Emma Palfrey – Ocean Lava

So it appears race reports are like buses for me; you wait ages for the first one and then two come along at once. I entered Ocean Lava when I got home from Denmark; I hadn’t wanted to enter before that race incase I decided to retire again. On paper, it should have been a good one, just down the road from my parents’ and an 11:30am start, so no unsociable alarm. However, I had presumed it was on the Sunday and booked to come back from my holiday in France on the Friday….a 4:30am alarm and a day in the car/on the ferry perhaps wasn’t the best prep. That, and arriving at registration to see Andy and hear him describe the run as “brutal” didn’t fill me with confidence.

Having set up my transition area, done the warm up swim, we were soon gathered round listening the race briefing, and then we were off. I’d managed to get fairly close to the front of the swim, so avoided much of the mass brawl and fight for clear water. Even going round the first buoy was relatively incident free, but half way to the second one, someone swam across me and the guy next to me, so the guy next to me decided to punch out, hitting me in the head and knocking my goggles. A couple of strokes of breaststroke to sort them out, and I was back on my way. The swim was two laps, with a long run along past transition in between laps. Getting back into the water for the second lap hurt, but I felt good and could see I was passing people. I came out of the swim in 32:09 and 2nd female.

I’d done a recce of the bike course a few weeks earlier with a friend, so knew what was coming. The first 5km were uphill, and race day was windy, so it was tough. There was headwind all the way to St Davids and in places the road surface wasn’t great, making for a challenging ride. However, after we turned around in St Davids and headed back towards Fishguard, I managed to pick up some speed and felt good. Unfortunately there were two laps, so it was back into the headwind and back to St Davids before being able to make our way back to Goodwick for the run.

One female athlete had gone past me towards the beginning of the bike, so I started the run in third position. I knew the run was going to be tough, partly because of Andy’s description of a “brutal” course, but also because I hadn’t really trained for a month following a fall and a twisted ankle.

The run course was nicely laid out, it started with an out and back along the breakwater and then there was the climb from Goodwick up to Fishguard. Half way up the hill it levelled out and there was a feed station. At reaching this on the first lap I wondered what all the fuss was about, it wasn’t that bad, then I realised this wasn’t the end of the hill, in fact it got steeper from this point, and then steeper again. The downhill section wound its way through a housing estate before joining the path we had just run up. There were plenty of opportunities to see the other athletes on the course, and it was great to see the other Team Cranc members doing so well. On returning to run past the transition area, there was also great support from the Team Cranc members that had either finished the sprint event or their leg of the relay. The out and back section on the breakwater was a good chance to gauge where you were compared to other in the race. I knew I had started the run in third position, so I had been looking out for any women that might have been in fourth place and catching me. On my third lap I thought I saw someone with the same number of lap bands as me, who must have been catching me to be as close as she was, so this was a great incentive to focus and push through that third lap and into the fourth and final lap. As it turns out, she wasn’t catching me, but it did help me run the third lap, always my slowest lap, in almost the same time as my second lap.

As much as I thought I was going to hate the run, and as tough as it was, I actually really enjoyed it. It was probably the hardest run I have raced, and would have been a challenging standalone half marathon route, but doing it after the hilly/windy bike just added to the challenge. But, the bigger the challenge, the greater the reward and I finished the run in 1:43:27, less than 4 minutes slower that the flat course in Demark, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I also managed to hold onto third position, finishing over 17 minutes ahead of the fourth placed woman.

Ocean Lava was definitely the toughest race I’ve done, but one of the most enjoyable and I’m already looking forward to Bala in a few weeks.

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