Busso 70.3 – “Race” Report: by Elmi Carlean
Coming up to my 8th Half Ironman race in the past 2 years, you’d think I’d be a veteran and well-oiled in the skill of endurance triathlon by now. Think again. But then, who doesn’t become a bit blasé over time? So when back troubles hit some two months before Busselton 70.3, and doc said to cut back on training, in particular riding, I had the perfect excuse to enjoy a few nice lie-ins snuggled in my warm duna. Cold, dark winter mornings may or may not have been a factor. I’m still contemplating that one. For once in my life I heeded doctor’s orders, thinking I’ll just wing it – she’ll be right, so to speak.
Not a good strategy. Come race day, and having done precious little training, reality suddenly hit me and panic set in. Oh! My! God! What am I doing here?! To say I had an anxiety attack at the start-line would be putting it mildly. While all the other 3.25 million women in my category were chit-chatting away as if we were all best friends and not about to jump into nasty cold water and brutally swim right over each other, I on the other hand was gasping for breath, bent over, trying to simultaneously suck air into my lungs and stop myself from being sick, which isn’t that easy I tell you. Asthma didn’t help of course, and feeling doubly screwed and just a tad sorry for myself, I managed to get it together just in time to set forth with the hordes of other women demented enough to be doing this event voluntarily. I had only one goal in mind: to make it to the other end alive – who cares how many minutes and milli-seconds it took.
So I’m swimming along minding my own business when my feet are suddenly grabbed in a vice-like grip by one of said demented women – you know who you are! I let off a few almighty kicks but the perpetrator just held on until, flooded with adrenalin, my fight or flight response kicked in (get it?). Enough is enough after all! The next bit might incriminate me so I’ll just say that some biffo was necessary and I think the message was adequately received: Don’t mess with me in 15 meter deep open water when I’m wearing a full-body condom and a baby-puke yellow skullcap. Useful tip #1: When your feet are grabbed in deep water, apply such persuasive measures as are necessary to dissuade the unwanted behaviour. If that fails, apply force and hope no-one will recognise you later.
I set off again, somewhat shaken up but strangely energised by my brief encounter with my dark side. But karmic retribution for my uncharitable actions was swiftly dealt and I was struck with every open water swimmer’s worst nightmare (well, maybe second worst), – the dreaded CRAMP! Wriggling around like a spastic frog in a blender for the rest of the way, I don’t know how I got to the other end, but it couldn’t have been pretty. Useful tip #2: When struck with cramp in open water, apply mind over matter to situation and don’t care how it looks. If that fails, seek forgiveness and apply prayer.
Transition could have been the pearly gates, I was THAT happy to get there. For once, T1 was relatively uneventful and I secretly marvelled at my steely efficiency. In and out of there in only FIVE MINUTES may not be much of an achievement for anyone else, but I’m claiming it as a personal victory nonetheless.
Off I sped on my gorgeous red machine,
the envy of every self-respecting triathlete, feeling quite the part with my brand new killer Oakley’s, forgetting for a few glorious kilometres that I hadn’t ridden my bike in all of 6 weeks. But the elation gave way almost exactly when the first head-wind hit and I realised I was going to suffer like a dog because 90 kms is a very very long way bent over in one position, with what feels like a crowbar wedged firmly up your unmentionable bits. I digress. Useful tip #3: If you don’t have the legs to go the distance, wear really bad-ass shades to psych out the opposition. If that fails, pretend you have a basket instead of tri-bars and that you’re out there to smell the roses. Don’t forget to wave at the adoring crowd.
But mind over matter again saved the day, which really just means that when I could no longer feel my poor a.r.s.e., I had to start playing “I Spy” with myself in order to keep from throwing my bike at an innocent bystander or any number of those overly friendly volunteers. Despite the inherent challenges that game
presents when playing it solo, this strategy worked well and surprisingly I made it back in just a smidge over 3 hours give or take a toilet break or two.
Again, I was most impressed with myself and my icy self-discipline in T2. Only 6 minutes (look, my record is double that), before I limped out of there for what would have to be the longest 2.5 hours of my life. For the run, I had incorporated the philosophy of “Less is more” into my training plan. Along the principles of ‘you don’t run a marathon to train for a marathon’, but heavily adapted towards the opposite end of the spectrum.
I probably need to revise that plan a bit because by half way through when the pain in every extremity of my body had firmly set in, I was seriously questioning my own IQ. I was going to need more than “I Spy” to get me through this ordeal. But hey, I was never a quitter and somehow I was determined to pull a rabbit out of my visor as my next trick and to make it to the finish line before the cut-off time.
It is entirely beyond my comprehension how the pros manage to sprint the whole way when I can barely get the legs to work. I can’t say that I didn’t also get ever so slightly annoyed at those pesky team runners who go sprinting past the rest of us dying mortals, as if there’s no tomorrow. Show-off’s I muttered, shooting them a few dark glances, until I remembered recent aquatic payback. Quickly I vowed to be pure. I turned my thoughts instead to inventing a new game I could play to keep my mind from obsessing about my profound stupidity and the ‘serves you right’ agony that went with that territory. “Angry Bird on the Run”, heavily influenced by my youngest child’s latest craze, “Angry Gran run” did the trick nicely and I finally crawled over the finish line in one piece. Probably due largely to my rowdy teenage fan club who cheered me along most enthusiastically throughout. Thanks guys!!
But, somehow I don’t think I was the only competitor who ran proudly upright for a few meters when in the vicinity of our support crews – actually lifting our feet off the ground for once, only to slump back to Neanderthal crawl a few meters later and gasp at fellow runners: “are they still watching?” and “can I walk yet?”
Useful tip #4: If your training plan has a few holes in it, come prepared in other ways – maybe try a game of self-chess or ‘Patience’. Unlike everyone else, at least you’ll be exercising your mind too and so get double your value for money.
Final very useful tip #5: Don’t be discouraged by all those very fast people whizzing past you or finished long before you. Take secret pride in knowing they are probably in a team and therefore not nearly as hard core a toughsky as you, or worse, they probably can’t count and have missed a lap or two. Oh, and last but not least: To avoid having to follow doctors’ orders, avoid visiting one in the first place!
Yours in ‘racing’ – if you can call it that (!) Cheers, Elmi Carlean