Race Report: Cotswolds 113 Middle Distance
The Day Before
The day before the race I felt unusually calm, no nerves, no excitement, just nothingness (is that a word!?). All I could think about was eating, and how worried I was not to feel nervous. Should I be feeling nervous?
The alarm buzzed at 03.55am on race day and I woke to multiple messages from friends about another attack in London, this time in a place very close to home, and at pubs that I drink in. I didn't have much signal where we were staying to read news sites to find more of what happened. It was confusing and I didn't find out what fully happened until after the race.
I had a quick half hour window for my usual pre race routine which consists of:
- Coffee (maybe two)
- Porridge with banana, peanut butter and honey
- A cold shower
- A quick last check that I have everything and check the pumped tyres.
We left as the sun slowly rising, there were competitors in the house next to us packing up their cars with bikes and equipment, the excitement started to set in as my friend Alex and I cycled over to the event.
It was a gorgeous fresh day, not too cold but you could see it was going to be warm. I felt so excited when we arrived, the lake looked breathtakingly beautiful.
Alex and I racked our bikes up together, it was so nice to have a friend to do it with. I’m often a lone wolf at these events as I’m not part of a tri club.
We were slightly late for the pre race briefing which was 5 minutes before our wave set off. I managed to persuade Alex to enter the first wave too. Swimming is my fave and strongest so I wanted to get ahead before everyone overtook me on the cycle and run! The start wasn’t too scary, I positioned myself at the front and to the edge of the pack. The swim took us round a bend of the lake so I had my eye on taking a tight corner around the bush. After the whistle blew, it felt like I was overtaken by what it felt like lots of people and thought I saw Alex pass me too. I tried to keep my hyperventilation at bay, but as soon as I thought about it, my breathing started to play up. Usually it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get comfortable and into a proper rythm. I felt thirsty as soon as we set off… I must remember to hydrate a little more.
Swimming so close to people freaks me out, I don't enjoy swimming surrounded by people. I know I won't be so lucky in the Ironman, must start open water swimming a week! Nearing the end of the swim there was a guy on my toes and drafting from me. Dammit. I pushed ahead after taking a tight turn around the last buoy. I pushed forward with a stronger stroke and more powerful kicking right at the end and the guy dropped off. Knew I had more in me! I definitely held back at the start of the race. Do I conserve energy like this or push a little harder? My time was 28 minutes for 1.9km but I felt like I did have more energy in the tank.
As I chambered out of the water and ran back to transition area I heard one woman shout out to me “second woman out”. I wasn't sure if this was true but it felt like a massive boost of confidence. When I got to my racked bike I saw Alex’s bike next to mine… I'm pretty sure I saw her over take me in the swim? I popped all my cycling gear on then legged it out of transition. Matt shouted out to me I was “first woman” out of water. It later turned out I was 3rd lady out of the water. I'll take that! I have a goal to be the first lady out one day!
I jumped on my bike and started to pedal forward. I waited to get into the ride a bit before putting on my gloves which were still in my mouth, they are pretty fiddly little things to put on. I tightened up my loose cleats, had a gel and hydrated with some electrolyte water. I was super thirsty and not sure I hydrated properly before the race. It was such a gorgeous course and day, I was hitting around 33kmph which is faster than my training pace. I wish I had bought my HR monitor to check I was working in Z2 to I knew if I could make the whole distance. I was overtaken by A LOT of strong athletes, lot’s of men covered in ironman tattoo’s. I'm honoured to even be in the same race at them.. and out of the swim before them.
The bike is a flat course, with two laps and two relatively small hills. I kept my pace between 28kmph and 31kmph. Much faster than my original planned speed of 25kmph. Alex lapped me up the hill on the second lap. It was so great to see her and have someone to chat to. She sped into the distance after a quick hi. She's a super strong cyclist so it was motivating to not be lapped immediately. I aimed to eat my energy bar every hour. I finished the bike on 2 hours 52 mins, very pleased. Just managed to take my feet out of the cleats before stopping. Felt like a right pro and didn't even fall off!!
I ran into transition hooked my bike up, took cleats off, put trainers on. My new elastic laces work a wonder, no fiddling about with laces!! I took my helmet off and ran out of there. Thankfully I felt calm and didn't have difficulty breathing like I have previously.
Now for the run. I've been having serious lower back issues the past few months, mainly after I stop running then start running again, it kind of jars. I'm happy with how the swim and cycle have gone so I just need to relax into the run and try to enjoy it. Taking a quicker cadence and leaning forward with my upper body, I'm concentrating on the new technique tips from the chiropractor. It seems I have a lordosis spinal curve, which basically means my ass sticks out putting pressure on my lower back. Great for twerking on the dance floor but not so great for running. I pass Alex and I's supporters Matt and Charty and shout out to them how much I hate running, heard a guy chuckle in front of me. Probably not great for mental motivation to shout how much I hate running... whilst running. I decide during the run I'm going to start trail running to mix up my running as I'm falling out of love for running, was I ever in love with it in the first place?
The run route sees three laps of the course. Three chances to see spectators which is great for driving motivation and pushing the competitors forward. At this point all the fast runners over took me, strong and lean looking athletes. So so impressive. I tried to turn the feeling of being slightly demoralised by the amount of people overtaking me, into positive energy of being honoured that I'm actually racing with such great athletes. Some of the runners’ speed, I just don't know how they can run that pace up for the distance. I keep plodding along with the main aim is to make it the whole distance without my back giving way. Lap 1's focus was getting into a rhythm, lap 2 I enjoyed more so and felt good, lap 3 it hurt, I kept looking at my watch to check the distance and plan the next gel intake times. I caught up with Alex on the last lap who was struggling with new trainers, I stuck with her for a few minutes, until I felt a huge stitch coming on from talking too much. The last few kilometres just went on, what it felt like, forever. I took 4 minutes off my half marathon PB to get a 1 hour 54 minutes, I'm really happy with.
When I came round back into Cotswolds Water Park I heard cheers of people reaching that finish line. Yes… I knew I had a bit left in me, so as soon as I hit that red carpet I just went into machine mode and gave it everything I could. The shouts and screams of everyone cheering and heard a few women shout with delight at the strong finish. I even heard the announcer. As soon as I finished I picked up two hand full of jelly beans and jumped straight into the cooling lake. Such an amazing gorgeous lake.
Looking back, it was an amazing day. The route was beautiful, the lake was beautiful, it was flat and fast. If you want a good time then definitely go for this one. My total time was 5 hours 19, extremely happy with that but know it's also down to the very flat course. It's a very well marshalled and organised event. The guys that run it are just brilliant and make it such a fun day for both competitors and spectators. I'll definitely be up for doing another Cotswolds 113!