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Tales of an endurance athlete
Duathlete at heart, but will do aything running/cycling/swimming/multisport related. Within reason of course:-)

Bala... what a disappointment!

tiggaby tiggaJun 14th 2010
What could have gone wrong just seemed to do just that... go wrong!

My experience in triathlons is pretty limited. I raced a season of shorter races and one olympic race in 1996, but back then I could not swim... let me rephrase that, I did no swim training, hence I could not swim! In 2005 I did step up to the plate and managed to do some proper swim sessions and swam an IM swim in just under 59. When I decided to do another season of triathlon this year I was slightly more confident in my swim ability and given I'd done some half decent sessions this year I quite confident for Bala, incorporating British Champs and offering some stiff competition I was still quietly confident. I was (and still am!) in good shape... but that race was a disappointment in so many ways, I have put it down as a race in the memory banks.... but I will be filing that one away pretty deep in the cabinet cos it is one I would like to forget about for now!

The race as it happened for me!

I was up quite early, I had breakfast and made my way from my sister's in Bridgnorth to Bala a journey of about 65miles. Something was not quite right as I was already 'cramping' in my lower back, but I put it down being in the car for 5 hours in the days leading up to the race and with a bit of walkabout and some stretching I'd be fine. Once registered, all numbered up... these guys draw all over your arms and legs, I went to rack the bike and get myself sorted. It was not especially cold, but it did try it's best to rain and after I 'slipped' into the wetsuit I felt a bit warmer.
That feeling did not last... 2mins in the 15deg water I already chattering at the teeth, my feet were numb and more worryingly my hands were closing up. I have this problems when it's cold and I actually don't know if this is a 'disease' or a 'syndrome' or just plain cold? As soon as the back of hands get cold, my fingers curl up and I have 'CLAW' hands. I have to power in my wrist/forearm and almost no control over my fingers...
Problem 1: I now have no 'feel' for the water, and when I swim I cannot keep the fingers out or the wrist 'rigid'.
Problem 2: No finger control, means I cannot get out of my wetsuit without throwing a tamtrum and even that does really help, but it did make me feel better;-)
Problem 3: I struggle to change gears on the bike until I've warmed up, in this case 25km later!!
So frustratingly I exited the water in 213th, and a good 5mins down on where I wanted to be. Not only that, whilst all my main competitors were already 5km down the road on their bikes I was loosing another 3mins trying to get that stupid wetsuit off with 'the CLAW'. Front guys on the bike in under 28mins, me a shade under 40mins!!!! Already I knew that was my race done... I could not afford time loss like that.
With the cold water came major quad/hamstring cramp in the swim and I never ever got going on the bike... my lower back hurt like hell and I could not spend more than 2-3mins on the bars at a time! Even then, I never felt any power going down and just felt incredibly slow... somehow I came back with the 3rd fastest bike split and had moved through the field into top 20 (ish). OK, I thought, I'll try pull out a decent run. I was moving quite well and although the competitors were fairly well spread out now, I did manage to catch a couple guys on the hilly out leg of the 20km run. I hit the turn point and still had some gas in the tank. I'm not sure how because I had now been on the road for about 3hr30min and had just 3 jelly babies during the bike a few sips of water... although I do admit to drinking a lot of Bala Lakes water. 3hr30min and just 3 jelly babies? hahaha, if I were able to go at proper race intensity I should need some fuel by about 2hr30min, otherwise I would simply have run out of energy and bonked. 5mins after that run turnaround I had my first stomach issue, so I had a pee stop which did help, but 5mins later... the stomach was now turning and not happy. Spot a gap in the bushes I'll leave it your imagination what I did hidden behind the trees... next year I expect some flourishing fauna around Bala's lakeside:-)
That helped a lot and I got moving again and was feeling quite good, but it did not last too long as 7 or 8 minutes later I was again looking for a gap in the bushes... although by fellow competitors were coming the other way so I was trying to be a little more discreet. This stomach issue is something I should have prevented with Imodium, because since my LEJOG weekend my long runs have been a case of the same, 45-50mins into the run I'm looking for a bush to hide behind. In South Africa, it's called a 'boskak'. Not that I do it that often... but twice in one race is just not pretty!
That 3rd stop took the motivation out of me to race the run and I cruised in the finishing 4-5km. Finish time 4hr12min29secs.... and still only 3 jelly babies eaten, thats just mental... equivalent of about 50calories, if that? as for the winner, my team mate James Gilfillan was unstoppable and won with an amazing performance 11mins ahead of second place!

I still managed 11th overall, with what I'd describe as a disastorous day out and so much time left on the race course I was bitterly disappointed. These things happen, and within an hour I was already looking at the positives, and mentally preparing to knock out the next 3-4 weeks Ironman training and even more exciting was the thought of a 23-24deg water swim in Lake Zurich!

In the meantime I'll be seeing a doc about my cold hands and the 'CLAW' syndrome and hopefully do something about it, or simply write off doing any cold water swim tri's? It's funny that the 'stiffest' part of my body following that race is actually my wrist/forearms.
'Tick' race done... move on, I certainly won't be doing triathlon with water temp below 18 degs until I can sort out this issue!

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