Cotswold 113 middle distance race report

A very successful day yesterday at the Cotswold middle distance. Before I start on the race report I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported my training. Be it advice, training rides, training runs, Riccione, soggy sportives or borrowed kit. Thank you so much! I really appreciate every bit of help I’ve had and couldn’t have done it without you!!! Thank you!

Cotswold 113 middle distance race report

Two years ago I took part in my first middle distance tri. I carefully picked a UK race with a lake swim, flat bike and flat run to give myself every chance to complete what then seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I did ‘complete’ it but it didn’t go to plan. Horrendous weather and last minute course alterations did not play in my favour. I came across the finish line in tears after 6 hrs 47mins swearing never to do one of those again……

18 months later and somehow I’d forgotten my finish line vow. I’d reasoned with myself that if I’d done this differently or that differently, then I’d have been stronger, quicker, enjoyed it more. Perhaps I needed to go back and do a better job of it. Perhaps I had unfinished business with a middle distance tri. So before I knew it my entry fee was paid and the 26 June was the date. A flat course at a lake I’d done before as a sprint – giving myself every possible chance of success.

Training started on the 1 January with a new years day ride around Corfe Castle with a hangover (those who know me well will recognise my not so secret training trick of riding on too little sleep and too much vino!). Since then regular runs on a Thursday with BMHAC, rides with NHRC, Riccione, Tour of Wessex, the odd mountain bike ride and twice weekly visits to Copthorne Lake. The Allen’s emailed their training plan which was stuck to the fridge and I did my best to aspire to follow it – with the caveat it was devised for the World’s. I had bad weeks when I just felt tired, then good weeks when it all came together and I realised I was getting stronger. Then before I knew it, a two week taper and race weekend was here.

The plan was to camp, accompanied by Jerry, and set off at midday Saturday. We left at 3pm, got to the M3 then went home again as I’d forgotten to feed the cat, got to the M3 and then turned home again as I’d forgotten my BTA card! Not very organised – was this a good start????

I tried to work out before the race how long it would take me. 6:10 was the time I calculated. I’d be happy with 6:17 though knocking half an hour off my previous time. J was issued with maps and rough times to spot me on the course.

Got to the Cotswold Water Park, registered, got familiar with the set up, pitched the tent, had a good solid pub dinner and bedded down for the night. Did I sleep – er no! I remember seeing 1am. This was not good. I consoled myself that at least I had included sleep deprived sessions in training!

4am and everyone was up – a hive of activity around the campsite. Everything was packed and ready to go. Quick coffee and some brekkie then down to transition. The lake was shrouded in a thin mist and looked very moody, but it was mild and dry. A quick race briefing and before I knew it I was waste deep in the lake for a mass start of 300 competitors. I was quite worried about this as it seemed like a lot of people. I’d heard bad things about mass starts and the punching, people swimming over you and ripping goggles off, the washing machine effect. I made sure I was at the front and out of trouble. The horn sounded at 6am on the dot and we were off!

It really wasn’t as bad as I feared, and within 400m I had space and was falling into a strong but relaxed pace. It is a beautifully clear lake and I was enjoying myself. The weed didn’t seem as bad as I remembered and as it passed underneath me I felt like I was speeding along. Two laps and then up what looked like an unfeasibly steep ramp (actually I think two guys pulled me up it) and I was on my way into transition.

Now I have Reynards – which is just a posh label for having really stupidly cold fingers and toes. Socks and gloves are a must, so my transitions are never going to be amazing. But I was a lot faster than last time.

Out onto the bike course. It really is stunningly flat! It’s not very often you get to ride 56 flat miles in one go with no stops so I’d not really appreciated how much of a difference that would make. I’d figured on the two lap out and back course taking me about 3:30. After the first quarter it was apparent I was going quicker than that. I was on my borrowed tri bars (thank you DK) virtually all the way. I had left instructions I’d be back round at 8:23. I was fast approaching home again and it was only 7:55 – would J be there in time to see me – yes he was! Hurrah – I got to see a familiar face and feel great about being ahead of schedule. But really – I was dying for a pee – so as soon as I was out onto the second lap I found an unsuspecting hedge and popped behind it. Back onto the course and still feeling good. I felt like I was working hard and I overtook more people than passed me. It was also encouraging to see that I was far from being at the back as I passed the field behind me on the return leg. It was overcast and a little mizzly for the entire ride, but not cold at all. I got back to transition just as the sun was creeping through.

Out onto the run course. Three laps around the three lakes on tree lined paths along the shores. I felt so glad that I had recce’d both the bike and run course a few weeks before and knew what to expect. I felt surprisingly OK and very positive. Normally I dread the run – thinking of it as my worst discipline and something to ‘survive’. But this time I knew I was better trained and prepared – those brick sessions where I rode and then ran with BMHAC had gone well – hadn’t they? I also knew my cheering crew might be waiting for me on the pinch point of the course which you run through twice on each lap. I enjoyed the fact that people were running at all different paces and it wasn’t obvious who was on which lap. If people were overtaking me then they would have been way in front and going to win. If I overtook people I felt fabulous. Then there they were, J, my best friend Kate, Mum and Marg. Brilliant! I’m so used to racing on my own it was amazing to have such support. I dived into a portaloo at the end of lap 1 then ran lap 2 really well. Passing my supporters each time and watching them scrabble for cameras as I went past. Had a gel and dived into the portaloo again 🙁 but then ran past the finish clock as I went out for lap 3 and hardly believed the time. The last lap was tougher, but it didn’t seem anywhere near as bad as I would normally feel at that point in a half marathon. I didn’t walk except to take on water. It was getting hotter by now and I didn’t have any cream on but I was so close now. At 12 miles I felt a tight pinch in my left quad – not great but not enough to stop me – I was almost there! The last stretch and I could see the finish. I overtook a few chaps on the way there and then I was running under the banner with 5:20 on the clock. Oh My God! 5:20! Really?!?! Wow. I didn’t know what to do with myself for a moment, but was then greeted with hugs (brave people as I was pretty sweaty) and congratulations.

My swim split was 33mins. Bike 2:49. Run 1:51 which is also quite unbelievable my half marathon pb!

Shower and then to the pub for a well earned burger and chips 🙂

I am still on a high! Thank you again to everyone who has helped me prepare and supported me.

What next….. my first Marathon – Berlin – 25 Sept.

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