Monday, 30 March 2015

Quarteira Triathlon

Considering that I’d been talked into doing this race ‘just for fun’, I was incredibly nervous before Quarteira Triathlon last Sunday. A sprint race, draft legal, with men and women racing alongside one another; it sounded like so much fun and I was super excited to race with other coaches and clients from Tri Training Harder. But the butterflies wouldn’t leave my stomach. The fact that very little English was spoken by all race officials (and my only Portuguese was how to ask for a beer) meant that I stood on the start line not really knowing the direction I was meant to swim in, which buoys were on my right/left and whether I was allowed to draft the men.

When we arrived early on Sunday morning to register I was very relieved that the sea looked calm. We had practised open water skills in very choppy waters last Tuesday and I had totally sucked at getting past the waves. I had been picked up and dumped back onto the shore repeatedly and it had dented my confidence quite a bit.  

It was much calmer in the sea this week

There's always time for a pre-race selfie 

A cloudy day in Quarteira

After registering, we killed a couple of hours in a nearby café until the caffeine jitters got too much and we headed to the beach to warm up. The waves had picked up massively over the last few hours and I spent the majority of my warm up period pinned to the sea floor wondering which way was up. The rules had changed from last year, and this time the men and women had separate start times, with the women having a six minute head start. We had our briefing on the beach start line and the only English words were the final three: “on your mark”…

I quickly pressed my goggles to my face and got my elbows ready to barge my way down to the sea. In the 25m run to the shore a few girls out-sprinted me, but after 50m or so in the waves I had found the feet of the leader and was feeling calm and comfortable. I picked up the pace, swimming past the leader and hoped she wouldn’t jump straight onto my feet. At the first turn buoy I saw I had clear water between myself and her and after the second turn she was out of sight. I knew I had to do as much damage as I could in the water.

Coming out of the water first at any race is such an amazing experience and I always have the biggest smile on my face as I come into T1. The supporters were lined up along the barriers shouting in Portuguese, taking photos and clapping. I just had to keep calm and not make a balls-up of my transition with everyone watching. Hurdle one (taking off my wetsuit) passed without problem and hurdle two (clipping my helmet up) only took a couple of attempts, but hurdle three (running with the bike) would have been easier if the world wasn’t spinning around like it did last Wednesday night out. I almost fell over my bike, somehow managing to compose myself, but snapped the elastic bands holding my shoes in place so they were swinging around like crazy on my bike as I passed the mount line.

After a somewhat sketchy mounting of my bike, I was away. I hadn’t seen the next female come into transition yet so knew I had a good lead and needed to work hard on the bike to stay away. As I turned the first corner, a motorbike appeared from the left to lead me around the course. In front of the motorbike was a paramedic’s car with the flashing lights on to lead the way (but mostly to get the stray dogs from the course I think). I felt like such a celebrity! This was one of the coolest experiences ever: riding alone behind the lead motorbike with spectators cheering as I went past. As I looped back on the first bike lap, I could see I still had a good lead ahead of the next female, and she was alone too, just like the girl behind her. I assumed it was unlikely that a big pack would form where I could get some draft, so I went hard on the bike to keep my lead as big as possible before the run. At the beginning of lap two, the girl in 2nd place whizzed past me and I hopped onto her wheel. I spent the next lap tucked in behind her saving some energy before taking the front again for the last part of the bike loop. We came into T2 together but she make the rookie error of going past her run shoes and had to do a U-turn, meaning I had a slight lead at the start of the run.

I hadn’t seen the chasing females on the bike loop, but they soon appeared on the run! After 1km, I was back in 4th place already and my hopes of being on the podium disappeared. My running felt terrible. In training, running was going well but I felt like an elephant on the run today with the Spanish and Portuguese Tinkerbells tip-toeing past me. At 2.5km, I was in 5th position and started to find my run legs. At 2.9km, they had disappeared again. I managed to hold on for the last 2km of the run to finish 5th place female and just scrape some prize money, which should be enough for a round of drinks in the Irish Bar next Wednesday night!

**More photos coming soon from New Pixels who photographed the event**

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