30th August saw me race the Vitruvian, this was to be my second middle distance race of the year. Back in May along with four other TTT athletes I went to race Ironman 70.3 Pay d’Aix in France, sadly due to an achiles tendinopathy picked up during a 10km in March I was advised not to even start the run leg.
So in July when suitably recovered I took advantage of the released places at the Vitruvian. I had raced this the previous year so was keen to use this as a benchmark of my progress. I went into the race well prepared off the back of some decent olympic distance results so was feeling hopeful.
I travelled to the race with fellow TTTer Andy Hamilton and we had a very nice B&B booked fortunately the room had 2 beds!
The swim is 2 laps with an Australian style exit, the women’s wave was the last and it meant that we soon caught back markers from earlier waves. At the first turn I caught a blow to the head and moved wider to gather my composure and pressed on, the rest of the swim was uneventful and the timings showed it was pretty evenly paced. The swim times suggested the course was slightly long and the few people I spoke to afterwards who wore watches confirmed this; conservative estimates had it at 200m long.
Judging from the number of bikes in transition I had come out in the top 15 or so, the results showed this was actually 6th. After a decent transition it was out onto the bike, having raced the Dambuster earlier on the year the course was fresh in my memory so I was keen to get into a rhythm as quickly as possible to take advantage of the early descents, but it was very windy. I passed a few girls in the first few miles and then concentrated on riding my own race trying to manage the effort so I didn’t blow up on lap 2. As we turned off the main road back into the lake site I tried to get sight of how many girls were up ahead, I didn’t notice any so just assumed those that were ahead we quite a few minutes ahead, I set out to try and replicate the same pace through lap 2. As I came back into T2 a marshal requested my race number, I duly obliged, I thought this a little odd, but gave it no more thought. There were a few bikes racked as I entered transition and at this point thought I lay in about 6th position (ironically where I finished last year!). About 400m into the run course I was suddenly being paid a lot of attention from a man on a mountain bike wearing a hi-vis bib, he was soon in front of me but then rode very slowly and kept annoyingly looking over his shoulder. I soon passed a known supporter and asked how many girls were up ahead she replied that she didn’t know and I carried on with the run. The guy on the bike persisted with his painful pace and the rather irritating glances over the shoulder. After about 1.5km I enquired as to whether he was waiting for me – at this point I learned for the first time that I was the lead lady! So it all became clear… It was at this point I got a little over excited and decided to push the pace about 15-20secs per mile faster than target, it wouldn’t be too long until I would pay the price for such exuberance!!
The run course at the Vitruvian is a 2 lap affair so you get 3 opportunities to see how far competitors are away, at the first turn I got sight of the girl who was in second (I now know her name to be Becky) and recognised her from last year and recalled she was a very good runner, but I didn’t panic at this stage. Having never been in this position before I found it hard to judge the gap, but at the second turn, back at the finish (not sure I like the feeling of heading into the finish only to realize that you have to do it all again!), I didn’t think I had lost too much ground and set out on lap 2 still feeling pretty good with a real sense of belief that I could potentially get a lot further before being caught. At about 12km my legs had other ideas and as I pushed hard into the wind I could feel my legs slowing, becoming heavier with every step and the ever-increasing pace on my watch confirmed this. I took a gel in the hope that it would provide some magical increase in energy but the damage had been done and despite the enthusiastic encouragement from Andy each time we passed I couldn’t retain the lead. Becky came storming passed me at about 17.5km and it was all I could do was to give her a shout of encouragement and give my legs a talking too to keep moving to the finish.
As I crossed the line I was consumed by the overriding emotion of relief that it was all over. On reflection I was really pleased – over 5 minutes quicker in far tougher conditions and to have led for much of the race was an added bonus.