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 🙂

 

Rehab – done.

Where to start with the last 6 weeks?! So much to tell, so I’ll try to be concise 🙂

At last update I had barely begun to do some jog-walking on the treadmill, and was gearing up for a couple of single-sport “A” races. Well, I’m pleased to report that run rehab has been going relatively well – I’ve now progressed to continuous efforts over 5-6km distance. My pace has obviously slipped from where I was at pre-injury, however it’s not completely horrendous, and I seem to be improving with every run. Particularly when it comes to the DOMS!! My goodness I’ve had a couple of shocking cases of this in the last few weeks. Possibly as a result, and by no means a bad thing, I’ve been building up VERY gradually, trying not to run on consecutive days where possible, and trying my best to remember to stretch! My foot was a bit uncomfortable to start with, but not in the sharp pain/getting worse with more use kind of way it was when I first injured, more a dull tightness/ache which got better with each jog rep. Making the executive decision to push on through and hope it was just scar tissue, it did gradually get better and better, and now I can report I’m pretty much pain-free all of the time.

So first up was Ride London at the end of July. After doing this on my own in 2014 and spectacularly crashing out at mile 67, I had unfinished business. This time was NOT going to end in Kingston A&E, medal- (and bike-) less!! Paul and I had a cunning plan to blast around as a 2-up, allowing both of us to work at roughly 70% FTP with me drafting him. We arrived a little late and missed our start wave, but in doing so managed to find our club mate Steve and ride as a 3-up for the first 1/3 of the route. Unfortunately he cramped up and dropped back, but we stuck to our plan and despite a couple of hold-ups due to accidents, and a few showers, we finished in 5:23 total ride time.

Next up was the Women’s National 25 mile time trial champs on the R25/3H course in south Wales. On paper a very quick course – predominantly down-hill and a simple out-and-back dual carriageway route. Arriving there with a bit of time to spare, I was secretly massively daunted. Ironically, although I consider the bike to be my strongest discipline, I’ve never done anything more than the odd local TT or CX race before. To be on the start line with 99 other female cyclists from around the UK who were mostly affiliated to racing clubs and/or teams was a tad scary. One of these women is my former club mate, (also) Kate who now trains and races for Drag2Zero and recently posted the 6th fastest British female time ever over 50 miles. Being somewhat more “built” for time trialing than I am (!), well that’s enough to make a girl just want to finish in one piece, having not gotten lost or fallen off! Paul and I had studied the course video closely beforehand, so even though we didn’t have time to drive the course, I managed not to get lost OR fall off. Winner winner, chicken dinner 🙂 In fact, despite the brutal head/cross winds for the entire out section of the course meaning that I spent approximately NO time on my aero bars until the return leg, I managed to shave over 7 mins off my 25 mile PB and finish in a respectable 73rd position. Not too bad for a petite triathlete 😉

And so we come to my revised “A” race of the season: a 4km swim across Rutland lake. I knew this wouldn’t be as fast as the Dorney 3.8km event I had done in July, owing to the “openness” of the water and lack of rowing lines to follow. Unfortunately, the course was so badly marked with sparse, tiny buoys the same colour as everyone’s mandatory tow-floats that most people reached the middle of the lake and had no idea which direction to head in. This, together with the significant swell at either end meant that I came away very disappointed with a 1:20 time. Maybe I had a bit of an off day, but I certainly won’t be rushing back all that way again unless they sort the course navigation out.

Next up, my first full triathlon post injury! Every August BTS essentially takes over a Dorney based VoTwo evening triathlon for our club champs, and get our own start wave.  We encourage as many from the club to enter as possible. Supposedly a “fun” event, there is more than enough healthy competition and lighthearted rivalry going on, and it’s a chance to see how we’re fairing against our club mates. My game plan was first and foremost to finish, ideally by smashing my way around the swim and bike, and then running along the grass at whatever pace my legs and foot would allow. The swim was perhaps a tad slower than I’d have liked, but I beat a couple of people out of the water that I might not have expected to so can’t complain. The bike was fairly uneventful, keeping my club mate Andy in my sight the whole way around and maintaining a reasonable wattage of around 195. My main positive takeaway from the bike was that I managed a proper shoes on pedals mount for the first time since Lisbon! Small things 🙂 Finally, the run. I knew I was never going to finish near my speedy clubmate Louise (Croxson), but I wasn’t sure how far ahead of 3 other ladies I was and how long I could hold them off for. I ran on the grass for 90% of the time, to lessen the impact on my foot. To my surprise, I not only held the girls off, but managed to pull out a 23:54 for 5km. OK, not the quickest time, but considering I hammered the bike (getting the quickest female bike split by 39s) and my run legs didn’t know what had hit them, I was dead chuffed to finish 4th overall lady and 2nd in BTS.

Finally my latest race, the West Lancs Summer Triathlon – a pool-based sprint event in my home town. We originally entered to do an event with my brother Greg, but with injuries all around we weren’t certain if any of us would even finish! With the McGregor/Mayweather fight early that morning, the boys weren’t exactly well rested either… Obviously I got my beauty sleep in Zzzzzz 😉 Again, my plan was to just smash myself on the swim/bike and hope for a pain-free run, whatever the speed. I ended up in a lane with just one other girl who was a swimmer by trade and estimated to be a good 20-25s fast than me over 400m.

So swimming side by side, I just clung on to her hip and although my time wasn’t quite what I might have liked at 6:13 swim time, I exited the pool less than 5m behind her so couldn’t complain.  The bike, ah the bike. Well, the positives were that I managed to both mount AND dismount “pro” style this time, and had the fastest female bike split by 54s. But my legs felt awful! I actually overtook the lovely lady who went on to win, who then re-overtook me and landed in transition 5s before me.  So then to the run. Maxine, the winner, left me for dead and I never saw her again until the end. In fact, I didn’t see another soul for pretty much the whole 5km wiggly course! But painfree and controlled, I managed a post-injury season’s best and even a sprint finish (ish). In the end Paul and I took 1st male and 2nd female respectively, and we’ve come home with a nice pile of vouchers for EnduranceStore.com and nutrition products from Mountain Fuel.

Oh, and Greg managed a PB around the course and still beat me on the run, by 2:11. Next time!!

Touch wood, I can now say I’m recovered and back to full training. We’re making concerted efforts to ramp up the run training slowly, to save me making the same mistake twice. Next up, Woburn Abbey olympic distance on 10th September – this will challenge my distance running so may be a slightly more subdue run pace, but I’ll see how I feel on the day. I’m just grateful to be back 🙂 Big thanks to Mr Dega at the Windsor Foot and Ankle Clinic, Joanne at Health and Heart, and of course, Paul.