Race report for Wimbleball
Wimbleball was my first ever long-distance race back in 2013. Much as I had prepared for it following a 6month plan, I wasn’t from an endurance sport back ground so it has to said, come race day I struggled and it was the hardest thing I had ever done up until that point. After the race I vowed that I would return to compete again once I was fitter and had more racing experience. So after several more middle distance races and training for 3 Ironman distance races I decided that I would take on the mighty Wimbleball again this year. My 3 objectives in order of importance to me were;
- Reap my revenge on Wimbleball – it killed me last time, I had to finish feeling that I was the victor this year!
- Do a sub 2hr half marathon
- Get a sub 6:30 race time
In the months leading up to Wimbleball I had several niggles, my knee problem had got much better since February but then it went on me again about 5 weeks ago so I hadn’t done much running and I had that in the back of the mind. I also had a toenail fall off 1 week before the race so again I wasn’t sure if that would bother me, however, in the week leading up to the race I was feeling really good, my knee felt stronger and I was very surprised that in the space of only a few days my toe healed so well I couldn’t even feel that I had lost a nail.
Race morning I woke up, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that feeling “why do I do this?” as the alarm went off at 3am. I actually sprung out of bed raring to go and really excited for the race, even though it was forecast for heavy rain all day. We got to Wimbleball lake and did the usual pre-race bike checks and before I knew it, it was 6:30am and I was standing in line in my wetsuit in the rain waiting for the official march down to the lake.
My swim went well – I felt relaxed the whole way through, got a bit battered at the first turn buoy but continued with a nice easy rhythm. The time wasn’t anything amazing and far from a PB for the distance but it was an improvement of 7 minutes over my 2013 time. Happy with the swim, I ran up the hill to transition (it’s a long run) and spent some time wrapping up as it was by now raining very heavily so opted so a waterproof, arm warmers and a jersey.
Heading out on the bike was chaos, it is very narrow single track roads around Wimbleball lake so that paired the large puddles and usual mount line chaos meant it was a slow start but I was soon peddling away on the route and I took my time, having ridden this course once before in a race and twice on a training weekend with my friend Claire (all 3 times in the rain might I add) I knew what was to come so I was in no hurry to power off up that first hill. The first lap was pretty much constant heavy rain, my boyfriend Mark had waited for me to get out of the swim then headed out onto his own training session riding part of the course in reverse so it was nice to see him when I was around 2/3 way around the first lap. On the second lap I felt great, I was still smiling and thanking all the marshals and generally having a lovely day out in the countryside in the best of British summer weather. I think having had quite a few training rides in the rain this year had toughened me up to the elements, knowing nothing would ever be as bad as hitting the top of the Le Col der Fer in an electric storm and having a treacherous 30km descent in torrential rain with my training squad buddies only a month before this seemed to make the rain almost non existent. I was a little annoyed at one point that my chain dropped off the chain ring just before hitting a hill so I had to dismount to sort that but other than that a fairly uneventful bike leg. Once I hit the end of the second lap and knew It was a fairly flat 7 or 8km to home so I put the power down a little bit and passed loads of people in that last stretch all of who looked like they had overcooked the hills and were suffering. Into T2 looked at my watch and knew I hadn’t pushed it hard enough as my time was pretty similar to the last time I raced, albeit I raced on a triple chainset last time and now ride a 56,39 chain set with a 26 cassette so not the ideal hill set up I have to admit! Still, I was a minute faster, and improvement is improvement and means my coach and I know now we can push my HR levels much higher in coming races.
This year, I seemed to have learnt to push harder on runs than I have been able to previously. Not sure how much of that is learning to suffer and how much is due to the fact that since being diagnosed with autoimmune disease and going gluten free I now don’t have any gastric distress. That said, my plan as always was come out of T2 (03:51) at a slow jog to allow my HR drop and take on some fluid and fuel (a bottle of RaceRx), however the pacing part of the plan didn’t seem to work, I went slow but my HR would not drop to the level it was meant to. At this point I felt really good, my legs were killing me but I knew that feeling would pass, mentally I felt good and physically I knew I had a strong run in me. I made the bold choice to ignore my HR plan, this was a tough call as in Majorca I ran to plan exactly and had an amazing run….however, something felt different and I made the decision to use the plan but instead of HR levels used perceived exertion. I am pleased to say I nailed it – lap one was steady, lap 2 I surged a bit and powered away feeling amazing, lap 3 I had a slight lull early on but spent the majority of it feeling great again and it was my fastest lap. Stupidly I thought a half distance was a 20km run so at 18km put my final gear into action and then at 19.5km saw a sign saying 1 mile to go – I wasn’t sure if I could hold the pace for another full mile but I did, and ended up crossing the finish line with a huge smile on my face knowing I had, had an amazing race ad taken a good 12 minutes of my previous run time and achieved my 3 objectives for the race.
So was it the race of my life?? No, I didn’t push hard enough on the swim or the bike but I am 100% happy with the outcome and really pleased with the progress I am making. This race was up there with Majorca 70.3 in terms of how I felt I performed, now I need to work on pushing harder on the bike to improve my times but not to the detriment of my run. Hopefully this has set me up well for IM Wales in 10weeks from now, it has done my confidence a lot of good and I am genuinely excited to see what happens in Wales.
Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.