Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adapt or Die, Part 2

Adapt or Die, Part 2

A year has passed since my disastrous race in England (Devon Coast to Coast in September 2011). My race report was aptly named "Adapt or Die" and can be read on our blog or http://www.ar.co.za/. If you don't have time to reread the report here is a quick summary: I went unprepared for the weather, expecting to race the same way I do in South Africa; I ended up with hyperthermia due to cold temperatures, consistent rain and wind, and ultimately missed the half way cut off.
Day 1 in Red, Day 2 in Green
I booked for the Scotland Coast to Coast a long time ago, something like 6 months before the race I had entered. I spent a lot of time testing various clothing strategies on races I was doing, specifically wearing more clothes than needed to get used to feeling like a teddy bear. I collected a few additional items of clothing in case I needed them etc. My race planning included three different possible sets of clothing based on weather prediction for the day, and I even took an extra backpack with me to the UK in case I needed something bigger on race day.

Adapt or Die, Part 2 - The Perfect Race

Day 1: Run 11km, Road Cycle 77km, run 1km, paddle 1km, run 1.5km
Weather prediction: 12-16C, 0% rain, winds SE 35+ km/hr

As no rain was predicted, but the temps were lower than I'm used to at home I went with clothing for cold but OK conditions:
Hi-Tec trail shoes, Compression Socks, Long Lycra Tights, Cycling Bib Shorts, Long Sleeve Top, Cycling Top, Wind Proof top, Buff, Cap, Long finger Cycling gloves

Leg 1: 11km trail run (single track)

The weather at the start looked ominous, heavy cloud and high winds. The race was nicely managed with everyone starting in a large area with controlled access, clearing our electronic timing chips as we entered the area. The race organiser tried to give some last minute instructions but the crowd was too large and I doubt that more than half the field heard him. The race was started with a loud noise from the load hailer and off we went. I took it nice and easy at the start which was a problem as I was stuck behind slower runners when we reached miles and miles of single track. This section then took me a lot longer than I expected because 1200 people over single track takes a while. My clothing seemed perfect for the cool weather, when I had a section of sustained running I got warm, but not hot, and while waiting in queues I felt cool but not cold.

Leg 2: 77km Cycle (Road)

Transition was nice and fast using a triathlon style transition area with all the bikes in rows etc. It made it easy to come in, eat something, put my backpack on and to get out onto the bike leg. Day 1 biking was all on road, fortunately my hire bike (a Dawes 20") did not have heavy off-road tread. The whole bike leg was in a stiff wind from the South East, while we were riding South West. This resulted in either a full on head wind, or a strong wind from our left. An abiding memory will be the line of riders in front of me all leaning over to their left to keep upright. Wherever possible I rode with my front wheel on the right-hand side of someone else's back wheel, giving me some protection from the wind. I was feeling good and rode every hill (quite unusual for me), tried to fly down every down hill, had occasional food stops, (about every 45 minutes). However, at about 67km my energy dried up and I started struggling, I crested a hill, quite please I had ridden up it, only to see a hill, far steeper, at the end of the next downhill. In the end I pushed up most of it, and we crested into the strongest wind of the day, the steep downhill didn't even help as when you stopped peddling, you got blown to a standstill. I struggled through the last 10km, including a downhill that would have been very pleasant if the wind had just held up for a bit. Unfortunately near the end of the cycle leg I lost the bite valve of my bladder and had to finish the race without a bladder for water.

Leg 3: Run/Paddle/Run

Logging my bike into the transition area, I dropped my backpack and ran, jogged, shuffled off down to the shores of Loch Ness. Reaching the paddle put in I met with a long line of people waiting for their chance to paddle. (Race organiser later apologised for the delay but bad weather and boat problems meant they were struggling to return the sit-on-tops fast enough for the athletes arriving). I was teamed up with another solo racer and she and I quickly paddled across to the other side of the Loch,
Photo taken around 30 years ago in nearly the same spot!

(Yes, I saw Nessie, he wanted to eat me but said something about tough South African steak or something). Another short run got me to the end of Day 1.

Other than the wind, and the last 10km of the Cycle I had had a great day of racing. I felt reasonably strong once I was off the bike, I felt positive and was enjoying the views when they were there. I saw some of the weird woolly Highland Cows (aren't they just so cute).

Day 2: Off-road Cycle 26km, Road Cycle 23km, Run/Hike 23km, paddle 1km

Weather prediction: 10-14C, High Chance of Rain, Low winds, mostly SW and Westerly

With rain being predicted, and the temps being substantially lower than I'm used to at home I went with clothing for cold and rain:
Hi-Tec trail shoes, Compression Socks, Seal Skin Socks, Long Fleece Tights, Cycling Bib Shorts, Long Sleeve Fleece as base layer, Cycling Top, Wind Proof top/Rain top, Buff, Cap, Glove Liners and Long Finger gloves
Added to my compulsory gear was my Wind proof top, and a balaclava

Leg 4: Cycle

We had a choice of what time we wanted to start, the clock started for each of us as we left the cycling transition area. I wanted to start as early as possible (7:30) but only got to start at about 8:15 after breakfast and travel etc. I was feeling quite stiff and sore and struggled to get to a decent pace on the bike. Fortunately 3 guys riding together came past and I joined the tail of their drafting line, and hung on with them for about 5km, when one of them had a chain problem. I had by now warmed up quite nicely and pushed on. I found that on downhills I was substantially faster than most of the other riders and I can remember a long downhill through the forestry plantations where I bombed down the hill overtaking streams and streams of people. Without a bladder I had regular stops at small mountain streams to fill up my bike bottle. The road cycle was pleasant without any further energy issues and I reached the next transition and very nearly rode into the way of a car, suddenly I realised how little attention I had been paying to the area around me.

Leg 5: 23km Mountain hike/run

Ben Nevis on a COLD day.
At the Transition I gave back my hire bike, and added my bike tool kit to my backpack before heading out into the hills, at the start a lot of people seemed to be running past me, but after a few kms I was into my stride and my short run/walk strategy was paying off as I started overtaking quite a few people. We headed out into the mountains, crossing a few ridges before reaching a large glen (valley) below what I think was Ben Nevis. We hiked through stream after stream, with the days rain coming down the hillside, cascading down the pathway we were hiking along. I don't think we travelled more than about 100m at a time without having a puddle or a stream in our way. Even my seal skins didn't help much as the water would splash into the top of my socks all the time. After what I guess was 16km I met up with another South African, apparently 6 South Africans living in London had all travelled up to do the race. We had a good chat until I headed off up the next hill/mountain. The last downhill was really steep and I struggled a lot to keep my footing, I seemed to slip every step. I saw someone slip and slide down the hill side, and after yet another slip, sat on my bum and slid down the hill, coving about 200m in what felt like 10seconds. Everyone around me had a good laugh as did I. Only problem was the right turn in the path I missed and slid into a bush. But at least I was at the bottom of the steep section and could walk most of the rest of the downhill without slipping all the time. A short jog along the tar road I reach the Paddle transition.

Leg 6: Paddle

We did not have to wait at the boats, but there was a strong wind from the right, 90 degrees to our required route. I was paired up with an inexperienced paddler and she and I struggled a lot to cross the first windy section. I was continually pulling the nose of the boat back right to keep the nose facing partially into the scary looking waves. I only remember having one scare where it felt like we would tip but I'm sure there were more. Once we were half way across we were protected by some small islands and had an easy paddle to the finish. Once we reached the end there was a short run/shuffle of 50m or so to finish the race.

I felt strong the whole day. My hiking was strong and I probably passed more people than passed me. My clothing was once again suitable for conditions. (I have found a good fleece to be the best possible base layer as it keeps the heat against your body).

I finished the race (about 170km) in 14hours 51 minutes, in 173rd position of 397 finishers. Overall a very good result for me.

I was better prepared for this race than for the race last year. I knew myself and my equipment better, and had taken a lot of time to prepare for the conditions I was going to experience. I was not particularly fitter (I was probably a lot fitter the previous year), but I had spent a lot of time riding when it was cold, trying different kit, I did some running in the rain to see what I needed to keep warm. I cut down on weight by carrying less water, less food, but sufficient for my needs during the day.

Tired, wet, covered in mud, but Finished!!


Sue B said...

Well done William. Maybe one day Lickety Split will be able to join you on an International!

Alex said...

Cool, I saw your previous write up via Lisa's site just after I did the one day version of this C2C last year and tried to comment to suggest doing this one but alas the comment didn't go through, glad you found your way there anyway.

A great race and scenary, I really enjoyed the last run. For me it was a bit of a guessing game re. gear and bike choice, pity I didn't stumble onto your site sooner, may have been able to give some heads up from my experience, although perhaps the guessing adds to the experience... Congrats on the finish.
Alex (ex-AR club member currently abroad for a bit)

Lickety Split said...

Thanks Alex and Sue. :)

Alex - what other Solo races would you suggest?

Sue - We need to go do a pairs race somewhere :)

Alex said...

I wish I had a long list as I'm always on the lookout for solo races due to a limited teammate pool, but alas haven't found too many. I resorted to a long distance triathlon for solo kicks this yr... If you keen on races in Europe the team AMI calendar (http://www.team-ami.nl/kalender/) is a good source (normally updated in early new yr) but these are mostly, if not all, 4s or pairs races. Google delivers a number in UK, US and Aus but not much continent side (prob language related). There are however a number of X-triathlons or duathlons which may be sort of similar to C2C e.g. the Hell of Kasterlee (http://www.winterduathlonkasterlee.be)

I had an entry for this http://theharz.com/main.php
last yr but teammate bailed last minute, looks good though. Perhaps something to pair up with Sue as above or if any of you are interested and over in April I'd be keen.

My experience here is mostly limited to orienteering and 24hr rogaines. I'd highly recommend European Rogaining Champs if you don't mind the single discipline and pair/team format. I've managed to do 2 along with World Champs this yr and found the Euro versions even better organised, more remote, scenic and challenging/interesting than this yrs World champs but that is likley to be heavily dependant on the organising country/team.

Lickety Split said...

Hi Alex

Send me an email - william.cairns@t-systems.co.za