Twelve Ironmans down and I’m still learning lessons from them. The two big ones from yesterday being save your doubts for the finish line and you can only go so fast on three weeks of consistent run training! There were some serious cracks in my fitness and there’s a limit to what three weeks of hard training can achieve.
I went into the race with far more nerves and trepidation than I’m used to. Probably focussed around my ability to perform more than anything else. Even before the gun had fired I was having to push doubts about performance to the back of my mind. I was calm about the process, but nervous about the outcome and how much it would hurt to deliver.
That said when my rear tube apparently punctured as I inflated it in transition I was remarkably calm about the whole thing. A quick change over and it’s all good. I figured I’d have to be really unlucky to puncture a second time so if anything that made it a positive!
Last year I’d ended up way back in the starting pen which did nothing to help me have a good swim. So this year I skipped a proper warm-up and ensured I got myself up front and over to the right. Putting myself almost exactly where I wanted and then just relaxing till the start.
It seemed to work well. When the gun went everyone stumbled forward in as much of a run as could be managed in the throng. I was able to quickly find clear water and avoided any rough swimming. At the same time there was a nice big draft to follow and I was comfortable cruising round the course at a good pace. It felt far easier than any of my training swims out there.
Lap one was completed in a pleasing sub-30 minute time which meant I got back in the water knowing if I could maintain pace I should break the hour. Things had thinned out so the draft wasn’t quite as impressive, but I was still sure I was making good time. In fact I was quite surprised to find myself overtaking one or two male pros. Not sure what they were doing back here!
I’m pretty sure the conditions were very kind this year. Even so I’m happy to have got out the water in under the hour. It’s slowly working to build up my confidence both in the race and that I’m heading down the right track with my swim training.
Out onto the bike and things weren’t so much fun. They started well enough though it felt like a lot of hard work to maintain a reasonable pace. My left calf and ITB felt pretty tight too a couple of times I was worried it was about to cramp up. Not usually a major issue for me, it was a little frustrating to start.
It wasn’t long before the odd cyclist would overtake me. Actually the number of cyclists blasting past me was alarming! I wished I had the reassurance of a power meter and the absolute measure of workit gives. Without it I relied on perceived effort and heart rate. The former was definitely telling me I was working whilst the latter was more ambiguous.
I didn’t feel I could do any more so had to let people go reminding myself that they were probably over doing it and I’d see them again. Of course I also recalled that last year lots of athletes went by and I never saw them again. At least this time I could actually sit on the bike. I had a fighting chance.
This pattern continued all the way to the bottom of Haria. I was getting some seriously negative thoughts about the race and doubts about how things were going to go. Then all of a sudden I picked up and was moving forwards through the field. Finally I overtook people on a climb and from then on there was no looking back.
I realised I’d hit Mirador del Rio at a ride time of 3:50 which based on experience meant I could go 5:30 for the bike here. Sub 10 hours might be on the cards today despite what I’d thought was a weak start. The last section of the bike course is fast and more importantly plays to my strengths.
Apart from nearly wiping myself out by clipping the kerb on the descent off del Rio the rest of the ride was perfect. Once on the highway I was in full time trial mode and pushed all the way to Tahiche leaving plenty of athletes in my wake. Now I started to catch those cyclists who’d stormed by early on. I pushed up to Teguise, the final piece of real work, then it was back to time trialling all the way to Conil.
The final descent was a pleasure, knowing I’d taken so many places back and made up for the slow start. All the early doubts were gone as was the pain in my legs. All I needed to do was to run a sub 3:20 marathon and that should be a piece of cake!
Heading out onto the run I felt good, but I wanted to hold back a little after going out too hard and suffering in New Zealand. With no distance markers on the course this would prove a bit difficult. I had a rough idea of distances to certain landmarks, but didn’t bother to closely track pace. I went out quickly and sustained this for the whole of the longer first lap.
From then on the race was all about suffering. I can’t remember hurting that much whilst running or at least previous occasions have been wiped from my memory (hopefully the same will happen here). What was most disappointing was how little return I was getting for the effort. I’ll be honest I knew the lack of training in the run of late would make me pay here, but I’d hoped for more.
There was a lot of negativity during the second lap in particular, but I pushed through doing my best to maintain what pace I had. My stomach was acting up a little too making me hesitant to take on more gels. I stuck to the minimum I felt I could get away with to keep me going.
The third and final lap was where I would hope to pick things up, but it wasn’t happening today. I didn’t have the willingness or strength to push any harder and just slogged on slower than a training run. Out at the far turn around having been overtaken by Cat Morisson I tried to push again.
I was joined by another age grouper and I did my best to surge and convince him he couldn’t stick to my pace. Unfortunately he was more comfortable than I was and it wasn’t long before I was the one left behind. A vague idea that I might still be able to sneak under 10 hours evaporated as a bit of mental maths convinced me I couldn’t cover the last 3km at under 4 minute/km pace!
So I pushed as hard as I could which hurt, but was no faster than I’d managed on lap two. Still I kept it up to the end, took a couple more places in the final few hundred metres and got the job done. Glad it was over, happy that my performance wasn’t a complete disaster and just a little frustrated that my legs had failed me on the run.
I’m going to come back and look at my training and fitness levels coming into this race in another post. Also talk about the plans to deal with the issues before my next couple of races. From this point on in the focus is preparation for Kona. For once I’ve the luxury of a long block of training and a good level of fitness to work from.