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5 November 2014
9 October 2014
After a long season that started back in March, winning the Wasdale Triathlon was the perfect end to a fantastic year of experiences, racing and training in the hills. Maintaining focus and keeping up the training for the 6 weeks leading up to the race was tough but the result proves it was all worth it.
Like I said it had been an amazing season, 2nd place in the High Terrain off road duathlon series, 2nd place at The Celtman and a trip to Colorado to represent Northern Ireland at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs. After Colorado I felt a little tired of structured training so took a short break from it but this only left a 3 week build up to the Wasdale Triathlon. I was unsure where my fitness was at in swimming and biking as I had been focused on running for the last 6 weeks. I hoped the base I had built during the season was solid enough to put in some really hard training sessions, crash style specific to the Wasdale course. This paid off and 10 days before the race I knew I was in really good shape for the bike, probally better than I was for the Celtman. I would like to mention I had also started using CurraNZ as a supplement in my training and I feel this really helped with my ability to recover from the sessions and also how hard I could push during them.
I felt as confident and calm as I ever had going into a race. The race plan was to be within 10mins of the leader going onto the run, without riding the bike too hard. Mountain running is my strength and the technical, rough terrain during the run would really suit me.
It looked like a great forcast for the day, next to no wind, no rain, just low cloud on the tops . It was great to meet a few fellow Celtmen (Thor and Francois) at the start. These races really do bring a sense of cameraderie often missing from many other races. Mark decided to put me on the spot at the breifing and asked me what my finishing time would be. I replied 6.55hrs and was confident I could get close.
The swim did not go according to plan exactly. The water was pretty warm for Wasdale, around 14 degrees so cold water was not an issue. As I touched the buoy on the out and back course and turned swim back, I swam straight into the 100 or so swimmers still coming my way! It was chaos and I had to stop, get my bearings and breath back then start swimming again. I came into T1 knowing I had not had a great swim and a little angry. I have learnt that I race well well with a little anger so channeled it into the rest of the race.
Out on the bike I knew I was feeling good and in control. Hardknott (33%!!) is the first test, I stayed in the saddle, kept my HR down and felt good the whole way up. The passes always feel tough and a real challenge so it was great to be feeling strong. I had planned to make the most of the flatter/rolling sections and take it steady as possible on the climbs. The rest of the climbs went by in much the same way, apart from the top section of Wrynose on the return leg! Like last year I suffered, its such a sustained and long effort and really does never get any easier. I picked up a refill from the amazing bottle drop at the top of Hardknott (thanks Guys!! great job:)) and was glad to reach the bottom. I am not a great fan of descending the passes, especially when racing so always have a great sense of relief when I know they are out of the way. They are steep and the surface is terrible in places. Adds to the sense of adventure for the day out though.
Part two of my bike plan was to push hard until Gosforth. The course is flat to rolling with a few short climbs and I felt I could make time here and it played to my strengths on the bike. From Gosforth back to Wasdale Head it was time to dial it down and get the legs ready for the run. I knew I was around 6th place here and coming into T2 I saw a few others just leaving, Perfect!
No need to mess around in transition, sock on, La Sportiva Bushidos on and out onto the climb to Styhead and Scafel Pike. I felt good as the climb steepened and just kept my rythm, tapping it out and limiting walking only to steep rock sections, part one of the run plan. The hamstring cramps of last year were non existent and I passed quite a few people by the time I reached Styhead and was in 3rd place. Little did I know one of the runners in front was a relay team. Another competitor and I reached Scafel Pike at the same time, we had been together from Styhead. I touched the cairn on the top and executed run plan part two. Unfortunatly it did not go exactly to plan!
I had planned to lose anyone that was close on the descent to Mickledore, the steepest, roughest part of the course and then push hard in the scrambly terrain of foxs gully till the top of Scafel. It was then gently downhill with a few technical sections. I had looked on the way up for the crucial split in the path and spotted it. On the way down I decided to ignore it! I came right back down, realised my mistake and looks across to Mickledore and saw nothing but crags. The only way was back up and a short traverse to the correct path. For a split second I thought I had blown it and considered just running back down and quitting. Only for a split second though. Never ever quit (thanks Stuart!) rang through my head and I powered back up the hill and smashed the descent into Mickledore, using that little bit of anger again. I asked Steve who was taking photos in the gully how many in front and he replied one! That is why we never give up and keep fighting. At the bottom of the gully I loked down and saw a bunch of guys at the foot.
I pushed as hard as I could to the top and Scafel and hammered the descent all the way to Stony tarn. Cramps started to kick in but I still pushed. I remember looking back up Scafell and Slightside and seeing no one. A marshal (thanks Kate!) had told me one other competitor was in front, she thought they were a relay runner but was not sure. Again I ran all the way to Burnmoor tarn, willing the cramps not to end my race and looked back. No one. I could not see anyone in front either but the thought of a sub 7hr finish kept me going to the end. I felt so much stronger than at this point last year.
Crossing the finish line I realised someone else had finished in front. I did not realise I had won until I asked Mark a minute or two after crossing the finish line! My brain was probably a little addled. A belated celebration and I felt a few tears welled up. To win this race, in my local area on the mountains I have loved and enjoyed in so many ways, so much for the last ten years was a dream come true.
It was great to spend a bit of time at the finish line welcoming and meeting other competitors as they finished there epic day in the mountains. Lots of great people and it was a pleasure to meet them and here some of their story. Some real epics out there and everyone had the same attitude, keep fighting till the finish line.
Massive thank you to the team at Wasdale, all the amazing marshalls on the hill your friendly faces made all the difference on the day.
Also thanks you to TrecNutrition, PushCartel, Zone3Wetsuits, LaSportiva, Julbo and CurraNZ health for your support so during this season, it makes such a difference having such amazing race kit and nutrition. I can then concentrate on the training and racing. Also my amazing support and media team www.movieit.co.uk :)
1 October 2014
24 September 2014
18 September 2014
The Wilson of 3 months ago was undoubtably an optimist. He never doubted the logic of racing a World Series race in Stockholm, jumping on the plane with scarcely enough time to wash the remnants of powerade off his chin, and traveling to Canada to race in the World Championships Grand Final. Additionally, the Wilson of 3 months ago thought nothing of then traveling another 30 hrs back to Brisbane, and try to a) get over jet lag, b) learn to ride a time trial bike, c) find a time trial bike with which to learn how to ride, and, d) figure out how to race his first 70.3 race as a professional.
The current-day Wilson is slightly more pessimistic, and is now somewhat wishing he could go back in time and have some stern words with the Wilson of 3 months ago, who decided to enter the Sunshine Coast 70.3, and explain to him the detrimental effects of traveling, racing, and jet lag. Never-the-less, I’m committed now, and with 3 days to go, actually quite excited about the prospect of trying something a little different after a long season of ITU racing.
My day starts with an easy jog before breakfast, trying with increasing desperation to loosen up my muscles a little, which have been an absolute abomination from the traveling and racing of the last 3 weeks. After that, I have my customary breakfast of fruit and yogurt while staring at my bag, convinced that I’ve neglected to pack something of vital importance. Preparations for ITU races are relatively autonomous these days, but this 70.3 business is a different kettle of fish. I’ve got a boatload of extra nutrition, an aerodynamic helmet I’ve never worn before, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that wearing socks is the go among the 70.3 cognoscenti, although I’m not entirely sure. I make a mental note of trying to surreptitiously ask someone before the race, without appearing stupid. Above all, I don’t want to look stupid this weekend...
I pack up the car, pick up Tash from uni, and we drive up to Mooloolaba just in time for the press conference, where I see some old sparring partners in Brad Kahlefeldt and Clayton Fettell. I haven’t seen the fellas in quite a while, but within 5 mins Fettell has brutally appraised my wardrobe and superficially judged the rest of the pro field, so it’s just like old times, and we sit on the couch and continue the banter until it’s time to answer some questions from the media. Taking advantage of the situation, I cunningly pretend to tell a joke, asking if it’s a good idea to wear socks for the event and everyone laughs, whilst I desperately hope that someone takes pity on me. Radka eventually comes to my rescue, and informs me that it’s a good idea, but with the jovial nature of the room, I’m still not quite sure. Looks like I’ll have to do some more undercover research...
I enjoy a bit of a sleep in on Saturday morning, but still employ the services of a single origin espresso to expedite my awakening process, as I wonder down to lend a hand at the Ironkids event at the river. The kids are absolutely tiny, and are cuter than a puppy holding a ballon, so I have a whale of time handing out medals to the finishers. I cast a shrewd eye on the ratio of socks to no-socks being worn, although when one young lad crosses the line wearing sailboarding shoes, I decide that perhaps emulating the equipment choices of 8 year old first-timers might not be the most salubrious of decisions for my race. Never-the-less, I ask my sailboarding friend how his feet feel, and he tells me he is in a lot of pain, which surprises me, more so because of the broad grin on his face rather than my faith in the cushioning properties of his footwear.
Inspired by the youngsters enthusiasm, I head out for a ride myself, and spend half the time tinkering with my still-not-quite-comfortable-position, and the other half practicing taking waterbottles in and out of the waterbottle mounts on the aerobars and behind the seat, which is all new to me. By the end of the ride, I’m super-hydrated and have the bike-position in the right ball park, so I have a idiosyncratic pre-race lunch of an amalgamation of simple carbs, largely involving banana’s, white bread and honey. It’s a meal choice bereft of nutrients, but a good choice for pre-race as a precaution against unwanted gastrointestinal ailments for tomorrow, and strategy I use for my ITU racing as well. After lunch, I stroll down to the beach for a swim, and am pleasantly surprised by my arms, which feel vaguely fresh after spending the last 2 weeks feeling heavier than a Metallica riff. Feeling optimistic, I spend the rest of the afternoon prepping my race gear, and googling ‘70.3’ and ‘socks’, with ambiguous results. I start to ruminate about how sore I could be at this time of the day tomorrow, and raise the possibility with Tash of getting a small bell I can ring to alert her when she can bring morsels of food and drink to my position on the couch. Her reply is surprisingly polite, but get the impression that it is an unlikely eventuality...
When the alarm goes off at 4:15 am, I seriously consider DNS-ing in favour of staying in bed. This is really early! I give myself a stern talking to, and partly because I envisage the future humiliation I would endure when explaining why I didn’t start, I extricate myself from the blankets and nibble on a few energy bars whilst thoughtfully eyeing off the socks sitting on top of my race bag. Still undecided, I saunter down to transition area, banter with Fettell for a while and note that everyone else has laid out socks in their transition area. Deciding that it would be overly paranoid to suggest the entire field was laying out fake socks to send me down the wrong path, I too put out my socks, then complete my warm up.
The start line is definitely a bit less intense than an ITU pontoon, with no helicopters or heart beat music to contend with, yet there’s clearly an abundance of nerves around, and I’m as edgy as a dodecahedron. The gun goes off, and we’re off and swimming. I’m sitting comfortably in third, and not interested in pushing the pace early. It’s a 4 hour race, and unchartered territory for me, and am trying my best to ignore Fettell’s ‘advice’ to race it like an ITU race. As I run up the beach, I come to the startling realisation that in all this constant rumination about whether or not to wear socks, I’ve neglected to consider which transition I’m supposed to put them on! Trying to see what everyone else does leads to me absolutely butchering my transition, first losing a water bottle and then realising I’m not sure if I can clear my rear water bottle when I leap on to my bike. Once I’ve mounted, the rest of the bike goes relatively without incident, the pace is pretty strong, with Fettell, Munro, and Bell putting out enough Watts to power a medium sized village. I come to the realisation that my seat height is a bit higher than ideal, and spend the 90 kms on the front 2cms of my saddle to try to reduce the effective seat height. Finished with 2 wheels for the day, we’re a group of 7 as we hit T2 and rip through transition, Atkinson, I note with interest, doesn’t put on socks...
The pace on the first lap is pretty strong, and it quickly becomes myself, Sticksy and Atkinson at the front of the race. I’m content to bide my time a little longer, still a fraction fearful of a Wilson-shaped explosion littering the course if I go on the charge too soon. Courtney surges up the hills at the end of the first lap, and Sticksy drops off the pace, leaving just the two of us at the front of the race. I decide the time is nigh to see what my legs are made of, and try to inject some pace over the next few kilometres. I’m feeling pretty strong, but Courtney is all over me like a rash, so I slow a little and hand over the pacemaking to him for a while. Or not. He’s not too keen to lead either, and, and doesn’t come round me. After the pace has slowed quite significantly, I’ve had enough of dawdling along, and start to push the pace again until the last turnaround. I’m aware that there’s a bit of a headwind on the way home, which I’m not particularly keen to lead into, and so I slow the pace again, trying to lure Courtney into taking up the pace. Once again he declines, and the pace slows and slows, and we jog along at little over 5 minute pace for quite a while. At this point, we’re both probably stifling a giggle at the ridiculousness of the situation, and even engage in some dialogue articulating this point. It fails to resolve the issue of who’s responsible for setting the pace, and I eventually blink first, reasoning that I don’t flog myself in training everyday to jog come race day. I vary the pace the whole way back, trying to drop a bomb big enough to rid myself of Atkinson, but we’re evenly matched, so with 1km to go, we’re still on top of each other. I keep throwing attacks in, before pulling the trigger with everything I have with around 100m to go, and lead right the way up until the last 30m, where Courtney gets a shoulder in front, winning by a purported 0.1 of a second.
It was an absolute cracker of a race, and although I would have liked to be 2 steps quicker, I had a ball out there, although much to my chagrin, it now means I’ve lost a 70.3 title, as well as two Australian titles to Courtney by a combined total of about a second! Dude’s got a sprint on top of an all-round package, and rightfully claimed a well-deserved win. It was a great weekend out, thanks to the guys for having me up at Mooloolaba for a fantastic event, I’m looking forward to having another go at another 70.3 soon! In the meantime, with all the experience of a single 70.3 under my belt, I’ll be happy to answer any sock-related queries anyone has for their next race...