On Wednesday the 9th October I set off from England to head to America for 4 weeks. I spent 3 weeks in California training mostly although I did try to race once but the less that’s said of that the better. And then the following week would be spent in Panama City Beach Florida for the grand finale of my trip Ironman Florida.
I was staying with Cathy Holl who’s an absolute legend. Her and her husband Steve have had 26 athletes stay with them 13 of which have represented there country at the Olympics! While I was there Richard Stannard and his girl friend Jazz were also there as well so it was great to get to know them and do some training together, although they were just staying there for 10 days as they were then heading over to Hawaii for the Xterra Worlds.
While I was out in California I got to meet some top people from the San Diego track club, and the triathlon club, Brad and Nick From the San Diego Triathlon club to name a few, Jim Ryun a top American distance runner who qualified for the American Olympic team in the mile while at high school!
One of the things which I think will be really beneficial and what I enjoyed were the swim sets with the North County Masters swimming cub, the coach there was great and really motivates you to put the work in, because I was out there training around the same time as kona a lot of the top triathletes who would normally swim there were absent like Luke Mckenzie, Luke Bell, Paul Amey, Bryan Rhodes, there’s also some really good swimmers that train there.
The swim sessions were a real eye opener and especially after talking to Richard Stannard about swim training it’s really given me some guidance and an idea of the kind of set to do over the winter.
One thing which did affect me quite badly while I was out there was the jet lag, I’m not sure if this was also party because I had caught a cod off my Mum and Dad just before I left as they were ill with one when I left. Anyway I literally felt terrible for two weeks when trying to push hard, I just was unable to get my heart rate up. This culminated in me feeling my worst at the lifetime fitness triathlon race on the 20th. I felt shite from the off in this race, it was as if I was stuck in 2nd gear, once I was out on the bike I thought it might get better but it didn’t. It was strange as I wasn’t finding it; I was just unable to push myself. I ended up averaging a pitiful 39kmh on quite a fast course for just 40 kilometers, I though forget this I’m not carrying on but then I saw Cathy at transition and I thought oh god there’s no way I can stop now, she was like “go on Joe just slog it out” so out onto the run I went! A race I would definitely like to put behind me.
I have to admit though after the race I was actually feeling really down about it and I thought maybe something was wrong with me. Speaking to Laura, and my Mum and Dad made a big difference. Especially my Dad who’s advice was “just relax Joe and enjoy it, there’s nothing you can do about it just have a coupe of beers and a few days off and you’ll be alright”. So after speaking to them it did make me feel a lot better and I took the next day pretty much off, did a bit of sightseeing and then went for a nice swim at the university pool with Nick, a triathete who’s hoping to race pro next year and is a top guy!
The next day was the 13th day I had been there and it was the first day I felt good since being there. I did a track session in the evening of 5*1k and hit some really good times and from this point on everything changed, it was like a switch had been flicked and I just felt really good from here on in.
I was doing similar training to when I’m back home and just having a great laugh doing it. The next day we went to Palomar Mountain which was a beast of a climb it gains 1400 meters of elevation in 18.6 Kilometres so perfect prep for a flat race in Florida! I actually had a good days training that day as it was an hour to Palomar which we rode steady then 1 hour 4 minutes for the climb of Palomar mountain which I rode at 326w and that felt pretty comfortable which was a good sign, then after the descent we pushed the pace back and then followed it up with a cheeky 10k run at bang on 6 minute pace which was half on road and half on hilly trails. After this session I knew I was in good Ironman shape and that I didn’t really have to worry about anything.
So after the Palomar mountain day I just made sure I enjoyed the training and made the most of it. I went swimming t this place called La Jolla which is beautiful and you literally swim with the sea lions!
On the Monday before the Ironman I flew to Florida for the race. Amy Forshaw who I knew quite well was also racing and she’s always up for a laugh so I was looking forward to meeting up with her for a bit of a catch up before the race.
During the race week I took it pretty easy most of the days with the Wednesday being a slightly harder day. I did a 6 mile run in the morning with 3 miles at tempo 5.30,5.29,5.30 and then around 30 minutes of swimming in the sea which was lovely I couldn’t believe how warm it was.
In the evening I did a 30 minute ride and I felt really good, I was so pleased with how I felt and I knew that on race day a sub 4.20 bike split was on the cards.
Normally when I start a triathlon I go really hard at the start of the swim to try and stay with the lead group, unfortunately what normally happens is that after a couple of hundred meters I’ve completely red lined it and the lead group pulls away then I spend the next few hundred meters trying to re-gather myself and latch onto the chasing pack. This time I thought I’ll start off with the chase pack and just stay with them for the whole duration of the swim in the hope that I would be much fresher for the bike and run. I did feel as though I was swimming much easier but the temperature of the water was so hot that I really felt like I was overheating, I actually thought I was going to be sick. I managed to swim at the front of the chase pack, so down to business and onto the bike.
The bike course for this race is pretty much pan flat on good road surface as well. I didn’t have the greatest o transitions and probably lost around 30 seconds in transition so had to go pretty quick at the start, I was pleased to see that I was averaging around 44km/h without to much trouble. I quickly caught the guys up in front and went to the front of the group and helped keep the pace high. I wanted to push the bike as I just wanted to race the Ironman hard an go for a good time, I knew that if I was on for good time then a decent position probably wouldn’t be to far away as well.
All was going well up until 50 kilometres in when disaster struck and I got a puncture, I heard it start to go down luckily I had some slime in the tire so it sealed it at what I would guess was probably around 50psi, so I could still ride on it fine but it was a fair bit harder. At the time when I punctured we were knocking along at a decent pace so I didn’t want to stop straight away as I thought I may not see them again, so I waited a for the pace to slow a bit and then at the first opportunity I got I quickly stopped got my CO2 cartridge out and pumped the tire up. I reckon I lost about minute and it took me 16 kilometres of absolutely hammering it to catch back up, I definitely burnt a fair few matches with that effort.
By this time we were around 65 Kilometres in and we could see the lead group in the distance. It was so motivational to see them so early into the ride as I wasn’t expecting to see them until around 150 kilometres into the bike. We eventually caught them at around 95-100 kilometres and at this point there were around 20 people in the group but riders were getting dropped all the time. Unfortunately for me though we were al riding 10 meters apart which at the speed we were going was around 1 second however we hit a drag and speed suddenly slowed from around 43-44kmh to 30kmh meaning I suddenly went about 3-4 meters closer to the guy in front. I swung out into the road as to make it obvious I wasn’t drafting but I got a penalty straight away. The referee who gave me the penalty had been with the group for 2.5 hour s and no one had been drafting so I think it was a bit of a harsh call, it was fair but very harsh as there was nothing I could really do at that time.
So I had to stop at 125 Kilometres, it was the first time I’ve ever received a drafting penalty and it was horrible standing at the side of the road watching all the group ride away and then watching guys who had been spat from the group come back past. When I started after the 4 minutes I could feel it in my legs and it took a good 5 minutes to get back into the swing of things. The last 55 kilometres I was just with one other guy and we were working pretty hard by ourselves, I could definitely feel it in my legs and I did think how the hell am I going to get round a marathon. This ride was the hardest I have ever pushed an Ironman bike
When I got off the bike surprisingly my legs actually felt o.k. despite feeling on deaths door at the end of the bike ride. I knew that I was down the field at the start of the run in maybe 11th or 12th so I thought I’ve got nothing to lose so I started at a quite ambitious pace, I think it was just over 6 minute miles for the first 10 miles. It actually felt quite comfortable and I thought bloody hell I’m going to smash this but it always feels like that at 10 miles in an ironman so needless to say the effort caught up with me and after the first lap I had no idea what position I was in as there were so many people on the course. I was also starting to fade and it was just a case of holding on to the finish. I was really pleased to see that finish chute and happy with an 8 hour 17 Ironman and 10th place overall especially when you consider luck was hardly on my side.
So what are my thoughts after the race, firstly I’m more then happy to finish 2013 with a good result it’s been a very long year and I’m looking forward to a break ( although that’s coming to an end now).
Also with regards to the Ironman brand I don’t think I’ll be doing many of them in the future unless the races change. When you get a field like you get assembled in Florida with over 70 male pros and prize money only going down to 6th place with $750 I think it’s a poor show. I mean for me to break even I think I would have needed to get 4th which would have been 8.05 or quicker so not far off the British record and that’s to not make a loss. I also want to say I knew exactly what the prize money was before signing up so it’s no surprise and that it was my own fault as if I didn’t like it I didn’t have to race, and that’s very fair. Going to America for me was more then just about racing Ironman Florida, I wanted to experience America and see what it was really like. I stayed in California for 3 weeks with Cathy Holl, I met some great people who I definitely hope to keep in contact with and really enjoyed it. Then going to Florida Craig from Hammer down multisport set me up with an amazing condo on the beach front for next to nothing so yeah it was an awesome experience and the memories will stay with me for a long time. However looking at triathlon from the point of making a living, to me the Ironman races just don’t make sense.
So that’s it for 2013 It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and I really do appreciate everyone that’s followed or supported me. It really does mean a lot, it’s amazing when you finish a big race and you look at all the nice comments on sites like facebook and twitter, I really appreciate them and it means a lot to know that so many of you wish me luck and are there supporting me. I’m also now the 7th fastest brit of all time over the Ironman distance.
I also want to say thanks again to my current sponsors Mail big file, Starley bikes, Clif Bar, On running, Huub, and Bonk clothing and Amphibia sports bags, probably should also mention my Mum and Dad who have helped me a lot!!!
If anyone is reading this who would be interested in sponsoring me or has any contacts that might it would be great to hear from you, it’s a tough sport and all help is greatly received and goes a long way.