Training over the winter has been really good on the whole. Gareth and I hit a sweetspot with volume / intensity and were logging consistent training week in, week out. No heroics, just consistency. The couple of weeks in Majorca (click here for stats from the camp) was really solid and I was getting psyched to race.
However, as the 3-week taper period approached, I started to get derailed. I actually drafted a blog post about it, but never got around to posting it as it was mainly filled with expletives. But as I look back on that draft post now, in summary it said:
- What the eff is going on.
- Last big session (4-hour bike and 2-hour run) completely failed. Did 1-hour and stopped.
- No energy, no power, no speed.
- Sleeping loads, tired all the time.
- Triathlon is shit.
- I feel useless.
- This is such a mind-f@$k.
- Gareth is an absolute legend. Knows exactly what to say and he has confidence, even though I don’t. He’s an absolute credit to the Bottrill team.
Good thing I didn’t publish it.
So it’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling much mojo going into my warm up race 2 weeks pre-Lanza. But I pulled it together for the Immortal Sprint and took the win. Happy days. Maybe all wasn’t lost.
I sweated my way through a couple of heat chamber sessions at Bath Uni on the proviso that Lanzarote is hot, right? Turns out it was a total waste of time as it wasn’t that warm but oh well! Finally headed out to Lanza the Saturday before the race with plenty of time for some course recce-ing which was massively invaluable, not just for the climbs but also the mental descents. Riding them once or twice let me feel which corners I could nail and which required a little squeezing of the brakes (and sphincter).
As race week progressed, my legs kept coming back to me. 50’ at 280w felt super comfortable and 1’ pieces above 400w were a piece of cake. Running was smooth and I was loving our early morning swims in the HUUB Albacore. It all came together nicely, and I was chuffed to feel fresh on race morning…
Gareth is a genius. All along he’d told me not to worry. He was right. Game on.
The swim – 59:33. Overall rank: 93rd.
What on earth to say about the swim. We’d watched the Ironman Lanzarote 2017 highlights video a couple of days before the race and the start looked mental. Have a gander at the first few minutes of this video – the 2018 highlights – to see what the swim was all about…
I made my way to the sub-60’ group as I was aiming for a 58 – 59 minute swim.
But this was by far the gnarliest swim I’ve ever been in. I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t take one full stroke that first 1,900m without hitting someone or being kicked / hit. Early on I decided time was irrelevant. This was survival! I exited Lap 1 pretty wiped, unused to swimming with such a fighty, choppy, non-swimming pool stroke. I had sighted almost every single stroke trying to find clear water. As I ran 50m along the beach to start Lap 2, I was pleased to see my Garmin read 29:XX. Despite doing little proper swimming, I was moving through the water ok.
Into Lap 2 and it wasn’t much better. There were moments of clear water, but they were rare. Mostly I was bouncing off people, doing my best to avoid flailing arms and legs. Twice I was hoofed in the jaw, snapping my mouth shut sending shivers up my teeth.
The end of the swim couldn’t come soon enough. I was pleased to get out but also pleased I’d kept calm and chilled throughout. I’d worked hard, but there were no moments of panic, just frustration.
Climbing out the water and removing my hat and goggles, I was pleased to see a 58:54 swim. Good stuff, particularly considering Garmin read 3,920m.
The bike – 5:16.23. Overall rank: 18th.
Transition was enormous, but I found my trusty steed quickly, slipped into the silky slippers (aka Fizik Aria R3’s) and climbed aboard for a tour of the island.
For those that know the course, it’s tough from Mile 1 as you climb the ‘donkey track’ – ascending 350m in just 7 miles to the main spine road (the LZ-30) of the island. It was near the top of hear that uber biker Brian Fogarty came past like a rocket. He went on to set the fastest split of the day in 4:59.38. Machine.
Once on the smooth tarmac at Tegoyo, you can let rip. My legs felt great, I was full of beans and I set to work. From this turning onto the LZ-30, it’s downhill all the way to El Golfo, as proven by the 30-minute average speed of 28mph!
After the El Golfo loop, I went onto the only part of the course I hadn’t recce’d: the schlep up through Timanfaya National Park. What a grind. A steady but unrelenting climb to Mancha Blanca before turning south and back to the LZ-30.
Heading towards Teguise, I passed the 2-hour mark with a NP of 272w. Oooph, probably a bit high. I was pleased with the output but knew I had to rein it in and had the luxury of knowing I could let this drop over the next two hours to the target of low 260’s.
Climbing through Teguise was epic. Kezza was there and, not knowing what else to do, I blew her kisses! Still the power came easily and I was looking forward to getting to the bigger climbs on the north of the island.
There’s some steep climbing before a cracking descent to Haria. I was nervous about the switch-backs on this descent – they’re tight and you’re absolutely flying as you approach them. So, on climb I made a concerted effort to work hard and break free from the little pack I’d caught at the bottom. I didn’t want to be descending, sweeping across the road with anyone in front or behind. The road was clear and I smashed it down and made my way to the Mirador.
I was loving this! I’m in my happy place going up or down. Rarely did anyone pass me on a climb and I don’t remember anyone passing me on a descent. I churned it out and got such a buzz from moving up the field. I’m massively fond of my Boardman, but it’s rather aged compared to the various P5X, Trinity Advanced 0’s and Plasmas I was passing. Nothing more satisfying! I had no idea what position I was in – I didn’t really care, I was just loving feeling great.
After the nuts descent from the Mirador to Arrieta (11 minutes at an average 40mph, topping out at 52mph) it was on to one of the only “semi-flat” (ie only 2-3% incline) sections of the course – a main road with steady cross winds. No option but to hunker down and grind it out. I was sitting at 23-24mph on this stretch, so there must have been a bit of a following breeze but still felt great.
4-hours in and we turned inland again, up another slog of a climb back to Teguise, right into a head wind. NP was now at 273w… Oops. I hadn’t dropped it like I’d planned. Right, I really need to rein it in now. I felt totally in control, but this was better than I was hoping to average so assumed I must be going too hard.
Anyway, back into Teguise and passed a cheering Kezza again – such huge motivation. I heard her shout ‘you’re up to 30th.
Fuck me. 30th overall?!
Christ, this is going well!
I was stoked to have made up so many places on the bike and with about 30 miles to go decided to crack on and keep focusing on the next man ahead.
I couldn’t believe how great I felt. I was eating and drinking well and through Mile 100 still felt strong. The last 8 miles are downhill so knew I didn’t have to push much longer. I caught a few more and hit the final miles descending with as much courage as I could muster.
Into the final 3 miles to Puerto del Carmen, I passed one more athlete and rounded the corner onto the sea-front for the last couple of km. I’d raced back fast and caught Kezza by surprise as I shot onto the sea front road to T2.
The support in town was incredible. Big goosebumps moment. I could see the first few runners heading along the promenade away from T2, a few miles ahead. Yeah, only a few miles ahead!
I rolled into T2 in 19th overall having made up about 80 places on the bike.
God, pray I hadn’t gone too hard…!
The run – 3:34.12. 40th Overall rank: 40th.
Off the bike, the legs felt good and I took my time changing socks and whacking some sun cream on.
Leaving T2 I felt like a hero. Ok, I know I was absolutely miles (a good 25 minutes) behind the real athletes, but the atmosphere buoyed me along and I was stoked at riding so strong.
I felt good, but within Mile 1 my quads told me they weren’t happy. Not fatigued per se, but that tingley feeling you get when your muscles are on the edge of cramping. This worried me. I know that once a major muscle group cramps, it’s very hard to bring it back. Luckily, I’d stowed some PH salt tablets in my pocket so (not looking Armstrong-esque at all) took out the little sachet and pulled out a white pill. Seemed to do the trick, for now. Phew.
I wouldn’t say the run felt easy to begin. It didn’t. But it did sort of feel comfortable. But heading through 5km at 06:45mm pace should have been a warning sign that I wasn’t thinking straight. Way too fast. My most ambitious goal was a 3:10 marathon (which was based on not a lot), so I tried desperately hard to rein my neck in. But I was feeling light, my On’s were springing me along and I had a Gu flask topped up with rocket fuel aka Roctane gels. All cylinders firing.
Then I passed a guy who excitedly shouted that I was 4th amateur and 19th overall. Christ, I can’t slow down now. Screw it, I’m going to hang in as long as I can. This is the decision that would bite me in the ass in about an hours’ time…
The run was 3 laps. 1 x 20k lap and 2 x 10k laps. All out and backs.
That first 10k out was ok but it became a grind to get back to Puerto and the 21k mark. I went through halfway in 1:35, bang on target for my most optimistic run pace. Unfortunately, it all started to unravel fairly pronto!
I should have known it was coming really, and I did. In the days before, I’d said how the hardest bit will be the last half marathon. Of course, this is the hardest part in all Ironman triathlons, but I knew this moreso because I haven’t done the long runs necessary to run with form and strength in that latter part of the race.
My longest brick run had been 16 miles (off only a 90’ bike), still 10 miles short of a full marathon (I’ve never run a standalone marathon). It’s always easy to look back at your training and ponder why you did or didn’t do something better. I think I trained well into Lanza, but the only glaring base I just didn’t cover was the long run. I had good intentions to, but for various reasons they didn’t happen.
I really unravelled over that last half marathon (taking 2-hours and, unfortunately, many walk breaks) but it was all I could do. My mind was ok, but my body wasn’t responding to what I was asking of it. Kez was epic at supporting and doing all she could, but my body was empty.
I’m not hugely disappointed to be honest. I’d gone out too hard and hung on to what I thought might be possible. It wasn’t possible, and I blew up. That last 10k was totally grim, but I’m proud I gave it a crack.
And a 3:35 marathon isn’t that bad. To be honest, 3:10 was probably unrealistic given the lack of long runs. I believe it will be, down the line. But not yet.
I could barely pick it up in the closing miles, but the thought of a chair and ice cream spurred me on.
I crossed the line, found that chair and slumped. My legs were in agony. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sitting hurt. I couldn’t stand. Touching them was excruciating. I eventually found a happy place lying on the glamorous Puerto del Carmen pavement, legs raised against a wall.
I felt kinda ill for a good hour or so. My body wasn’t happy. Nothing massive, it just sort of ached all over and was telling me it wasn’t best pleased with what I’d just done to it. Still, I was chuffed to finish my first Ironman.
Summary – 9:56:25. 40th overall. 11th Age Group
Overall, I’m stoked. 40th overall out of 1,800+ is super and with 21 Pros in there, I’ll take that. 11th AG isn’t massively flash, but the depth of competition in the 30-35 AG is mental.
I’ve learnt loads and am excited to make some changes into the next one.
What a first Ironman. I loved it and although it left my quads in pieces for a good 4 days, I can’t wait for the next. Which is good, because I’ve only got 5.5 weeks until Ironman Frankfurt. Shit, not sure why on earth I thought I could do 2 Ironman in 6 weeks, but that’s what’s happening.
What’s difficult is knowing there are very minimal gains to be made between now and then. I need to be cautious to ensure I recover fully from this effort before asking anything else of my body. That may take a couple of weeks. With a week’s taper, that only leaves 3 weeks of training, which isn’t enough to really make any gains.
But I’d be chuffed to post the same bike power again and I think I will swim a tad better in a rolling start. And then the run. Well, I need to be very careful to let my legs recover before running again (I think I’ll get back to spinning and swimming much sooner), but I need those long miles in my legs. I’ll try and get a couple of longer ones in, but the biggest difference in Frankfurt will come from better pacing. I’ll just do everything in my power to head out at around ~3:25 pace!