Ironman Wales, Tenby 2014

0:58:26 - Swim
0:08:21 - T1
6:14:59 - Bike
0:02:31 - T2
4:09:29 - Run
11:33:46 - TOTAL

Great race


The night before the race I felt relatively relaxed and the gaps between waking were longer than normal. For once my concerns were different. Normally I’m kept awake thinking through the swim start and how to ensure I’m at the front and get clear quickly. This time though I was genuinely concerned about whether I could or even should finish the race. So whilst awake I mentally rehearsed how I had to be really conservative in my swim and bike to have any hope of running. This seemed to calm me quickly and I’d go back to sleep.

I got up at 4:20 for bacon and eggs and a coffee before heading to transition at 5am to check my bike. I was back laid in bed with a coffee and my legs up by 5:10am. At 6:20am I walked down to the swim start. There were so many people out already. Tenby had upped the ante yet again with so many places selling coffee and bacon butties. It was a great atmosphere.

I walked down to the front line as soon as I could. We were told if we warmed up we’d have to walk right round again so I just stood there. Of course they didn’t make them walk round. So just like the last time they did Ironman Lanza they let people walk up from the sea to the front. All they needed was a little bit of tape across to enforce the rule they supposedly had. Instead the head guy was telling the young marshals they had to tell everyone this. I can’t believe he actually felt these teenagers had any chance of enforcing his rule. It wasn’t fair to ask them to. Most just ignored them. [rant over ;o)].

I placed myself at the front towards the right which meant a slightly longer line but my absolute focus was minimal argie bargie. My ride on Wednesday had confirmed my bike legs were lacking and I was absolutely convinced I need to conserve as much energy as possible for the run. So, an easy swim with minimal aggro was the key.

WalesSwim14The national anthem was played and as it came to an end I got ready. On queue the horn went just after it finished. It’s the best start I’ve had down a beach. It almost felt like everyone else was waiting for a canon so I got a couple of second start. I got to deep enough water and dived in having clear water immediately. This last a couple of minutes before I had the usual 10 minutes of rough swimming due to the number of people that swim so hard for the first few 100m. The sea was so rough I can’t imagine what it would be like to be at threshold 5 minutes in, in massive chop with loads of people around. The waves knocked you in to each other and there was loads of contact. I kept swimming just steady and edged through putting a little spurt in as we neared the first turn buoy just to get clear for the turn. After that I swam on my own passing the occasional pro.

The sea was so rough. A surfer had told me over dinner two days before that it was going to be rough because the swell was coming from the West but we had an easterly wind. This meant a big swell and chop. For me this is the worst as there’s no rhythm to this. I get my mind on staying relaxed and easy. Don’t fight the water just go with it. Don’t lift your head too high when sighting. Keep long and smooth. I was enjoying it. Aiming for long strokes, flowing with the waves, bilateral breathing whenever I felt like it proved I was keeping it nice and easy.

The Australian exit was very long. Right up the beach. Not what the guy (that appeared to be) in charge implied me on the start line – he said it would quite different when we came out. The tide was super low and we had to run right up the beach before the turn. Second lap I was on my own again. I lapped someone just before the first turn buoy. They clearly weren’t going to  make the first lap cut off. The rest of the lap was uneventful. I got out in just over 58 minutes. I didn’t know this at the time. It didn’t matter I knew I was well up the field (17th out) and thats what mattered.

Unlike last I was wonderfully warm as I excited and my spirits were so much higher. Running through town the crowds were vast. Much bigger even than last year.

Out on the bike I was focussed on keeping my efforts in check as people went by. It’s so easy to get caught up especially when people you know go by. In the moment I could go faster but I was very concerned that I could easily blow up after the first lap if I wasn’t careful. I quickly established a plan to keep my average watts at 225 or below [note – I race with a quarq which consistently seems to record power 10-20w above my Powertap). This compares to when I’m on form being happy with anything in the range of 240-260. Typically I race on feel and just use power as a broad check on myself. I also decided to try and keep the hills below 275w where possible. I also kept reminding myself to change gear as I have a tendency to try and power up small rises. This meant for small steep sections I just kept changing down to maintain spinning. I made a deal with myself that if I felt great and strong at 120k I was allowed to push on.

I really felt in charge of myself and this far lower effort than normal result in a great deal of enjoyment (quite an eye opener). It even meant when, as per usual, loads of people pass in the no pass zone (not sure why they can’t just see it’s dangerous to pass there) I was relatively chilled about it. Only shouted at someone once.

The focus on keeping my efforts down made me concentrate on getting as aero as possible one the downhills. Having drops helps here as you can tuck down very low with your chin on the bars. On some of the faster descents it was clear I was going faster than anyone around me. In to the wind I managed to stay aero even when the pace wasn’t that high. Something I’ve historically not maintained as I got tired, today with a lower effort it was much easier to do this.

WalesBike14Getting to Saundersfoot at the end of the first lap was amazing. There must have been double the crowds from last year and it compared favourable with those classic hills in Roth, Austria and Zurich. A gap appear just wide enough to go through, the noise was deafening and there were even two guys dressed as devils to run up alongside you. I couldn’t help but smile. My more conservative pace also meant I could really take it in as I was just climbing comfortable.

Through Tenby at the end of the lap and the crowds were several deep for about a KM section. I felt great just a few more KM and I could crank it up. My average watts were 229 but I felt so much better at this point than I did the previous wednesday. From that point I don’t think I had anyone pass me. I gently increased my efforts on the flats and slight rises but maintained an easy approach on the hills. I passed loads of people that had come by earlier in the day. It was great fun to be strong in the second half. During this time Anders came by and he gave me a shout. He’s a Dane I’d met on Thursday when I rescued him on the bike course – he had a problem with his chain. i stopped and since I always carry a quick link was able to help him quickly fix it. He’s finished swim 20 minutes after me and was having a great race.

I hit T2 and put on my Vibram Seeya LS. I had normal laces in and it felt like I took a long time but when you see the T2 time it clearly can’t have. I was in a great mood and was looking forward to the run.

WalesRun14Again the crowds were incredible. In places there was only just enough room to run through. After a couple of KM I started to feel like I was running well. All the downhills I stuck to my guns and let my legs go and ran fast. I got through the first lap (of 4) in just over 50 minutes and through halfway in 1:50 which included a portoloo stop in the second lap. During the second lap I had a guy in my age group come by and I found myself speeding up to stick with him. Wow I was pleased with myself. Can’t even remember when was the last time I felt that motivated on an Ironman run. I was very happy with how it was going. I concentrated on running the third lap believing the final one would take care of itself. At every aid station I had two cups of coke and the twice I could get red bull each lap I took a cup. The uphills were getting slow on the first lap but I was still running and running fast downhill. Lap 3 took just over an hour so

as long as I didn’t fade too much I’d get sub 4hr marathon.

I hit the fourth lap and I’ve no idea why but within a few 100m and on the flat I found myself walking. Clearly it wasn’t going to take care of itself. The brief down hill getting out of town got me running again. Well … if I’m honest what really got me running was the fact my mum and aunt were stood just at the top of it and had been cheering like mad the whole time. I’d run strong whenever they’d seen me so far and with me heading out on the final lap I didn’t want them worrying – so I knuckled down and ran. As soon as I hit the hill I started to walk.

Unfortunately in day to day life I chose to avoid rushing as much as possible. This means when I’m walking somewhere I tend to stroll. So .. in Ironman whenever I end up walking it seems I’m the slowest walker out there. I did a deal I would run as soon as someone cheered my by name ! For some reason no one did for most of the way the aid station. It was time to implement the Florida Maneuverer (as christened on OtillO). At the top of the hill I ran, I ran with a purpose. Next up hill I had to walk, then run properly downhill. I managed to maintain this approach all the way home.

I faded an awful lot on that last lap but I’d really enjoyed the race and given my preparations I felt pretty proud of the performance. I’m not someone who thinks you always learn things from a race but this approach was certainly an eye opener. The details I’ll go in to in an analysis post.

Another fantastic race leaving me in a dilemma. I want to race again next year but the night before the race my OtillO partner said he was keen to race OtillO again. I want to do it again but Wales is only 6 days after. There’s a chance we won’t get in to OtillO and given how the approach went today I do think I could still enjoy the race that close to OtillO.

I tell you; I’m this ( –| |– ) close to entering IM Wales 2015

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