Wednesday, 16 November 2016

November 13th 2016 Ironman 70.3 Xiamen China

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 36oF

Swim 35:45 - T1 04:59 - Bike 02:25:42 - T2 03:10 – Run 01:33:00 Total Time 4:42:36

50-54 Age Group Champion, 33rd overall

3 wins 70.3 Ironman   2016 Age Group World Ranking No 1

Earlier in the year this wasn’t in the plan but after a friend told me he had entered, I took a look at the details and figured it would be a good post Kona road trip. Whilst I knew that the new IM owner had introduced five races into their homeland and uniquely allocated Kona slots to the races, it was obvious the field would be stacked with athletes chasing slots at the shorter race distance format.

Off the back of a disappointing showing at Kona, I still had a race in my legs and Xiamen would provide the opportunity to race hard and end the season with a positive race experience. I had five weeks between races which I thought would be sufficient having not been well enough to completely batter my body in Kona! Whist I had deferred a fair amount of life stuff until after Kona, I was able to cram in the shorter duration high intensity sessions necessary to prepare to red line it in China.



I flew into Xiamen on Friday morning so as expected, I stood on the beach Sunday morning, my body not really sure what day of the week it was but the adrenalin pumping hard and I was ready to race. The air temperature 26oC so standing on the beach in a wetsuit felt a bit like boil in a bag. It was yet another version of IM swim starts, this time self-seeding on the beach then four athletes released into the sea every 5 seconds. So, no boom of a cannon, just 3-2-1 go and then a dash into the water and straight into a calm solid effort and a chance to cool off. No elbows, no kicks, no anaerobic gasping, a straightforward solo TT if it weren’t for the current scattering swimmers right across the course. With the navigation buoys straining at their anchors it was impossible to swim a straight line and I eventually hauled myself out having swum over 2.2k in a snake pattern as I attempted to round each buoy.

With over 2000 athletes racing it was a big transition area and fair jog off the beach, through the change tent and finally grab the bike. The bike course, and indeed the whole event, was fantastically organised. We had a good quality, closed three lane highway for most for the rolling bike course which made navigating around the other athletes much more simple and allowed the draft busters to buzz around the course breaking up any riders working together. Early on in the ride I felt pretty spent after the long, hot swim and really struggled to hit my power targets, not sure if it was just me or others were in the same place. As I approached the first turnaround point there really were not many age group athletes coming back the other way, reassuring me I was still in the race and needed to stay focussed on producing a sustained best effort albeit at a lower wattage than planned. My heart rate was at race pace so clearly conditions were tougher than predicted and I needed to flex my race plan to match the race dynamics otherwise I would be digging a deep hole and ending up with a DNF.

I continued to pass the odd athlete and just metered out my effort for the rest of the ride, making sure I drank and ate appropriately for the conditions. I hopped off the bike in T2 and as I ran pass the empty bike racks I counted two, maybe three other bikes from my age group. Worse case I was top five entering my key discipline for the race. I set off at my planned pace but was working hard and not making it, time to back off and rethink the plan. The first turnaround point was at 3k and there was just a handful of athletes coming back the other way and none of them were belting out a fast run. I pressed the reset button and switched into IM Hawaii mode with the first priority to get my core temperature back under control after pushing too hard for the first few ks. I ran through the next couple of aid stations, executing the tried and testing protocol for hot conditions. There was no need to set any records today, just keep to a sustainable pace, stay cool, keep the calories coming and tap it out to the end. The only slight blip for the rest of the run was a Japanese athlete in my age group running up and past me at the start of the last lap. I resolved to run with him for the next 3k, measure his pace then push hard for the last 4ks. He slowed almost immediately he passed me, I wasn’t sure if he was fatigued or conserving but I took off as planned and in actual fact put a minute a k into him by the time I hit the tape. We chatted after the race and he was an 8x veteran of Kona so I am pleased I didn't give him an inch!


I was pretty sure when I crossed the line I was at least second and maybe had the win. In any event, I had done enough to bag my slot but had been made to work hard for it. The win was later confirmed and that was a fantastic end to a long season. Ironically I had better results in my 70.3 races this year than my preferred full distance but I’ll take that, really chuffed. Kona slot paid for and some R&R in HongKong before heading off home to plot the 2017 campaign

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