Ironman UK, Bolton 2014

Swim: 0:53:32
T1: 3:49
Bike: 5:40:04
T2: 4:01
Run: 4:04:38
Total: 10:46:04 (7th / 86th)

I really didn’t have high hopes for this race. My mind was not in it at all and if I’d had an excuse to not race I would have jumped at it. My preparations really hadn’t been what you’d expect for an Ironman and I felt it was just a matter of when I completely detonated on the run. So going in to the race I didn’t do a race preview, I didn’t mention on social media I was racing and I had no intentions of blogging about it. What happened on Sunday though has prompted me to write this report and analysis.

I was super relaxed going in to this race not only because expectations were so low but also because I was able to stay at home until two days before the race. Allowing a normal schedule and it held off the feeling of being at the race till as late as possible. it was interesting to be heading to a country pub for dinner with a friend on Wednesday thinking how if I was at the race venue there would be a certain amount of nerves building.

This relaxed feeling continued right through to race morning. I hung out with Marc and got ready to enter the water early to ensure easy access to the front line. We were first in the water and had no problem being on the front line. Like Wimbleball it’s a nice wide start and not many seemed keen to be on the front line. I started towards the right which with luck would mean no one on my feet.

BoltonSwim14The start was really smooth, I had no need to do anything other than start off steady. I maintained a nice easy rhythm focussing on press and push which I’d been working on with my coach. It amazed me how people go off so hard at the start of such a long day. I’d approach a group of swimmers thinking they’re perfect feet as they were ahead of me and quickly realised they were going way too slow, cruised by and they weren’t even able to get on my feet. At the end of the first lap I cruised by a line of three pros but again they weren’t able to get on my feet. The only point of note on the second lap was how the kayakers seemed insistent on lining up just inside the racing line blocking sighting for the buoys. Then on the return several kayakers had orange tops on the same colour as the buoys we were sighting for. It’s a sign that I was very relaxed that I was considering how they could slightly improve the race by ensuring kayakers don’t clash with the buoys you’re trying to sight off.  I came out in just 53:32 and felt I’d executed one of my best swims.

BoltonBike14Given my preparations I’d considered hammering the bike given I didn’t feel it would make much difference to my inability to run. However, I’d changed my mind (I can’t remember when) to instead aim to sensible pace the bike. For me this meant holding back and ignoring those that pass me, aiming to feel strong at 120k and if so push on at that point.  There is really not much to say about the ride as it was rather uneventful. At 120k I felt strong and pushed on. I managed to ride the second lap about 3 minutes quicker than the first and during that lap was not passed by anyone and I caught several who had passed me earlier. I managed to stomach all my nutrition (16 power bar gels), a 750ml bottle of energy drink and about 2 bananas. this is more than I would normally get through.

As I approached T2 I seriously considered not starting the run. I did a deal with myself that if I was walking by the time I reached Bolton town centre I would pull out. I have the Otillo race in about six weeks and it didn’t feel fair on my partner to completely trash myself and compromise my preparations just for the sake of finishing the race.

T2 could certainly have done with some matting in place as it was torture to run in bare feet. I quickly changed in to my Vibram SeeYa LS. This race seemed a good chance to try changing in to socks for vibrams as I didn’t feel I’d be in the mix. Then I noticed I didn’t have my race number, it must have fallen off during the bike. I had no spare in my T2 bag since the £400 entry doesn’t stretch to Ironman giving two race numbers anymore (that must increase profits by perhaps $500 per race). I asked about a replacement which resulted in some debate and faff before I realised I should just get going.

Out on the road I got in to my stride. I had a little side bet with Roger that he wouldn’t catch me by the 8 mile point and also Marc was talking about chasing me down on the run. This sort of thing is great motivation and one of the big advantages of racing with friends. About a KM in to the run I saw Jo and Roger riding in. Jo had clearly had a great ride and Roger was a little closer than I’d expected.

BoltonRun14I was running quite comfortable and just ignoring my watch. I looked at it when i thought I must have done 2k and was chuffed to bits that I had done of 4k. Thats a very good sign. I was holding sub 5 min / k and seemed to be running comfortable. This continued right through to Rogers pass at about 14k. He was running very well as I’d averaged about 4:52s to that point and he must have caught me for 10 minutes. I’d mentally prepared not to switch off once he passed.

As I came in to town a ref asked me to put my number round the front. I said I didn’t have one to which she responded she knew about me. I ran through town and as I came out the ref explained she had to give me a yellow card but I didn’t need to stop. She showed me the card and ran alongside giving me a clipboard to sign as I ran. Sensible application of the rules in my book. 28th Ironman and my first penalty.

I kept my rhythm and got through 21k in 1:45. At this point it was pretty clear that I would finish. It started getting tough but I was finding I could run down hill pretty well no matter what my legs felt like. I did find myself walking for a short while up some of the hills but other than that I didn’t completely collapse. From the second aid station I decided to walk them. I took red bull and coke virtually every time together with a single gel  at one point and several bananas. This again is a change from forcing down a gel every time.

As I crossed the finish line I was chuffed to bits. This was way beyond expectations.

Later though once I realised my position I started to feel a little gutted. I was 4 mins off a slot and 14 off 2nd place. I hate what ifs but they’re difficult to avoid. I’ll go in to it below for now it’s enough to know I felt like an idiot and I hope this is the kick in the arse i need

It’s been an interesting year leading in to this race largely due to  a massive lack of motivation to run. This together with having all of June in the Pyrenees and then doing the Welsh 3000s three weeks out has meant the build in to this race was far from text book.

SWIM

My swimming has been improving this year. I’ve seen a training PB (as a triathlete) for 400m. However I ended up with a 5 week block of virtually no swimming (13k total) leading in to the final 2 weeks to the race. I was then able to train in squad right up to the Friday before the race. I’ve always felt I should train my swimming hard right up to a  race and this was the first time I’d managed it. I did my biggest swim week in the week to the race. Some 20k including a big endurance set on the Thurs (18 x 200 on 3:00) and a speed session on the Friday (main set included a total of 18 flat out 50s in blocks of three).

Couldn’t have gone better to be honest. Don’t think there would have been any way to bridge to the fast pro pack so my decision to start without a sprint was correct. There seem to be a lot of claims of how long the course was. I’ve heard 400m !! I think the more likely explanation is the very poor sighting I observed. I sight every pair of strokes and thus swim very straight. I saw even competent swimmers way off course. So those claiming it is long may well have swum that distance which is an indication they could save minutes by practising sighting. For me I felt very strong and swam it super relaxed. One of the most pleasurable swims I’ve done

BIKE

I’ve been biking well this year and had an enormous four week block of riding in the Pyrenees. Not sure it could be classed as formal training for Ironman but innumerable very hard, long days riding the big mountains has to be pretty good. It was immediately followed by 8 days of no cycling due to the Welsh 3000s and a visiting my mum. This left me 2.5 weeks which were spent with regular steady rides of 2-4 hours. Really low volume for me but I felt I was balancing maintaining my aerobic fitness without getting tired.

Given my lack of run prep I had considered absolutely hammering the bike but during the swim I decided against this. I instead went out very conservative and told myself I couldn’t push till 120km.

Bolton14-bike

The trend in these figures is whats important I’m pretty sure my Quarq is rather overstating my power. The trend line is slightly positive. I did the second lap of the bike about 3 minutes quicker than the first. Very pleased  with the execution of that ride, if anything I should perhaps have gone with some of the age groupers that passed me on the first lap.

RUN

Run training year to date in to the race:

  • 205 – miles total
  • 2 – runs over 9 mile
  • 11.5 – longest run
  • 23.8 – miles in biggest run week
  • 8 – weeks with zero running logged

so yes it’s been a very poor years run training.

On top of this I did do four days of fell walking in Snowdonia to recce the welsh 3000s. Walking I think understates how stressful this was with much of the downhills run. Whilst in The Pyrenees I didn’t run that often but when I did I ensured there were long downhills to prepare for Welsh 3000s. Then three weeks out I completed the Welsh 3000s. This was 18.5 hours on my feet with most of the downhills  run. I’ve never had DOMs like it and struggled down stairs for a week after.

I’ve always felt that downhill running was a key part of preparation for the Ironman Run. This performance more than confirms this to me. It makes me realise it requires more prominence in my training. There is no way I should have been able to run like that based on my run training alone. However, my legs felt pretty robust and throughout I was able to run downhill well.

BoltonRun2014-run

After halfway my speed drop off was certainly down to lack of run volume and long runs particularly but not completely imploding I feel was down to all the eccentric loading I’d done. This is also consistent with my good run form when I was doing load of fell running. I have no doubt it would have been  a different story if it was a pan flat course.

The thing that clearly cost me were the periods of walking. There are three KM splits with a decent walk in them which would probably have saved 5-6 minutes if I’d just kept moving. At that point I didn’t think I was in with a chance so I wasn’t bothered. This is where having supporters road side giving accurate placings helps a lot, in the absence of them I need to just assume I’m in the mix.

This is surprisingly encouraging and I feel quite motivated as I suffer through my traditional post race cold. So enthusiastic that I’ve entered Ironman Barcelona. I do hope this enthusiasm continues when I start training again.

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