26 Athlete Kate Rutherford Confronts her 70.3 Demons Her story in her own words.
This race for me was more about tackling my 70.3 demons! I have raced in two previous 70.3’s in Asia and in both have been struck with cramp, the kind of cramp that paralyses you. So this was a make or break 70.3 for me. Why Antwerp? A few reasons, it happened to fit in with the summer holiday in France, relatively close (only a 6 hour train ride!) and the weather. I was hoping the cooler climate would help with the demons.
My training and racing had been going well in HK. I had focused a lot in training on wearing compression calf guards, even in the swimming pool! Andrew and I had discussed this would help with muscle fatigue which is connected to cramping. I felt stronger in them so decided this was the way forwarded with the 70.3. So with compression guards and no major injuries, the lead up was looking good. I did get struck down with a cold 2 weeks before the race but a change in my training plan helped me recover quickly.
So onto Antwerp. First thoughts, like being in a 1980’s time warp!! The fashions, oh so 80’s. But it did provide me and my sister with some light relief and took my thoughts away from those pre-race nerves. The city itself was surprisingly pretty. Gothic buildings everywhere and beautiful cobbled streets. Will get back to these streets later! I let my sister do the sightseeing and I rested well in the apartment before heading over to registration. Now, this being my first European race I didn’t really know what to expect. But I like the European style, a free t-shirt, ruc sac and a bottle of champagne. Definitely my kind of race. However, it did pose the dilemma of shall I just drink the champagne and forget the race or put it in the fridge for tomorrow!!!! I was tempted, but in the fridge it went. I spent the rest of the afternoon going over the course with the maps provided in the race pack.
A few things concerned me, the split transition and the tram tracks! Yes, a cyclist’s nightmare. However, I was assured these would be covered with mats. And the transitions well sign posted.
I woke early on race day. My wave time was an unusual 11.30am. But it meant more time to relax and eat well. I cycled over to transition through a foot tunnel with all the other athletes. Stood next to Samantha McGlone in the lift and admired her pink aero helmet! Thought this would be the closest I would get to a pro all day. Upon entering transition they checked your bike, your helmet, numbered you and then gave me devastating news that I could not wear my compressions for the swim! Even though they would be under a wetsuit. Apparently, this is a rule they have in Belgium. So panic crept in. I deliberated about putting them on after the swim but bearing in mind I have to get out of a wetsuit and would be soaking wet I decided it would waste too much time trying to put them on. I hoped I would not regret this.
Wetsuit on I headed for the start area. I started in wave 3, men and women 35-39. Again starting with men is not the norm, so braced myself for messy start. Managed to get a front line position, then put my toe in the lake, freezing, but it was a “just get on with it” moment. I have plenty of those thoughts through out any race! I felt the swim went well, no messy start and no major route deviations. Feet did freeze though. Reached the end feeling good, up the stairs and then the 600m run to transition. Sun was out, 1 down 2 to go.
The bike, this consisted of a 12km ride out of town, including a tunnel, several flyovers and the tram tracks! True to form the tracks where covered by mats. Then out towards the harbour for 3 laps of 22km. The wind hit here and at times I felt I wasn’t moving, luckily everybody else looked like that too. I was overtaking lots but some of those fast AG men where overtaking me too. Not many women on the course so it was hard to tell where you were placed. So decided on a head down and “just get on with it” approach. The course was well marshaled so it meant the 10m draft rule was well enforced. I did see numerous people getting caught including a pro. After the 3rd lap it was another 12km back to town. I am always relieved when I get to T2 knowing I don’t have the worry of “please don’t let me get a flat tyre!”. So 2 down, 1 to go.
The demon leg. I left transition with a smile on my face feeling great, relaxed and knowing all I had to do was not cramp! What I wasn’t prepared for was the atmosphere. It was amazing, thousands of people lining the streets. Street performers and bands playing. People sat in bars on the street clapping you on. I did feel envious of them sitting with a cold beer! I had not experienced anything like it. The sun was out, about 26 degrees by now, perfect running weather for me. It was a carnival atmosphere. I was loving it. I don’t normally say that about a 21km run! Before I knew it lap 1 of 3 was completed. I saw my sister, who was, as she told me later, hiding a bag of frites behind her back so I couldn’t see them! I felt strong. By the end of lap 2 I did start noticing the cobbled streets I was running on, beautiful but starting to have an effect on the legs. They where mostly in the later part of the circuit. I kept telling myself to keep relaxed. What also helped was the fact I was overtaking all those men who had got me on the bike, another lift. At about 17km I started to feel the pain. The cramping demons began to enter my head, I kept telling myself to just relax and “get on with it”. At 19km I felt a twinge, surely not again. I looked around and the atmosphere gave me another lift. My focus was getting to that finish line. And sure enough I did. No cramping and not in the usual broken state of the past two 70.3’s.
The feeling was immense. The time rounded of a great day. 4:46:32. 17th women overall, 7th age grouper women and 2nd in my age group. And yes, I beat a pro!!!! And 3 more where only 2-3 mins in front of me. And yes, I did drink the champagne that night!
Thank you Antwerp, wonderful race, great atmosphere and very well organised. Thank you to my support crew, my sister and brother in law. And thank you to my coach for getting me through my 70.3 demons in style.