Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ironman UK, Bolton, England 22nd July 2012

3.8k Swim 180k Bike 42k Run – Temperature 27oC
Swim 01:05:58 - T1 04:03 - Bike 05:33:30 - T2 02:17 - Run 03:08:14 Total Time 09:54:02
Age Group Champion 45-49, 14th Overall
IMUK was my A race for the season as I had decided at the end of last year not to try and qualify for the IM World Champs. My plan for the season was to consistently build for six months, add in some racing to sharpen up the speed and then attempt to win at Bolton.
I had a great training build and some really good results; all that remained was for the weather gods to be kind and for me to have the race of my life. My confidence was high going into race week and as I anxiously looked at the long range forecast each day, it look certain we would be blessed with great weather – racing in hot conditions was something very familiar to me and a great bonus.
The race was due to start at 0600 so it was an even earlier start than usual. I was tucking into breakfast by 0300, surrounded by a room full of athletes silently devouring a mountain of calories as they contemplated the culmination of months of training and dreaming.
The deep water start was delayed by a few minutes as the logistical challenge of getting all 1800 athletes in the water had been underestimated. No drama though, most stayed calm, assembled on the start line and boom, we were off on the two lap swim. My swim was punctuated with an occasional heavy contact but nothing out of the ordinary and I quickly found myself being hauled out of the water onto the ramp and off into the transition tent in preparation for the bike section.
I ran to collect my bike and took a cursory look across the racking in order to estimate my approximate position in the race; all looked well and I was confident I was out on the road with maybe only 10 athletes in my age group ahead of me. I started to ride by the power and heart rate numbers but something wasn’t quite right. There was a rubbing sensation coming from somewhere on the bike and my quads felt red hot to the touch.  The swim had been cold and towards the end I had detected the onset of some minor cramp but that had passed by now. I leant down and eased off the brake callipers although I was sure this wasn’t the source of the rubbing and spun the cranks at a high cadence to try and reduce the strain on my quads. The rubbing continued, my quads remained on fire but I had a few hours to sort things out so I pressed on.
By the time I hit the looped section of the bike course I had passed three athletes from my age group and during the course of the next lap I reeled in a couple more.  As I hit the second lap it occurred to me that the quads were now fine and the bike was rolling, it was as if a switch had been thrown and all of a sudden I was flying. The last 60k of the bike was a real joy and as I hit T2 the PA blasted out that I was third in the age group – time to go to work on the run.
Straight out of transition and quickly past the guy in second, now to hunt down the guy in first and take the lead. The field was now pretty thin and I sensed that I was perhaps in the top 50 in the race overall , my legs felt springy and I was comfortable running at what I estimated to be sub 7 minute miles.  My strategy was to run on feel and keep the cadence high whilst I felt I could. By mile six I had caught the final athlete; all I needed to do was remain calm and keep the pace I had set. The final part of the run course was three 10k laps and as I ticked each one off my legs became progressively more painful , I had now refocused my goal to finishing as high up the overall ranking as possible. I was now being carried along by the incredible support, not wanting to walk any of the final few ks, I just pushed hard for the line and managed to pass a few more athletes who were now hobbling or walking to the finish.
I was thrilled to cross the line as the age group champion, an IM marathon pb and was certain I was in the top 30 overall, what a fantastic day. Everything had seemed to click with no significant issues for me to deal with; it was one of those rare days you have, super consistent in every discipline and able to race to the tape. I was astonished to hear shortly after crossing the line that I had won by over 30 minutes and finished 14th overall, beaten only by a handful of Pro athletes and a few young guns. On a wave of euphoria I signed up for Kona the next day and now have to start the process of recovering and rebuilding my fitness for the sport’s on The Big Island.

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