Monday, 24 August 2009

Ironman Switzerland

9:26:xx! - When I crossed the line and saw that number I was so incredibly elated that I let myself collapse as I not only achieved my goal of going under 9.5 hours, but I also thought I had my Kona slot. I raced a smart and aggressive race (except for the swim – more on that later) and felt I nearly did everything right. Unfortunately I quickly found out that my age group was crazy fast, so much faster than the year before that I was extremely confused and disappointed. If I had raced a 9:26 in 2008, I would have finished 3rd in my AG, but this year I would have had to go under 9 hours to get on the podium. Anyways, to the race:

Check in & set up – I dropped off the bike on Saturday and had the weird experience of getting photographed with my bike, helmet and race number for security purposes, much like a mugshot. We waited until the end of the check in time period to avoid the crowds and it turned out to be a good decision as I got in and out very easily. On Sunday morning, the only issue was I left the pump at the local train station so I had to ask Tim for an assist. Other than that, the bike we good to go and I set up the transition spot as usual and had the luxury of having a couple empty spaces next to me.

My nutrition plan during the race (the bike portion anyways) was to consume 8 gels, 2 bars (1 small Clif bar, and 1 Powerbar), along with 500ml of Gatorade as well as two bites of banana (equiv to a whole medium banana). I actually consumed all but 2 of the gels, which in hindsight seems like I nearly had the nutrition dialled in, but getting an additional gel or two would be helpful for the run.

Pre race activities: I got up around 4:30 and had a very normal breakfast of yoghurt w/honey (180grams, whole fat greek style) with some granola, 500ml of OJ, and a slice of bread with nutella, which I think is just about the most magical food ever from god! Trans to Race site was very easy as we parked near the train station and took a short (6min) train ride to the transition area. Could not be easier or less stressful, other than my pump and I had to look for an assist from Tim.

Swim – the swim was the worst part of the race as I found myself at the very back as we entered the water and I was still on my feet when the gun went off (totally unexpected) and I had to swim around 250m to get to the start line, then proceed to get kicked and mauled for the remainder of the first lap and part way through the second lap. I never felt great or horrible, but I knew I was not having a great swim day and knew I was not likely to improve on last year’s time. I couldn’t help but remind myself of how little I have actually swam this year, which was certainly not the best mental approach to have at that point. The good news was I never felt tired and swam pretty easily with no cramping in my calves like Western Oz. I did have to pee twice which was unusually but I didn’t fight it as I would rather have an empty bladder going into the 180km ride. I found the course to be reasonably easy to follow, but the turns were just pure chaos and the pinch at the bridge on the first lap was quite hectic. On the second lap, I managed to swim a bit off course near the turn under the bridge and had to make a serious correction to get back for the finish. Overall, I was way too relaxed at the swim start and let myself lose time before I even got started, which was not smart and is an easy fix going forward.

T1 – my transition spot was right near the entrance from the swim (with the pro’s) and I got my wetsuit off nearly in one effort, but my left leg needed a couple of extra tugs. I decided to sit down to put on my socks and cycling shoes, which seemed to be a pretty quick method and everything went pretty smoothly with no issues. Getting out of the transition area was tough as there were so many slow moving folks who were obviously not racing and just taking their sweet assed time, and I wasted 15 seconds or more working my way through it all.

Bike – the bike course has two distinct aspects: long flat sections (the first 30km and nearly the last 20km of each lap), and the rolling hills that start at around 30km and the short, sharp hill near the end of the lap (Heartbreak hill). My strategy was to ride a solid 220-230 watts on the flat on lap one, and bump it up to 230-240 watts on lap two, with all the climbing maintained under 350 watts. The first lap went to plan, although the first 10km was a bit harder than the plan (pretty normal and not an issue). I saw loads of little packs developing on the flat parts and the marshals did not seem to care, which would become the story of the bike course. I came out of the water well behind most of my competitors and begin to overhaul loads of people, especially on the climbs where I just seemed to be going so much faster than most of the people around me. On the descents, I took it a bit easily as I didn’t remember all the corners and specifics, so I am sure some guys pulled back time there, but as I returned to the flat and back to towards Heartbreak hill, I didn’t have many riders around me. Once on the steep hill, I caught and passed 20-30 riders over the 1km climb, saw Angie shouting at me and went way over my upper limit of 350 watts. I felt good and the climb was so short that I really just rode comfortably (albeit hard!). The second lap was distinctly different than last year as I felt much fresher with no noticeable fatigue. The only problem I encountered was the drafting packs really grew as we turned into a moderate headwind and I was soon surrounded by a huge peloton of cheating bastards. I knew that I would have to do a solid 350 watt effort to go off the front, but with all the climbing to come I decided to sit 10 meters off the back (the legal distance) and just bide my time until the climb. On the climb, I immediately put it in another gear and just dropped everyone in my peloton, then I passed the next peloton up the road, and then I caught and dropped another group over the last big climb on that section. Once I got on the descents, I rode like I stole something (to paraphrase someone) and just hung it all out (hitting 90kmh at one point) as I was determined to keep the drafters from latching back onto me on the flat run in towards Heartbreak hill and the finish. Once I got on the flats I pushed hard all the way to end, and it worked as no one was near me on the flat, nor up the steep climb or back to the finish and I got off the bike reasonably happy with my bike ride and feeling pretty good with only moderate fatigue.

T2 – Went very smoothly and I was out very quickly. The only issue was my speed laces were not pre-tightened and I had to take care of that, but at most it cost me a few seconds.

Run – For the run, my plan was to run the first 13 miles at a sub 7min mile pace, then see if I could hold a 7-7:30 pace to finish. I managed to run to plan pretty easily up to mile 14 and felt really brilliant. I felt strong and smooth and my one mile lap splits were very consistently around 6:50 or so, but unfortunately I skipped quite a few aid stations and only took a tiny bit of Coke at the ones I did visit and that hurt me on the 15th and 16th miles, where my energy levels plummeted. I reacted swiftly however and hit the next several aid stations and got my energy levels up after a couple of tough miles and ran back in the 7min/mile range. From there it was a matter of general fatigue and mental strength, which I managed to hold my own against my failing legs. I expected the 3rd lap (4 laps of 10.5km) to be the hardest, but actually it wasn’t until I neared the end of it that I really had to fight the demons in my psyche. The next 3-4 miles were the toughest as I was really getting tired and my resolve came into question on occasion. I did hold it together and only walked through two aid stations and knocked out a solid last mile with a great kick of speed and emotion. I was so pleased with how my stomach felt throughout the run, with only one pee stop needed and only mild gas issues. Overall, my nutrition on the bike was spot on (if only just a bit short on or two more gels early perhaps).

After the race I could not eat anything for about 5 hours, but did have the appetite to eat half a pizza and half a large insalata caprese (after a nice 2.5 hour sleep).

Final thoughts and stats: The race went nearly to plan and I am very pleased with my performance overall. I know that I will need to train to go under 9 hours at my next IM to compete for that Kona slot. The biggest disappointment was how little I swam going into the race and my mentality at the swim start. I need to fix that and make the swim a much smaller weakness, although I don’t know if I will ever go under an hour, but I will train with that in mind as a goal. After a couple weeks off and one or two of unstructured training I will go back to work and swimming will get the focus while I can swim outdoors at the Lido, and will continue to be a bigger part of my training week throughout the fall and winter.

Overall Time - 9:26:09
Swim – 1:11:27 WTF!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
T1 – 1:49
Bike – 4:58:40
Lap one – 2:28:12
Lap two – 2:30:28
T2 – 1:01
Run – 3:13:12
Lap one (10km) – 42:22 (4:14/km)
Lap two (11km) – 45:19 (4:07/km)
Lap three (10km) – 51:11 (5:07/km)
Lap four (11km) – 54:20 (4:56/km)
Average – 224 watts
Normalised – 245 watts
Max – 625 watts
Average – 146 (Bike), 157 (Run)
Max – 176 (Bike), 170 (Run)

Kcal estimate
Swim: 700-800
Bike: 4014
Run: 2918
Total estimate: ~7780

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job Jack--an exciting read as usual. You continue to inspire me to go that extra mile (literally) during my morning 3.5 - 4.0 mile runs on the trails in 2,432 degree Texas summer heat...