Now onto the third and final leg of the London Triathlon 2009 the swim feels like a distant memory.
The run section has always been my nemesis to a certain extent. My physique hasn’t typically been suited to running and still isn’t, I can’t imagine it ever will be but it’s something I’ve been working on over the past six months or so. Nonetheless, I’ve always tended to struggle with the run either through dehydration or general tiredness.
My run out from T2 lasted a total of 4 minutes and 2 seconds (including running the bike back in) which although could’ve been quicker was respectable enough. I needed the breather to be honest.
Anyway, the run out was surprisingly more comfortable than anticipated. Usually I’m hobbling along with jelly legs, holding my cramp pained stomach in my hands. This was a far more pleasant experience where thankfully none of those symptoms were present. Instead, I was suffering from a full bladder, a side effect of over-hydrating I guess. My mind was wondering what to do, should I continue for the entire run with the uncomfortable sensation, or should I do a Paula Radcliffe and do something about it without bothering to stop. I opted for a halfway house, not being as dedicated as Paula I actually took the opportunity to relieve myself in a corner around the back of the Excel. Perfect!
Relieved of some extra weight I confidently headed away from the main building and around the first turn where runners were handed gels one of which I grabbed and consciously decided to consume no more than a quick sip of the Raspberry flavoured gloop and leave the rest, tossing the remainder towards one of the bins provided. Not sure I could stomach too much of that stuff, it does no favours for your guts.
Running away from the exhibition centre and over the newly installed temporary ramp that crosses the car park entrance I spot my family at the bottom of the ramp, a great boost at a well timed point in the race. Surprisingly I was was feeling strong despite having pushed hard on the bike leg, a welcome feeling. As a result I thought about how fast I could push the run and decided to push harder at that point where I maintained a pace beyond my usual. This was a little unusual, but I went with it.
Feeling comfortable as I pounded the dock side where last year I remember slowing to deal with stomach cramps, I noticed Gavin coming towards me in the opposite direction heading back to the Excel to complete his first of two laps. Following twenty or so seconds behind him was Simon who I acknowledged as we passed each other. OK, that only leaves Steve who I suspected wouldn’t be too far behind. Indeed, another kilometre down the course and several minutes later I spied Steve’s tall frame bounding towards me.
As I passed Steve I began making some calculations in my head about the remaining distances and current time frames. I couldn’t have been more than ten minutes behind Steve, which filled me with confidence. I pushed a little harder.
As I approached the turning point for the first lap (2.5 km) I was keen to find out my time, interested to know what I had to do to beat last years time to attain a PB. I knew my swim time was awful, like last year, but I knew the bike leg was strong, in fact particularly fast, and my running fitness had improved, however I had no idea about the time I could achieve. I was hoping for a sub 2 hours 50 minutes.
To keep the pace moving I was chasing down runners ahead of me, picking them off one by one, a useful technique by the way. Feeling good and keeping myself hydrated I made sure to take a sip of water from each water station.
Heading past my fan base (thanks yet again) I was on my way to completing the first lap. The 5km point was in or around the Excel building where the large digital clock hanging over the finish line was visible to the left. As I ran past the turning point I glanced over to see the time, which having worked it out a couple of times suggested that I’d been on the go for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Whoa, it then occurred to me that if I completed the next 5km in 25 minutes I’d smash my goal by five minutes. The thought drove me to go harder, or as hard as I could.
I promised myself that this year I would be more focused on the job in hand and less concerned about distracting myself by those around me. It was working and on that final lap I was determined to catch that PB. By the time I hit the 7.5 km mark I knew the end was near and the extra effort would be worth the pain. Mild stomach cramp started to set in, but I kept focusing on the pace and tracking the man in front down. Still feeling strong despite the mild cramp I persevered.
Not far now as I approach the twists and turns as the coarse nears the Excel along the dock side. The temporary ramp is in sight and at this point I know it’s the final push. Keep going, keep running, I pushed it up the final ramp and around the corner into the building where the cheers become more evident and the crowds thicker. Where last time round I was turning right to do another lap I had to bear left to the finish line. As I turned onto the wide red carpeted final straight I was focused purely on the space beneath the large digital clock. In my peripheral vision I could spot my family cheering me through. What a buzz rush as I crossed that line.
As soon as I ran through the finish I’m quickly adorned with my finishers medal, a nice square bronze looking thing with a thick blue ribbon. I’m also handed bottles of water and energy drink as well as a nice towel courtesy of Virgin Media. A little disorientated I join a queue to what appears to be the exit into the main expo area where the crowds of supporters have been patiently waiting for their athletes to cross the line. It turns out we’re queuing to get our photo taken. Just then it occurred to me that I hadn’t taken note of my finishing time, which must’ve happened a couple of minutes prior. By the time I made some rough calculations the realisation hit me, I completed in approx. 2 hours 45 minutes making me a very happy person indeed, significantly improving on last year’s time and giving me a respectable PB.
When the final official timings came through I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had completed in 2 hours 43 minutes and 41 seconds, beating my previous PB by a whole 15 minutes. Impressed by my own performance I met up with my fellow athletes who had each also gained new personal best times two of whom, Gavin and Simon, cracked their ambition to break the 2:30 mark, an impressive feat by anyone’s standards.
On top of this it was a great feeling to be met by close friends and family and their very supportive congratulations. Awesome, I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Coming soon, a summary of the London Triathlon 2009…