Posted: 29/07/2014 at 16:24
I've struggled with a bad back sprain for the last five weeks. Over the last couple of weeks they had eased sufficiently to bring me confidence of a finish. Unfortunately, this morning it chose to come back with a vengeance. As I popped myself onto the bike and started to pedal away the muscles around my hip and right leg started to spasm.
There was no way I was not going to finish. But I had to be sensible and come up with a strategy to get there within 17 hours. It was clear that I had no power in my legs at all. I had to trust in all my training and not to panic. So, rather than my usual slow cadence and high gear, I swapped to a lower gear ratio and increased my cadence. I knew that I would need as much time as I could buy on the bike for later on. And I felt strangely optimistic that I could achieve 7 hours on the bike. Despite the pain, my head was in a very good place.
The pirate feed station was a great first target. So, I settled into a rhythmic cadence at a target heart rate of around 145 and started to play tunes in my head.
I was very much on my own for the first part (the joys of being a crap swimmer) but slowly I started to catch and overtake the slower cyclists. Making a point to say hello and exchange a few words with each I started to look forward to these encounters and used them as a focus. My back was really sore but manageable for a long time. I think I must have put myself into a trance to block it all out as I barely remember anything about the bike leg. At times there was a massive headwind revealing the downside of a flat bike course. Very little in the way of free speed, just a constant grind of the pedals. I had to work for every mile.
I was conscious that I would need to grab every bit of time I could so when others were coasting down the hills that were, I would crank up the gears and push as hard as I could down them to maintain whatever speed I could get.
The grind became particular apparent on the way down to the second loop. All I could manage was 13 mph for miles and miles. I caught the sight of Toucs cycling past in the opposite direction, I was so happy to see him looking comfortable. In the end he had the most amazing ride finishing in 5.37. I was so looking forward to the hill coming up just for a bit of variety. In the end it was very short and not that sharp and a bit of a disappointment. But did come with about five miles of long sweeping downhill, finally, a lovely section that I really enjoyed.
At about 11am, I really, really started to thirst for a cup of tea. The water stations were fabulous and well stocked, but there is only so much Nuun one can drink. After the tea thought popped up, I couldn't rid of it. I started fantasizing about it, even to the point of compiling the best ten cups of tea I've had at sporting events, ever. I drove myself nuts.
At this point the pain was quite bad and spreading. It was getting more difficult to block it out (although it was a pleasant distract from the tea fantasies). I had a decision to make. If I took my ibuprofen it might help the muscles relax, but I might storing up digestive problems for the marathon later. If I didn't, it might be the end of the race. I took the tablets and it definitely seem to help settle it back into something more manageable.