Training leading into Switzerland 70.3 had in general, been going really well. Some great, solid sessions had been logged and both Tom (my coach) and I were looking forward to progressing in terms of result in my next 70.3 of the season.
Race morning arrived grey and damp but nothing too bad for us Brits. The only surprise for me was just how many Pro's there were lining up on the start line... Nearly 100! As the start gun went a pretty hectic and rough first 500m then ensued but I felt ok as things settled down and was happy with where I appeared to be (2nd main pack I thought). I stayed there until about 300m from the end where I seemed to drop off the back for some reason; I didn't loose too much time though and by the time I was through transition and on to my VO2 Victory TT I'd caught up the guys just ahead.
We all settled in after the first 5km or so and I tried to stick to my planned wattage goal that Tom and I had discussed. It was however, harder to do that it should have been, but I pressed on.
The bike in Rapperswil is a fantastic 2 lap course with two serious climbs including some pretty solid 15%+ sections. After Majorca 70.3 we'd agreed it was worth pushing a little harder on the climbs and so I upped the effort considerably as we hit the first climb and again, although this felt harder than it should, I stuck with it and pressed on staying nicely with the 4 other guys I was riding with. Having ascended the 2nd and longer hill, gone down the other side and headed back towards the turn around I was fully expecting to see Michael Raelert fly last any time soon; much to my surprise it wasn't until about 2km from the turn that he went passed in the other direction. The gap to him was only 6minutes and the rest of the bunch were less than 5minutes up the road. Considering how I felt I was riding, this was a nice boast to me... But I've learnt not to gauge my performance by others so I out it out my mind and got stuck into the 2nd lap. We caught several other guys during this time, but personally (and sadly rather forebodingly I was increasingly finding it harder to hold my target power levels. On the plus side (ALWAYS look for a positive) my fellow competitors weren't dropping me... But it also meant that I SHOUKD have been dropping them if I was riding properly.
The rest of the bike leg passed in thus vein... Not feeling great, but not loosing time to my competitors. By the time 2 approached my legs felt nicely spent and I was very interested to see how I'd run given the effort level I'd felt on the bike. Hopping off the bike and the signs weren't good... But once the shoes went on and I headed out transition I was delighted to feel some.serious spring in my step.
Give how I've been running recently in training, we had some serious targets for the run and I was pleased to see that I was actually ticking along nicely and a fraction faster than this; I backed off a touch and focused on the physical queues Tom and I have worked on... Relax, how can can hold this speed for less effort? Very quickly 3 of my fellow bikers were passed and it was now just me and an Australian guy who’d finsihed 3rd at Majorca to my 14th... this was a good place and pace to be. We maintained this pace up until about 7km when I began to struggle to hold the effort... My failure to properly fuel in the latter stages of the bike and the start of the run had caught up with me and I began to slow. Determined not to stop and walk I set my sights mentally on making it passed halfway and the 1st aid station thereafter. It's amazing how long these few K's can feel when you're hurting and by the time I eventually hit that aid station, I was seriously struggling; my "easy speed" was now sluggish jog.... But, I determined myself to deal with it properly and walked the aid station and took on as much as I could continuing to walk for 500m beyond too just to ensure the stomach could absorb it as much as possible. This was hard to do and I hard to let a number of my competitors pass me. However it paid off as soon as I started to run again; the legs felt much better and I was able to hit close to planned pace again. I began to catch back some of those lost positions, but I was running out of road and the damage had been done. At this level, these kind of mistakes can't be fully recovered from and my little jog/walk mid-race period had cost me dearly. I held on just about to the end crossing the line as 20th.
So where on earth does the title of this report come into it... where’s the fragility i’m fed up with? Well...
Asside from a shockingly bad week at work leading into this race, I've been struggling with my allergies for about 2-3 weeks. The fatigue, physical and especially mental impact this has on my is huge. Consistent training is hard, but in a race of this nature my bodies ability to function properly is drastically reduced. However the frustration lies not in this any more, as i’ve been dealing with this for a number of years now; its now in the fact that i seem less able to control it. Sticking to a strick gluten free diet nolonger appears to be enough to keep the symptoms at bay and despite my best efforts before the race even started i knew i was going to struggle immensely to just even finish. Its proving very difficult to keep going when we’re all working so hard and making some really great improvements, only for things to be completely de-railed by something that i now feel is completely out of my control. I’d just like to, for once, have a race where my body actually turns up even at 80%.
On the positive side though, in times gone by, I'd have quit... possibly not even bothered starting but now i dont quit and i do push through it. The mental improvements that working with Tom has given me this season are certainly helping and thats the only way i got to the finish line at all on Sunday. I’m looking forward to a race where i can use these tools agressively though, instead of damage limitation and survival.
Thanks for reading and see you at the start line soon!!!