I am sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight to Noosa. It is the first time I have had the chance to sit and think and write something down since I raced in Adelaide two weeks ago. I went to ‘Radels for the National Duathlon Championships which was a qualifier for the World Championships to be held back in Adelaide next October. It was an important race for me, and what a race it was… there was a lot I learnt from that race and a lot I want to share.
For about a month prior to Adelaide I had a lump in my skin that I had tried to ignore, but amazingly with that approach it didn’t disappear! So the week before Adelaide I decided to finally get it checked out (cycling made it quite painful so I thought I should try and avoid additional pain during the race). Turned out it is an infection and the doctor thought some antibiotics would get rid of it. So I commenced the round on the Thursday before my Sunday race, but didn’t mention any of this to my coach. Lesson 1!
In the lead up to Adelaide John had been working in Queensland so I was on my own. To be honest, I often like the space and time to myself, but shhh don’t tell him! But I had never spent the week on my own in the week prior to an interstate race. And again, don’t tell John but my appreciation just increased a little more for him! The week involved a big work load, training morning and night, a farewell dinner plus getting race ready such as organizing a bike bag to borrow (which I didn’t collect until Friday morning before work for a flight straight after work, well played Priscilla, well played), taking my bike to the shop for a service and collecting (why don’t bike shops have out of hours services for office workers??!!) and the usual packing and cleaning before going away, plus just living with cooking and washing! It might not sound like much but it was an enormous and stressful week, and I was oblivious to just how taxing it was. Lesson 2!
Nonetheless I got to Adelaide in one piece with all of my equipment. Saturday morning we rode the course and did a small section of the run. It was very beneficial getting the chance to do this the day before the race. We shopped and cooked at home that night – I had learnt from my own blog 😉 (read earlier post!). I had an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from friends and family wishing me luck, but stupidly used their well wishes as pressure on myself to perform well. I had no pressure from anywhere to get a good result except from myself. I have read a lot about the mental part about racing and visualizing the race and telling yourself you can do it etc. but already being strong mentally I think I had taken this too far and psyched myself up too much. Lesson 3!
Finally race day. The race was a 10km run/40km ride/5km run, a distance I had never raced before. Not surprisingly, the lead went out fast. I stuck to my own race and tempo and fell into a nice spot around 6th place. After about a kilometer the groups were defined and I found myself running with two other woman right on the pace I wanted. It was perfect and I was happy to have others to pace off. Suddenly at 4.5km’s I got bad stomach cramps. They slowed me down and from therein I struggled to get the pace up again, slowly losing sight of the two I was pacing off. I then looked down and saw my heart rate read 230. WOWSERS! I have hit 205 or even 210 before but this was a whole new number. John had mentioned the day before when he realized I was on antibiotics that they increase your heart rate. I thought this must be the reason. I tried to control my pace down to decrease my heart rate. A few girls overtook me and I started to beat myself up mentally. I finally got on the bike, disappointed with my run, and again mentally had it in my head that the antibiotics were playing with my HR and I need to control it. It then sat around 185 for the bike which is high for riding but nothing to be freaked out of, but again I just wasn’t feeling it. I caught only one or two girls but I knew my effort was lower than I wanted. On the bike I started thinking about the final 5km run and setting new pace goals to stick to. When I finally got out for the run I just managed to stick to my new goal times but felt so slow and heavy. I checked my HR and it was back up in the 230’s so again I was worried. Knowing the dangers of a HR that high I was unsure if I should keep going or stop for the potential damage I was doing to myself or risk of falling dead! (No overreaction at all from me!) I just kept going because I figured it’s quicker to run to the end than to walk! I was surprised though that for what felt like such a slow pace I was actually overtaking a few people.
In the end I did a much slower time than I had hoped and was disappointed in my own performance, but thought it was related to my HR and antibiotics. I read up about antibiotics and exercise and found the following which really resonated with my race;
- You have an increased sensitivity to heat/dehydration. Did I mention is was an unusually extremely hot day in Adelaide that Sunday?! How convenient!
- You run at a slower pace. It was argued this was a mental state and not the antibiotics, however they have tested it on horses (who mentally don’t know they are on antibiotics!) and found their times decrease.
- You can suffer stomach issues and diarrhea as the bodies balance is compromised.
Effectively they say that when on antibiotics your body is using a lot of its ‘fighting’ power to deal with the antibiotics in your system, which effects you when racing as you need your body to be firing on all cylinders. I didn’t read anywhere about heart rate issues despite searching for it…
A few days later, whilst still on antibiotics, I went for a training run. Again once I started putting the effort in my HR sky rocketed up over 200. I freaked out and walked home, scared by what was going on with my body. I spoke to my coach and he was also concerned for me. We decided I should check my watch before rushing off to the doctor, but I was to do no more exercise until it was sorted as a precautionary measure.
I borrowed a watch and tested it out. And… my HR was fine. Whilst I was so happy that I wasn’t dying I was so embarrassed about my overreaction and annoyed at my race performance. Big Lesson 4!
So what did I learn in Adelaide?
- You need to talk to your coach. If they are setting you sessions they need to know what is going on with your body, even if you don’t think it is important.
- Prepare for the week before a race so you are not over tired leading into the event just from getting there!
- Nervous energy is good, but psyching yourself up so much to perform well, when there is no reason to or external pressure, is not good and deteriorates your performance. (reminder: I am an Age Grouper and do this for fun, I am not a professional who does this for a living).
- Lesson 4, what can I say about lesson 4?! Perhaps, listen to your body and don’t rely on technology. Or, listen to your body and prepare better (I was over tired from the week, on antibiotics, and it was extremely hot which I hadn’t prepared for. Everyone was struggling in the heat, that is why I was overtaking people in the last 5km’s). I wonder had I not seen how high my HR was, would I have been able to push through, did the fear of the high reading freak me out and slow me down? Or am I using it as an excuse? Or would I have struggled just as much because of the other elements (antibiotics, heat, tiredness). This is something I will never know the exact answer to but definitely something to learn from as I experience more in other races.
Now let’s bring on Noosa!