Grafham ETU Standard Distance Qualifier – 6th August 2017 by Alice

Having had 3 years of racing to qualify for places in the GB team in sprint (and qualifying each year) I thought it was time to see where I stood at the Standard distance so I entered ITU Arundel (but pulled out for a variety of reasons) and this ETU qualifier at Grafham. It seemed like a good idea at the time but after my puncture at the ETU sprint champs I felt a bit deflated and fed up of the pressure I have in racing and decided to compete at Grafham for fun.  I did register my intent to qualify but missed the race deadline for that, so my race time ultimately did not count towards qualification – so that helped take pressure off too.

On the Saturday Elspeth and I went to the race start and collected our registration packs and checked out the race start, transition and we drove the bike route, which again all helped to remove potential stress factors, although we weren’t keen on the hill early on in the ride.

Early on Sunday I set off with my lovely hubby, Robin, as support crew. For once this summer holiday the sun was out and the conditions looked perfect for racing. I racked my bike and set up transition, met up with one of my age-grouping team mates, I saw Elspeth and queued for the single loo in transition. Couldn’t see Jordan (how is that possible given his height and beard?!) and had a quick pat on the back from Mark.

For once they set off the V40+ women as the last wave, which was nice to know that the super fast young chaps weren’t going to be swimming over us, which seems to be the normal procedure. For once I wanted to enjoy the swim rather than race it so I didn’t start on the start line but instead chose a position a couple of swimmers back and set off nice and relaxed – in fact that seemed to be the pace for my whole swim – it was lovely and chilled for once but I wasn’t very fast.

Out of the swim and I was a bit dizzy, stumbled in the goose poo – not very elegantly – and then run into transition. Found my bike – I was lucky it was 3 bikes from the end of the rack, so it was very easy to find and out to bike mount line. My feet were their usual numb style so I couldn’t feel my feet sliding into the bike shoes – again not very elegantly done but I succeeded and then out onto the course. A good start towards the 1st turnaround and then going into a village a small car was crawling along behind an athlete with about 8 of us crawling behind the car. This must have lasted a few minutes – the car couldn’t overtake due to the oncoming cyclists riding two abreast (it’s supposed to be non-drafting!) – finally the car went and the cyclist he was behind was Elspeth.  So a quick ‘Hello’ to Elspeth (who was super speedy on the swim) and then off through the village and up that hill. Some people were walking up the hill!!

I really enjoyed the bike leg, apart from the fact that being the last wave we had loads of cyclists on the road. Some chap from WaldenTri was not happy that a group of women from my age group were overtaking him. He kept then speeding up and overtaking us and then dropping back again – arrgghhh! I ended up playing leap frog with a group of women from my age-group until I got stuck behind another car going back towards Grafham and then I couldn’t make up the gap again. Back into T2, shoes off on the bike, elegant dismount – yes! Out onto the run. The route is the same as the Grafman 70.3 but just one lap rather than two and it was horrid. I went off a bit too fast, my calves felt like lead and kept cramping and I couldn’t feel my feet post swim and cycle, despite wiggling my toes when on the bike.  Off onto the first 1/3 of the run – across the damn dam – then back towards T2, through T2 and off onto the cycle path through the woods and down the hill. What goes down must come up again, so it was tough. I do like a multi-terrain run though, so bits I did enjoy but most of the run was very open and it was getting hot (of course, it only felt hot because it’s been quite cold the last few weeks). I saw Mark and shortly after that a runner collapsed behind me – others stayed with him and I went off to get a marshall. Marshall organised I did wonder if this might be a good excuse to stop – but no, he was being looked after so I had no excuse, keep going, it can’t be far to the turnaround, surely. It probably wasn’t far but it felt like miles and miles. Finally at the turnaround and ask the marshall if I can borrow his bike – ‘no love, just run, it’s only 4k back to the finish’ – thanks!

Finally up the last bloody hill (I walked it) and some athlete who had run and finished and was offering ‘support’ told me to get my arse into gear and run so I did – he was right! And there was the finish – hooray!! Over the line and two Erdingers – one for me, one for Robin. I had written on my arm ‘Smile and enjoy it’ – and on the whole I did. (I normally write race splits and aim times!)

Finish time: 2:29:27

I did get a qualifying percentage of 115% – nice to know – although I would have been low on the list of qualifiers.

I’m really pleased I did this race – it was hard but my aim was to enjoy it and remember why I tri!  It also showed me how much I need to improve my run, so I withdrew from the Worlds Sprint champs team in September and instead my aim for the rest of this year is to have fun and if possible qualify in September for next year’s European Champs in Glasgow.

Thanks to Elspeth, Mark and Robin for the support, chat and high fives on the run course. It’s so nice to race with club members.

Much kudos to the Time Bandits who did the Grafman back in May – that run twice would have been very hard.

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