Tuesday, 22 July 2014

20th July 2014 Ironman UK, Bolton, England

3.8k Swim 180k Bike 42k Run – Temperature 24oC

Swim 01:02:54 - T1 03:54 - Bike 05:39:21 - T2 03:09 - Run 03:13:19 Total Time 10:02:37
Age Group Champion 50-54, 22nd Overall

I didn’t set out this season with a plan at such, work commitments had made any degree of planning a recipe for injury. I had IM Kalmar in the diary and a few low key events. However, winning a slot at the IM 70.3 Champs meant a more cerebral approach to the year was required. IMUK released some slots in late May so I grabbed an entry, Kalmar was only 3 weeks before Mont Tremblant and was relegated to the status of back up. I was 50 this year so could I make it a year to do the IM WC double?
I had started training in earnest by the end of April, very late for a sensible IM build but after a number of years racing long distance the endurance comes back pretty quickly, or at least I hoped so. The early season races had gone very well and the numbers in training, whilst not my best, were certainly in the right ball park for a serious shot at a result in Bolton.
My pre-race routine is very dull; routine is your friend at times like this. I swam up to the start line relaxed with a clear idea of what was required, I just needed to execute well. Controlling 2000 athletes pumped with adrenaline on the start line has no realistic chance of success, it was more of a rolling start as many were in full stroke when the gun sounded. It’s a two lap swim and I resisted the temptation to take a time check at the half way point. I have conditioned myself over many races to expect very little from my swim, I am always slower than my pre race exuberance plans for; I saved the disappointment for the swim exit. I had calculated that under 65 minutes would put me around 10th based on previous years so when I saw sub 63 I was stoked.
I move smoothly through T1 and was quickly pushing my bike to the exit and over the mount line. I had changed my bike six weeks ago and tweaked a few other areas of the set up so this was the first time to test it out in the heat of a race……..I settled into the tuck, focussed on finding a rhythm and taking in some fluids (I had got pretty hot by the end of the swim with the water over 21oC). Being a slow swimmer has its advantages in that you do pass a lot of proper swimmers early in the bike leg, every cloud has a silver lining.
I set about hunting down my estimated ten guys in the age group that were up the road, managing to bag my first scalp before we hit the two 45 mile loops of the course. Early on the loop the main climb is on you, not especially steep but certainly long enough to have to be conservative with pace rather than push hard to the top. Inevitably some of the guys you have passed come charging by, mashing the pedals as they race to the summit. By the time I crested the hill the weather had closed in, it was raining and the mist was so thick that the decent was almost blind in parts. I sat on the brakes all the way down, not a good descender in fine weather, this was a time to exercise some caution as there a lot of racing ahead. It wouldn’t be for another hour or so the weather would lift and the roads dry out a little.
The course had changed this year and whilst there were less hills it was quite technical. There were never more than a handful of miles before you were taking a sharp turn, slowing at a junction or searching for a clean piece of road without pot holes. I had expected that the flatter course would be about 15 minutes quicker than 2012 and I had set my pacing targets based on this assumption. By the middle of the first lap I felt I was cycling too hard and too slow to hit my plan. I had caught another guy in my age group but I would have to back off now, be more conservative with my pace and hope the guys up the road were not putting too much time into me.
The second lap was pretty uneventful, the field was pretty thin and I didn’t catch anyone else, it would be down to the run, as usual.
I hit T2 behind plan and uncertain how much I had left myself to do. As I exited a friend shouted out 3rd place, 2 minutes off 2nd, 10 minutes off the lead. Fantastic, time to go to work. This put me in a really good place mentally, I could relax, find my running legs and if I simply held a reasonable Ironman pace I would be good for third and a Kona slot, but of course I was there to compete not settle for third. I nailed second within 8k and then reeled in first by 18k, legs feeling great I just pushed on but being careful not to over reach. Not a time for heroics, just tap out the pace and make it to the finish line.
There were lots of friends and family on the course (you can hear their quiet encouragement on the video), really helping to keep me on task, in the lead and heading for the tape. I crossed the line chuffed to have bagged the win, booked my ticket to Kona and finished 22nd overall. It was a great result and my year at the ripe age of fifty would be marked with the Ironman World Championship double, it’s not all bad getting old.

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