Walking like John Wayne

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I’ve had a day to chill out, hobble about a bit and think over the race. That said I already had plenty of time in the race to think things over! Firstly I have to say being out there for 12 hours is hard going. That’s the longest I’ve ever been on the bike in an Ironman and the longest I have ever ‘run’. Not that I’d really call the last lap running. On the other hand having been going much slower than usual my body doesn’t feel that torn up. Well apart from the massive saddle sore and the John Wayne walk it’s caused.

As race reports go this should be quick – it’s straight forward when the entire race was dictated by one issue. The swim was the only part of the day where it wasn’t a problem. I placed myself on the right hand side as planned, the idea being to give me a chance to escape the crowds if needed. Still having a brief warm up meant I couldn’t get as far forward as I wanted and was a little bit more involved with others than I hoped. Not my best swim, but certainly not my worst and I think the general consensus was it was slow/long. I stuck to keeping myself relaxed and picking up pace as the swim went on and more clear water was available.

Transition is massive here. Once you’ve run up the beach you have another 500m to do before you’re out on the bike! Times were never going to be too fast there. At that point I felt pretty good, I thought it might work out all right. Once I was sat on my bike it became clear things wouldn’t be so easy. To be honest at first I thought I’d be able to cope.

I started by letting my heart rate settle down before trying to pick up pace. Heading out of Puerto del Carmen is easy going so there’s no pressure to over work yourself. With my heart rate in the 130s I put a little more effort in. Then I discovered how uncomfortable the aero-position was. Not just the contact on the saddle, but a feeling of pressure on the inside of my thigh. The swelling pushed against muscles or tendons used during the pedal cycle.

The trip down to El Golfo gave plenty of time to find out what did and didn’t work on the bike. I reminded myself I didn’t want to be going too hard too soon anyway so it was fine that people were passing me. A little experimentation established the most comfortable position was hands on the hoods and carefully seated on just my left buttock! Anything else caused some discomfort. Even then every so often I’d need to pedal out the saddle to relieve pressure.

It was somewhere up Timanfaya when I felt too many people were passing now. The pace had been reasonably good till then, but mostly helped by the prevailing wind. The first notable climb of the day confirmed what would be the most significant issue. I couldn’t climb seated for any period of time. The extra forces going through the pedal pulled me into the saddle which was far from desirable.

So the pattern was set for the rest of the bike. I’d spend a lot of time sitting up, hands on the hoods. When the road went up I’d be mostly out of the saddle. At regular intervals on the flats I’d also be out the saddle just for a little relief. Every so often I’d try the aerobars or drops only to be reminded why that was a bad idea.

By Soo I pretty much realised I was well out of the race for Hawaii. By Teguise I was debating pulling out! The thought of DNFing a race went against my principles! So I kept pushing on to Haria, then Mirador del Rio and by then might as well ride home. From this point on the race had become a long training day. Hawaii was gone and it was clear that another sub-10 was too. Having averaged a low heart rate of 132 I did wonder if I could have a strong run off this.

I returned to transition in 6:18. I expected the ride here to be longer than other races, that was more like training pace over the past few weeks. I thought the low aerobic intensity might lead to a good run, it wasn’t going to mean the 2:40 I’d need for sub-10! I started running and the saddle sore really began to hurt! Unbelievable, running was more painful than riding. I got through the first kilometre in a good pace and dived into the toilets for a bit of clothing adjustment. This did the trick and the run became relatively pain free. Looked like I still might complete this race.

The first two laps went by at a tolerable pace. I choose to walk aid stations to be on the safe side. Despite this my stomach wasn’t entirely happy and I was a little dehydrated. The discomfort on the bike had distracted me from my nutrition and I’d not kept on top of it. You can’t really catch up on these things once you’re behind either.

Out on the third lap was when I ground to a halt. My legs were completely gone, nothing left in them at all. I guess despite the low aerobic intensity all the time riding out the saddle had fatigued them. I don’t tend to get out of the seat much normally so it was a real change in riding style. I walked for a good 15 minutes contemplating how long the last 15km would take!

It wasn’t an attractive prospect! I figured about an hour per 5km section. I knew I was going to be out there for a long time, but 3 more hours? Fortunately Ben caught up with me around this point and encouraged me to jog with him. The last lap and a half was done at a slow pace the aim simply to get to the finish. We ran aid station to aid station, walking each to take on fluids.

End result is I crossed the line somewhere around the 11:53 mark. Way off my goals, way off my usual performance! I was worn out, sore and felt terrible. I couldn’t face eating much and spent about 30 minutes in the change tent staring into space! I caught up with Tom and Helen in transition. Tom had a solid race, not quite as fast as he wanted, but a great effort. Helen had been going well till the last 5km and unfortunately lost a lot of time and places then.

I was lucky enough to score a lift back to my hotel which was much appreciated as it looked like a long journey home. Especially as I developed hiccups when I did try eating! After cleaning up I was back at the finish line to watch the last finishers with Steven and Jo. Having found how tough 12 hours is I have no idea how you keep yourself going for 17! More food brought on a whole new set of hiccups which accompanied me on the long walk home.

And now I feel a little tired, maybe a little stiff, but mostly fine. I said my race became a training day and just like one my recovery has been quick. I’ve watched people out riding their bikes with jealousy as mine looks like an instrument of torture right now. A new saddle is on it’s way to at least eliminate that as a cause. A trip to the doc is a certainty too given the size of this thing! I secretly hope he’ll confirm it’s the worst saddle sore ever so I’ll feel less like I wimped out. But so long as I can get myself back into training quickly enough to build up well for Roth and Ironman UK I’ll be happy.

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