Natureman 2020, Salles-sur-Verdon
“Will you come and do Natureman with me?”
Race buddy Helen’s message stared at me.
Hmm. Helen’s found another course that probably won’t work to ANY of my strengths.
After a quick search, read of the course description (yes, I was right, a challenge) and watch of the promo’ clip, which presented to me a stunning course whose participants seemed fun (maybe a wee bit ‘good crazy’), I thought why not? It wasn’t until October 2020, and I was sure I’d be doing a few other races before then that weren’t super hilly…
‘Yeah, go on then!’
Fast forward nearly 10 months, after all that 2020 has been (or not been), I had all but forgotten about the Natureman event I’d signed up to before Christmas. It was simply an event on my Training Peaks calendar that had represented some sort of goal at the end of the summer.
With the cascade of cancelled and postponed events, I really didn’t think it would go ahead.
As the 3rd October drew ever closer, it wasn’t my training that needed to change, but my mental game. I’d been doing what Amelia had planned for me, loving the training and enjoying the process (s’cuse the cliché) but I mostly needed to have a strict word with my brain and prep it for race day.
Natureman 2020 was going to happen!
Oh wait! Apocalyptic storms are forecast…
After all this, was it really going to be a total washout?
Thankfully the heavens opened on Friday, encouraging us to do nothing but rest and register (you can read here how well I got on with tapering), leaving us with a dry day on Saturday – how very lucky we were!
My parents, I would say, are normally reluctant supporters. Maybe a little unfair, but when your father says to you after a race “why did you and your brother choose such unfriendly spectator sports?” it doesn’t really inspire much enthusiasm! Not only that, but I have had a small run of ‘things going wrong’ at events they’ve previously come to watch, causing a fair amount of stress and worry. So, they understandably adopted the role of background supporters and were brilliant at it, quietly proud of their baby girl doing nutty-sporty-things.
This time however, they decided to have another go and come for the weekend away, and to watch the event. They were the perfect supporters; allowing me to get on with it, but presenting themselves (with some guidance from coach Amelia as to where to be and when) when I needed them most.
The photography is also credit to them.
You really are the best and I loved having you there. Thank you!
2.3km (Strava claims 2.7k!) – 42 mins, 3rd female
So, I got lost. Oops!
Despite having got myself a good bib number as a strong swimmer, I decided to go out wide so as not to be swum over and endure the fight for freedom in the first few minutes.
‘À vos marques, enlevez vos masques, GO!’
Helen and Ceri, who were stood behind me in the next wave, said they saw me take a smooth line straight to the first buoy. A good start! However, the diagram in my head of the positioning of the buoys wasn’t quite the reality, and as I turned around the 1st buoy all I could hear was “gauche, gauche, gauche”. I couldn’t believe how much further left I needed to go, but after trying to sight (and my eyesight is getting worse) with the sun glaring into my eyes, I just about made out the next buoy, only to be stopped by a gentleman in a kayak telling me I was going the wrong way. I quickly corrected him, and he let me continue. Honestly!
The water was glorious and the perfect temperature (18.5ºC despite the rain). However, with no one to follow (number 1 was a couple of minutes ahead of me), and the buoys very spaced out, with low sunshine over the water, and a worsening astigmatism, my time was probably longer than it needed to have been. BUT, considering I was 3rd girl overall and swam pretty speedily, I’ll stop with the excuses and crack on with the bike!
90km with 1338m elevation (Strava: 92.14km & 1448m) – 3:20:27, 15th female
I surprisingly smashed my T1 (3rd!) and set out on the bike. The roads had dried out with only a few damp bends, and the sun was trying to come out. I’d put on a bike jersey and was wearing my toe caps to help keep me warm, but was still thankful to be climbing so swiftly out the water.
For the entire bike course I managed to maintain my position (4th woman on the course), and it felt awesome! I revelled in the support, knowing it my position near the front would only last so long…
I was genuinely surprised that it wasn’t until I neared the end of the bike course that two girls snuck past me, and that I still hadn’t seen Helen who had only set off a minute behind me. Competitive much…
The course’s flatter sections were much longer than we had anticipated. I wouldn’t have wanted to try and ride on my TT bike, but could probably have benefited from tri bars as I rode much of the course on my drops. It wasn’t quite the stunning course that was shown on the promo’ clip, whether this was because of the poorer weather, or that the course, we thought, had changed a little. Still, it was so brilliant to be out racing. I felt great; strong, fresh and enjoying being on my bike and lucky enough to be there.
I concentrated hard to make sure I consumed gels and Jelly Babies regularly and hydrate, knowing how important nutrition is when racing. I finished with salt encrusted on my face – it still surprises me how salty my sweat is, and even on not such a hot day. Electrolytes are very important!
Rolling in 6th woman on the course was pretty sweet, and I ended up with the 15th fastest female bike time. Needless to say I was stoked!
No photographs sadly, just the professional ones and none of them were that epic, so here’s one from cycling in Provence, not a million miles from the race in the Luberon region the following week.
19.5km with 227m of elevation (Strava: 19.79 and 240m) – 2:10:52, 72nd female
“Maybe you should just compete in individual events for swimming and cycling? Or maybe set up a swim-bike?”
Yet more tactful questions from my loving father.
I am not a runner. I run, but I am not a natural runner. I’ve worked hard and consistently at my running this summer, and was chuffed with my time. Relative to previous years, it was an improvement.
I’m even more proud of my mental attitude. Doing well on the bike and swim, and to then have many, many, competitors come past you on the run, isn’t all that fun. Staying focused on my race, putting one foot in front of the other as fast as I could, going through the process of just getting myself to the finish, helped me stay consistent. I actually came across the girl who won my age group, suffering with cramps, and I tried to help her (???) before she ran off and left me for dead. It’s a race, Rach!
It was a technical course, definitely not boring! Mud, steps, steep hills, steep downhills, pebbly beaches, and by the second lap my body was packing up. I already had a sore knee towards the end of the bike, and my legs started to give way with nervy type cramps on any descent. It was very painful, but I kept smiling knowing that nothing was going to make it better until I stopped, and I wasn’t stopping until the end, so I just had to keep going and get to the end as quickly as I could! Because I accepted this, I kept smiling (despite what the following sequence of photographs may otherwise indicate). I couldn’t believe I was genuinely enjoying myself, and the challenge!
I’ve not felt that sore at the end of a race since I did the Nagano marathon. It’s not taken me this long to recover from a race since the Nagano marathon. The whole event took me 6:19:41, that’s the longest I’ve ever raced.
Yet again, I’ve taken my body to where it’s not been before. Yet again Covid-19, you’ve taken away so much, but you’ve also somehow let me still keep achieving personal bests.