The Tunbridge Wells Sprint Tri & Killing Plantar Fasciitis

Apologies to those coming to the blog after cycling news and reviews and the such – I’ve been a bit training-focused here lately, I know. If it helps, you can find 2 posts a week on the London Cyclist, and one on Urban Limits (plus obviously tons on Evans Cycles’ blog) – so you see I’m not JUST writing about me.

I said I was dipping my toe into Tri again, and thinking about perhaps racing some time. What I didn’t mention was that sometime was yesterday – but I was expecting it to be a bit of a failure so wasn’t too keen to spread the word.

I entered the Tunbridge Wells Sprint Triathlon ‘just to see’, and to make sure I got myself in the pool and running regularly, as well as racing my bike, of course. I’m mainly just enjoying the extra motivation and the impact it’s having on cycling results, and certainly didn’t expect a podium place… It was a great event, a TOUGH course, and fantastic value for money. More on the event in a bit.

Lead up

I’ve been struggling with a little bit of arch pain recently – otherwise known as Plantar Fasciitis. Yes, an ‘–itis’ – that didn’t take me long, hey? I blame a sudden increase in high intensity run sessions. I’d say it was bound to happen – but that’s not actually true, it wouldn’t have if I’d been more sensible.

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Anyway, at the onset of pain I made a note to buy some insoles – I’ve had this issue before and Scholl Insoles removed all discomfort immediately. The problem was I believed this would be a simple fix, so by the time I got round to buying the insoles, it was a bit more set in and they didn’t really make that much difference.

The result: the week leading up to the race – no running at all (see – I HAVE learned – no way I would have done that few years ago).

Here’s how I dealt with the Plantar Fasciitis (it’s not totally gone yet, and I’m continuing with the below):

  • Saw an osteopath – always see a professional if you can when you have a niggle. They will almost always find a tight muscles elsewhere which is causing your pain.
  • Put a bottle of water in the freezer. Froze it. Removed from freezer and rolled foot over it for 3-5mins, twice a day.
  • Stretched my calves on the stairs religiously. If this doesn’t mean much to you, google ‘calf stair stretch’. PF can be a result of tight calves pulling.
  • Bought insoles – the Scholl ones work best for me but each to their own.
  • Didn’t run for the entire week. In the past, I’ve always been stubborn and tried to train through niggles – this almost always results in one step forward, two steps back – long term, resting a niggle for a week is better than months off.

Anyway, I could barely feel the pain walking by Saturday, and I only noticed it in the first 3 minutes of my pre-race brick. I’ve still got to look after it, and I’m not too worried since my main goal for the end of this season is bike racing, if I can get it sorted and do another tri next month, great – but no biggie.

Pre-Race Brick

I’ve had a few races this year where I’ve felt pretty unmotivated, and the idea of a 30min session the day before to get my legs spinning and race ready has felt like a mixture of waste of time and waste of what little available leg power there was.

Not so this time. I did a 40min bike session, with alternating 1min high gear/2min low gear intervals, then jumped off to run 10minutes hard and 5minutes easy.

A super short ‘leg loosener’ the day before a race can feel like a lot of effort for not much time training, but pretty much every coach or ‘person in the know’ I’ve ever spoken to has always recommended it.

Race

It was bit bizarre arriving at a triathlon, after a 3 year break – everything was exactly the same, and it felt a little like I’d not been away – only I felt very unprepared. Not surprising since I’ve only been back running again properly for about 6 weeks, and swimming maybe 2 months max. I registered, got my numbers scrawled on my hands, bike and helmet – and set everything out  in transition.

I put my bike in a low starting gear, and spun the wheel. Note: Spun the wheel.

The 3 disciplines that followed each had their own unique little mistakes….

Swim : 00:07:23

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I wasn’t too excited by the ‘zig zag’ style, in which you swim two lengths per lane, then duck under the lane rope. As expected, it slowed me down (I think – I kept stopping to duck rather than seemlessly turning as some did) and I finished in 7.23, as opposed to my previous weekends pool test of 6.50.

I’d hoped to go faster in a race, but seconds could also be added by getting out the pool, over the timing chip mat, and catching the man in front and having to disrupt a turn to overtake. Regardless, my turns are awful and losing me time.

Bike: 00:44:40

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Hillfest. Turns out its 12.8 miles with 1,045 ft of climbing. Judge for yourself if that’s a lot in your opinion – of course that’s just going by some Garmin route I found recorded – clearly on another unit it would read as TONS more..

I had my TT bike, aero TT helmet – and I spent about 10% off my time on the bars, with the greater proportion on the hoods either climbing or descending. I immediately took back any joking comment about triathlete handling skills – I would never expect this sort of terrain on a TT.

Reading reviews later, I noticed a lot of references to ‘super tough’ and ‘lots of people walking up hills’ – these were proper Kent style climbs – out the saddle, 3-5 minutes (estimate), little ring (if you got into it in time!) grind fests. Nothing I couldn’t manage on a normal ride, but in race mode these things are deadly. A few caught me by surprise and I really did have to churn the big ring. I just don’t expect to race a TT bike in the little ring..

Another concern was a strange rubbing noise. I did actually stop (!) and check the front brake wasn’t rubbing at the start, but not the rear. When I collected my bike in transition, I found the back wheel was over to one side, the limiter screws had shifted and it was rubbing the brake and frame. I still do not know if this happened before or after the bike leg. I sort of hope after, as it’s depressing to think I rode the course with a rubbing wheel. Possibly it happened half way, when I had to really push a high gear on a sudden hill straight after a left turn – this can happen sometimes on TT start lines when people first push the power down.

Run: 27:40:15

I knew this was going to be tough. Legs were already screaming, and I had an irritating Scholl insole slapping against my foot and making its way down my shoe. The Plantar Fasciitis didn’t hurt at all but the damn insole was making my foot movement pretty difficult.

At the first bend, there was a slight crossroad with a gravel path. The event marshalls had thus far been fantastic, so I was a little confused – should I go down the path or stay on the road? I stopped for about 20 seconds and let the men behind me catch up, so I could check which way they were going. Oh – great – up the 600m hill (Reynolds Lane, I now know it’s name) I later read about in reviews of the race. On the 1st lap I was a little recovered from the pause at the bottom. On the 2nd I was almost doubled over crawling up the thing.

I kept asking my body to actually run – because it felt like I was jogging slowly, but every time I tried it felt impossible, with dead legs from the uber bike climbs and a rubbing rubber sole on every step. Watching the minutes tick by, I’d pretty much written the event off as an ‘experience’ (we were looking at about 4mins slower than I’d hoped for/a standard tri run) and decided that I’d have to accept a lot of work needed to be done before I could race a Triathlon properly.

Finish

Woop – done! Mr Brennan had come to watch and came and found me chilling nonchalantly (collapsed) on the grass. I received a medal (of course…) and some jaffa cakes (much more appreciated than the medal).

Receiving my timing slip, I was pretty disappointed. The bike leg didn’t mean much to me as it was over a bizarre terrain that I’ve never raced, but the swim and run were a bit of a thorn. I didn’t feel that upset, more acknowledged I had a lot of work to do, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed the day, the event, the marshals, and the race day feel. Plus, it had been a very lifelike training session for an ‘aspiring for the second time’ triathlete.

After the race

So the evening came, and results came through – turns out I came 3rd.

I’ve no idea what the competition was like, but that seems alright to me, for a first go… Perhaps the hills on the run actually accounted for an extra 4 minutes – but I’m not so sure…

Regardless, 3rd with a bit of confusion over lane rapes, a mechanical, a ‘lost’ moment and a dodgy foot… is ok isn’t it?

I didn’t stay for the presentation, I’d used up most of Mr Brennan’s morning and I didn’t think I’d done very well and just wanted a Chai Latte in Cafe Nero. It’s a shame as there was a trophy for me – and I’d have like to thank the orgnaiser for a great event, but hopeful I’ll get another opportunity one day not too long away.

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