Race Report here
I’m not a believer that you always learn something from a race, good or bad. My experience with Ironman is that I generally get what I deserve. Outside of doing something completely bonkers in execution or a mishap it’s rare that your race will be way off the mark.
This race confirmed the latter BUT this race I definitely learnt a lot about race execution.
The details above give a broad outline of what I managed between completing Ironman Wales and taking part in Ironman Western Australia. I had a decent amount of time and felt I could maintain my bike and really push on with my swim and run. The first bout of illness immediately after the recovery period was not unexpected. It happens so often I didn’t sweat it at all and just pushed back the initial build. This went really well – two weeks of solid biking with a build into a solid week of swim and run. This was followed with an easier week planned to coincide with my nephews and sister visiting.
It then went a little pear shaped. The 6 weeks from then averaged only 12 hours per week of which only 15km a week was running. When I point out the biggest running week was 24km and that was a single run you see that the underlying run average was closer to 10km. Once I got over my illness a mere two weeks of solid swimming got me in to the swimming form of my life. Unfortunately during that period I had a niggly trigger point which was causing such discomfort in my knee I couldn’t lower my weight on my left leg. Biking wasn’t uncomfortable but it clearly made the trigger point worse. I felt in a tricky position – I could push on and get really bike fit but that would increase the chance of just not being able to run. I took a longer term view and did what was required to get better – this meant much reduced riding.
I’ve had comments and encouragement from many quarters suggesting that the years of endurance in my background would stand me in good stead. In terms of completing I’m sure it did. In terms of competing, which was my aim, having 6 weeks out of serious training removes an awful lot of fitness. With biking I had a big base to fall back on which is reflected in the bike split – a respectable 5:12 which is far from the competitive 4:45 and 4:49 I’ve done previously on this course. Running though I had no where near that base. I’ve always felt that I had enough time completely out of running following my foot surgery that I was more or less starting from scratch with that. To give an idea – in the 5 years prior to my foot surgery I ran on average 2,300 miles per year, the four years post it’s been 1,100 miles. I won’t go in to the reasons here, the key point is I don’t have the run miles in my legs.
I will now look at my race execution.
I felt very relaxed waiting for the start and when the gun went I didn’t go too hard, did just enough to stay clear of trouble. It was so rough and choppy that finding feet or sitting on feet wasn’t that easy. I quickly decided this was likely a solo swim and just swam it comfortably. After the turnaround I was able to surge by applying more pressure and drop some guys that were annoying me. Though 52:16 is slower than 2 years ago this was a far better swim – it was very little exertion and the conditions were very choppy. I exited the water feeling pretty fresh. Certainly in future races I should keep this in mind – if I’d worked hard I’d be lucky if I was a minute quicker but I’d come out pretty tired.
I set off conservatively as I knew I wasn’t in the condition I’ve been in the past. I’d mentally rehearsed not to react to people passing me. This went well for about 30km but then I started to feel very flat and my power dropped. With time to reflect I notice that this happens each time I set off conservatively. It’s as if by not pushing I lose focus and then as my power drops I don’t have the presence of mind to make the connection and I believe there is something wrong. By the second lap I found myself not being over taken and starting to re-catch people I’d passed which prompted me to look at my power – the average was increasing. Immediately my mood improved and I started to enjoy it. I promised myself I’d hold back till the final lap as I was conscious of my lack of preparation. Then at about 100k I had to surge to pass a small group and it was such fun I just kept pushing. The wind was still a very strong tail wind for much of the second half of the lap. I’d realised that you could sit up in this wind and not lose any speed. This I did at the end of the second lap (through to 120km). I still stuck with my push it for the final lap which with hindsight wasn’t wise. I need to be much more switched on and adjust my plans as I go. You can see above the steady increase in power from 125k to 145k. I was giving it my all on the basis the last 30km would be with a tail wind. Bad decision! The wind changed and I suffered all the way home. Again keeping switched on is so key, clearly feeling good for 30k didn’t suddenly negate my lack of training so I should have been more careful about the effort I was putting in.
Even so, just like IM Wales this year, by being stronger in the second half of the bike I entered the run in a much better state of mind. Something to remember for racing next year.
Thats not a pretty graph. I did run steady early on and to be honest I’m not convinced it would have been any different if I’d run slower earlier. The pace felt my natural pace without actually pushing. I really enjoyed the run to about 20km, I was focussing on light feet and upper body rotation as well as convincing myself that I could maintain my ‘hunters trot’ indefinitely. The belief lasted till about 30km which even at the time I took as a huge positive because ahead of the race I’d not thought I’d get beyond about 15km. What to learn from this – the bleeding obvious – you can’t hide from a lack of run training.