Race report: Laguna Phuket Triathlon (1.8km/50km/12km)

After a rather muted 2017 tri season due to a very annoyingly timed stress fracture back in May, my revised A race finally arrived. We were off to Thailand, baby!

As is often the case, the run-up to race day did not go quite to plan. Looking back at my Strava feed, I’d begun getting chesty in late October. Like a numpty, I continued through it for a while, including a long cold solo ride to Hartley Wintney to meet my good friend Ben for lunch. A lovely and well-overdue catch-up, but in hindsight I should have driven. The next day my lungs felt terrible and I was coughing up green gremlins, and I just couldn’t muster up any energy to do anything. A few days laying off the exercise unfortunately wasn’t enough, and after trying to soldier on at work despite almost no sleep and struggling to breathe, I finally bit the bullet and went to my own GP. I hate going to the GP as a medical professional normally, but I was seen by a lovely young woman who gave me some antibiotics and strongly encouraged me to take some time off to rest. In the hope that I could get away without more time off, I went to work the following day; by the afternoon I had called in sick for the next 2 days. I need to learn to listen! Big thanks have to be given to my friend and club-mate Gemma, who sent me some self chest physio exercises which worked a treat in clearing my chest. Lifesaver 🙂

A week later, feeling slightly more human and having spent a day jiggling bags to meet our tight luggage weight restrictions, we were off! I am really bad at travelling long haul, as I get so excited by all the films that I barely sleep a wink. This time was no exception, and I managed 4 on the first flight and a 5th on the next. Don’t even get me started on the plane food, I love it!

Bike Recce

After arriving and heading for an immediate nap, we put the bikes together and had a bit of an explore. Having planned to try to do our own bike recce on the Friday, we (thankfully) got wind of an organised, police-escorted recce we could join instead. “Steady pace” the race director stressed in the pre-recce briefing. Steady my arse!!! Paul and I were still both hacking up chunks, and falling fairly conspicuously off the back of the ride. As per usual, we got to the first significant climb of the route – a short (300m) but unapologetically steep (18%) climb around 33km in – and managed to make up ground on a few heavier riders on their hefty TT bikes, one of whom snapped his chain right in front of us. Thank you, power-to-weight ratio and cx honed bike handling skills.

We managed to stay ahead of the broom wagon for the remainder of the ride. The highlight for me was when a nice American lady rode beside us towards the top of another long, fairly steep incline, just as I was trying to keep my breakfast from making a reappearance. I don’t think I was so successful in stopping the F-bomb from making an escape from my mouth. Having taken a few minutes to compose myself, we got chatting. Turns out it’s only 2 time ITU and 1995 Kona champion Karen Smyers!! She had been invited back to race as one of the “legends”, having been the race’s inaugural female winner in 1994. Smooth Kate, smooth. Back to Laguna Phuket, Paul and I broke off to go and clear out a pharmacy of antibiotics, mucolytics and nasal sprays.

Swim recce happened the next day. The course was 1200m of lovely warm, clear sea, followed by a short steep beach sprint, and then 600m straight across a lagoon. The sea was clear enough though for Paul to catch sight of several jellyfish, just as they stung his limbs. Sea recce curtailed, we tried out the lagoon – more like a more swampy version of our local lake, which smelt less than fresh!! 🙂

The rest of our pre-race build up consisted of trying to rest up, get a beach-side massage and fuel well, which involved a LOT of restraint at the all-you-can-eat hotel breakfast buffet! The night before we went to the pasta party which was actually really good. We got chatting to a couple from Hong Kong who hadn’t done many triathlons before, coming from an ultra running background, so thought we were being “helpful” by giving them bike gearing tips. Little did we know that one of them is so good at ultra-running that he’s sponsored by the likes of The North Face, Garmin and Hammer Nutrition… no suprises when he came 3rd in his age group then! Very lovely couple. https://www.vladixel.com/

Bang Tao Beach

So finally, race morning arrived. Up at the crack of dawn as usual, and forced down the nearest thing to granola/museli we managed to find at the local shop. A short taxi-ride to transition for numbering and then some final set-up in the pitch black. Can of Redbull downed, and it was time to get the ferry to the beach start area. One of my only grips for the whole race was that we were told there was a second bag-drop on the beach, allowing us to go over in flip-flops and not have to sacrifice them.  Could we find the bag-drop? No. Did any of the volunteers have any idea where it was? Nooo. In the end we just had to leave them with a random volunteer and hope they made their way back to the finish (they did). Small thing, but a stress you don’t need when you’re already nervous!

5am transition

Paul and I were both in the faster of the age-group swim pens, and at 6:35 we were off. With 200 per wave, it was a pretty good-going thrash-fest, but by about 200m in I had found a couple of hips to draft which was a relief. Apart from taking a kick to the boob at one point (!), the rest of the swim was fairly unremarkable, and if I was stung by jellyfish, I was too focused to register it. The short beach run was a killer though! By the time I dived into the lagoon, my arms were done. Like my club-mate Louise had said when she did it last year, going from buoyant salty sea to warm freshwater was like swimming through treacle. Still, I managed to hold my own and exited the water 10th non-pro and 4th in AG in 32:29. How nice to hear “Kate Robinson, one of the top age-groupers” as I bambi-ed my way to T1, not long behind Karen Smyers 🙂

Save for dropping my glasses and having to go back for them just before the mount line, I managed the “pro” mount I’d been practicing this summer where your shoes are already attached to the bike, and settled down to my strongest discipline. Once off the main road, it was lovely to be cheered on by all the local school kids, and they seemed to whoop even more loudly seeing a lady come past. I passed one or two women during some technical sections on the way out to the highway. By some fluke, at one of the only out-and-back sections of the bike course, I passed Paul coming the other way. I know he feels more comfortable knowing I’m safely racing, so a quick verbal exchange and it was back to business. The 18% hill came and went without incident for me, and another woman overtaken, although I witnessed another MAMIL on a heavy looking TT bike who stalled his gears and had to dismount, alongside some amusing expletives! By the time I got to the next set of hills, I found myself overtaking the last female pro, Shiu Yan Leanne Szeto. Very quick to give myself the proverbial pat-on-the-back, I clocked that her tri suit shorts didn’t seem quite right. Bandaging. She’d obviously come off on a descent and scraped herself quite badly. Ah well, a girl can dream she’s pro standard eh?! She shouted some words of encouragement at me, which was lovely, and we played cat-and-mouse for the rest of the bike. I came into T2 after 1:35:55, 6th non-pro and 1st in age group.

I bottled the “pro” dismount, choosing to clip-clop my way to the rack in my cleats. Whilst scrabbling around for my shoes and gel, I heard shouts of encouragement from  a guy called Jean-Sebastien from our cyclo-cross league back at home, who was out doing the run leg as part of a relay team. Small world! Out onto the run, and the first few km felt hard but do-able, at around 5:00/km pace. Unfortunately, around 3-4km in, that’s when it all went a bit Pete Tong. First came the nausea and bloating, and then the shit started to hit the fan (pardon the pun). It was so hot and humid anyway, that people were having to walk through the aid stations to take full advantage of the water sponges, ice and drinks. But my stomach felt so bad that I could only run for 500m at a time before having to walk, grinding to nearly 8:00/km pace. Jean-Sebastien passed me out on the scorching golf course, and tried to shout more encouragement, unfortunately to no avail (thanks anyway J-S!). By the time I got back to the half-way point near the start/finish, I knew there were some toilet buses there. But they were not nice, grim in fact, and I figured trying to manoeuvre a French-style squat job whilst hot and bothered and wearing a compression tri suit was not going to end well. So on I soldiered, beside Karen Smyers again for a few km (much to the delight of the race compere!).  Around 9km in I realised there was a cafe/toilet block on the exit of the golf course – result!! I had to wait about 3 minutes for someone else with toilet issues to finish, but I was in and out faster than you could say “Paula Radcliffe”. This was an absolute Godsend, as I managed to run the rest of the way virtually non-stop (albeit slowly). My run was only salvaged by the fact that I did manage to re-overtake one woman about 500m from the finish. Not all crap then!

Hot and bothered on the golf course

Across the line in 3:28:05, I got my medal and water, found Paul, and had to go straight to the grim bus loos for an extended stay. Oh the glamorous life of a triathlete! After a bit of a lie-down and some more fluids, we found some other lovely people we’d met at the pasta party, had a quick chat, and then tried to force down some fried rice, before cycling home very, very slowly. After some buscopan, English Breakfast tea and a hot bath, I was feeling a bit more normal, and we made it to the awards party for some beers with Karen Smyers and the compere. Having won matching elephants (and a pair of non-returnable trainers in the wrong size for Paul as age-group winner…?!), we stayed up til the small hours at the beach club before heading for a long sleep.

So all in all, I was very pleased with my efforts, especially finishing the bike only 5 minutes behind some of the female pros. The run was horrendous, and although there may have been some heat/sweat issues contributing, I definitely need to get some more help with my in-race nutrition. Just gutting to go from leading the race to 3rd in the main part because of my stomach. Would I do it again? Yes, if I was going back to Thailand. A very well organized race, friendly atmosphere and great pasta + after parties. Do I race well in hot conditions? Definitely not!!

Until 2018, triathlon xx

His ‘n’ Hers trophies 🙂

 

Berkshire Tri Squad Club Champs

There are 3 races on the BTS calendar which are pretty much mandatory for anyone who is active within the club: Lidl Bananaman in July, Human Race’s Ballbuster duathlon in November and our Club Champs in August/September – a race where we hijack the VoTwo evening series at Eton Dorney and get our own start wave at 7:05pm.

Club Champs is an odd one… For a start, it’s not quite a full sprint: 750m/18.5km/5km. This takes away my advantage on the bike, boo! On the surface it’s “fun” with some healthy competition, and it’s followed by the biggest sandwich  you’ve ever seen in your life and comedy prize-giving at The Pineapple in Dorney. However the conjecture, predictions and general psyching-out of teammates starts a week or two before race-night and this, in combination with my irrational unease of swimming at Dorney Lake, means that by the time race night comes around I’m not in the mood to enjoy. Nevertheless, being the competitive beast that I am, I carry on and endure in the hope of finishing in a respectable time.

Last year, I ended up with the woeful honour of being 4th lady. I had tried my hand at SUP the day before, so my swim was pretty poor due to aching shoulders, and I faded badly on the run, allowing my clubmate Gemma (who is a talented runner) to breeze past me in the last 500-1000m or so. As disappointing as that was, I did bag a prize for my ability to effortlessly regurgitate whatever pre-race nutrition I have eaten whilst in T1 🙂

So this year, I went along safe in the knowledge that I had not buggered my upper body with any recent poorly timed new sport taster sessions. I had carefully considered my nutrition that day, so that I was racing on plenty of sugar and caffeine but no actual food in my stomach. All going well so far, or so I thought. Quick kiss from Paul whilst we waited for the start horn, and then I settled somewhere mid-pack. Swim seemed to go ok, even managed to hold onto a pair of feet for around 200m which is unusual for me! I’ve been practicing my sighting all summer since the Euros, and although it clearly needs A LOT more work, I can tell it’s slowly improving in that my line is less drunk sea-snake and more distracted Dory fish. I exit the water 2nd lady in 14:07 (2 minutes 10 seconds faster than last year) which I’m pleased with.

What concerns me slightly as I run my way through to my bike, is that I managed this year to vomit whilst in the water – this is a new one even for me… But no time to analyze, I have to get out on the bike and try to keep my main competition Lynda and Julia as far behind me as possible. Both are strong cyclists (stronger than me) and both outran me last year.

Cue major cock-up. Having last year mastered the “pro” bike dismount with ease, and recently practiced the “pro” bike mount (where shoes are left attached to the bike with elastic bands), I went with this in an effort to save time. Alas, something went wrong and I ended up having to stop, pull over, take my shoes off the pedals and put them on in the normal way once out of transition and past the mount line. Probably cost me 30-60 seconds but also just massively disrupted my race momentum and resulted in about 1km of swearing! Triathlon is a sport which really does count on saving time in any way possible, hence why transition is the 4th discipline which should be practiced in the same way the sporting elements are.

Anyway, I digress. Bike portion went OK once I eventually got going. I couldn’t get my HRM to talk to my bike computer, but I did have power to go on, so I tried to keep it at or above 170w on the straights. I managed to hold off both Lynda and Julia, and also played a fun game of cat and mouse with Steve F on the final bike straight (which I smugly won 🙂 ). Arriving in T2 after 32:15 (1 minute 07 secs quicker than last year), I felt disappointed with the bike section; more worrying, I’d also been sick again, this time whilst cycling. I put it down to nerves, and not knowing just how close Julia was to me (1 second behind), I started the run.

Dorney 5km runs tend to be an out-and-back affair, with 4x 1.25km legs. Although boring as far as runs go, it does make it fairly easy to spot where your competition is and help to mentally break-down the distance into manageable chunks. Not having done a lot of BRICK this year (something to address next year), it takes me a good 1-2km to get the legs going, so I expected to feel legs of lead. However, by about half way the stomach cramps began. Unfortunately there was no let-up, and I could do nothing to stop Lynda seemingly effortlessly sailing past me. I did manage to hold Julia off and complete the split in 24:40 (17 secs slower than last year), but only just.

As I crossed the line, I must’ve gone a very attractive shade of grey, as the finish lady went to get me a cup of water straight away. I walked towards Paul (who had finished a very respectable 3rd man in 1:00:39) and tried to tell him I didn’t feel very well. A beeline was made for the portaloos, but after about 5 steps I puked everywhere, exorcist style. Oh gawd, how embarrassing… Having a talent for silent regurgitation is one thing, but full on pubic vomiting is hardly ladylike!! Once I’d finished and cleaned myself up a bit, we decided to show face at the pub given that we’d already paid for our sandwiches. I sat there for a good half hour or more, unable to eat a thing despite the well-meaning encouragement of others. Just as the prize-giving began, I felt another surge of waterbrash,  legged it outside, and promptly decorated the pavement. Needless to say, we slipped out at that point and I went straight to bed.

Back to the race result – 3rd lady overall in 1:12:23. A 3 minute and 01 second improvement on last year which I should be pleased with. But, because I am me, I am not. Next year, the aim will be probably 3rd lady again (I’m not in the same league as Louise and Lynda, and there are others who didn’t compete this year who are equally as good as me if not better), but I hope to go sub 14 minutes on the swim, sub 32 minutes on the bike, and closer to 23 minutes on the run. More BRICKS and run intervals needed  as well as some upper body conditioning methinks! Oh, and if I could get through one Club Champs without vomiting, that would be great… 🙂