Vitruvian Race Report

by on September 6, 2011

in Races

Having put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to get around, and albeit secretly, get a half decent time I was determined not to get too stressed and enjoy the day. Arriving, registering, racking my bike etc on the Friday afternoon gave me plenty of time to mooch around the site, have a gander a the lake and worry about all the things that could go wrong(!)

I loaded myself with as much baked potato and pasta as I could before heading to the hotel to check in, arrange my drinks and gels and try to get a half decent night’s sleep. Turns out they ran out of food at the event not long after I left, so glad I got there when I did or it would have been Little Chef to the rescue, and nobody wants that. As predicted I didn’t get a great nights sleep – I’d love to say it was because the dog kept us awake (apparently dogs are allowed in Travelodges – who knew!) but it was the anxious, nervous excitement wreaking havoc with my zzzzzzzs.

When the alarm went off at 4am I was raring to go, full of adrenaline already. Once I’d got Jess out of bed and stopped her faffing (she was about to make a cup of tea 2 minutes before we were due to leave – as if I wasn’t conscious enough of the time!) we headed back to Rutland Water.

Vitruvian @ Rutland Water - sunrise

Rutland Water – Vitruvian swim start @ sunrise

I headed back to transition and sorted my shoes, gels etc out as soon as I could – I wanted as much time to relax as possible. It’s amazing how much the unknowns of a race can stress me out – I was the same before my first Olympic distance last year, but fine at every one I’ve done since.

Anyway, the time of pre-race bowel movements was nearing and right on cue I made acquaintance with the lovely portaloos.

Race briefing just outside transition was due – while waiting I noticed just how many bling TT bikes there were – far more than I’ve ever seen at any other race and a sign perhaps that this race wasn’t to be taken lightly. Once race briefing was over I headed into the lake – I was in the first wave, so it still wasn’t quite light at this point. The sludge underfoot was horrible but in a weird way soothing! I acclimatised as quickly as possible to try and avoid brain freeze. Soon enough the countdown began and off we went.

Swim Start

Vitruvian swim start


A few knocks to the head later, and after a stint of having the back of my thigh caressed (I appreciated the gesture, but there’s a time and a place!) I started to get into a rhythm. Then my insides decided they weren’t quite done with the portaloos. I find it weird enough peeing in a wetsuit, never mind pooing and so I had no intention of finding out what that sensation felt like.

That did however mean that the remaining 1500m or so of the swim was spent playing mind games with myself as I tried to keep the remainder or my breakfast where it was meant to be. The horizontal-vertical-horizontal movement of getting out of the water after the first lap and running back in for the second didn’t help but I made it all the way around without any sewage related issues. It took me a few seconds longer than planned to get out of the water because my entire left hamstring cramped up as I tried to get out – concerning to say the least. Luckily it was a one-off.

Swim time was 38 mins which I was a bit disappointed with – I know I can do a few minutes quicker relatively easily but in the grand scheme of a middle distance race it was a mere blip. Plus, 3 minutes is a small price to pay to avoid a very embarrassing brown situation in T1 as the wetsuit comes off. No more poo talk now I promise. My stomach settled after a couple minutes of being upright so no more to say on the matter. Phew!

End of the Vitruvian Swim

End of the swim


The roads were generally good on the bike – I’ve read a lot of people complaining about traffic because the roads weren’t closed, but with another big event on nearby that weekend and the fallout of a major traffic incident the night before it wasn’t that bad considering. It was however, very windy. And I’m not talking about my “issues” again. I suspected this might cause a few problems, and as I’m still not quite used to the handling of my Planet X 82 front wheel, I held on for dear life going down the first big descent. The articulated lorry that overtook me at this point was terrifying – not because it was close but because of the effect it had on the crosswinds around me – almost sent me into the grass verge at what must have been approaching 50mph!

What I did find quite demoralising was that, because I was in the earliest wave and spent the first 20km or so of the bike doing a lot more overtaking than being overtaken, much of the remainder was spent being overtaken by the faster guys from the later waves. Of course this didn’t occur to me at the time and I just thought I was really slow. There were a lot of Army/Navy/RAF entrants and the majority of those are, as you’d expect, phenomenally fit. The big gears they would be in to fly past me were very impressive – and looking at the results they didn’t disappoint in the swim or run either.

The rest of the first lap was uneventful – I grinded up the big (unexpectedly big and deceptively long) hills, didn’t get stopped at the pedestrian crossing in Ketton and managed to clock 27mph on the electronic traffic speed sign! Lap 2 however was agony – and not my legs. I haven’t really done more than Olympic distance in the aero position, and after about 50km my neck and shoulders were screaming at me. I probably only spent half of the second lap in the aero position because of it, likely costing me 5-10 minutes. Bike lap times weren’t broken down so I don’t know for sure.

One thing worth mentioning was the t-junction that we were warned about in the race briefing. Marshalls were there with police, cones, red flags being waved etc. It was made very clear that if you acted dangerously at this point in particular, it would be a straight DQ and possible police action. Now I’m fine with that – safety has to be seen as a priority – I get it. What I didn’t get was why the marshals had been told to say to approaching racers, regardless of whether there was any traffic coming, “if you think it’s safe to go then go”. When I got there, I slowed down, got that shouted to me and watched an articulated lorry hurtle by. Of course it wasn’t safe to go! Surely it would have been safer for them to shout that it wasn’t safe rather than explicitly stating that it was up to me to make that decision?? Madness.

Anyway, bike time was 2:31 which I was really pleased with – I was thinking 2:40 at best.

I set off WAY too fast on the run, I think I was just glad to be off the bike and lapping up the support of the crowd, Jess included – who tried to embarrass me by shouting “you’re my hero” with a not-so-subtle hint of sarcasm that only Jess can manage! By the 1km sign my quads were threatening to cramp so I slowed it down a bit. It took ages, as it normally does, to get into a rhythm – normally it’s about 4 km in an Olympic race but this was more like 7km. Like the run i spent most of the first lap being overtaken by the forces, looking even more hardcore than they did on the bike! The run was out around the lake and back, twice. So in my head this was 4x 5km (plus a little bit extra) – that mindset worked well, and as I headed out on the second lap I felt really comfortable and was really excited about getting to the finish.

I’d seen an old TriCentral buddy, Matt, on the run – I didn’t know he was racing but did know he was a phenomenal runner and so was only a matter of time until he caught me. That came with about 4km to go, and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying – he looked terrible, much worse than I felt! He did though, catch and overtake me – read into that what you will! I stuck with him and actually broke away again until about 100m from the end where he sprint finished past me and pretty much collapsed over the finish line – good effort! I found the last 2km was really tough – I think my body knew the end was nearing and so was starting to act accordingly. I couldn’t wait to get to the finish line!

Vitruvian run

Edging towards the end of the run and the race!

Then those words I’d been waiting all day to hear – “number 86, Andy Heaps, you are a Vitruvian”. Relief, happiness, sense of achievement, pain and everything in-between. Jess and Noodle were at the finish line cheering me and taking photos (just Jess taking photos obviously!) so it was the perfect end to the mornings activity.

The end of The Vitruvian!

4 hours and 54 minutes later I am a Vitruvian!

My run time was 1:41, which amazingly is a new half-marathon PB for me! That brought me in, in a total time of 4:54 which is over half an hour quicker than I was hoping for – when Jess told me I was ecstatic – even though I looked far from it!

All in all, great event – I’m glad I picked it as my first middle distance. And an amazing goody bag too! If you’re thinking about stepping up from Olympic to middle, I can definitely recommend The Vitruvian.


My First Bonk

by on August 16, 2011

in Training

I’m afraid this post isn’t nearly as exciting as the title makes out!

I’ve read a lot about triathletes and endurance athletes hitting the wall or ‘bonking’, and to be honest it’s always sounded pretty horrible. Taken from Wikipedia, it is described as:
In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glycogen levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

Well, on Sunday, for the first time I got first hand experience.

Being the last week of the ‘build’ part of my training for The Vit, it was a heavy week – particularly weekend. Friday night involved getting home from work and doing a 2.5 hour brick session (45km on the bike and about 15km run at threshold). Saturday morning was my only chance to go swimming for the week so I went off to Salford Quays for the USwim session – 3km. Feeling pretty tired by early afternoon I delayed the day’s 3 hour planned ride as much as possible finishing at about 7.

I’d love to say the weekend’s activity so far had prepped me well for Sunday morning’s 3.5 hour brick session with Rick, but it hadn’t. 2km into the 70 km ride and my quads were screaming at me. I soldiered on, trying (but often failing) to stay on Rick’s back wheel chomping down bars and gels to try and get me through. I made it to the end, albeit with legs feeling like lead. And it only got worse.

Our run was supposed to be 12km. 2km in I was struggling to get any blood flowing to my legs at all, and was slowing with every step. Having trundled to 5km, much to the dismay of Rick (who looked like he had a marathon left in him!) my run slowed to a walk. Now I’m not one to give up easily but I physically couldn’t lift my feet. My body was starting to feel like it was trying to eat itself ( I was out of all nutrition at this point). I started to wonder how on earth I was going to get back to the house! That was soon the least of my worries though, as when I tried to get moving again my vision became blurred, I felt like I had no control of my legs / feet and I was weaving all over the pavement, struggling to not veer onto the road. The best visual comparison I can come up with of how I felt, is of Alistair Brownlee’s meltdown at Hyde Park last year:

Dramatic London Triathlon for Brownlee by itnnews

Having cut the run short the last few km of walking / staggering back, needing to hold on to Walls, fences, trees and anything that could support me was hellish. I could barely string a sentence together once we got back to the house, and while chocolate, protein shakes and bacon sandwiches kindly provided by Rick helped a ton, I felt ‘wrong’ for the whole of the rest of the day. The drive home was nothing short of dangerous and as soon as my ass touched the couch I was asleep for 3 hours. Monday at work felt better but not great – almost as if I’d had a really heavy weekend on the ale that my body was trying to recover from – couldn’t be further from the truth!

So – why did it happen? Well I’m no expert but going off how I felt, I’d say too much intense exercise in the run up to Sunday and not enough nutrition during Sunday’s session. I used Nuun electrolyte tablets rather than my normal Lucozade carb drink while on the bike and didn’t have enough energy bars / gels to make up the deficit. It’s the first time I’ve ever truly had nutrition problems during training – I certainly won’t be going out under prepared again, and all I can say is I’d rather have this happen now than in a few weeks during the Vitruvian!

On a lighter, more entertaining note to end – this video of the ultimate bonk in Kona back in the 90′s never fails to amuse me (in a sadistic, “that must be horrible” kind of way) and makes me realise that when you think you’ve pushed yourself to your limits, there are always people who will push it further!


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