Ironman Germany, Frankfurt 2008

Time: 9:58:15
Swim: 49:24
T1: 3:24
Bike: 5:08:22
T2: 1:17
Run: 3:55:15

Race Analysis here

Got myself in prime position for the swim – in amongst it with the pros about 15m ahead to aim for. From the gun I sprinted hard and was surprised at how quickly I got clear of the other age groupers. Before I knew it was swimming through (well I guess over at times) the slower pros, having got through them I came alongside 2 pros and couldn’t see anyone else ahead. I had a brief moment of disbelief looking ahead and seeing no-one. I gave a quick think through of the Pros in the race and realised this surely couldn’t be right. Looking left I could see a line of maybe a dozen pros steaming off about 5 metres to my left and 15 metres ahead. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of this group. Quick decision. Got to be worth trying to jump on the back of that. I went as hard as I could. Very like bridging in cycling, you have to totally commit and the last few metres to get on are agony. I managed it. Unfortunately for me by the time I got on the feet of the last person the back two had separated from the main pack. I soon realised I was going faster than these two so went by. Ahead I could see a lone swimmer (judging by the times and race footage ) probably Chrissie and ahead of her the pack. No way could I bridge that. I settled in to cruise speed and soon had an age grouper and pro on my toes for company. After about 2.2km you have a brief run on the beach. I eased up on the run to allow the two on my feet to go by, they kindly did and I dived in and jumped on their feet. Cursing their lack of directional sense I soon went my own way. We were swimming the same speed but I seemed to be edging ahead as they veered around. Coming to the turn buoy I started to move round and the pro just didn’t move, he kept his line and we started to have contact. Getting very annoyed I just veered for the turn and more or less man handled him round before a canoeist pointed out there was another buoy… OOPS !!  After the turn I pushed on not wanting to exit the water with him! I managed to get away and raced up the beach on my own to great shouts. I knew I’d had a good swim. I’d decided not to set my watch at the swim start as it just adds to the stress of the start and serves no purpose in the swim. My plan was to start it as I ran under the clock on the exit and I could make the time adjustment in my head.

Unfortunately the clock as you exited the swim showed actual time not elapsed time. I start my watch and reckoned i must have had a low 50 minute swim. Pleased with that especially as I’d not been able to draft.

Was pretty slick through T1 and out on the bike for the fast section in to Frankfurt. Got into town in about 20 minutes about 13km into the ride. I looked at my computer to see my average speed and what a bleedin muppet… I’d forgotten to reset it. Well, not strictly true, I’d remember during the swim I’d not reset it so as I decided I could do it as I ran out of T1. Clearly I’d only reset distance 2 not the main data so it included my ride out to rack my bike the previous day! I reckoned if I got the average to something decent with that included I’d  be doing well. Luckily because I’d started my watch after the swim it was pretty easy to assess whether I was on schedule for sub 5 hours. I WAS !! I pushed on, riding strongly but still seeing lots of guys fly by me. Boy, there are some strong age group cyclists out there. Up “The Hell”, the cobbled stone bit, on my first lap was unreal. I was virtually laughing, the support was just so amazing. The more I smiled the more they cheered. Amazing. I was still riding strong and feeling good. I spent alot of time on my own and then every so often a train of riders would slowly move by  each keeping the 10m gap. Referees were riding alongside these groups virtually the whole time making sure they were keeping it legal. I certainly didn’t see anything to complain about other than one or two occasions of riders pulling in too soon in front of me. About 2/3rds through the lap I noticed that my right tri bar was abit lower than my left and had some movement in it. With the system I use this is definitely not a good sign. The only way it can move is if something is broken. I decided that through towns (where there was some rough road surfaces) and over cobbles I would have to come off the tri bars and on to the drops. I also decided to drink all the water and energy drink in it to put less stress on the bars. Not ideal but couldn’t risk this getting worse. Even after spitting some out I felt a little bloated. Coming through Frankfurt I’d done the second lap in around 2:18 and was definitely on for sub 5 hours, in fact, by my reckoning I felt I could slow by a few minutes on the second lap and still make it. Riding “The Hell” the second time the tri bar snapped completely. It was hanging on by the gear cable and the aero bottle. This was a slightly bad dream (ie not a nightmare!). I could change gear but it was slightly tricky as the bar the shifter was attached to was just hanging freely millimetres above my front wheel. It involved getting down on the one remaining tri bar, carefully grabbing the other tri bar, holding it against the left tri bar with my left hand whilst shifting with my right. Slightly convoluted and it meant I had to pretty much select my gear ahead of the hills which resulted in rather more out of the saddle brute force ascents than I’d planned. I kept thinking to myself I must be able to fix this. In situations like this I find myself thinking “you’re an intelligent bloke, you must be able to work out a solution”, I am utterly convinced it is fixable it’s just a matter of time before I work out how. I also kept thinking to myself don’t less this distract from pushing. Inevitably it does since I had to work out a solution. I considered stopping at the bike service area and even slowed to pull in but seeing how the face plate of the stem had sheered I was worried they wouldn’t let me continue if they thought the bike was unsafe. Eventually I worked out I could (with a little brute force) wedge the tri bar over the other tri bar and my handle bars. This kind of worked, though any bumps knocked it off. It allowed me to be aero though my right arm was all bent at the wrist and the sheered carbon fibre dug in but it allowed easier shifting (still only by being on the aero bars). I pushed on and tried to focus. Still having to come off the aero bars due to the discomfort periodically and every so often having to sit up to reset my makeshift fix. I tried various ways of having the bars, twisting it this way and that, none ideal and none that wouldn’t come lose over a bump. Eventually I found the best approach and could refocus on my attention on racing with the adjustment of the bars just becoming automatic.

Thankfully I made it in to T2 though disappointingly the pace had dropped off. Heading out on the run I knew I was a little over 6 hours. My aim had been to be heading out on the run in under 6 hours. I knew I wouldn’t be running well but felt I could nurse out a 3.30 marathon and get close to 9.30. My legs didn’t feel great as I started running but this was not unexpected since the final lap of the bike had seen me climb the hills out of the saddle in much higher gears that I’d have liked. I tried to run relaxed and would just see what the splits were saying. They went something like this: 5:18, 5:23, 5:29, 5:34, 5:40. This was terrible I was just slowing every KM. Not great for my mental state. On top of this my left glute had been really bad 2 days before the race, had slightly improved the day before but still tight. Bad enough that for the first time ever I carried Ibuprofen on the race (thanks Jo) and I took one 4 kms into the run. With these sort of splits I knew it was not going to be a quick run and I should be careful about the glute. Ddecision made. Just take it easy round the run. After 5 or 6 K it finally dawned on me that when I hit split on my run the large figure is the total time since I started the watch and the split is the small figure above it. Since I’d started my watch after the swim the total elapsed time was 5hrsXX minutes but I was reading this as 5minsXX seconds ie my KM Split ! I had been running faster than I’d thought and definitely not slowing. In fact I ran the first 10.5k in about 52 minutes. With hindsight (ie post race) I’m pretty pissed off with my self and the lack of mental strength to get over this. Instead I stuck to nursing it round plan. Made for an enjoyable(ish) run since it was quite comfortable as long as I kept to a pace that didn’t make me feel the glute. I should have pushed on. The final lap was torture. I knew Jo would catch me. In fact I hoped she would as I was heading for close to 10 hours and if she didn’t catch me she would be disappointed with the time. Towards the end of the 3rd lap the inevitable happened Jo went by and she would beat me in an Ironman. Last lap. My legs died. Being an optimist I put this down to running at an unnatural pace and cadence. I was convinced I would be over 10 hours until Alyssa told me my swim split and I realised I had a few more minutes in the bag. This was a good thing.  Before the race and after the race I was / would be / am massively disappointed with just going sub 10 hours but for those few moments when I crossed the line thinking I’d be over I was pretty chuffed with it.

My sister texted me something after the race that really hit home and helped: “Just remember u said 2 me that u wld have a bad race at some point – this was it.” I was pretty glum all night and the amazing spectacle of thousands of Germans partying at the best finishers line party I’ve attended couldn’t get me out of it. It is a great race, the support is awesome, it’s a super fast course (shame I couldn’t make the most of it) and I did enjoy it for many many reasons. Just wished I’d enjoyed it for going fast !

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