Tuesday, 28 June 2016

June 26th 2016 Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball, Exmoor, UK

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 15oF

Swim 30:09 - T1 04:30 - Bike 03:06:10 - T2 02:01 – Run 01:32:17 Total Time 5:15:07

50-54 Age Group Champion, 53rd overall

I last did this race in 2012 and left promising myself that having nailed a decent time, I didn’t need to come back and batter myself yet again. I have no doubt that this is the toughest course on the Ironman 70.3 circuit with over 5500ft elevation on the bike and 1700ft on the half marathon. I guess it’s like marmite, you either love it or hate it. I am no fan of marmite but something about this course is really cool, maybe the simple challenge of trying to red line such a challenging course or perhaps the constant variation in topography and the beautiful vistas. Anyway, I signed up and looked forward to battering myself again.

The swim was the rolling start format and it actually worked well for me. It was a small field, less than 1400 athletes, so I could plop myself on the front line and have a crack at hanging on to some fast feet. So, we had the national anthem (?) and then were let loose. Without the usually punch up in the opening 100m I was able to sight well and hunt round for some decent feet. The field quickly become fairly strung out so finding a good draft proved to be more the exception than the rule but still, I was able to swim at a consistent effort and put in a season PB.

It’s a 400m run up the grassy hill to T1 and then a short jog to the mount line. With the AWA scheme and no pro field my race number was lucky 13; this meant I was pretty much the first bike on the racking by the exit which felt kinda cool. The small field and my push for the front line meant the transition area was pretty quiet as I made my way through and the usual melee of wobbling bike mounts and ejected nutritional debris was absent.

I set to work on the bike with my aim to push hard to see what I could produce for the three hour effort. There were a few bikes up the road and a few of the faster guys coming by but on the whole, it was uneventful save busting a gut on some of the steeper hills. I was gunning for three hours but it’s always dangerous setting time goals, conditions will always vary and being a hostage to a time will almost always lead to disappointment and demotivation at crucial points in the race.

A tidy T2 and out onto the run. It’s just impossible to establish any sort of rhythm on the course, just a constant up and down with a multitude of running surfaces to contend with. It’s a three lap affair so really nice to break up the task ahead and just tick off the hills and laps as they come round. I ran mostly within myself but upped the tempo and bent myself a little out of shape on the last lap.

It wasn’t my best time but I was pleased to bag the win after Staffordshire and left hungry for the next challenge.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

June 12th 2016 Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire UK

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 15oF

Swim 32:40 - T1 04:22 - Bike 02:36:42 - T2 03:11 – Run 01:28:14 Total Time 4:45:09

50-54 Age Group Champion, 57th overall

When I entered I wasn’t sure how recovered I would be after completing Ironman Texas only four weeks prior. Normally after an IM race I am not only physically but mentally fried from the training building up to the race and obviously the race effort itself. However, despite the adventure IMTX turned out to be, just two weeks after the race I was ready to get back on it. A couple of weeks getting the body back into the rhythm of training and I was standing on the pier ready to red line it for five hours.

The swim start in 2015 had been an age group wave start which is the best of both worlds in a way, less congestion on the bike course but a head to head race with my peers. This year they kept the wave starts but then each wave had within it a rolling start – kind of ok and certainly better than the whole race being a rolling start. Thankfully the weather forecast had rain not coming in until later and so it had transpired. Nothing worse than hanging around in the wet waiting to get going.

There is something not quite right with ambling down to the water after the gun has gone, just too dam relaxed. The gun fired and we hit the water on the G of BANG. Just too dam relaxed, I missed the first half dozen guys smash it out to the first turn and so I ended up on my own for a 1900m TT, pleasingly no slower than last year but I had given the leaders a minute or so head start on the bike.

Out onto the bike course and the same deal as last year, 8 miles of pot holes and weaving athletes to navigate, all very frustrating. The same for everyone albeit starting last meant by the time I crossed the finishing line I had passed over 1600 athletes with some pretty near misses. My plan was to push the bike hard as a bit of a test and then see what I had left in my legs for the run. The passing and constant cornering broke my rhythm somewhat for the first 50k but I made a reasonable fist of keeping the power up however, once the rain started, I had to back off a little to avoid any dramas on the now greasy corners. The rolling nature of the course made it pretty honest although there are always a few clutching at any little slight advantage should the opportunity arise. The most upsetting thing was actually the wanton littering by a few, completely unnecessary and incredibly selfish.

In the last 25k I passed a couple of guys in my age group and figured I was now at the pointy end. As I rolled into T2 and racked my bike I couldn’t see any competitors’ bikes already there although I take nothing for granted. My faffing in T2 this year was a minute longer as my cold fingers struggled to pull on my socks and tie my laces, not critical but not great. Out onto the run course and straight into the noisy crowds, a fantastic way to give you a lift and get up to speed quickly. It’s a great run course with lots of variation of terrain and good crowds dotted all along it. Sub 90 minutes was the target and I established the right sort of perceived effort and cadence within a kilometre or two, now I just had to stay focussed and relaxed. As I ticked the ks off the only real threat to me nailing the run was the single file, slippery mud sections; to stay upright I just had to slow down and patiently trundle behind the other athletes as they navigated the quagmires.

I metered out my effort over the 21k and sped down the red carpet with my sub 90 time in the bag. With the field so spread out and the rolling start breaking up the head to head racing, crossing the finish line is in a way a little anti-climactic. There was one other athlete from another age group on the carpet at the same time and I had no certainty of what position or clock time I had have just accomplished. No dipping for the line, no jumping for joy, no BOOM champagne moment, just stood in the recovery tent wondering how I got on. 45 minutes later I found out I had won my second title - fantastic! In two weeks’ time the journey takes me to Exmoor, the toughest IM 70.3 course on the circuit…can’t wait!