind me. I headed off on the whistle and tried to catch the toes of the person in front. I could see Susan was quite a distance behind me and the gab wasn’t closing which made me nervous as Susan is swimming quicker than I am. This was one of the issues with my lack of swim training, I had no idea on pacing and how I felt at different speeds. The person in front I was chasing I nearly made his toes as I could feel myself getting in his bubbles and then he got let through and that caused a gap to leave me on my own at which point things started to fall apart. (From checking after the race) I had started at 1:30/100 pace which is way too quick for me and it wasn’t long before Susan caught and passed me. I was now at the back off my lane and got lapped by everyone to have the slowest swim I think I have ever had in a sprint race.
Onto the bike and at least I could remember how to do a decent mount. I was going quite well and overtaking a lot of people though it is difficult to tell if it is people from my heat or earlier ones. The course is 4 laps that includes 2 dead turns and a short steep hill. The lack of high intensity efforts in training began to take effect lap after lap and I was slightly slowing. If I concentrated I could get power down again so had to keep switch on to what I was doing. This used to come naturally for a 20km bike sprint.
Onto the run and once again that lack of specificity in training for a sprint became obvious. it is a weird feeling not to feel like your legs are really hurting but you can’t get the speed through them. I got overtaken by the 2 people who had come into T2 with me and tried to push. I was overtaking people (from the earlier heat) which kept me motivated and after the first dead turn I could see that I had a good gap to people following. I never got passed which was a good thing but just couldn’t find the speed I wanted.
The course takes you over a bridge and back down the other side of the canal path. With about just over a km to go I saw Andrew on the other bank who shouted he was coming to catch me (in the rubbish chat we had been having before the race I had mentioned my goal was not to get caught by Andrew). That was the incentive I needed to keep pushing on to the finish.
So the reality was I raced as expected but at least I now have some markers to work on for improvement. Sorting out my swim pacing will help across all race disciplines. I could change my bike training but won’t as I don’t need that punchy ability for an Ironman and it is still in a good enough place to keep me competitive in a sprint. I had been planning to bring in speed work already on my run training and whilst I’ll not be aiming for a 5km PB a little bit of intensity work won’t do any harm as long as I keep the focus on long and easy and some threshold.
Perhaps more importantly the race result didn’t matter. We had a great club day out with some people happy to finish and others taking home prizes and Andrew winning overall.