My Ironman Journey

A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!

akhilvizby akhilvizMay 16th 2014

My Plan

Back in November, I sat down with a calendar of 2014 and planned the triathlon races I wanted to participate in. A target of mine was to race in two long distance triathlons in one season compared to the previous two seasons where I had raced in one long distance triathlon each year. I browsed the internet and circled the dates of the races that appealed to me. Very quickly, the weekends in June, July and August were covered in circles! I therefore had to be realistic and narrow my choices to ensure that the races I chose were spread over the season.

In the same manner that excessive training can lead to injury, so can too much racing. The intensity and stresses from racing means that a few days of recovery are required after a race thus impacting the ability to continue with standard training. However, there are no words to describe the thrill, enjoyment and sense of achievement that one gets from racing. I had to achieve a good balance between racing, and recovering from racing with the goal of being the fittest for my main race of the season in September.

The Smoothest Preparation?

I participated in my first race of the year a few weeks ago which was a spontaneous decision. Since I was going to be spending the long Easter weekend back home in Gibraltar, the silly thought of checking out the possible races in southern Spain crossed my mind. After a quick search online I was grinning from ear to ear! The ICAN Malaga which is a middle distance triathlon was scheduled for the 27th of April and without hesitation, I signed up.

I spent a week prior to the race in Gibraltar where I ensured I kept my fitness ticking and used the time away from the office to catch up on my sleep debt. I boosted my weekly cycling miles and also swam in the open water to regain my confidence.
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
All my preparations were running smoothly until a few days before the race, I suffered from a small accident. I decided to go for a gentle jog to soak in some sunshine and a few kilometres into my jog, I found myself flat on the ground! I tripped over and had deeply grazed my left knee. I got back on my feet but struggled to walk. I eventually crawled back home and had my head in my hands. I was frustrated that I had fallen over and injured myself.
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
I was also concerned that I may not be able to stand at the start line a few days later. I put all these negative thoughts aside and told myself that I would still race regardless of how I felt on the big day! In order to do so I had to find my sweet spot on the sofa and sit with my legs elevated and surrounded with ice bags to quicken the recovery process. On race day eve I was able to walk but running was painful. All I could do was to accept the situation and keep positive.

Judgement Day!

The alarm rang early on race day and I woke up feeling slightly sore. I gave my left leg a shake and I tried jogging on the spot and to my surprise, the jogging test wasn't too discomforting. I felt more confident and was eager to start the race. I grabbed my bags which I had prepared the night before and made my way to the race venue. It was still dark at 6.30am but the atmosphere consisting of at least a thousand triathletes and energetic music in the background, brightened up the morning. Every participant, including me, was focused on their own preparation and mine also involved ripping a small hole in the sleeve of my wetsuit!
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
At 0745, the announcement was finally made for all athletes to make their way to the start line on the sea shore. At this point I knew there was no turning back. I was conscious of my injury but I remained positive and confident. The countdown began and the horns eventually blew!

The COLD Swim!

I ran into the sea and immediately felt the shock from the ice-cold water travel up my spine. At that point, I knew to embrace myself for the brain-freeze that was to follow. I eventually braved the elements and sunk my head into the water and began swimming. My jaws and neck seized up but after a few deep breaths I found my rhythm and settled into a good pace. I couldn’t really see the buoys ahead of me so I followed the pack of swimmers in front who took me around the course in 32 minutes.
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!

Cycling INTO The Wind!

I stripped out of my wetsuit and jumped on my bike for a tough 90km which was split into two laps. The course was fairly flat with only a few small hills however, there was a strong wind blowing throughout which made it feel as if I was climbing Mount Everest! No matter how hard I stamped on my pedals, I would barely move forward. On the bright side, the sun was shining and I was in good control of my pacing. From past experiences, I knew that I had to save my legs for the run as it could make or break my overall race. If I burnt out on the bike, it could be game over. I was therefore strategic with my pacing on the bike to ensure my legs were still relatively fresh for the 21km run. I also ensured I continuously consumed energy gels and hydrated myself to keep my fuel tank topped up. After wrestling with the strong winds, I covered the 2-lap bike course in 2 hours and 26 minutes after which I swapped shoes, took off my helmet and began running the half marathon.
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!

Please Don't Hurt Me!

By the time I started running, approximately 3 hours had elapsed since the start of the race and therefore it was about 11am. The temperature had risen drastically and it was now fairly warm! I could feel the sun’s rays hitting my skin and the heat being absorbed. In all honesty, I thoroughly enjoy training and racing in the heat despite training through the cold and harsh British winter. I spent the first 5km settling into my stride and tried not to think about my left leg. The more I thought of it, the more concentration I would lose on my running technique.
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
To divert my mind, I focused on my cadence and head position as I have the tendency to lift my head too much whilst I run. Before I knew it I had only a few kilometres left to reach the finish line, however, my left knee started to ache. I tried to put on a brave face and hold off the pain but it was too agonising. I was starting to suffer and a few athletes overtook me which was demoralising. I could see the finish line and hear the crowd cheering ahead of me. I didn’t know whether to smile or cry! I had been in similar positions before and I knew it was just a question of fighting the pain barrier. I picked up my pace and visualised myself sipping an ice-cold can of cola and chomping a chocolate bar. As funny as it may seem, those thoughts got me to the finish line in one piece!

A Sigh Of Relief!

A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
I was delighted and ecstatic for completing the race in 4 hours and 38 minutes which was below my target time of 4 hours and 45 minutes, despite the injury I had picked up a few days earlier. After receiving my medal, guess what I did? I walked straight to the food tent and gulped a bottle of refreshing cola! Unfortunately there were no chocolates so peanuts and fruit had to suffice! That wasn’t the end of the ‘carb reloading’ period though. Later that evening before my flight back to Bristol, I treated myself to a ‘pizza party’ which is a ritual as part of my post-race celebrations!
A sweet and sour start to the 2014 tri season!
An eventful weekend finished positively and I had gained more confidence not just in myself, but also in my training. The race provided an opportunity to set myself a benchmark and asses my performance. It also taught me the importance of controlling my emotions and ensuring that I fill my mind with positive thoughts. I just got to remember to not trip over before my next race!
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Jun 10th 2014 10:41
Nice blog!
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