Monday, March 9, 2015

I won!

Yes, for the first time in my life I actually got to break the tape in a running race! It's not that I have never won anything outright before, it's just that in a rowing race there is obviously no tape to break...

The race was organized for the shareholders of the company I work for so, seen in those terms, I was first out of over 3.2 million people. Perhaps it is slightly more representative to say that I was first out of 100. If I were more paranoid, I might suspect that there was a conspiracy against me taking part because, in spite of the race taking place in the nature reserve built by my employer just outside the campus, I found it difficult to get any information about the race and, when I tried (several times) to sign up for it, I got no reply. In the end, I just turned up and managed to snag race number 100.

The park was designed for employees to be able to go running and cycling and enjoy the wildlife; I prefer to run around outside the park because I don't like feeling hemmed in and, besides, there are too many hills. Talking of which, the course of the 5K race was quite tough with said hills, lots of switchbacks and sandy paths which my trainers had very little purchase on.

I almost didn't take part in the race as I had to accompany my wife to the hospital for a minor operation that afternoon and the timing was very tight. So I decided to stick to my original training plan the day before of 7K at a pulse rate of 172 bpm (which I did in 26:41 or a pace of 3:40 /km); normally I would have taken it a bit more easy the day before a race.

As people get ready you can often tell who the main contenders are going to be. The first clue is their body composition (i.e, how lean) and the second is their body language (i.e., how mean). Someone asking about the course gave away their attitude and it turned out to be his breath I could hear chasing me over the first half. I lead from the start line to the finish but this guy made me work hard; on the other hand, as long as I didn't get lost, I had it in the bag. I was following a little buggy which sometimes had to go ahead to move some of the tape marking the course: in fact, I actually had to jump over the tape before entering the final straight as I got there before the buggy. As I crossed the finishing line I instinctively raised my arms to an appropriate height somewhere in between "this was easy" and "this victory is the best thing that has ever happened to me".

I now had to worry about my next race, the race against time to get home to take my wife to the hospital, but I wasn't about to miss my first ever podium for overall winner in a running race! A nice surprise was that I not only won a trophy but also a bag of goodies including a portable DVD player with two screens for the car as well as some waterproof headphones and armband for listening to music while swimming. I didn't quite make it home in time so my wife went in the car and I ordered a taxi with the last few seconds of mobile battery I had left. The whole day seemed to just fit together by the smallest of margins: I got home just as the taxi was about to leave, I arrived at the hospital at the exact moment that my wife was checking in and we got sent home just in time to get to the car as the parking ticket ran out. And, most importantly, my wife's operation went well.

I decided to meet up with Dani for the Sunday brick. He lives in a nice flat part to the South of Madrid, on the way out to Toledo, very near to where Alberto Contador is from. The idea was to try out the triathlon bikes and stay in the aero position as much as possible. Dani, very sensibly, has his bike set up with a fairly comfortable position, although I was surprised that his seat was lower than mine in spite of him being noticeably taller - maybe he has longer crank arms or something. I was a bit worried about not having trained much in my much more aggressive aero position but the relative absence of hills, wind and bumpy roads meant that it was quite tolerable and I noticed the speed advantage for perhaps the first time. We got passed by a bunch of road cyclists who - as Dani put it - were going at that perfect speed that would mean we would be foolish to try to overtake them but that was just a bit too slow for us to have a decent workout. They also had the demeanour of those kind of cyclists who don't take well to being overtaken and would have surely seen it as a guantlet being thrown down. Eventually they went left and we went right and had a nice stretch of flat open road with hardly any cars. I had to drive about 40 kilometers to get to the start of the route but it was well worth it and something I may repeat even if I don't have the additional benefit of Dani's company. We rode for about 70 kilometers and then left the bikes propped up, slipped into our running shoes and set off for a 9 kilometer run. It's days like this that make me remember why I like cycling. I also gained a lot of confidence in the aero position, getting out of my head all the fears and ideas of trying to change the position.

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