Final Thoughts On Leaving New Zealand

FinalThoughtsNZ10.jpgHere’s the great sign Jo designed for me. She wrote after my first lap on the bike… luckily during the run I only managed to read the first line. Jo and I only have one day left in New Zealand before heading back to the UK. We’ve enjoyed it more this time round than last and are likely to be back again next year. I’ve left my Epic Camp wheels which is a sign of intent and I’d like another shot at Ironman New Zealand. This post is further thoughts on my race. Bear with me I’m just getting off my chest. When I’m back in the UK the focus will be getting ready for Lanzarote.

Thanks for all the comments on the previous post. It’s very nice to know there’s people out there in the ‘ether’ that are bothered ! I’ve been thinking a lot about the race and the comments have certainly helped me think through stuff.

My disappointment really boils down to my bike split. Ultimately this was pretty close to a satisfactory performance – 5 mins quicker on the bike and I think my feelings would be dramatically different. Realising that, I should not beat myself up too much about it. It has knocked my confidence a bit. Kona and Busselton really made me feel like and believe I am a strong biker. I felt I’d worked out what I needed to do to ride well but now I have a poor ride. Having always felt riding to power would remove something from the experience of racing it’s now quite high in my mind that perhaps thats what I need to do. That said, I need to be careful not to go changing stuff just because of one slightly off performance. Backing yourself and giving your approach time is often what’s needed and for that patience and belief is key.

The swim was good – it was fast and easy just as I’d want. The run was within expectations. Given my circumstances predicting the time with any accuracy would have been tricky. The bike though … a real mystery. There seems to be a few potential reasons:

BAD PACING – I went out too fast. I commented about my first 50k being fast but that was with the tail wind and by halfway my average speed was 36.3km/h. That was inline with the split I thought I could do. Looking at the splits I went through 90km in 2:22 and most people around that time for the split ended with low 5 hours. If I look at the splits at the final turnaround (135km) it seems that I actually lost the majority of my time in the final 45 km back in to the wind. I was approximately 7 minutes down on the field and thats definitely the difference between my split and what I would have thought was respectable. A very strong headwind in the final quarter will hit those that went too hard early on a lot harder as they have less in reserve to battle it. It suggests that it was mispacing. Was a sub 5 hour split realistic? In the conditions it would have been one of the top few age group times. However given my pacing in the first half (the conditions got worse in the second half) it would seem I was on course (without a fade) for 5:01 or 5:02 which would have been the top 20 age groupers. Thats definitely in line with my Busselton performance. I was 5th in my age group off the bike here and I was 7th in my AG off the bike at Kona which also suggests my bike split wasn’t of the same quality.  My conclusion is my target was realistic but for some reason on the day I was just not up to it.

Jo pointed out the similarities of this bike performance with her run here last year. Both of us really believed we could do the splits we set off for and both suffered later but not so much as to completely blow. At the time I kept telling Jo that it was a pacing problem not a fitness one. Quite rightly she’s softly reminding me of this. I was so confident of sub 5 hours I just hammered off to get it. Like Jo I should take the lesson do be careful with my expectations. Don’t let them drive me on too fast too early.

POOR NUTRITION – I replied with a comment to my previous post what I had pre race and during the race. The day before the race was as normal – omelette breakfast, light lunch, salad dinner followed by fruit salad (I missed this off yesterday). Not the normal “carbo load” but inline with virtually all my races since my first season of Ironman. My theory behind this is that your body can only store a very limited about of Carbs – you hear estimates of 2,000 cals … whatever it’s not that much and provided the week before has been easy (it was) and you’ve eaten fruit and veg you’re glycogen stores will be full. Surplus carbs will go on as fat and I don’t want to do that the day before the race. Also, too many refined carbs (bread, pasta etc…) don’t sit well in my tummy. Really little was changed in the day before the race. Two things were different:

(i)Thursday night carbo party – there was only pasta and I was hungry. I had two plates of pasta. Not done that at a carbo part ever … normally I just have salad and meat.

(ii)No breakfast pre morning.

Certainly at my next race I will not be eating pasta at the carbo party and I will be eating the morning of the race.

Something thats been a problem the last few races has been cramp. This time I never quite got it but it was very close in the last few KMs of the run. I rarely need to pee during the race yet others talk of peeing multiple times. Am I drinking way too little?

NOT RECOVERED FROM EPIC – Since Epic Camp I have been sleeping LOTs ! In the 6 weeks or so since Epic I’ve averaged over 9 hours a night. Regularly waking and just not being able to get myself out of bed to swim. At the time I reassured myself it was a good thing. My body needed it. I’d never averaged this much before it must be great to be so rested. Now, with a poor performance, I see a different interpretation. I was very tired. I was not recovered from Epic.

TRAINING CHANGES – Since Epic camp I change my bike training from my usual becoming more in line with what some people have suggested. I did no over distance rides (in the past I’d be riding over distance, massively sometimes, weekly). I did some solid sessions – a longer hard ride, interval ride, hilly ride and a social group ride. I rarely hit 300 miles. Compared to previously where 300 was a gentle week. Given my fade in the last quarter of the bike perhaps I was missing this.

I think I’ve mentioned this in my blog before. Recovery from this injury finds me “forced” into comparisons of what could have been. It’s something I always find slightly amusing – “I would have won if I’d run faster”. It’s tantamount to saying “I could have won the Olympic 100 freestyle gold if I was a quicker swimmer”. I don’t particularly like finding myself doing this but guess it’s inevitable when you analyze your performance and assess what would have been required to achieve your goals thus working out how close you were and what improvements are required.

I didn’t achieve any of the goals I’d set myself for this race but here’s how close I got to some of them:

GOAL: Qualify for Kona

Even with my poor bike split a 3:45 run would have got me a slot (without roll down). 3:45 is what I’d told Jo I would have been happy with and I wasn’t far off – 3:52. I walked a few times so it makes me wonder whether if I’d just toughened up I could have managed it. At 24k if I’d managed to limit my drop in pace to 50s a KM (ie slowed to 5:50km) I would have come in on 3:45. I won’t dwell on that as I have no intention of needing to toughen up to get a 3:45, I’m aiming far higher than that

If I’d done a bike split close to what I should have been capable of I would have got a spot with my run split of 3:52

GOAL: Do better than 2nd in my AG

A 3:30 marathon would have got me 2nd, in fact a 3:32 would of. So unbeknownst to me during that first 24km I was actually closing in on 2nd place. Earlier in my Ironman career 3:30 would have been what I did on a bad day. I’ve said this before but I need to get back to that form.

GOAL: Win my AG

My run split last time here of 3:22 would have still placed me second about  3 minutes behind the winner. So not enough. I would have needed that sort of run split together with a low 5 hour bike split. I can safely say I need to continue to work hard to achieve this goal.

This recovery from major surgery feels pretty drawn out. In the press you often hear of sports people making pretty quick recovery and getting back to their previous best and I reckon this made me feel that I would just be the same. Like getting back to running in the summer, I have to get my mind around it will take longer. I think a combination of the severity of the injury and surgery together with my age means it will take longer. At least following the race my foot felt no ill effects whatsoever other than blisters that I never used to get. I was warned about this as a likely consequence by the surgeon.

I was attracted to the neatness of coming back a year later to the same race and racing at my previous level. It would have neatly closed that chapter. It seduced me. Unfortunately it was probably unrealistic. Now it’s head down to Lanzarote. I’m not looking for roll downs I’m looking to qualify directly. With a few days to gain balance I had a good swim and an encouraging run. I’d like to get to the bottom of the bike performance but though I felt it was poor it was still pretty good and with improved run it would have been good enough to meet some of my goals. It may boil down to something as simple as missing breakfast or slightly more complicated bad pacing – both I can work on improving and correcting next time.

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