I head up north to Bolton early tomorrow morning. No idea on what if any internet access I might get so I think it’s safest to get the race plans up now. If there’s a chance I’ll post thoughts once I’ve seen and experienced some of the course. As you can see I’m getting there nice and early. I like to be signed up and ahead of things leading into a big race. All part of ensuring I remain relaxed.
What started out as a spur of the moment entry because it seemed fun to do your home Ironman has taken on a much bigger level of importance. This is my last opportunity to qualify for Kona this year! Be in no doubt this race is a big deal for me. I want to post another good result. More than that I want to put my best race performance out there.
Having raced three Ironman distance events so far this year, one of them just three weeks before Bolton, might raise questions about my preparation. It’s a fair point and I’ll be honest I think the race load has certainly taken a bit out of me. I stress a bit though. There’s still plenty in the tank to go hard this weekend. Had I known Ironman UK would be my last chance at Kona then I would have prepared a little differently for sure. I don’t regret the path I’ve taken one bit whether I get the slot or not.
Challenge Roth was an amazing experience and a great race. I went a little harder than my planned ‘training’ race. Most notably I pushed myself on the run more than intended and certainly paid the price in recovery. In return I gained a lot of confidence from my race and felt like things were back on track. I know I can race well and be in control doing it. I also felt there was room to do more!
There was a price, these last few weeks have been tough physically and mentally. The recovery process felt slow and I have been convinced this would fail at times. I have only been able to do the simplest of training to keep the body ticking over. There’s not been lots of quality because it’s not been an option. Just getting out there and moving was often the aim. Now in the third week and with days till the race I’m pleased to say I’m feeling a lot better. When I train I have to hold back a little perfect at this point in a taper. Running no longer hurts the legs like it did last week – it all feels normal again.
I’m ignoring the charts in WKO+ that I usually judge fitness from, this is uncharted territory. I think there’s great potential that this enforced rest period will do me a lot of good. Realistically it was something like a three week taper. Despite recovering from a previous race, maybe the end product is I’m going to race the freshest I have since Ironman Western Australia! I hope so at least.
Sorry enough preamble on with the plan
For those who’ve seen past plans this is the familiar one hour swim! I think I should be able to comfortably manage that now. The fact I don’t frustrates me no end! Placement and pacing issues along with my ability to draft seem to be the thorns in my side. So for Ironman UK I’ll stick myself near the front as usual, but a little to the side to avoid the worst of the scrum.
Go out hard initially, but keep that brief to avoid too much oxygen debt (a problem in my Ironman Australia swim). Settle into a solid pace feeling the effort in my arms. Then the important bit, look for feet and jump on them! Don’t be afraid to move if the pace seems to low, but don’t be surprised if being out the draft proves harder work.
Also remember that I tend to feel stronger and more comfortable as time goes on. Look to be able to push things a little more around the 2km mark and to keep on from there. As others slow keep picking up pace and catching feet. I think it’s a two lap course so I’ll aim to up the work on the second lap. Always tempering things by remembering there’s still a bike and run to come.
If I have one other thing to remember it’s getting in the water as early as I can and getting a good warm-up. It’ll make things so much easier to start and as I feel stronger with a couple of kilometres in the arms it’ll get me there sooner.
If you’ve waded through them you’ve seen all the analysis I’ve done of late. I’m going into this race well informed! The only missing piece is knowledge of the course itself and I’ll be driving that tomorrow. I won’t have power, but will have heart rate so it’ll come as no suprise to hear the plan is a heart rate range of 135 minimum through to about 145BPM. I believe there’s a couple of short-ish, sharp climbs in there so I’ll allow a small amount of spiking on those.
Bike set-up is the same as for Roth. It’s somewhat inspired by reading articles on the ‘Big Slam’ position. The seat is set-up pretty slack and the stem is short and not too low. I probably end up with the back in a similar position to having the hands on the drops. Using the aerobars means I’m narrower of course. What’s important is this is incredibly comfortable for me and I feel powerful in the position. Sure I can be much more aerodynamic, but would I be faster?
The position was good enough to go 5:04 in Roth. This time I’m taking off the training wheels and will be riding my Xentis TT tubulars. I’m hoping they’re as fast as claimed and I’l be saving quite a few minutes over my training wheels! I don’t worry too much about the equipment though, it has to be right, but the important factor is my performance.
With 3 laps I can break down the ride into thirds. Initially my aim is to keep at the low end of my heart rate and get comfortable. Whilst there is a climb out from transition to make this trickier it’s worth doing. Once I’m settled in I’ll start to build my effort. Whilst keeping in the heart rate zone I’ll try and build perceived effort each lap. With fatigue setting in this probably means I just end up maintaining pace!
I’m trusting in the fact that throughout my training and racing heart rate has been a perfectly good measure of my effort and matches well to my power. At some point I’ll discuss aerobic decoupling in my riding and how closely my heart rate and power trend. I also have a lot of faith that I tend to ride stronger in the latter half of long rides. I’ve seen it in both training and racing data. I know that the first could of hours can feel a slog and then suddenly I can ride!
Nutritionally it’s a combination of bars and gels once again. I’ll be using apple strudel Mule bars on the hour along with High 5 gels on the half hour. If I’m in a comfortable intensity range this will digest fine and keep my calories up. As usual it’ll be washed down with plain water and that’s all I’ll take on the course. Seemed to work in Roth though I’ll admit towards the end I fancied a change!
I can’t give a time goal as I’ve no idea for the course. All I can say is I’ll ride by heart rate and perceived effort and aim to put a bit more on the road than in Roth. However at the end of the ride I want to be ready to run.
I’m not entirely sure of the run course, I’ve read about it online and admittedly been confused! I figure by race day I’ll have it worked out and they’ll be enough marshalling to guide me too!
I have a goal to break 3:10 in this run if I can. Perhaps I’ll find on the day the bike will take more out of me than I think, but following Roth it seems possible. This means a strict pacing strategy again. Checking off kilometres (or maybe miles, better work those out in case) to ensure I’m maintaining speed. I need to be looking at 4:20-4:30 kilometres for my goal.
In pure running terms this pace is no problem. I know at first it’ll feel easy if anything, but the important thing is to hold back. Keep things ticking over. At aid stations I’ll be using my own High gels as I prefer them and taking on water. Nothing else just enough to wash down gels. What I’ve learnt from Roth is to carry more of those gels, especially when not available on the course. Also start on one every twenty minutes from the start.
All of this is aimed at getting to around 30km feeling like I did in Roth. At that point I want to ask myself if I can speed up and know the answer is yes. Once I pick up pace I may try to take on one more gel, but from about 8km to go there’s little point. It’s all about pushing the pace till you cross the line. Get this right and rather than losing time in the latter part of the marathon you pick even more places up.
I know this strategy worked in Roth. I know that it requires me not to overdone the ride and to have kept on top of nutrition. I can do all of this fine now, it’s all well practised. I just need to go out there and take all I’ve learnt from past races, combined with all the recovery I’ve had. Put that lot together and I think I can pull it off.
Well that’s what I plan to put out there on the course in Bolton. I’m a little nervous, but a lot excited. I’m keen to race again and to have another good one. After a few wobbly moments I’m feeling positive and confident I can do well. I know what to do, I’ve done it often enough! It’s time to really see what I’m capable of!