EpicMan Windermere Middle Distance – September 20th 2020
Rich and I had been training towards Weymouth Ironman 70.3 but, after it was cancelled, we heard about this race and spontaneously entered 2 weeks before. The course looked absolutely brutal and after 3 years of flat training and racing in Asia, we knew this would be the most challenging event we had ever tackled. With a cold lake swim, an insanely hilly bike course with 1600m of climbing plus a hilly trail run, we would be putting ourselves well outside our comfort zone.
So how did race day go?…
I was really hoping for a swim PB as Rich and I have been consistently working hard both in the pool and at the lake. I haven’t found open water swimming in the cold (planty) lakes easy at all and have had several panic attacks. I hoped that with race atmosphere and lots of other competitors swimming around me, that I wouldn’t panic. Thankfully I felt surprisingly calm throughout the swim, even when I had to push plants out of the way in the shallows exiting the water. (I hate lake plants!) The conditions were beautiful, sun shining down and the water calm and not too chilly. The buoys were visible so sighting was easy enough. I swam mostly alone except for a 500m section where I found someone’s feet to draft. I came out of the water and was so happy to see 33 mins on my Garmin watch. This is a personal best for me and I was so pleased the hard work and consistent training had paid off.
I ran past Rich in T1 and he was sat on the floor putting 2 pairs of socks on. My feet and hands were also pretty cold and numb so despite getting my wetsuit off stood up, I caved and plonked myself down to get my socks on. I only realised afterwards that I had sat in mud so probably had an interesting brown stain on my bum but I am sure I am not the first to do this.
I knew that this was going to be a brutal bike course with 1600m climbing – double the elevation of the mountainous Zell Am See Ironman 70.3 and every other middle distance race I have entered. It lived up to its reputation.
I messed up mounting the bike as I hadn’t practised with my new tri shoes and everything that went wrong did. Elastic band snapped prematurely and the Velcro strap kept sticking to my sock as I tried to get my foot in, all the while trying to handle my bike and not crash into the sprint distance triathletes zooming into transition from the other direction. I spent the first 2 km trying to sort out my shoes and socks whilst pedalling. It wasn’t the best start and I definitely lost time so learnt my lesson to always practise mounts and dismounts before a race. We also didn’t have any time on race morning to properly check out transition and the location of bike in/out run in/out and the mount/dismount line so I wasn’t feeling as prepared as usual.
We had recced the course so I knew (ish) what to expect. It was a 2 lap course so psychologically challenging going up some of the crazy hills knowing that we would have to repeat them later and more fatigued. My hope was to keep my average power over 200 watts and to be braver on descents and cornering. I achieved all those things and even hit a new record max speed of 75.2 kph on a long descent. I felt like I was really flying, overtaking cyclist after cyclist and was super happy with my time on what must be one of the most challenging bike courses in a middle distance triathlon.
My flying dismount went much better than mounting the bike and only T2 and run to go.
The run was challenging from the start. My legs were incredibly heavy from the 1600 metres of climbing on the bike. It was a trail run with inclines, stones, tree roots, mud, grassy fields and winding paths to negotiate. This was the discipline I knew might be my downfall. I have had a quad running injury for 2 months now and not been able to train. An easy 10km on pavements and a 5km hilly trail run had been my only run training coming into the race. I have very little experience running on trails and even had to buy my first pair of trail running shoes for the race. It was going to be survival or hope for a miracle. I gave it my all and went off my expected heart rate. At times I had to walk up inclines but I pushed myself on the flats and especially tried to fly down descents. I was really happy that my quad injury didn’t flair up and that I didn’t trip up over any stones/tree roots. It took a lot of concentration not to fall over but I think that is my lack of trail running prowess. It was a constant mental battle to keep running and not give up. I had plenty of ups and downs during the four laps. I had moments of enjoyment on some of the downhill sections and winding in and out of the woodlands. I also had moments where I cursed myself for having to walk and willed myself to be stronger. I made it to the finish line but was disappointed with my run time. I was hoping for a miracle but couldn’t pull it out of the bag.
I finished 6th female and 4th open female. I am very proud of my swim and bike, amazed by the talent and grit of my fellow competitors and determined to work on my run (and transitions). It was the most challenging event I have ever done by far even though the weather conditions on the day were perfect. My positive is that most middle distance triathlons won’t be so intimidating by comparison. I still think my preference is an undulating bike course and a completely flat run but I won’t be afraid to tackle more challenging courses in the future (including 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St George, Utah).
It certainly was an epic day and I have no regrets. Today my body hurts all over but it’s only a sign that I gave it my absolute all and had nothing left in the tank at the finish line. My hopes for the race were to push myself but enjoy myself and I definitely did that. Over and out.