A bit late to the party, but here we go, a long report for a long race.
I have raced the Centurion (metric of course, I don’t do made up measurements systems) for the first time on Sunday. It was my first longer-than-standard distance race, and as such a guaranteed PB as long as finished. Easier said than done, but more on that later.
The race organization was impeccable. Marshalls everywhere and incredibly well signed bike route. I got a couple of nearly missed turns on the run, but that was more my brain switching off than lack of signage/marshalling. Also the field is not too big and even the mass swim start is as civilized as it can be in triathlon.
But now, on my personal race experience. I would summarize it as the race of the many mistakes. Read on and learn.
Mistake 1: Not training for the distance you race
I haven’t really trained well this year, and critically I haven’t done any cycling other than a few turbo sessions and ~50Km outdoor rides. I was feeling OK for the swim, and I knew the run on its own would normally be fine, but would it be still OK after 82K on the saddle? Spoiler alert: no.
Mistake 2: Underestimate an injury
On the Thursday before the race an old shoulder injury resurfaced. I knew it was not going to be an issue on the bike, but it could have been on the swim and the run. I considered not racing, but I decided to have a go anyway. Not a great choice.
Mistake 3: Not enough sleep
Just a quick advice here: DO NOT TRUST UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE your wife if she says ‘of course I set up a timer for the audiobook I am listening to’. You will end up waking up at 2:30am to the jingle sound of Audible thanking you for finishing a book…
Despite the omen, I lined up for the 7am start. I took the swim easy, both to save energy and to not put too much stress on the injured shoulder. Two main events to report. First, clockwise swim at Stanborough! Who decided that? Must have been the same chap that decided that keep driving on the left side of the road was a good idea… I could not use any of my normal reference points and my googles completely fogged up. I was simply following other people hoping they were not going too far off the best line. Then, on the second lap, a bit of ‘luck’: I crushed against another guy. On the aftermath I had to stop to reposition my goggles. This gave me the chance to de-fog them and finally I could see again.
With the swim done, time to ride. If there is something you can trust Garmin with, is with their spectacular ability to fail at crucial times. My Forerunner categorically refused to pick up my power meter. Not ideal since I based my entire race plan on keeping around 75% FTP. Luckily the Edge on the bike worked fine. For the first ~55Km I managed to stick to the plan but my lack of training on longer routes became apparent after that. My power numbers quickly went from ~75% to ~50% of the FTP, and by the end I was more cyclotouring than racing.
Mistake 4: Know your kit
Finally on the run. I have 2 pair of running shoes I normally use: a lighter pair I tend to use at the track and for shorter, faster races, and a more cushioned pair I use for longer races and training sessions. I was not sure if 16K was more on the side of ‘short’ or ‘long’ run but I thought ‘they are good for 10K, surely they will be fine for 16K’. I was wrong. Blisters kind of wrong.
To add to that, the shoulder injury got worse and it became quite painful to run. After about 8Km of running at a pace more than 2min/Km slower than my marathon pace I just called it a day and walked the rest. I only started to jog again briefly because of two major motivational factors: Chrissy Trueblood taking pictures of people running, not walking, and my Forerunner threatening me with ‘Low Battery’. I had to finish recording the activity: if it is not on Strava it didn’t happen, right?
Overall, Centurion is a great event very well organised, definitely worth racing it. Just be wiser than I have been.