Pre race preparation
The lead up to the race was not ideal. Spending the day before the race on my feet, in the hot Sun, eating rubbish take away food and not drinking enough water, eating a pizza at 9pm the night before the race, getting to the venue the morning of the event and receiving a call from the wife to say I had left my cycling helmet at the campsite! (Big thanks to Lee for calming me down and driving me back to get it). Not ideal prep.
Brutal. Absolutely brutal. There were just bodies everywhere. I don’t think I did one complete swim stroke the first 400 metres without hitting someone or being hit by someone. I just couldn’t get going as there were too many swimmers in front of me, around me and trying to swim over me.
My positioning was the issue. I started too far back for my ability, I started on the inside so had nowhere to go when I hit ‘traffic’, I should have been on the outside and could have at least swum further, but crucially swim and not crash into others.
The first half of the swim to the turnaround buoy was slow, but after the swimmers spread out and we turned, I had clear water and swum back at a good pace and was surprised, when I checked my watch on the way to T1, that I had done the swim in 37 mins. I was thinking more like 40 minutes or worse. The split was probably 25 mins out and 12 mins back. That is how hard the out part was versus the nice, fast swim back.
Sam was there shouting encouragement as I run towards T1. Leigh and Ollie were there too but I didn’t see them.
Went OK. No panicking, no flapping, calm and controlled. Apart from putting my helmet on back to front, which was bad enough, but the wife also saw this – D’OH.
T1 time of almost 5 mins. A minute faster than IM Austria but I still need to reduce these. The transition areas are just so big though. It takes ages to get through them. The winner took 3 mins in T1.
A nice bike split. Fast flowing course, mainly flat or downhill, very few hills of any kind. So no rest for the legs. No real incidents. I was watching the time and K’s and doing my own bike interval splits, more to see what time I was on target for. I was trying to hit 3 hrs for the bike and at 80K I was behind but only by 5 minutes. But the last 10K and especially the last 5K were quite technical, bumpy and . . . well . . . slow. I ended up clocking a time of 3 hrs 10 mins. 6 minutes faster than Bedford which was my previous fastest 90K bike split. Legs felt OK so I hadn’t overdone it.
Nutrition was on target. A 750ml energy drink, 750ml of water, three gels and three Torq bars and a Banana (as two halves of banana from the 2 feed stations).
Coming in from the bike leg I saw the Ironmate flag and behind it were Sam, Leigh and Ollie going mental. Ollie had the most confused look on his face, wondering what on earth was going on.
Just over 4 minutes. Again calm, no panicking, not lightening fast but not bad. Faster than IM Austria.
I went off fine, run legs were there, I felt really comfortable. I ran the first 2K in 11 mins 57 secs. A bit too fast for the pace I was planning to run at, but I hadn’t gone off like a bullet as I tend to do. I was going for a run split of 2 hours 10 mins (so 12 mins 30 secs per 2K was the pace).
I dropped the pace to 13 mins per 2K for the next 8K, than at the end of lap one I was running down the finishing shute to the finishers square. I was panicking here thinking I had gone wrong, but then realised there were runners coming towards me so each lap included a run around the finishing square before heading out again – now that’s evil! It did mean I got to see the support crew again and had another cheer of encouragement from Sam and Leigh (and a confused look from Ollie).
Lap two was harder, the Sun came out (I think the Sun had been out for the first lap too, but I just noticed it more on the second lap). The walk through the feed stations started earlier and went on for longer, the pace dropped to 14 mins per 2K for the next 6K and then I came across Lee from Tri Topia, who had finished and was walking the course looking out for runners he knew.
He told me to ‘not wait for the end and to go hard now’ with 3K to go, so I did. I picked up the pace and did the last 3K in 18 minutes, the pace I started the first 2K of the run.
The support crew went wild as I run down the finish shute for the last time and when in the finishing square I gave the signal to Leigh that I was OK to take Ollie and finish carrying him. Which is something Challenge Family encourage whereas IM frown on – it was a nice moment.
Run time of 2 hours 16 mins – 8 minutes faster than my previous best half IM run time of 2hr 24. Three gels (one every 45 minutes), a cup of water per feed station (every 2K) on lap one and then energy drink and water combined for lap two.
So all in all a good race. Whilst not a nice swim and not a fast swim, I learnt a lot, I did PB’s on the bike and run splits and improved transition times (slightly!). I didn’t hit my target time of sub 6 hours and I missed it by quite a way. But I think that is more an issue of an unrealistic target due to me thinking I can get faster quicker than realistically possible.
The event was good, the venue was good and the support was fantastic. I would certainly be happy to do that event again and even the full Challenge distance next time, but if I do Vichy next year I cannot do IM Barcelona as well so I will have to choose.
I have had a couple of days off training and will start some gentle training with a swim tomorrow and maybe a ride to work on Friday.
The next event is a 172K cycling sportive, as a training ride, on 28th September and I want to run the 8 mile Box Hill loop before committing to the Ball Buster on 8th November. A small matter of an Egypt boot camp in October to fit in too.
It’s all go ennit!
Thanks for reading.