Ironman Wales Analysis

Wales11-1Race report here.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole race. Never smiled so much in a race or thanked so many supporters. It was an awesome day which would have done a long standing race proud but to pull this off (in such adverse conditions) on a first attempt is an excellent job. Fingers crossed they don’t tame it – from start to finish this is the hardest race I’ve done – hardest swim, hardest bike and hardest run. It even came close to toughest conditions but both Wanaka and New Zealand were tougher conditions !

Having said all that I was gutted when I looked at the results last night. I was 16th in my age group but so many people were within five or so minutes and probably caught me towards the end of the run. I’ll admit I went in to this race believing I wouldn’t qualify and I think that almost certainly helped me relaxed and enjoy it. Unfortunately the organisers provided no way of knowing another athletes age so I was absolutely unaware that I was 3rd in my age group. In fact, so many guys had passed me on the bike that I truly believed I was well out of a slot. To the point when seeing Tim and Nick chasing me down I felt for them as I thought even if they caught me they’d be out of a slot. As it was up till the point they caught me – with a lap to go I would have most definitely been in a spot. Would it have made a difference ? It certainly would have changed my motivation, if I’d known my position in my age group I would have pushed harder from halfway which is when I eased up and enjoyed it. Would it have changed the outcome ? No idea, I may have blown up completely. All credit to Nick and Tim though as they believed and just kept at it. I felt ahead of the race it was bad they didn’t do anything to allow you to establish someones age even to the point that numbers were random. At a minimum they should do numbers in age groups. Even better would be to start numbers for each age group at a certain round number (eg M40-44 are numbers 800 – 1,123, M45-49 1,200 to 1434) since the numbers don’t need to be consecutive. Our names were printed on the numbers so why not just include age group. Together with this they should penalise athletes that hide their number – so many guys on the bike went by me with numbers tucked in (presumably out of the wind) but once age is on then it shouldn’t be allowed.

Just been to the roll down. Tim was so unlucky – he was chasing a guy down at the end but didn’t quite make it. That guy was 2 seconds ahead of him and took the only roll down. Shortening the run by 1km probably had a significant impact there.

OK… enough pre-amble. My race

SWIM

Quick eh ! Combination of the bizarre running down the beach at the start together with a strong current. First lap was 22 minutes and second 25 each with some seconds. So looks like 3 minutes saved by running. I was tenth out of the water. I felt strong and that showed it was a good swim. I am chuffed to bits with how well my swim fitness has stayed with me.

The swim was super rough and as yet I’ve not spoken to a single person that didn’t think it was superb fun. The bay they moved to was great for spectators and it’s much more iconic. I hope they keep the swim there.

T1

Was passed by several people on the long run to T1 but happy that I controlled the pace I ran at. I think it worked really well having racking for shoes and then running through town. The support was great. I think they should keep this long transition run.

BIKE

Given my recent bike form I was keen to check out working at high power. On my computer I just looked at 3s average power, average power for each 5km section and overall average. I did this because I know I can get very motivated by increasing or maintaining an average.

Wales11-2

The graph shows my average power for each 5km together with the average power for the ride to that point. This sort of motivation normally results in some initial high figures which is only made worse by the number of strong riders coming by. Interestingly enough from about halfway I moved away from people around me and start re-passing some and only got passed myself a few times. I felt very strong from about 90km to 110km which perhaps is reflected by high power but remember that the major hills hit in that section. The above shows though that I almost certainly went out too hard. I didn’t completely fade though which is pleasing. It’s an interesting course to ride as you can’t really go steady watts throughout. I aimed to go easy up the main climbs which seemed to result in me hitting about 300 watts in the first 2 thirds but in the final third it translated more to about 280 watts. More control on the early climbs still needs to be worked on.

Overall I am very pleased with this ride. If I recover well for Kona I will aim for a more consistent 250 watts throughout.

My critical power for the ride was 248 watts. The highest I’ve recorded for an Ironman bike split by 7 watts if I remember correctly. This translated to a 5:50 bike split. There’s all the evidence you need of how hard a course this is.

The profile at the top is of the course. I had 2,300m of ascent though there is clearly something amiss with my garmin as it starts at a much high point than it ends. It also implies that the first 55km is net downhill … in fact the start and end at about the same height.

T2

Nice and quick. Happy. Wearing socks on the bike helped ensure my feet had no grit on them for putting my Vibram Bikila LS on. Got them on super quick.

RUN

Felt so smooth early on and was knocking out nice splits. At halfway I feel I gave up on it. Feeling I was out of the slots (I wasn’t) I eased up. I ran every step and on the last lap perked up and started running quicker again. Today I have no muscle soreness and even ran a bit when going to the roll down. It suggests there was more to give. Two things I need to work on

1.I just need more run training. There was no hiding my lack of serious running since Austria. I knew I’d not done it and I knew how much the solid 30km runs had helped at Austria. A proper focus is required over the winter. 7 minutes quicker on the run and I would have qualified. Thats was not even a good split compared to my peers so I’m sure I should be able to get back to consistently under 3:30s.

Wales11-3

Because of the underlating nature of the course the splits will never be consistent. It is 4 laps of just over 10km. You can distinctly see the drop off at halfway which leads to my second point. Also, the run was 1km short but my foot pod measure 43 km – it was well out. So all the splits above are really slower

2.The mental aspect. I really need to toughen up. I also need to find my motivation from something other than knowing my position as that won’t always be possible. I need to believe I’m up the field. Jo said she always just assumes unless I am clearly having a bad race I’ll be close to the slots. She was right. Why didn’t I believe that ? I think keeping a logical head during the passion of a race. I should have kept it – I was told on the bike I was 42nd. If I’d have applied logic I would have realised that perhaps 15 were pros. Then surely there must have been more guys in the 25-39 age groups than in mine. Even some basic math would have given me the chances were there were less than 5 guys ahead of me. I need to learn to keep a level head like this.

My prediction for my run appears bang on. Since the run was 1km short I was actually 5-6 minutes out.

My nutrition on worked well throughout. I still used 15 powerbar gels on the bike but in a larger bottle with more water. I will continue with that. I had them in a bottle cage on my seattube rather than between the aero bars. I used the aero bars to hold an extra bottle. This worked well and will probably do it again at Kona rather than use the speedfill. On the run I did my usual gel at every aid station but kept my stomach in check by switching to pepsi if it felt dodgy. Close to 30 gels during the day certainly made for a pretty uncomfortable tummy last night but during the race it was ace.

Whilst I tried to calm myself the night before the race I thought a lot about plans to become more self sufficient. It put everything in perspective keeping my nerves in check. It was a good approach and I will use that at Kona. I also starting thinking about perhaps trying to qualify for Vegas next year and definitely not do Kona if I didn’t qualify. It’s amazing how much difference a day can make. This race was brilliant and I want to do it again next year. I’m also now back on the thought of St George to try and qualify though I am trying to stick to my guns and give Kona a miss next year.

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