Ironman New Zealand, Taupo 2011

Time: 10:14:52
Swim: 53:03
T1: 5:07
Bike: 5:22:36
T2: 2:12
Run: 3:51:52

Race Analysis here

The night before the race my mind wasn’t really focussing on it. At the awards the night before and on the TV that night there was lots of stuff about Christchurch. It was heart warming. The strength of the people, the positive outlook and how people came together to help each other. I was close to tears as I thought about it all.

I had to get to transition early as whilst racking I’d noticed a nick in my tyre and wanted to change it. I walked the mile town Spa Road in the rain with my thumb out and not a single athlete stopped to give me a lift. I couldn’t believe it. The rain was a sign of things to come and it only got harder.

The tyre change, of course, was far quicker than I expected. Jo had given me good advice in an email the night before about finding good light, taking it slow and doing it right. I sheltered from the rain in the marshals tent – they didn’t chuck me out which I think would have happened in most races.

By the swim start it was absolutely chucking it down. It was nice to get in the water and I loved seeing the rain bouncing off the water with every breath. It always feel pretty dark at the start of this race but with this weather you couldn’t see the first buoy. The gun went and I set off comfortably only surging a little to keep out of trouble. I focussed on my breathing using that to judge my pace not wanting to get short of breath at all. I had a completely cruisey swim. It was a total pleasure. If I swam feeling like that in the pool I think I’d have rated it a recovery swim. Readying myself to see 55 or 56 minutes on the clock when I exited I was over the moon to see 52:30 (actually 53:05 as the start wasn’t the full 15 minutes after the pros). Anyway, I was very pleased indeed with that. As I run towards T1 I was touched when I heard the announcer give my name and say something about me having been living in Christchurch … I didn’t have the special Christchurch number so I’ve no idea how it worked that out.

Now for the next stage of my plan – the run to transition. Still peeing down I was aiming not to get drawn in to the sprint. I didn’t want to raise my heart rate too much. I passed through transition in 5 minutes and had two thirds of my mars bar down me by the time I was mounting my bike. Pleased with that given the length of transition (at least 500m from swim exit to T1).

On the bike my aim was to be conservative. With all the rain it was impossible to monitor my data as I rode. Instead I had to wipe it and look carefully to see anything. This meant I had to go on feel. I just didn’t have any juice and had tonnes of people whizzing by. Rather than forming up with the pace lines I just kept getting dropped off the back. It was really quite demoralising. The rain at times was torrential. Clearly my mind wasn’t focussed as I thought a lot about Christchurch as I rode. By the end of the first lap I remember wondering whether if this was a training ride I would just knock it on the head. This is the closest I’ve ever come to dropping out of a race but I persuaded myself to start the second lap. At about 100k I finally stopped to pee – I’d been bursting for about 20k but just couldn’t manage to leak on the bike. I was surprised how long it took … there was tonnes ! Even though I’d been drinking less due to the conditions I was over hydrated. Back on the bike was a transformation I felt like the old me. I rode the second half 2 minutes quicker than the first despite stopping to pee and with the wind strengthening. I bridged and passed four pacelines ahead of me. I’d bridge to each group, sit at the back and take on some food and drink and then hammer past the line. As I moved through the field I was enjoying that I was effectively breaking up these lines as some would try and come with me. It was fun. It also confirmed my idea that they should have “undercover draft busters”. Later in the ride I’d passed these two guys riding together (legally from what I could see). They stuck with me as I bridged to the next line (legal again). One of the two behind went by me as we formed up with the line. I kept looking over my shoulder and this guy was right on my wheel. My approach to this is to just sit up and let them go by. He did and I was back off the line, he then rode up to the guy in front and rode right on his wheel. I watched about a minute and then got incensed. The idiot was a multiple IM NZ finisher so he had a special number with his full name (Craig Thorne M45-49). I shouted at him “Craig thats cheating you’ve got to pass” – he didn’t budge. I shouted again and again. Naming him. I felt that perhaps shame would sort him out but it didn’t he just sat there. It was the hill that did him. As I passed I looked at him and he wouldn’t look me in the eye. Well Craig Thorne – you are a draft cheat. As I passed the american guy who’s wheel he’d been on I apologised to him and told him I wasn’t shouting at him. He was so cool, he knew what had happened and said to me “Steven don’t let that guys cheating ruin your day” – good attitude. What really got me was that then a guy at the back of the pack in front, who I’d observed riding legally got pinged for drafting but our blatant cheat hadn’t.

Looking at the faster riders splits most dropped off 10 – 15 minutes in the second lap. I felt like my old self and was positive about the run. With hindsight I do wonder whether I got cold in the first half and once i tried pushing hard I warmed up. It was a total pleasure blasting past all these guys that had passed me earlier.

I’m getting quick at getting my Vibrams on now. Just over 2 minutes for T2. After 5ks of the run I started to feel really solid running and comfortable but I just didn’t have pace. I was in control but just couldn’t push. I feel perhaps it was that I wasn’t mentally switched on enough and just accepted that I was comfortable. I felt I could pick up the pace in the second half but that quickly moved out to the last 10k and then last 5k. I picked up the pace a little at 5k to go but it wasn’t anything dramatic and it lasted about 2k leaving the final 3k pretty hard work. Throughout the run the weather was terrible with monster downpours continuing. Still there were tonnes of supporters. I was amazed how many people knew me in the crowd. There were loads from Christchurch cheering me on and then there were others I just didn’t recognise but clearly knew me as they’d shout “go Steven Lord” or go “Lord Lordy” … only “Steven” was on my number. The support was so great and I just kept smiling and thanking people. I so enjoyed it. Many  of my thoughts during the run were back 2 years earlier. This kept me motivated and positive. I thought about how it takes a lot longer to get back from something like that than you realise. It’s one thing to get to the point of running continuously and strongly but to get the pace I used to have is going to take some serious work.

I lapped up the final few KMs taking it all in and thoroughly enjoyed coming down the finishing shoot. One of my poorer Ironman performances but one of my better Ironman experiences.

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