...and here's why.
It was actually, to me, a disaster.
It's taken me weeks to sit down and write this. I haven't even taken the race number off the bike yet. I haven't unpacked the tri bag, nothing.
I'll keep this as short as I can.
Race day started ok. I got breakfast down me later than anticipated, but it was still workable. Got to the start. Struggled to get wetsuit on, because I'd only had it for about ten days at this point (did I tell you that story? It's a peach, let me know if I didn't, it's worth it). Got it on with some assistance, got into the water maybe 90 seconds before the gun went off. No warmup, nothing.
Goggles started leaking. They've never let anything in before, and it totally fucked my rhythm - the water was murky at best, and it fucking stank, so I didn't want it getting anywhere near my contact lenses, so I had to keep stopping to let water out, try and refit the goggles, get suction etc. About a third of the way through the swim, they stopped leaking, I got the fit right, and we were away. I got passed by TWO waves on the swim, I was of course doing breaststroke. What's funny is, loads of people eventually do breaststroke, but not from the start. No, they look all cool and shit at the start, in the mix, throwing arms about. When nobody can see them? Breaststroke. Me? Fuck looking cool.
As a result, the swim was even slower than anticipated. I was expecting about 52 minutes, came out in 1hr 6mins I think. May have been 4 mins. I forget.
I was just pleased to be under the cutoff though, and moving. Got out, got on bike. Wore second set of shorts as didn't trust tri suit to protect balls and barse for 56 miles.
It was a hot day, and the course was hillier than anticipated. Long, slow hills. I made one really crucial mistake, and that was neither training with carb drinks, nor racing with them. I had electrolyte drinks, and that was all. And three peanut butter bagels, which thanks to a combination of shitty roadsides and crap bike handling, meant I was stopping for food.
Anyway, everyone passed me on the bike, and I learned a hell of a lot. They were flying by, and I was struggling grimly to say the least. They had more hours in the saddle, and they had technique. I had fuck all.
I also had a mechanical issue, which nobody has yet been able to explain to me – the front mech on the bike bent, both on my last long ride pre-race and in the race. It bent outwards. I have no idea how, but if my foot had caught and bent it like that, I would surely have felt it. It made changing the front cogs very interesting, even impossible at times, and certainly had an effect on my race, not least psychologically.
To cut a long story short, I did the 56, and as I came into transition I was stopped from going out on the run. I missed cutoff by about 16 minutes, the dude said. I checked the results, it was more like seven minutes, but a miss is a miss.
I was so fucked off. The main thing in my head was, Annie won't be able to go down the finisher chute with me. She won't get my medal. I was gutted about that. Still am. But I also know - and knew this on the day - that if I had been able to get on the run I would have DNFed there instead. The heat was utterly fucking me, and despite wearing Factor 50 sun cream in most places, my sunburn had blistered and was pretty tender. That would have been a hospital job I suspect, if I had been out there any longer.
What have I learned? To spend more time on the bike. To spend more time in the pool. To get the weapons to fight with, and not hope that raw strength can get me everywhere.
I started doing some strength training a few weeks ago, hurt my piriformis (so doctor said, but she also admitted she didn't know - I suspect it is hip flexor-related though), and had to rest that; in the rest period, I decided to go zero carb, at least for a while, and see how that feels. This is related to racing, honestly. I cannot bear the gels that you supposedly have to put down, and I am years away from having the bike skills to eat bagels on the move, so I need ammunition. Why not try to burn fat as fuel? Hell, I've got enough of it to feed Stalingrad circa 1943. I feel good on it so far, so let's see where that goes.
I also have an appointment with a physio I trust - she works with elite-level athletes, and me. I'm going to hopefully do a pre-season appraisal with her, so she can highlight weaknesses and areas I need to strengthen and improve - and hopefully she may be able to talk hip flexors etc.
I'm coming back next year, and I aim not just to finish, but to compete, and to be the best me I can be. I'm not used to failing, and while it sucks, I remind myself of the boxing maxim: you either win or you learn. I learned, and now I train to win. I'm not talking podium – I'm just talking, let's see what I can do, and get in the right shape to do that.