Ironman South Africa Preview

Race Report

Race Review

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this excited leading in to a race. Trying to be careful though as two years a go I was feeling pretty confident and I had probably my most disappointing Ironman race ever.

Whats different this time ?

Two years a go, with hindsight, I feel I was fairly fit but very tired. Also, looking back, I don’t believe it was very deep fitness. I’d had a couple of bouts of illness that year which meant I went  in to our camp in Lanzarote unfit and chasing my fitness. This also meant that following camp I did a decent amount of aerobic training every day of the following week. The week post camp (i.e. the week before race week) I did 26 hours of training ! Then in race week I ran 12k on the Monday then didn’t run again and biked a lap of the course on the Wednesday.

This year the timings were the same – i.e. the race was two weeks post camp. For this to work I felt I had to do two things differently:

  1. Arrive at camp (three weeks this year) fit. My thinking being this would mean I wasn’t chasing fitness and I wouldn’t dig myself in to a big hole
  2. Really rest post camp.

Note I didn’t feel I should change approach to camp. You can’t blag Ironman, work needs to be done and 3 weeks of nothing to focus on but training is a privelege and if I want to do well I don’t feel I can waste it. Here is how this years camp (21 days in Lanza) compare to the one two years ago (18 days):


On the other two fronts I feel I have done rather better than two years ago. I set up in my training diary a comparison to two years ago. So each day I could see how I was doing. So as I arrived at camp my hours so far that year were 153 vs 125 2 years before. I’d swum 112k v 116k, biked 1160 miles vs 1139 and run 389 miles vs 147. The run miles stand out and are key (more on this later) – the bike miles don’t tell the whole story – this time round most were on the turbo and I feel far more valuable.

It was better than this though as the end of the previous year I had been training much more consistently so entered the year fitter than I had 2 years ago.

As for rest post camp I must thank Jo. I asked her what approach she would do to taper and decided I’d just follow something similar. This meant last week (week before race week) I did 15.1 hours BUT 6hrs of those were the Monday which was the final day in Lanzarote. I then had 3 easy days (7k run one day, 90 min swims the next two) before an aerobic day – 4.3k swim, 43k bike, 11k run, then rest day then aerobic day. This week ahead of the race I’ve done just over 6hrs following a much more ‘usual’ taper.

It does mean that I feel in good shape AND rested this time. I get periods of real optimism but my brain clicks in and tries to keep me realistic given what happened last time.

So lets have a look at each discipline


My swim training has been excellent for a good long while now. Definitely since the start of this ‘season’ (7th Nov per my training diary) I have trained consistently and my getting up for 5:45am swim sessions is a definite barometer for my general level of motivation. I cannot think of a swim session I was able to make that I didn’t. I can’t think of once my alarm going off and there even been an inkling of doubt about getting up. This takes me back many many years and gives me confidence that I’m back in a better place when it comes to training. It means I’ve average so far this season 12.9k per week and in that I managed a 4:47 400 (admittedly with paddles) which was a real confidence booster. My swimming continue to get a little better each year. This is very satisfying and great fun.

For this course though it’s an interesting one to predict. 1:25s (~54 min split) is proper cruising, 1:20s (~51 split) is pushing. The results state the distance as 3.9km and it’s typically been choppy. Last year times were very slow.

So… lets go with 55 minutes.


I decided this winter to use the turbo far more. My motivation was superb and it felt like it was down to not feeling like I had to go out in the shit weather. Prior to camp I did 3 out door rides this year. One was a short local ride, the other were back to back 100+ milers for a beer ride. Other than that it was regular turbos. Each week a pretty much did a big gear session and two other turbos. Session were never less than 1:30 and maxed out at just over 2:30. Every other saturday morning I did a 2.5hr turbo into a 16+k brick run. Over the years I’ve regularly started a turbo session where I warm up and then see how high I can get my average power by the time I’ve been going an hour (including warm up). For some reason it seems to motivate me. My goal had been to get to 300w but never managed it. This year I did it – managing 302w. I also did the same for 2 hours and managed 272w. All very encouraging. I certainly felt fit on camp and got some good long rides done.

Still compared to when I was consistently racing well my bike mileage is low. Last year I rode just over 9,000 miles (nothing compared to when I was regularly doing 12,000+ per year). This season I’ve average 150 miles per week but as you can see this has been heavily loaded to a 3 week block with the others been more focussed interval work. So there is still a little doubt in my mind about just how strong my biking is at the moment.

The course has changed since I last raced it – it looks a lot quicker to me but talking to people that have raced both courses they seem to suggesting it’s only about 15 minutes quicker. This makes me consider that I’m under-estimating the course. So my prediction is a combination of been conservative and judging what I need to be in with a shout of Kona.

So… lets go with ~ 35 km/h i.e.  5:08


Over the past year there’s been a penny dropping moment. Looking at a graph of my annual run miles over the years shows the elephant in the room of my recent Ironman marathons:


My goals for Ironman marathons I think have been based on remembering how I used to be rather than a fair reflection of where I am now with my running. For a long while now I’ve been trying to regain the pleasure in running. Speed is not important at the moment as I will get big improvements by merely running the whole marathon. I have really started enjoying my running and am running more. I typically just run on feel. I let the pace come rather than chase some pace I belief I should be running. After years of not doing the work last year I finally did a decent years running (averaging just over 30 miles a week), this year my average is 47 miles and with that comes starting to feel like a runner. There were a few runs in Lanzarote where I got quite emotional as I ran how I remember running used to be.

The graph below shows my monthly running mileage and the average pace. I’ve not shown above 6 min / k as in the early years that would reflect months with a large volume of fell running. In later years it reflects slow pace. In the final few months you can see that I’ve had decent volume and my average pace has been getting quicker.


I’ve been trying to increase my overall volume, get long runs in and increase the length of what I view as a standard run. Below are my bucketed run workouts – each column represents how many runs I’ve done in each 3 miles bucket (0-3 miles, 3-6, etc…)


You can see that in 2015 virtually all my runs were 3-6 miles. In 2016 my most popular bucket was 6-9 miles and this year it’s 9-12 miles. I have a 17k loop which it became almost autopilot to run (at least) that. The number of long runs this year already out shines the previous years but it also hides my double runs. I’ve had three occasions this year where I’ve run marathon distance or more in a day across two runs (42k, 43k and 46k).

For the first time in a long time I feel like I should be able to run the marathon.

So… lets go with ~5:15/k pace – so 3:40.


I’ll allow a little quicker than last time in T2 as I did walk through and sit to eat my mars bar.

So T1 – 3:30, T2 5:30

Totalling up:

0:55:00 - Swim
0:03:30 - T1
5:08:00 - Bike
0:05:30 - T2
3:40:00 - Run
9:52:00 - TOTAL 

That rather surprised me. Faster than I’d thought. Hope it’s right as that should get me a slot.

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