Sunday, 4 May 2014

Ironman Australia (Port Macquarie) 2014


Short Report
Swim     1:12:41 (AG - 167)
T1         0:06:12
Cycle     5:44:18 (AG - 60)
T2         0:03:35
Run       3:46:25 (AG - 50)
Overall 10:53:13 (AG - 62)

Long Report

Having said that I would never do another IM event after Copenhagen in 2011, I found myself signing up for one late in 2013. The reason...peer pressure (thanks Mr Tyrrell). Well that and Em pointed out that if I was going to become a weirdo again and not drink then it would be good timing as we were planning on having a second child - which meant as Em wouldn't be able to drink either, me cutting back wouldn't matter so much. I had to put forward a proposal for allowable training so that it fitted in with little Amy's schedule and Em's own training. This was actually a good thing as it meant my training was far more focused and disciplined and of course less potential for over training. So two mornings during the week, two evenings (assuming I wasn't out at any point) and a session on the weekends (+ commuting and lunchtimes). In hindsight I enjoyed the preparation for this IM a huge amount more. The lack of the 'fear' of the unknown and less training meant it was far less pressured and demanding. I also meant I wasn't as tired all the time.

The other contributory factors included Amy continuing to be an angel and we were looking forward to a second child at the first attempt which meant I could reign back the drinking from January, with one exception being the mid training regime trip to Vegas for Graham's stag do. This came straight after Challenge Bateman's Bay ('BB'), eight weeks out from IM Aus, so perfect timing really.

The final late factor was a new bike. I know that one shouldn't really change bike before an event but I decided to risk it and bought a TT bike 3 weeks out from Jet Cycles. I was now the proud owner of a Specialized Shiv, but with 3 weeks to go this meant I had to get as much time on the new bike as possible (In total I managed 6.5hrs on the turbo and c10hrs out on the road). I had a bike fit and the next day took it out for 180km down to Sublime point with Terry (the guy who cajoled me into signing up in the first place). It worked like a dream and with relatively little discomfort from the new saddle I was pretty sure all was going to be fine. I even considered riding the course in my tri-shorts.....I used cycle shorts in the end though.

On the way up to Port we drove the majority of the course. It looked flat with a few undulations, from what we saw. There were a few more hills on the way into Port, but funnily enough we took a wrong turn and missed THE hill so when I saw it for the first time it was a surprise....The only potentially dampener was the reported winds of c30km/hr.

Pre-race form
Going into the race I wasn't convinced of my form. I felt I had done less than last time and that my running might be under-cooked. Especially given BB where my run was 1:44 but was a real struggle with nutrition and heavy legs. I expected my bike to be stronger as I had done a lot more cycling over the past 3 years. I had also done a lot more swimming since arriving in Australia (swim squads and open water swims with Vladswim). However, I was very disappointed with my swim in BB (42mins - pretty much dead on the same as times before). The positives were how well the 180km ride went and the 26km hilly run I did the next day over Easter weekend. I felt like I had done both with a lot more to give.

My plan for the race was to push harder on the bike than last time. In 2011, scared of blowing up on the run, I completed the bike in 6hrs at a avg HR of 126. I then posted my first marathon time of 3:41. I felt my easy ride the last time had worked well for my first IM. This time I wanted to push my HR up to c135-140 and see if I could hold the run. I was concerned that the run would suffer, especially given my feelings of less miles in my legs etc. But that was the plan.

1 - Complete and be satisfied that I gave my best on the day. 
2 - PB if the course allowed - Copenhagen was very flat both bike and run
3 - Sub 11. My top line hopes based on not much were S - 1:15, Bike 5:45, Run 3:45 + Transitions

Official weigh in was 85kgs, not what I had hoped for. Still I had just scoffed a whole load of food and drink after finishing the drive up from Syndey. Real weight c82.5kgs still a far bir more than the 78kg for Copenhagen. I was hoping it was all contributing to greater leg strength.....

The race
The race started with a rolling swim start. First time it had been used in Aus and from the sound of it and the speed of the swimming I encountered at BB I was glad to try it. As it was it was excellent. With everyone filing across the start mat and into the water in order of their expected timing. So I entered the water in the 1:14 to 1:22 group. 

The swim was in the Hastings river and thus flat and relatively warm. Sighting was not an issue and nor were other swimmers on the whole. The novel point was the crossing of the weir (twice) which I liked as it meant I got to overtake some people and also check on my timing. Crossing the weir for the second time I worked out I was going quite well and that I had the potential to beat my PB of 1:18. So on the final stretch I pushed a little bit harder to make sure. I also felt pleased that I had gone for a swim the day before and swum some of the final leg. I meant I knew what I was supposed to be sighting on and where I was heading. Which probably helped my timing. I exited the water and checked my watch. The 'worst' bit was over and I had enjoyed it and my time was a new PB by 6 mins. After a bit of a flustered transition I grabbed my new bike and headed out on the bike section. Though i didn't have the Micheal ROAR as I left transition, I did get a cheer from a BTC member David Johnson. Em and Amy were also there to cheer me out of the water and out onto the bike. I was pleased to see them, especially given I was ahead of my estimated timing.

The bike was a two lap course. I started off with a few hills leaving Port which meant it was hard to maintain my HR. I settled for just trying to calm myself down and not go too hard and settle into it. The wind wasn't too bad early on and the scenery was great. Once I got clear of Port it felt superb. The bike was flying and I was maintaining good pace at a reasonable heart rate. The bike was comfy and the only nagging doubt (after having got my wheel straightened - no more noise) was whether I should have used the vas I had in my change bag and whether using the bladder and grabbing gels from the stations was going to be a good fueling strategy.

The bike leg felt good for the whole way. Barely had to do any moving around - minimal discomfort. The undulations meant that you had to get up and down enough to break up the ride and the TT position anyway. I was constantly overtaking people and refilling the bladder on the move through aid stations was working well. I grabbed extra gels when I needed them and the whole feeding strategy worked well. I used the straw to sip Gatorade throughout the ride and took on a gel every 20-30 mins. The first time I hit THE hill I was smiling all the way up... to the point that someone shouted "less smiling, more pain". But I was loving it, absolutely loving it. The support round the bike was good too, there were sound systems in towns to the bottom of the lap with names being shouted out as you passed. At an avg speed of 32.5 on the way back into Port I new I was going well and potentially on for a good time. The wind was picking up though and there were a few hairy moments when flying down hills on the bars and being hit by cross winds. Still I stayed down as much as I could, which was more than those I was overtaking. Saw Em and Amy as I passed Flynn's beach on the way in and out. Luckily they moved in between because coming down to Flynns beach was one of those hairy descents...

The second lap was harder with the wind, but I still felt good. I was still passing people all the time and caught Terry down the bottom of the lap. I was starting to get concerned that I might be overcooking the bike for the run. But I carried on monitoring my HR and pulling back when it went over 140 on the flats. Pace was still good. I didn't enjoy THE hill as much the second time but was still having fun, and by then just wanted to get on with the run. I was still working on the basis that the ride should be easy in an IM. Someone once described an IM to me as going for a swim followed by an easy, if long, cycle and then running a marathon. If I was suffering on the bike then I was going too hard (or hadn't trained enough) and that then meant the run was going to be really really tough. 

Avg speed suffered on the second lap over all came down to c31.5km/hr but this gave me a 15PB at 5:44. So again I was chuffed and sub11 could be on the cards if my run held up. The bike and the bike fit from Jet Cycles ( worked like a dream, so thanks guys! Really happy with ride, my new bike, my fueling, everything - thank heavens I hadn't wasted a whole heap of cash 3 weeks before the race and totaled my race.....would have felt a bit stupid and very guilt on that front.

Analysis from the bike section - hit my target HR with an average of 138.
The run
The run is a 4 lap course. Which to me is perfect. First two laps should be OK. When "the race actually starts" at 20-30km you are on your third lap, which is the hardest lap, but mentally you only have one more lap to go after that. And then you are on the final lap so its almost over.

So out on the first lap and I was feeling good. Though I didn't do the maths properly a marathon in sub 3:53 would mean SUB 11 baby. I knew I wanted to go sub 4 ("any clown can go sub 4" eh Jamie! ;-)) and pretty much get as close to my time from Copenhagen as possible (3:41). 

Went off hard on the run and was moving well, even up the hill the first time (which didn't seem much like a hill when walking up it on the Tuesday! it sure as hell felt like a hill on the 3rd and 4th laps of the run). There was a hell of a wind coming back along the front. First lap in good time and most of the second followed in the same manner. Sub 5 min kms stopped after 16km and that's when it started getting harder. They say the race doesn't start until half way through the marathon and from my two IMs I can agree 100%.

I was now struggling to get liquid or food down and after eating gels all day I was starting to feel nauseous at the thought of them, and in general. So I started walking through the aid stations, taking as many sips of water through the station as i could and then taking a mouthful of Gatorade. Then sipping the energy drink as I ran. This seemed to work. I also began striding through the aid stations as my stride was shortening while running. The first half went by in 1:44. But the second was to be a tad slower at just over 2hrs.

Em and Amy were making good progress around the course and it was great to see them wherever they popped up (high five, "go Daddy", "Daddy running"). There was great support all round the course and a lot of cheers for Balmoral. So thank you to all of you who were cheering, especially the group of lads who were also moving around the run course - really great motivation that kept me going when it started getting harder. 

I forced a gel down on the final lap and pushed the pace again for the last few kms. Bit of wonky mental arithmetic had me being close to 11, but then the KM markers came thick and fast over the last 4km and it was then not in doubt. It felt good to be moving at a better pace anyway. 

Saw Terry as I crossed the bridge for the last time and he was looking much sharper. Amy and Em cheered just before I entered the chute. Ran down it at the same time as a fellow competitor so share all my photos with her. No great shouts or leaps as I crossed the finish line just a sense of satisfaction of getting below 11 and pretty much going as well as I could have hoped for. Run 3:46; Total 10:53.

The finish chute
Grabbed the towel, medal and t-shirt along with a quick bite to eat and then out to see my trusted support crew. Then two battered fish with Amy watching 'In the night garden' while Em went to get the car.... the bike can wait....

Post race thoughts
Port Macquarie is a great event, the course was great, the support was fantastic. Wearing Balmoral colours was great as well. I was used to getting a lot of cheers for TriLondon (and they help! - to those out on the course cheering people on) so it was great to be getting so much support from my new club.

Will I do another Ironman....for sure. I realised this time that they can be done without excessive / obsessive training. So maybe in a few years time I will enter another one and I wouldn't be unhappy to be lining up in Port Macquarie again. Of course there is always the Norseman. Until then there are plenty of HIMs out there to keep me occupied.

Looking back on the results I was even more pleased:
Comparison of percentiles from Copenhagen to Port Macquarie
The improvement in terms of percentiles was across the board and that put a different perspective on the improvement in the bike and the fact the run (while 5 mins slower) was a comparative improvement. Overall very happy with the Swim / Bike / Run as well as my new bike and the support from Em and Amy - without which I wouldn't have been able to get to the start line let alone smash my expectations.

Just love doing this sort of event! Get involved - it provides such a sense of achievement and camaraderie. 


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