Taupo Race Analysis

NZ11-3Race Report here

Currently on the ferry to the South Island on my way home to Christchurch for my final couple of days before returning to the UK. A week or so a go I was home sick and so looking forward to returning to the UK. Over the past couple of days I’ve been getting a little sad about leaving not because I’m no longer desperate to see my family (I am) but because I’m not sure when I’ll next be back. It’s unlikely to be next year but now I’m wondering whether we should just come out for a couple of months after Christmas. Need to decide though as I’m sure Ironman New Zealand will sell out really quick.

Before I go in to the race analysis I want to describe some of what has gone on in Taupo these last few days.

The Hawaii roll down was amazing. Busso had been good and I wondered whether that was an indication of how this one would go. I’d encouraged my friends to go if they were close to roll down. I spoke to Kevin McKinnon just before and he told me there were 16 roll downs ! My housemate Andrew was 10th in his age group. He’d raced awesomely and was on course for a 9:15 (and a slot) when his calf tore !! He hobbled home in 9:29. Another friend, Pete, has missed out on a Kona slot by 6 seconds twice, yes TWICE. This time he was tenth and there were six slots. To put this in perspective, his partner had been the perfect supporter encouraging him to keep pushing and he passed 3 people in his age group in the last couple of KM. He’d considered not coming along. Then the age group below his had 4 rolls downs. They come to his age group. 3 roll downs. We’re all thinking bloody hell he’s going to miss out by one again. Then he realised the guy in 7th normally doesn’t take his slot. Excitement. The call his name once, twice …he’s not there !! Now Pete doubts he’s remembered right that he’s tenth. They call his name, we erupt, he almost hits the roof. Runs down the steps 3 or 4 at a time and jumps on stage, hugs Mike Reilly. The whole audience goes bananas. 2:30pm we’re in the pub celebrating with beers … this continues through the banquet and back down to the Irish bar. Most I’ve drunk day after the race and I hadn’t even done well ! Can’t wait to be in Kona with Pete… the after party will be fun if we manage to wangle tickets again.

Next up was the banquet. Of the 22 Christchurch based athletes 21 finished. They got all of them on stage to applaud them. They then showed a very emotional video of the devastation. I had to hug Susan, Pete’s partner, as she was distraught. They then announced they’d set up a charitable trust to which WTC had given $40,000, Taupo Council $13,000 and the other sponsors $13,000. This would be used to help these athletes in whatever way necessary. They then sent Cam Brown, Terrenzo, Sam Warriner and Jo Lawn round with buckets to raise more money. Good stuff and I know the Christchurch athletes really appreciated it. It was a fine thing to see and makes me think perhaps we can get through the coming difficulties with the global recession and oil running out.

So how was my race ? It was for sure below par and disappointing. If I’m absolutely honest my heart and mind weren’t on it. It shows that a degree of mental focus is absolutely necessary. I am genuinely impressed with Andrew and Ali together with Pete all who have homes in Christchurch but still stayed focussed enough to produce excellent performances. My hat goes off to them. Had Kona been on the line would I have focussed ? I like to think so. Having said all this I have to stay that the evidence in training since Wanaka wasn’t really there for a great performance. I’d not been swimming anything like I had been ahead of Wanaka. I’d not had a single bike session where I saw decent power numbers. Running was relatively positive in that I’d had consistent running and had far more miles in my legs compared to Wanaka but I’d only had glimpses of any sort of speed.  I’d like to think I should have been sub 9:30 on that course but on the day I was no where near.

So … discipline by discipline:

SWIM

I absolutely stuck to my guns here and swam really conservative. I was bilateral breathing for huge chunks of it. Even breathing every 4 for some of it. In the past I had to breath every two. Throughout I felt in control and could surge as and when required but I was totally not out of breath. I braced myself for 55+ mins so 53 was really pleasing. I was interested to see that Andrew came out in the front pack of Age Groupers in just under 50. Now, with hindsight do I think it was a good idea ? Pretty sure I don’t. Think I’ve learnt something about my mentality now. I like feeling I’m in the race (more on this in the bike section). If I’d gone for it I’m pretty sure I could swim with Andrew and I would have been out front. Next race I have to decide whether to go back to my old ways or to give this another go since this was probably not a good indication of how it worked as I think my poor performance following this may have been for other reasons

T1

Kept my run (it’s 500m run to T1) under control not wanting to raise my HR. I’d gone easy on the swim and got a good split so I was keen to keep it conservative on the bike.

BIKE

I headed out comfortably. It was absolutely peeing down (it did the whole day). Despite saying to Pete on the start line that I was not putting on extra clothes because if I was cold I would ride harder I didn’t pick up the pace to warm up. In that first lap on the down hills I was cold. Also the rain meant I couldn’t monitor my data – I had to wipe the screen and stare at it to see it. Groups went by and I just didn’t have the motivation to go with them. I had an excuse that I was being conservative, I was being sensible. With hindsight allowing myself this “out” didn’t help. It stopped me at least going with the packs and seeing. As more  people went my my mood got lower. This was ridiculous, these are guys that aren’t better cyclists than me. Now I’m not in the race. I felt like I was giving up. It was a slippery slope. At the time it didn’t dawn on me but now I’m pretty sure this sluggishness of thinking was the cold.

I’d been systematically chugging my gels and taking a little water but still I was desperate to pee. I couldn’t get myself to go as I approached town. As I rode in I started thinking about whether I’d do a training ride in this weather. I came this “| |” close to chucking in the towel. I’ve never felt that before but just found I couldn’t, I thought about the feeling when you finish and that got me going through town. As we left down my mind was so absent that I nearly didn’t get my arm band. Again, this is almost certainly a sign I was cold.

At 100k I stopped to pee and I was stunned at how long I pee’d for. Funnily enough, in the tent after the race I spoke to loads of people with the same experience. There was little need for hydration in these conditions (I weighed more at the finish that the start).

I really don’t know what clicked following that pee but my mindset changed COMPLETELY. I suddenly was thinking I’m going to show these guys. There’s no way they should be in front of me. I am better than them. I thought of Jo following online and convinced myself she’d be really impressed when I negative split this bike. My mind ran with the idea I’d still pull a good split out of the bike and suddenly my slow first lap would look like the height of good sense. I was suddenly fired up, how I would normally be out of the swim. Adrenalin was flowing and I almost immediately was HAMMERING. I warmed up and I felt great. Here’s the data (think my HRM was a little dodgy for second split):

NZ11-2

To put this in perspective asking others that raced and looking at some of the faster guys splits the conditions worsened and most of the fast guys were 10-15 minutes slower second lap. Even with a couple of minute stop I was 2 minutes quicker. This was not just a matter of trying harder. If you look at my Watts per heart beat it increased by 25%. I was flying and feeling great. Of course, you can imagine what it was like. Most are slowly by 10-15 minutes and I’ve sped up. Yes I was catching pace lines, sitting up at the back fueling up and then head down and hammer past often breaking them up in the process. My god it was fun. I didn’t feel I could tire. I went from the end of the first lap thinking there is no way I can complete a marathon to looking forward to it. I started doing mental arithmetic about times etc… it’s a sign the conditions were worse because given the way I was riding I thought I’d turn the bike around for a 5:10 but in fact despite the better power figures I was only a couple of minutes quicker. I caught and passed 4 big pace lines.

The key question is why did this happen? I am convinced now that I was very cold in that first lap. This muddied my thinking and attitude. Thinking back in the first lap I was thinking I was cold, I was close to shivering on descents but I didn’t think to speed up. In the second lap there was no thought of cold, my mind was on the race, I wanted to get back in to it. Given these circumstances again I would change my race plan on the fly and hit the bike hard. In these conditions the key goal had to be to keep warm.

T2

I’d decided against racing in my Vivobarefoot Evos purely because I’d not had enough time running in them. I’d got some from them with a view to trying them out and racing in them if I was totally happy with them. With all the disruption I just hadn’t managed to get the runs in I wanted. (I have a review of them to come but again with all thats happened I didn’t feel like writing it just yet). So into the muddy T2. Funny thing is as I approached T2 there’s a marshall shouting “slippery corner”. Given what the whole course had been like I thought this must be really slippery since they’d not had any mention that other corners were slippery. Jeez, this must be bad if they’re warning me. They’d not even warned on the corners which were like rivers. So I slowed down and even mentally prepared for coming off ! I didn’t. It freaked me out enough that I didn’t do a running dismount.

T2 went well. I managed to get out of my bag what I needed as I ran in to the tent. Got my vibrams on pretty quick and had a pretty respectable time.

RUN

I was ready for this and keen to see my running form. I didn’t feel great early few KM but still saw 5 min /km. Happy enough. I soon settled into a comfortable pace and was starting to feel great on the run. There was something rubbing my toe, well not rubbing almost cutting in. I stopped to clear it but couldn’t. At the end of the race I did have a cut on the toe. I think when conditions are like this I need a towel in T2 bag as with vibrams I think it’s pretty important to have no crap or dirt on your feet.

The whole run was comfortable. I was running strong, felt strong but just not running fast. I could have kept running like that. It was fun as I could smile, thank everyone and really enjoy the running. There was the feeling of natural efficient running. Problem was it just wasn’t fast ;o(. Helen reckons I’ve developed a “hunters trot” and assures me she can help me change this to being fast. I do hope so because if I can feel that strong and controlled running but whilst going fast it will be awesome.

Pleased with my lack of substantial fade on the run. Also chuffed to bits with how my legs felt the next day. I think the minimalist forefoot running really reduces the inability to walk the day after the race. For me this speaks volumes that this is the right way to run. I think that pushing so hard second lap of the bike was probably detrimental to my run. If I’d gone even over the two laps of the bike for the same split I feel I’d have been in a better position to run faster.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Other than Lap 1 of the bike I was even aware of how much fun it was at the time. It was almost hysterical the conditions. We must be bonkers. More bonkers were the thousands of spectators out there. Bonkers but happily bonkers and all the athletes appreciated they were mad enough to stick it out. On Rainbow drive one dude who looked soaked to the skin but smiling said “ I don’t know why I’ve never spectated before…. this is great”. If made me smile.

So it was enjoyable but ultimately I feel flat about my performance. It’s (re) opened my eyes to the work required on my running. I’m still underestimating what is required to get my running back from the injury I had. This re-affirms it won’t be easy and I must knuckle down. For the moment though I am taking a break. This has been a long season and I think since Busselton I’ve really been just a say surviving rather than flourishing. I need to rest up so I can put in the solid work required to PB at Austria. At the moment getting back on the podium at M-Dot races seems a lot of work away let alone getting on the podium at Kona.

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