Ironman Austria Race Review

Austria11ReviewRace Report here

I had a good day and am very pleased with my 9:19 still a ways off sub 9 and during the day I had doubts about whether sub 9 is every achievable but now I feel it is. Unfortunately my Garmin bike computer decided it would lose my bike data so my analysis will be more on how it felt than actual data. This is a real shame as I have a strong suspicion I went out way to hard on the bike.

In my previous post I posted up predictions of my splits. Here’s it updated with my actual splits. Overall you can see my actual was damn close to my betting man prediction. My T2 was slow because I had to stop to pee … reckon if I hadn’t would defo be under 3 minutes (it was a long pee).

Before I analyse my race I just like to touch on length of course as I’ve seen a lot of speculation about it being short. The slowtwitch thread was interesting as it seems a lot of people on there (americans I guess) seem to immediately assume it was short saying if Marino Vanhoenacker came over to a US race he’d be 20-30 minutes slower. Heads in the sand I think – haven’t they noticed how it’s none americans that are kicking ass at Kona ? I would say the swim was bang on, the bike per my Garmin was ~3km short (!) … that said I heard people say it was bang on per their computer (shame my blasted Garmin decided to ditch my data – AGAIN). The run per my Garmin was 300m long ! I use a footpod so in theory not as accurate but at New Zealand is was only a matter of a couple of hundred metres off. Comparing to last time though the one thing that is certain is the transitions were longer. People that have done the old and new T1 were saying they were best part of 2 minutes slower. How Marino got through T1 in 2:19 I do not know. He must have been sprinting. It was a truly impressive performance and the reception he got at the awards last night was brilliant.

Here’s how each bit of the race went.

SWIM

My swimming was super strong. Most controlled I’ve swum. The start method was excellent – letting people get water about 30s from the start to move forward then the gun going lead to a very smooth start. The inaccurate course map and poor course marking were a surprise and certainly cost myself and a few other good swimmers I know probably up to a minute. Given how much people big up this race I was surprised at the number of errors in the information / organisation there was. I now wonder whether the people recommending this race haven’t don many others. (I may review the whole race set up in another blog).

T1

Strangely dis-organised for me. I was in early so got a (un)helper to myself. He managed to hang on to my helmet whilst I tried to take it and I then tried to put it on whilst I still had my hat and goggles on. Not sure what I was thinking which is probably it – I wasn’t thinking. Then I ran out with my bike to the bike exit to find you had to zig zag through transition. Ultimately this was my fault for not walking the full length of transition – instead I just looked and assumed it was as it appeared. Race morning – walk from your bike to the bike exit.

BIKE

I need to write this to allow myself to vent so I can stop thinking about it.

<vent>

My blasted Garmin ditched all my ride data. Why oh why does it not just save the data to memory as you go and only delete it if you tell it to. I made a point of stopping the garmin was I came in to transition at the end of the bike. I reset it … the proper procedure. VERY annoying indeed since I really don’t know what happened on the bike and now I don’t have the data to really analyse it. I emailed Garmin to complain race evening it so annoyed me. Given the numerous times this has happened and the regular freezing of the display I wonder whether I have a dodgy unit.

</vent>

This analysis is really based on feel and what I observed of power / HR throughout. This bike split is perplexing me. It’s outside my expectations but that said they were based on my experience at Busselton and how my bike split generally stacks up against other athletes. Based on that it is off but perhaps it was an appropriate split for me. I know my average power (which would exclude zeros) was 244 watts. Given that and my run split it would be easy to argue I biked an appropriate level and that I wasn’t faster because I just wasn’t that fast (if you see what I mean).  My bike split ranking is definitely partly due to the quality of the field – I think European races have a disproportionate number of good riders and this year in particular the field in my age group was strong. I also think that the formation of pelotons means age group bike splits are a little enhanced.

[ASIDE – this race needs to have pros go off 15 minutes early. I saw several female pros sitting in large packs of age groupers. I don’t think they were drafting, in fact, often I saw them leading the packs but even a legal pace provides real advantage especially on some of the long fast gentle descents here]

All this aside I feel I did not execute my bike particularly well although I managed to pull it around enough to get a good run split.

I’m pretty sure I headed off too fast. I was very up for this race and didn’t use my head. I’d ridden the course so knew what was in store but despite this I belted off along the lake side regularly seeing my power over 260 watts and heart rates of 154. The latter should have been enough to steady me.

When the first peloton came by I think I had a moment of giving up on the race. It really hacked me off that much. Ultimately I don’t think I deal with this sort of packing of cyclists in a race like this very well. I have pretty set views on what riders should do and I feel that I should do the right thing even if no one else is. The problem with a course like this is it’s not flat – this means that bunches that are riding legal on the flat bunch up on the ascents. I know it can be impractical for them to apply the letter of the draft law in this case … in fact unless riders slam on the brakes I think it would be impossible. I however do drop back through them which then means I miss them on the descent which is when the benefit really comes on this course. Coming down the final 20km of the lap on the first lap with 2 others in a pace line was noticeably quicker for less watts than on my second lap when I could quite bridge to two people ahead of me. Being in  a group of 20+ on these parts would have been super quick (even if legally spaced) but to do this more or less requires you to ignore the draft rules on the steady ascents.

All in all this meant every time a group caught me I dropped back through it and lost time. On top of this a lot of guys don’t understand the drafting rules. As you know you have 15s to pass a rider and once in front they have to drop out in 15s. Now… this does not always mean you can just pull in front of them. For instance, if I’m riding the correct distance behind another rider (10m at this race) and you pass me then the moment you get ahead of me you have now entered the person in fronts draft zone. So, even though I have to drop back out of your draft zone in 15s in this case I do not have to worry since you have to pass the person in front in 15s so I can just stick to my pace. I had innumerable guys do this to me. I’d shout they weren’t allowed to do it either they understood and continued through (GOOD), misunderstood and dropped back (BAD – I may get wrongly done for blocking)  or just pulled in in front of me (BAD – as I now have to brake / sit up or risk a ref that didn’t see the whole thing do me for drafting). This can really impact a Pro’s race especially when the draft zones are different for pros’ / age groupers.

The first peloton going by at 50-60km probably helped my run though as my effort dropped back a little. On the second lap I had about 20km in a nice evenly paced pace line with two others. It was fun and kept my efforts appropriate. I still think my focus was lacking and I wonder if anything I was going too easy. Then we got mopped up by another peloton. I’d managed to pull back my efforts and was stronger on the hills. With 40km to go I was able to push. This brought me in in 4:59 (first lap 2:27, second 2:32). Disappointing.

I wonder in future if I would just go with that first peloton and see how it panned out. I have no doubts I could have and am pretty sure i’d have come in sub 4:50. Who knows what it would have done to my run! If I’d stayed with it I would have a more thorough few of whether they were riding in the spirit of the rules. I didn’t because as they went by and pulled away I just couldn’t see anyone trying to ride legally – they were 2 or 3 abreast 1 or 2m metres between wheels. I guess I was just didn’t want to risk a penalty.

Nutrition was my usual – 15 x powerbar gel in a bottle with a little water and 3 salt tablets emptied. I got through the lot. I had a speedfill with 750ml water in it with 1000mg vit C (for the orange taste!). I didn’t top that up at all. Intead I drank water at most aid stations and chucked the bottle and sipped through the speedfill between aid stations. If I ever do this race again I think i would not bother with the speedfill. I’d just start with a 500ml bottle and then just drink at aid stations and carry minimal water between them.

T2

Overall my usual reasonably quick transition. Unfortunately I need a (fairly long) pee. Couldn’t do it on the bike and decide I’d prefer a long T2 rather than stopping on the run.

RUN

I’m very pleased with my run. As planned I set off running comfortably and was very pleased to see splits in the 4:30s. My garmin footpod was beeping my KM splits within 100m of every KM marker so I was confident the pace it was telling me accurate enough. Through the first lap I felt completely in control and was really enjoying it. My Bikila LS shoes are really wonderful to run in.

I find it interesting that the halfway point seems to trigger something. Perhaps it’s the fact it still seems such a long way to go and till then I’ve focussed on halfway. I don’t know but I had to concentrate more to keep on pace. I had this caffein energy booster I’d got in Lanzarote which had worked well on a long run there which I was holding in reserve. I promised myself I’d hold out till 30km. I’d been taking a gel at virtually every aid station ( ~ every 2.5km) so was happy it wasn’t fueling At 27km I decided to take the shot and see if it boosted me.

Not sure it did. The next 8km were the only ones with my HR below 140, my pace drops as does my cadence. No surprise there – lower HR, lower pace. Interesting the cadence drops as well. I remember at the time feeling my cadence had dropped but it felt more comfortable (probably due to lower HR). The question is what is the driver. My feeling is it wasn’t my inability to raise my HR was keeping my pace down but rather my muscular endurance wasn’t sufficient to demand more of my heart.

I was encourage by feeling I was about to fall apart but my KM splits never went slower than 5:03. I kept thinking how cool this was and how another couple of months like the last couple should mean I fall apart later and my falling apart pace if faster.

Most pleasing is I was able to push the final 5km to get under 9:20. This makes me wonder whether the drop in pace prior was down to me not being willing to push.

I feel this run has demonstrated I’m not bonkers persisting with vibrams. Not once was there even an inkling of cramp coming on. My form felt good and I felt relaxed. After crossing the line my legs felt utterly trashed and I was hobbling round like the rest of them. By the time I came to leave the athletes area (about 3 hours later) I was walking close to normally and the next day I was walking absolutely fine. For me this is just more evidence that forefoot running with minimalist footwear is definitely the right way to go.

My performance was pretty in line with my prediction overall but not in the detail. I swam and ran better and biked slower.  Though I didn’t need one, Kona slots rolled to something like 9:12. If I’d needed one the difference was all in the bike. Had I hit a 4:50 I’d have been there. The running is back on track now I need to refind my bike legs. This is the conundrum how to get them both firing at the same time. Lots of people manage to solve this … I just need to now.

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