Challenge Herning – ETU Middle Distance Champs

Kez and I flew out to Herning on Thursday afternoon, picked up the hire car and drove through the fairly nondescript land of the Danes. It was absolutely chucking it down, though the weather looked ready to settle by Saturday morning. Fingers crossed. Having found our way into Herning, we enjoyed a jar of Erdinger before bedding down for the night.

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We woke to more heavy rain on Friday morning. Great! A day of briefings, registration and some course recce’ing ahead. Due to the split transition there was a lot of faff and to-ing and fro-ing from various venues. I usually enjoy the day before a race. Once all the admin is done, it’s lush to chill, set some goals for the following day with Kez and relax.

But Saturday came round super fast! Race start wasn’t until 10am and the skies cleared leaving pretty ideal conditions for racing.

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First race in the new Huub. #TeamSponge

Swim – 28:11. 1:29/100m
The Plan: Push hard throughout. I always finish feeling like I could have swum longer. I want to finish gagging to get out with aching lats and empty arms!
The Execution: I came out with more in the tank. Bollocks. The deep water start went off with little fuss with 250m to the first buoy. As ever, I had no idea where I was in the field but I put my head down and pushed a steady pace. It took a while to settle but I found a rhythm and felt myself moving through some groups. I just didn’t have the extra gear to lift the pace more. I exited 5th in my AG and made a decent transition.

Bike – 2.20:58. 23.9mph.
The Plan: Average 300-310 watts, keep aero and  get as close to 24mph ave as possible.
The Execution: The bike was a weird one. Within 30 minutes I knew it wasn’t going to be averaging anywhere near 310w. My legs felt laboured and I didn’t have that extra punch. Rather than stress about it, I decided to focus on being as aero as possible on what was a pretty fast course. There was only 725m of climbing over the 56 miles, but it was generally rolling on great surfaces. The 20m draft zone worked well, and I saw at least 3 people get penalised for being too close – good to see plenty of motorbikes on the course.

The long lines of riders made it bloody tough to overtake. On three occasions I had to average 360 watts for a minute or two in order to pass four or five riders at once as there was no opportunity to pull in once past the first rider.

Time was passing fast until 90 mins into the ride when my hamstring started to tighten up. I haven’t felt it before, but it was pretty jabbing and I could only think it was due to my relatively new position and focusing on being properly hunkered down. Either way, it made me sit up a few times and cruise so I could stretch it out.

Coming to the end of the bike, I was pleased with the speed – 23.9mph – but the power was well down. I’d averaged 279 watts. Well off my target.

I got off the bike 4th in my AG, I think.

Run – 1.31:24. 07:11mm.
The Plan: Start conservative and bank the first few miles at 06:45mm before evaluating.
The Execution: God, what a death march. Within half a mile, I knew this wasn’t going to be a happy run! I just had nothing in me. Had I pushed too hard on the bike? The power numbers would suggest not. Maybe the power meter was reading low and actually I’d pushed much harder? Either way, I was suffering and my mental game went downhill quickly.

The run comprised 4 laps around Herning on a long out and back before fannying around through the public library and highstreet – a course that would normally be fun an interesting. But I wasn’t interested!  It was flat, but very twisting. Kez pop up with ridiculous frequency which was amazing – no idea how she did that but I shouldn’t be surprised, she’s just incredible at crewing – but I felt guilty as sin because I was a miserable sod and couldn’t crack a smile to save my life. I was coughing the whole way which is draining but also psychologically just makes me feel like my body isn’t working.

My ambitious target was to average 06:30mm. In the end (well, even at the beginning), 06:45mm felt hard, and my average just went down and down.

I have never wanted to stop a race so badly. I felt bad for Kez and felt like a useless sack of shit. Unfortunately, that mentality just contributed to my performance. I need to learn to climb out of a hole as I probably would have sped up if I had. Even if I hadn’t, I’d have enjoyed what was a really well supported race much more.

Crossing the finish line was a relief! Ach, what a waste. As I write this it’s immensely frustrating I couldn’t see the bigger picture and have absorbed the great atmosphere! I was pretty wrecked at the finish – emotionally drained from being in a dark place and was just pleased to get to the finish. Why had I run so poorly?

After 15 minutes I found Kez who was great and didn’t really get why I was upset! I’d finished 7th so, according to the previous day’s predictions “Top 10 would be great”, I should be chuffed! However, it’s hard to be stoked when you don’t race well, whatever the result.

Summary – 4:24.20
Ah the post-race analysis. Identifying why I was a bit weak on the bike and why I completely tanked on the run needed exploring. It didn’t take long. Fuel.

I’d had a good pre-race breakfast, and eaten well in the days leading up to the race, but I under-fuelled on the bike. I had 2 bottles of carb drink and 2 gels. That was it. That equates to 130g carbs total for 2:20 hours of riding (I’d normally eat more than that even on an easy training ride) and on the run all I had was 3 x Clif shot blocs, totaling 35g carbs over 1:30 hours. What a complete spoon.

It may have been enough for some, but not eating early on the bike, and not eating enough full stop must have played a factor. I averaged 33g carbs/hour over the whole race, which I suppose was always going to take its toll. I am fortunate in that I can eat while riding – unlike some who get issues – but today, I just didn’t. Fuckwit.

I’m hoping that’s the cause of my average race anyway, otherwise I just got my expectations aaaall wrong!

Some solid triathlete tan lines right there.

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Another race in the bank. It was a lush weekend away with Kez, as always, and I certainly learned a few things. I’ve got to sort out this cough. I’ve always fuelled well and never given it much though, but clearly I need to work on that going forward, too.


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