Yorkshireman Half – 23rd June 2019
I’d entered the Yorkshireman event as it was our club championship race, meaning there would hopefully be a good social tri club turnout. It had been difficult to get into race mode with the weather being so bad, but race weekend came out and so did the sunshine. Having booked a last minute room in a pub a few days earlier to avoid a potentially waterlogged camping experience, the ground was actually fine but the comfortable bed was rather more inviting than the thought of a tent.
I was pleased that the river was fine and the swim was on, having been cancelled in the Nottingham races the week before. I was less pleased whilst actually doing the swim though. We were split into waves five minutes apart with the fastest predicted swimmers first, plus around 80-100 people with ‘priority’ who had entered the race early and were put in the first wave regardless of predicted swim time. Around a hundred swimmers at a time in a narrow river did not make for a nice swim. The whole way round was just a case of trying to avoid being kicked/hit/pulled and it was impossible to get into a proper rhythm. Speaking to people afterwards it did seem like we were in an unlucky wave, but I felt even more sorry for the people in the first wave as ‘priority’, who were not fast swimmers and therefore got swum over by the faster people starting behind.
34 minutes and a queue to get out of the river later I was on dry land. After spending a few seconds deliberating on putting my shoes on or not for the run up to transition, I eventually went for the sod it and run barefoot option. It was about a 3 mile* run up to transition, slowed a little by trying not to injure my feet. Transition was uneventful and I was soon over the mount step and onto my trusty steed.
*Transition distances may be subject to exaggeration and closer to 500m
The fastest way to race is to run with your shoes attached to your bike already, do a flying mount, and then pedal a bit and put your feet in your shoes on the fly. This involves a high element of skill to get right, and is something I am yet to master, or even attempt to try for that matter. It’s on my to do list, but never makes it anywhere near the top. On the stretch out of transition I always overtake a fair few people who are slowing to put their feet in there shoes. So as I yelled at the person in front to keep left for me to overtake and they veered across the road and back, then back across nearly taking me out as they were too busy trying to get their feet in, it didn’t get promoted any higher up the list. I do want to learn but I find it much safer to be securely in my shoes and concentrating on avoiding the people that aren’t.
The bike started well, and possibly as a marker of having a bad swim rather than a good bike I was passing plenty of people. The road surface was pretty bumpy for the first part, I bounced the top of my aero bottle into the bottle. After failing to retrieve it I accepted I’d get my face splashed with drink over every bump. Frustratingly further into the course a tractor pulled out in front of me and I had to sit, breaking behind it for a while whilst some of the people I’d passed caught me up again. A few profanities later, after being cut up by some dangerous riders, it turned off and I was away again. I quickly repassed the people that had overtaken me. Slightly later on the female I had passed came past drafting someone else. This annoyed me as you are not allowed to draft, so I pushed on to repass and make sure I dropped the group. The rest of the cycle was a welcome change from the overcrowding of Ironman racing, with not too many people about. There were a couple of occasions where no one was in sight for long enough to make me worry I might have taken a wrong turn!
There was a good stretch on the road alongside the A1 into a headwind towards the end. I put my head down and tried to keep a consistent power output and spent the last 10km or so swapping places with my new friend Brian (our names were on our numbers). I’d overtake and then a bit later he would come past and disappear down the road a bit. A bit later I would catch and pass him again. I’d generally pass him down the hills and he would pass me at the roundabouts/junctions. The road got quite narrow on the run in back to transition so I ended up holding back to leave a gap not to draft rather than passing. Looking at my power output later I was quite pleased that I held pretty much evenly through the race, other than the end portion that dropped right off as I had no-where to go. We had to slow right down as there was a small queue of traffic coming into the estate and they were stopping them just over a cattle grid to charge for parking. I was actually quite lucky here as slightly later finishers were having to stop and walk as a queue built up.
Onto the dismount. Again the fastest way is to take your feet out and do a flying dismount. Again, I don’t to this. Dismounting onto carpet I can see it being a good thing, but onto tarmac I see it as more of a risk of injuring my feet. Handily we didn’t have to re-rack our bikes and could just hand them to volunteers. This is always a useful feature to have at full ironman races as generally I am desperate for a wee, and after 180km you are tempted to throw your bike in a bin and never ride it again. After 90km I didn’t have any ill feeling towards my poor bike, or even need a wee, so it was just a welcome assistance.
Quick change of shoes, donned my cap, swapped number belts for one with energy gels, and I was onto the run. I had been cheered off the bike being told I was the first woman. This meant I had overtaken everyone in the swim wave ahead of me, but people starting in later swim waves could still be technically ahead. I settled into a rhythm at my planned pace and everything was feeling pretty good. I was aiming at the same pace as Boston marathon and was holding pretty much spot on plan. The run was 2 laps with a small out and back section on each lap. This was good for cheering on clubmates, and also to see the next closest behind. I was a few minutes ahead of the next female. I was surprised the gap wasn’t a bit bigger as I’d passed her quite early on the bike, but new I had to just run my own race and hope to have enough in reserve if she caught me up. Through the half way point I was feeling good and started to take it up a bit harder. This didn’t last long though and I was soon back at my original pace, just now feeling harder.
Round to out and back turnpoint the second and final time, I dug in for the run for home. I was well within my final ‘parkrun’ distance (5k) countdown. The gap was now bigger to second and I knew no-one in the wave behind could be ahead, but not wanting to count my chickens in case of a later wave winner I kept running hard to the end. I obviously looked much worse that I felt at this point where a marshal asked my if I was ok in a pretty concerned way. Turning onto the grass for the final ‘sprint’ finish, my sprint changed to just making sure I didn’t trip over. Job done, I stopped my garmin at 4h 47mins. Not a pb but I felt it was a solid race and it was good to win 1st female.