After a DNS (did not start) at Challenge Wanaka - excusable as it was at the end of Epic Camp, I now have my first IM DNF (did not finish).
Am I disappointed?? Surprisingly not... I think I've already learnt not to attach too much to one race - having a long term goal helps, but also as every year I've done IM I have had a race that didn't happen - in the first year I did IM Austria and was down for IMUK, but a crash wiped me out a few weeks prior to that. The second year I was at IMNZ, but the weather turned it into a half duathlon. This year....? Did something to my back on wed of race week, not sure exactly what (but there's suspicion over a dodgy massage where the woman gave me some Bowen - I wasn't too happy with that), but thurs am my lower back was a bit out and twining. I put it down to phantom injuries pre-race and just kept it out of any stress. Seemed fine by race day, but in the swim someone grabbed my left leg in the melee at the start and yanked it - think that's where everything went a bit pair-shaped. The swim went fine apart from that - it was CARNAGE for the first twenty minutes... a LOT of people on a narrow course thrashing around - it was intense! It settled down a bit by the time the second lap came around, by the end of which we were starting to overtake the back of the pack on their first lap. Got out and clear in 55:37, which I was quite pleased with - a clear improvement on any IM swim before now! I'd been taking it wuite easy on the second lap too, so I was very happy with that... in hindsight anyhow - i had to get a rough estimate of the time from the guys in transition as my watch had given up in the water. I'd had the battery replaced and (apparently) rewaterproofed 2 days earlier - it had survived a test in the sink for 10 minutes, but after 30 minutes of the swim (the last time I checked it and it was working) it died outright. This was fine for the ride: the odometer on the bike would suffice... for the run I figured it would be an interesting experiment to run with no HR info or time, but I knew the course and could guestimate pace well enough to make it through.
So, a leisurely but efficient transition, and onto the bike. Twenty minutes in and my back was tightening up. By halfway through the first lap I was a little concerned: I'd expect a tight lower back by the closing stages of the bike, but not this early! I stretched it as often as I could. Pacing wise, the bike was good. Probably a bit hard out on the first (of three) laps, but slowed for the second - not least because the south-westerly was getting up quite strongly, and so the outward leg was a push into the wind. THe return leg was beautiful though. Third lap felt good, but the headwind was really strong by now and the hills were taking a toll. All together the bike leg was awesome - passed really quickly. The only downside was the drafting - the Ozzies are AWFUL for it!! There was a massive pack about 10 minutes ahead of me and another about 10 behind... clearly all drafting. I sat in a rather empty zone between the two... kept me out of trouble at least. I was aiming for a solid well pace bike, which is what I got... I had to let a few people go, even a few on the second and third laps. But I wanted to pace it - knowing it was a more challenging ride than I had done before I was aiming for 5:15 instead of the usual target of 5 or 5:05. Including two tranisitons, my bike time was 5:19, and off the odometer I had 5:16, so that was good too. I'd had some doubts over whether I coul;d actually get my race day performance up there, having only managed 5:55 as my fastest in training, so that kept me happy.
T2: rolled in, had a bit of trouble dismounting as this involved bending in directions that my back no longer wanted to go. Transition was fine, jogged out. Back really not happy with me. I figured it would loosen up, so carried on. After 2 kms I was still running some kind of robot, dead straight back, leaning slightly back as leaning forward into the run was too painful. Near the end of the first short loop I stopped to try to stretch it out, and that's when I realised I couldn't bend over at all. Bending over to the right was also near impossible. So I carried on, it started getting tighter and tighter until I hit the road back past transition and had to start walking. In a matter of minutes I had gone from waiting for it to loosen off so I could get up to pace to making sure i got to the medical tent to make sure it was nothing too serious. I got into a chiropractor fairly quickly, got some ice on so that he could check me out and crack my back into a better state. Luckily it was nothing serious: just a strained ligament at the bottom of my spine. Phew. So for me it was off to find a hot shower and get to the pub and a run-side seat!
Valuable lessons learnt.
1) No matter how much yoga, core, aero-practice etc you do, you can still bugger you back,
2) Steer clear of dodgy Bowen-masseurs in race week.
3) Dropping out rather than walking round a marathon or trying to continue hobbling round was a very good move. What it gained me was: (a) peace of mind about my back, and stopping before i made it worse (b) an extra few weeks of decent training rather than recovery time from a half-arsed marathon attempt (c) the realisation that this os only one race of amny and that it is definitely better to pick your battles!
I don't have the mentality that finishing is the be-all and end-all of IM racing. My goals are about how well I finish, and making the most of training so that I can finish well. I know I can finish an IM, so its not about that any more.
That aside, I was quite pleased with how the race had been going... I'd been aiming for a race that would have worked out something like this: 55 swim, 5:15 bike and 3:10 run. So the swim and ride were both well paced, and I'd fueled up and drunk enough to set me up well for the run. Of the targets, the run leg was the biggest challenge... guess I'll have to find out the feasibility of that in Austria!
Had a great cheer squad on the bike leg... mum was out here and Jan, Bob, Alison and friends were VERY vocal!!
Might review the racing plan between now and July given that I've a few extra weeks where I'll not be in recovery. Back feeling better today... hopefully a few more days to rest it and I should be good for getting back on it properly. :p