ROOKIE MODE: it’s not all plain sailing and paella at the finish line.
Barring the fluke of Alpe d’Huez last year, Portocolom was my first “real” race back after almost two years out due to a couple of nagging injuries. And the weight of my own expectations almost ballsed everything up completely.
While some athletes were carbo-loading, I, of course, was pressure-loading.
“I’ve been training consistently for two months.
I’m strong, I’m rested.
I need to prove to myself I still have it.”
Ignoring tens years’ worth of triathlon experience, all good resolutions, advice and stern talks with myself, I succeeded in making myself sick with apprehension for an entire week before the race.
I struggled to eat, I didn’t sleep. I had no nutrition plan, no triathlon laces. I went into absolute, total rookie mode, like I’d never done a race in my life before.
On Saturday, I thought I had it under control. I even taped a few energy gels to my bike.
On Sunday I woke up shaking; it took me half an hour to eat a single rice cake with peanut butter and even then my flatmate almost had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on me.
By the time we got in the car the tears were streaming down my face. I stood bawling in front of transition, nauseous with anxiety, wondering how the hell I was going to grow into a big girl and get the job done.
It was irrational, inexplainable and ridiculous, but it was real.
It took the cajoling of three people and the threat from one of them to waltz around the course in his underwear to get me to swallow the vomit in the back of my throat, pee in my wetsuit and jump into the freezing cold water.
Naturally, I swam diagonally right while everyone else sensibly followed the course left. Desperate to catch up, I went out too hard on the bike, burned half my matches in the first 10km while successfully aiming for every pothole in sight.
I finally pulled it together on the 5k climb and with the help of my pocket-sized roadbike – which weighs half as much as your average Specialized Shiv – got a bit of a gap.
The hairpin descent served me well too: said Shiv doesn’t particularly like leaning at 45-degree angles on damp roads. Although observation tends to suggest that issue may primarily be due to the element sitting between the saddle and the tribars – no disrespect to triathletes who often don’t have the opportunity for that type of practice!
Thanks to the switchbacks of Sant Salvador I had enough of a buffer to battle round the run and lift the tape at the finish. I wiped spit from my chin, smiled for the photos, attempted a couple of interviews in more than dodgy Spanish.
At the first opportunity, I disappeared backstage and melted quietly into a puddle of exhausted relief.
I’m sure the paella served in the athlete area was as wonderful as the organisation and the course. I’m sorry I didn’t do it justice. Instead, I took my bike back to the mountain a couple of hours after the race and rode some silly ideas out of my head.
Peace begins where expectation ends
Win or no win, next time I race I’ll make sure I’m in a fit state to sample the paella at the end.
So, did I succeed a few weeks later in Cannes and Pontevedra? Catch you next time for some more race ramblings!