Ironman South Africa 2015 Preview

It’s been a while since I’ve approached an Ironman feeling relatively content that I’m reasonably well prepared. Five weeks a go I would not have thought it possible to feel like this at this point.

Following Ironman Barcelona I had a two week complete break. I then started back with the aim of being fit by christmas. I also needed to get back the enjoyment of running especially as I’ve signed up for “Four Trails” next July. To this end I decided some sort of order was required in my running and thus I went against advice I would give to any runner and that is to start doing track every week despite the fact in the previous year I’d averaged under 10 miles per week of running. (this idea was planted by a comment on twitter – I can’t remember who from but thanks). I was very careful and never gave 100% effort on these sessions but it was fun and provided much needed competitive motivation as I quickly felt I could be the quickest runner in that group if I ran consistently. I also did the advent challenge baling at after the 20k run.

In tandem to this I had a little deal with my swim coach that I’d build him a wheel if I went under 4:40 for 400 freestyle. The deal was sub 4:40 Short course, in training, from a push or long course, in competition, from a dive. I think we both knew which it would be.

The two of these plus a weekly turbo and long(ish) ride meant I went 10 weeks up to christmas of between 15 and 25 hours every week which included 40% of my run volume for the year.

Then I got ill. In two weeks I managed two pathetic days of training leading in to a camp in Lanzarote with Marc and Roger. I spent the first half of the camp coughing but getting the work done and then felt better towards the end of the week. Following the camp I started to feel discomfort in my left foot. It was concerning me but I was unwilling to make it real by telling anyone. The concern was it was just like prior to the snap. I know it made me back off and it also added weight to what I’d wondered all along – was it the cycling that was causing it.

I found myself skipping sessions, cutting them short and the like. Eventually I told Rachel and she immediately said I should see someone. Correct advice but it’s amazing how you can keep your head in the sand even though your brain knows what you should do. I contacted my consultant from 2009 and he replied promptly and very positively. He invited me in to see him. It was very interesting as he commented on how strong my feet were and that now he was a big advocate of minimalist footwear and the foot strengthening it provided. He checked me out. Said I would always be at a “biomechanical disadvantage” with that foot, suggested an MRI scan to help with long term management but it wasn’t about to snap and I could crack on!

In parallel I got in touch with Helen at 10-Point Tri who has helped me immeasurably over the past five years and has never failed to sort out a niggle. This time was no exception. She immediately pin pointed the problem and a bit of self trigger pointing and rollering and the discomfort was gone.

This left me 4.5 weeks out from the race and about to head out to Lanzarote for 10 days pre camp and then our 5th Everyday Training Camp. I was very motivated and in the 16 days out there I managed over 80 hours of training including 1,700km biking and 125km running averaging 300 TSS a day. At the start of the period I TT’d up Tabeyesco blowing up completely at the junction and ending up with a 35 minute effort by the TT on camp I managed a new PB of 28:06. I was starting to feel fit.

I had a week at home which I would try and maintain aerobic work and fit in a long hilly run. The idea of the latter was based on last year where though I ran very little I did some big hilly runs and they seemed to help an awful lot. I managed 33k with 700m ascent in 3 hours with the last hour being the fastest running. It was quite a confidence booster.

This season I’ve been calibrating Raceday Apollo using a new set of tests:

SWIM – 400m TT – this fits with the challenge I have with my coach

BIKE – 20m TT at 135 HR for watts

RUN – 4k TT at the track at 143 HR.

The advantage of the bike and run tests is that they’re not too hard and they’re very controlled so the tests can be done regularly. Also they are a better measure of preparedness for Ironman than doing max effort tests.

The week after camp it was very interesting doing these tests.


I always do this ahead of track and then do the track session. It took me longer than normal to warm up and then when I was running it was clearly a lot more effort than normal to run at the HR. I was a full minute quicker than my previous test giving a pace of 4:01 /km. I then tried the track session and just couldn’t hit the intervals and decided to stop.


The following day I tried the bike test. This I do ahead of a group turbo session. I was warming up trying to get to the HR but just couldn’t. I was breathing like I was doing a 3 min max test but my HR was sticking between 115 and 120. I was thinking of just abandoning but sat on the turbo for 20 minutes and found my HR (with effort) was getting to 135. I hit lap and started the test. After 2 minutes it was such hard work holding the HR I considered pulling the pin. After 5 minutes it became bearable. By the end my breathing was perfectly normal and I’d managed 267w a full 30w higher than previous. Like with the track session I tried to follow with the turbo session but couldn’t manage it so pulled the pin.


At the end of the week I felt so tired and I knew my coach was planning to “beast” me as it was my last squad before IMSA. I think he could see how tired I was and backed off the main set. 3 x 400 on 6:30 – #1 negative split, #2 build by 100, #3 full beans. I told Rhys ( my sub 4 min 400m training partner) who was just swimming steady I’d be lucky to go under 5:15. When I hit 200m in sub 2:30 I really started to push and managed a 4:52 – not done better as a triathlete. Graham was sure i could go under 4:50 with better pacing so we did a long recovery swim and hit it again. I managed 4:54. First time (as a triathlete) I’ve done two sub 5 min 400 in a single session.

This all seemed to confirm that I was pretty fit but also very tired. Perfect at the end of my build and with a week of taking it easy ahead.

So, I sit here two days out from the race and wanting to make some predictions. I’m feeling ready to go and excited but there is a voice still in my head that I’ve just not done the long runs or the run volume. However, that final long run I did do was on for sub 4 hrs for 42k and given I’ve not run under 4hrs in an Ironman in over two years thats quite positive. It means I will try and pace sensible with the goal being give myself the best chance to run well.


Off in last wave, likely to swim mostly on my own and catch loads of people in previous wave. This I think is probably an advantage.





Forecast for easterly wind which on this course is clearly the hard direction. Will focus on keeping a lot of reserves as with this wind the final 50k could be torture.





Who knows !!


This gives a total of: 10:28:00

Last year that would have been 5th. This year with the extra slots I think it’ll be more competitive. However, it will certainly put me in with a chance of a slot.

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