Shepparton Half Ironman - Race Report
After a broken sleep (as usual pre-race) my alarm sounded. It's amazing how much more energy I have on race morning. A spring out of bed and I get some cornflakes and a coffee into me before the three S's.
A short drive to the race start, where I set up transition, make sure the bike is all good, check the tires and relax. A few catch ups with people I haven't seen for a while then it's time to get into the wetsuit.
At this stage, the clouds were thick and dark. During the pre-race briefing it was mentioned that if there was a lightning storm, then there was a chance we could be pulled from the course for safety. Maybe it wasn't going to get too hot. In fact, it looked like it was going to rain.
I have to say, I could not have had a more relaxed pre-race. There was absolutely no stress, I was feeling strong and ready. I was comfortable with my training, now all I had to do was put in the work out on the course.
I was in the second wave start, 30-34 year old males, about 80 bodies in the water all up. This allowed for a nice spread out start. The horn sounded and we were off. The swim was so civilised that I could have been in the pool. I cruised through the first 200m or so then decided to check out the field and find a place to slot into a draft. This wasn't so simple as the swimmers around me were all slowing down, while I wanted to speed things up. Guess it was time to put plan 2 into action and leap frog up through the field.
I accelerated and chased the pack ahead of me. It took about 400m to catch them, but it was worth it, as I spent the second half of the swim sitting comfortably in the draft of a good pack. I used these guys to take me through to the finish and found I was right in the middle of my wave.
My hands hit the bottom of the lake. With only one step I was out of the water and running through the cheering crowd. What a great atmosphere. Wetsuit peeled down to my hips I made my way towards my bike. I located without any trouble and had a smooth transition:
- wetsuit off
- gels into jersey pocket
- glasses on
- helmet on
- unrack the bike
It was at this point I finally realised it was raining. Not just a nice summer shower, it was raining hard, very hard. Oh well, at least it wasn't too cold or hot.
The body is a machine. That's how I treated it, and that's how it behaved.
I had my plan and I followed it exactly. The ride was three flat laps of 30km each. The plan was to hold the following heart rates:
That's exactly what I did, and looking at the data, there is very little deviation on heart rate. So how did this go speed-wise. I was slower than expected, by 10-15 minutes overall, but conditions were far from expected. So what were the conditions?
Wet, wet, wet with wind, wind and few more gusts. Oh, yeah... there was also thunder and lightning, but we weren't called in. I even think there was a bit of hail, but I'm too sure on that. That's right, basically the bike was through a storm, which other than slowing me down a bit didn't seem to alter my mind set much at all. I stayed nice and aero, turned the legs over constantly, consumed fluid and carbohydrate every 10-12 minutes and increased my cadence over the last 10km to be feeling just about right for run. The only issue was some minor stomach cramping during the last lap, but this was not a problem.
I think the rain had finally stopped by the time I came in off the bike. I was a bit slow in transition, for some reason I was quite dizzy as I tried to put on my shoes. As a result this took longer than expected. Things settled down once I got moving. At the transition exit I spotted my wife and sis-in-law. They informed me my mate Daz was 16 minutes ahead. I was feeling good, my legs were already ticking over nice and quick, so I replied, "No problem, I'll catch him." I believed I would.
Out onto the Kialla Lake path and my legs wanted to move. They were used to running, and that's exactly what they planned to do. I held back a bit. No point blowing out early into the run, plenty of time to really hammer it later on. So I settled into a good cadence, running at what I thought would give me close to a 90 minute run leg.
The first couple of kilometres went by quickly. I was picking my way through the field. As I hit the wobbly bridge (yes the bridge shakes, sways and wobbles as if it is going to fall down) I was feeling the first signs of trouble. I was experiencing some abdominal cramping that was causing me a fair amount of distress. First I tried running through them, but that only made matters worse. The pain became so severe that I was forced to stop and crouch down to try to get some relief. At this point everything looked white and I felt faint. I caught a glimpse of my heart rate monitor and it flashed away at 32 bpm. I decided that couldn't be right, since I had been holding a heart rate of about 150. I checked my pulse, and found it was punching away at an even 32. That's not good. I waited...
... after about a minute the abdominal pain eased a bit, and my heart rate returned to normal levels. What to do now? I thought it best to just continue at a reduced pace, something that feels ridiculously easy. That lasted about half a kilometre before the cramping again became out of control. Yet again with the increase in pain my heart rate dropped to 32. A minute of sitting to the side of the course and things settled a bit. But the cramping was still there.
So I walked. I didn't know what was going wrong, but I wanted to finish to validate my entry into the Australian Ironman. I also wanted to look after my health. That's what I did for the rest of the lap. It was now going to be a long day.
About halfway through the so-called run leg (or walk in my case) I discovered the likely cause: explosive, watery diarrhoea. Knowing this, I thought if my body could expel some of whatever it was that was offending it, then maybe I could move beyond walking. I had many attempts at running, but each simply resulted in a significant increase in pain and twice more I experienced that drop in heart rate. So I walked, stopped at nearly every porta-loo on course and I kept checking my watch. I was now a bit concerned about making the cut-off time.
I feel as lonely as I look in the above picture. The enjoyment factor had now finally gone from the race. From secret hopes of a top 15 in my age group to finishing in the last 15 overall. The end result was far from my pre-race plans. I walked across the line, not feeling too excited about all the attention, I made the cut-off, heard the race announcer comment about how relieved I looked and then was greeted by the race doctor.
The thoughts are that I suffered a bout of gastroenteritis that hit hard because of the extra stress racing puts on the body. Because of the diarrhoea, I had mild dehydration and was treated to a couple of litres of IV fluids before being allowed to leave. The heart rate issue is believed to be simply a parasympathetic or vagal reaction to the pain, and should not be a problem in the future. There are a few other possibilities about the gastro upset, a few of them being race day and/or pre-race issues, but I'll explore those later on.
Feeling drained, and very disappointed I slept as my beautiful wife looked after me and drove home. Now I have a couple of days of doing a few things around the house and getting some neglected items back into order before I spend a week on the beaches of the Gold Coast. It's a break I am now very much looking forward too.