It took a moment earlier when I strolled out onto the balcony, having completed a short shakeout run and a good 20 minutes of stretches followed by whacking together a mammoth portion of porridge, for me to realise that it was raining. It didn’t look like it was raining, no dark grey clouds in sight, and for a moment I thought I was being haunted by the scatological ghost of angry German Anja. But no, I realised as I swore out loud in dismay, it was not Anja. I was being rained on, lightly, but surely. It’s a real first world problem to come to an island off the coast of Africa and have to eat your breakfast indoors, I tell ya.
While this most mild of inconveniences was but a brief spell passing over in about a minute, it made me spare a smile. I’m sure many a British athlete on the island also did, because if there’s one thing we know we have to edge on over our toned, tanned, machismo continental counterparts, it’s that we know how to race in the rain. A light schadenfreude, and a reminder that nothing in life can be taken for granted. Especially weather forecasts.
So, running, then. That thing I take for granted, almost every time I talk about it. I think I’ve covered in enough depth the reasons why I have no right to be as fast as I am, so let’s not retread that ground. There’s plenty enough else to cover.
For someone who purports to have had a bike/swim focused year, my running has really come on leaps and bounds. Two months into the training plan and I finally had the sub-17 5k time I’d been after for a while – although, if I’m being honest, I think I probably could have achieved this sooner. I probably just needed to run a few more 5ks to manage it. Funnily enough, they’re not a major focus in Ironman training.
Then XC happened, and I managed to be not only fit, but intelligent; something that quite often eludes me in the height of competition (or when maintaining bikes). Suddenly, in a club of hundreds of quality athletes, I was no longer in the wings. I had a starring role.
Honestly, the most improved XC award I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I probably should’ve made more of a thing of. It meant far more to me than a brief paragraph to cover off before a race report. I wish I could have gone to the actual party it was meant to be presented at, but depression’s a fucker and you can’t choose when it will and won’t let you attempt at being social. It’s a high water mark for me to nab that one, and a nice reminder that the Chasers are a running and triathlon club, not two separate groups of people under the same name and colours.
More recently (as recently as this morning), I’ve found that I can float along at what feels like a bare minimum of effort, moving fast enough that it’d comfortably result in a sub-3 marathon. This year has been a lot around running to effort rather than specific pace for me, but the joys of GPS tracking watches have led me to the conclusion that my 50% effort pace at the moment is about 4 minutes 6 seconds per kilometer, give or take a few seconds.
Now, skipping lots more boring description as to how I am fast, let’s look at tomorrow (oh fuckaduck it’s tomorrow isn’t it). By the point I get onto the run, I’ll have had a super-composed swim and a powerful uphill, maverick downhill bike. I’ll have a lot working in my favour. One, I’m good at running, and that’s both a physical boost – because I’m good at it, duh – and a mental boost, because don’t I just know it.
Comparisons-wise, when I completed my first Ironman in Kalmar nearly 2 years ago, I ran a 3:14 (just). That included 2 toilet stops, and some nasty cramp in the closing stages. Last September in Tenby, I managed a 3:18, after a horrendous energy-sapping bike, on a wet and hilly course, with no loo breaks. There’s decent pedigree there, but now imagine I can run on a nice flat fast course like Sweden, but with the nutritional knowledge and grit I carried into Wales.
Point is, I think I am capable of running a sub-3 marathon tomorrow. Yes, even after that hilly, windy, bike that is the focus of my race, that I am going at with the mindset that I will sacrifice my run if it means I overperform on the bike. I do not think it’s a given, but I think it’s a possibility. As with the rest of the race, there is a strict pace/HR plan in place to make sure I don’t go out the starter’s blocks like a greyhound after a fake rabbit.
Not in my favour; well, the obvious one is the heat. It’s quite hot. My phone says it’s 22C here (and will be tomorrow) but it feels a helluva lot more than that with the sun on your back and all the heat reflecting from the whitewashed buildings and light pavements. I’m not expecting another glitch in the matrix like this morning; it will be dry, it will be sunny. Hopefully there is some cloud cover. I’ve always kind of assumed that I must be able to cope with heat well, or at least suck in it less, on account of my lightweight frame. I can’t say I’ve ever had much of a chance to test this though; what with the run at Roth last year being a shitshow from start to finish, it’s hard to extrapolate anything useful or conclusive about the later stages of the race from that.
The course, also, is going to be a tough one, psychologically. It’s three laps, and laps are good; the first lap is 22k, and then the second and third are smaller at 10k each. That first lap is going to be a long, looooooong drag. It’ll be so very important to not get impatient on this stretch, and keep things contained, so I can get a bit more spritely on the second lap and then maybe, just maybe if I can override the sensible part of my brain telling me this whole thing is a big stupid mistake, maybe I can race the last lap. Maybe. On the plus side, I think those two smaller laps will feel all the sharper for having had to start with the grueling slog up and down the coast.
Anywho, that’s the plan. The bike has been racked now, and kit bags deposited. The legs have been shaven, the arms lay bare. Time to chow down on some rice cakes and then sign off for the night, I think.
Listening: Tommie Sunshine & Halfway House ft. Fast Eddie – The Man (Clyde P Remix); TRY TO CATCH ME IF YOU CAN uh uh uh uh I DON’T THINK YOU HAVE A CHANCE uh uh uh uh
Reading: Parcours – In 2018, It’s Ben Who’ll #TakeParcoursToKona; Ben is one of the Chasers who I’ve looked up to since I started triathlon, having eyed up some many deep rims/disc wheels in the queue for bike check-in today, this short blog gives me a lot of comfort that I’ve picked the right option for the gusts tomorrow with my 42mm semi-aero wheelset.