Monday, July 18, 2011
Perfect Ironman preparation. Whilst Roth was a good race - we'll come to this later - the town itself isn't the best place to hold one of the world's largest triathlons. Organisationally it was all a bit demanding, with the swim some 15km and T2 about 1km from the finish. Add to this that there is only one hotel in the entire town and the whole thing adds up to an event which, in my opinion, has far outgrown its origins.
Anyway, I had the car so that made it easier than for most.
As for the race itself, having achieved my goal of starting I wanted to finish. That may sound strange and what I mean by it is this; all my efforts had been focussed on getting to the start line. Once there, I realised that the one thing that would nail me was the run, specifically getting there too tired or pushing too fast whilst on the run. Either of these could cause the achilles to give up on me and I very much didn't want that to happen. So my plan was to keep a lid on proceedings throughout the day.
The swim start was in waves, with me off in wave number two of the age groupers. In front of me were the Pros, the women and the elite age groupers, plus the faster wave. My previous IM swims had been 63, 63 and 60 mins (not counting Switzerland last year where I swam from the back as a training swim). I figured that with the reduced mileage this year and also with not wanting to push too much and over rotate my back my swim time would be around 65 minutes. Guess what... my swim time was 65 minutes.
I took longer than usual in transition to stretch the back and achilles, met up with Aleck who was in the swim wave before me, and headed out onto the bike course.
Roth is a fast course... no two ways about it. But you have to ride what's in front of you. You have to have a plan otherwise you'll crash and burn. Witness the fact that two of our fastest cyclists posted their most disappointing IM times. My cycling times on IM courses had come down over consecutive years with my fastest currently sitting at 5 hours 20 mins for the 112 miles, requiring an average speed of 21 mph. I'd been cycling well this year so my plan was to sit at a 21mph and see how I felt.
In the end, I felt good. The course is rolling and my size allowed me to pick up speed on the downhills and use it to power up the inclines. I tried to keep my power output constant and to ride at a higher cadence than I had been doing a year or so ago. I saw Aleck pass me and followed him for a long time but in the end let him pull away.
My first lap was done at just over 22mph average speed but I eased back on the second lap and ended with a bike split of 5 hrs and 6 minutes, at an average speed of 21.8 mph. More importantly I felt good. I'd got my nutrition right, constantly slurping from my aero bottle and eating reasonably well all the way round.
Time to run.
Having only been back running for the last three months after over a year of inactivity, I knew that the hardest part would be slowing myself down at the beginning enough to be in reasonable enough condition to get through the race. I set out to run 9 minute miles which would have given me a sub 4 hour marathon. By halfway, I was just drifting out on that time and decided to walk for a couple of minutes and slug back some coca cola. My heart rate came down and so did my temperature and I was able to kick on again. Fuelled by coke throughout the last 21km, I managed to keep a reasonably even pace to complete the marathon in 4 hrs 7 mins... not by any means a fast pace but, given that at one stage in the months previously I'd doubted whether I'd ever run again, one I was happy to embrace.
I crossed the line in 10 hrs 29 minutes and 56 seconds, which is another PB and I'm also I'm a newly minted member of the sub 10:30 club.
The injuries felt fine. My back has behaved itself - testament I think to all the rehab done since my slipped disc in October - and my achilles never felt like it would be tested to destruction. Yes, it's sore and tender, but it's resting now and it thanked me for putting it through another Ironman (I may be lying about that last bit).
So, that's it. Injuries don't have to mean the end of athletic careers. Don't listen to the naysayers and doom merchants. Focus on what you can achieve and what you need to do to get better.
Anything is possible.