This race wasn’t exactly planned but I think in a way that was a good thing as it didn’t give me time to over think it or even worry about the race as I was only officially entered the Monday before it, so as soon as I got that confirmed it was just a case of making sure I sorted my accommodation and flights out, it also meant that as it was so close that any training wasn’t going to make any difference so it was just a case of resting up and hoping for the best on the day.
I’ve always been fascinated by the ironman firstly because it’s just an epic distance to race over which just sounds ridiculous when you think about it, I mean who races 112 miles on the bike to then go and run a marathon! And secondly the tales of suffering you hear from everybody who does one, with an Olympic distance race you might hear 5 or 10 people say they were really suffering and didn’t think they would finish, a half you would get some more probably about half the field but I’ve never heard of anyone completing an ironman and saying that was a piece of p**s it’s like everyone has there own story to tell and well it just makes it sound so hard.
It brought me back to when I was about 15 or 16 and my Dad found this cycle ride on the internet called the “Fred Whitton Challenge” at the time it was supposed to be the hardest one day Sportive/Cycle ride around and he said how do you fancy doing this then Joe. I remember looking at the profile and route on the paper print out he had and remember thinking f****n hell 114 miles over brutal terrain with supposedly the hardest climb in Britain Hard Knot after 100 miles. Any way I signed up and I was kacking myself I thought how the hell am I going to get round this, anyway the time come and fuelled on a ridiculous amount of jelly babies, jam sandwiches and god knows what else I managed to get round in 6 hours 40 something I was completely ruined, on the way home I had to lay across the back seats as sitting hurt to much until we got to the first services on the motorway. Doing an ironman kind of brought back memories of this where you know it’s just going to be an epic day out and no matter what you’re going to be ruined!
Anyway that was a bit random but going back to the Ironman and once wind got round that I was doing it I was getting advice left right and centre, everyone seemed to have a completely different view on how you should race one. There was some great advice though on the nutrition side from people, also everyone was saying that the race doesn’t start until 20 miles into the run so save something for the last bit. (Everyone seemed to agree on this one which made me laugh actually as I knew it was going to really hurt around this point but hadn’t even done a long run of this distance before in training let alone racing).
Before the race I was thinking to myself how should I go about racing this then and I thought f**k it let’s see how long I can try and stay at the front of the race for. I don’t really know what more to put for the race plan apart from get a bottle at every aid station and hope you don’t miss one. It was a boom or bust approach as I like to call it, it was quite exciting actually going in to the race with this I mind. The negative was I may blow up and end in a heap on a roadside somewhere, the positives were I would know what I would need to work on if I did blow up and if I didn’t blow I might get a half decent result.
If you’re doing a stupidly long race, why not get a stupid hair cut!:)
The swim was a beach start which was seeded so all the favorites and low numbers got to pick where they started and the higher the number you were the less choice you got unfortunately for me I was number 77 so I decided to start on the left which was a bit further but it meant that I had o one in front of me so I was hoping I would be able to get a really quick start and then cut across in to a group. It worked pretty well and I managed to get into the second pack. There’s not much really to add to the swim part apart from the first 800-1000 meters felt very quick and I felt like I was hanging in however after this the pace slowed quite a bit and then we literally just cruised round until the end of the swim. I have to say there were quite a few cheap shots being throw but I gave as good as I got and they soon f****d off.
A few minutes after we left transition at the roundabout where you join the course for the lap I heard someone shout to me that I was 18th, I knew a few of the guys who came out of the water with me had got a bit of a jump on me through transition so first things first I put my head down and after about 4-5 miles I caught them. I saw Paul Hawkins and said something like let’s go Paul and try and catch them so I gave it a bit of a dig but nothing came of it. Paul then said to me “Joe calm down it’s the first lap wait until longer in the race before you try and force the pace”. I thought fair enough so I bit my tongue and just cruised along and although the pace was fairly good it felt painfully slow and it was killing me just sitting there I just really wanted to go for it ad drill but I didn’t I managed to wait and then as we were coming up to the turnaround at the far end of the course I managed to get a time split on the leading guys and they had roughly 8 minutes on us already!!! That was it I thought this is s**t sitting in and I could just feel the race slipping away so I just put my head down and went for it. I went really hard for about 10 minutes with a couple of brief looks to see if I had gotten away from them. I had a gap but it was no where near as big as I had hoped, and I mean I wasn’t hanging around either I was keeping the speed at about 27-28mph it felt hard,I kept it up until we got to the aid station and then I thought I’m burning to many matches here so went back into the pace line of the group. It was quite good though after this as it seemed to wake them all up and they kept the pace at a good lick for a while. Nothing really happened from after this which was at around 35 miles to 60 miles, I just cruised in the pace line and focused on conserving my energy and eating and drinking enough fluids so I wouldn’t bonk later.
At about 60 miles we were still all in a pace line and there must have been about 15 of us with 4 more up the road but you could see that the effort was starting to show as gaps started appearing and people just started looking more labored in there pedaling style. However the guy that ended up coming second just rode all the way up the outside and you could tell he looked shit hot, I can’t really explain why but you know when you look at someone who’s a decent cyclist they just make it look really easy well this guy just looked super comfortable and fast and he just started upping the pace ad picked it up to about 26mph he held it at about this speed to the roundabout at 66 miles where I managed to get another time split to the lead group and it was down to 3 minutes here and as we went around the round about you could see big gaps and everyone looked like they were really feeling it but as soon as we went round the roundabout he just absolutely smashed it, we were going so fast I mean I was right on the rivet let alone a sustainable pace and I was just taking it mile at a time thinking one more mile, just one more and then after about 80 miles we caught the leaders I managed to introduce myself to Stephen Bayliss with a cheeky “good result at Henley Steve” I think he thought who the hell is this or what’s this age grouper doing in our pace line! Any way back to the race and once we caught the group the guy who was really strong just went straight through the group and that was the last we saw of him. I noticed he had about 15 seconds and did give it a go but I barely made any in roads and after the big effort it took to catch the leaders I was quite happy to be where I was especially considering we still had the marathon to run which I didn’t have a clue how it was going to go so I just cruised the rest of the ride in the group with the aim of saving some energy for the run.
I got out of transition in third place 6 minutes down on the leader and a few seconds behind Stephen Bayliss. I’m not sure how many of us came into transition together as I can’t remember ad haven’t seen the official results but I reckon there was maybe 6. We soon settled into a group of 5 and were chipping along quite nicely I decided not to take my Garmin as because earlier I said my game plan was just to hang on for as long as possible I didn’t want to use my Garmin because I thought if we started off at a pace that I thought was to quick it might psyche me out and make me blow so just went with a basic stop watch. When we saw the leader at the 5k we all stared at him looking for a weakness to see if he looked like he was suffering, and he did the same back I guess trying to analyse how fast we were going and weather or not he would be able to stay away.
At the end of the first lap someone put in a big surge for about 1k maybe a bit more. I have no idea what pace he picked it up to but it felt really hard ad I remember thinking jesus is this the pace there hoping to run at for the rest of the marathon. I thought bloody hell this is going to be a long, long 30k but like I said it only lasted about 1 kilometre maybe a bit more it was as we went through the aid station so I think it was really tactical as if anyone had lost a bit of ground going through the aid station they may have not been able to catch up. It’s quite a lot of mind games that go on with these surges as unless you’re the one doing them you really have no idea how long it will last for, I have to admit though it is bloody fun and the crowd was going mad when we went past which gave you a really good boost.
Anyway out onto the second lap and I saw Lucy Gossage at about the 13-14K mark while she was coming back the other way, I think she shouted “bloody hell boys is that all you’ve got I think your all going to get chicked today”!!! Only joking, it would have been quite funny if she had of but I think it was something along the lines of “Joe you better f****n stay with them!”
Towards the end of the second lap Bittner upped the pace and that was the start of what split our group up. I went with him and then after about a kilometre I went to the front and upped the pace I felt really good and managed to get away with Bas (eventual winner) we knew we were getting chased down by Blanchart and I said to him let’s cruise this lap and then when/if we get caught by him on the last lap we will put a surge in and drop him. I carried on setting the pace and dropped Bas but after the turn at around 25-26Ks I went through a really big bad patch it was like someone had took the batteries out of me and I went from feeling fantastic literally 1 kilometer before to feeling terrible. I could tell my pace was slowing, I don’t know what it slowed to but it definitely felt slow and running was hard. With about 14 kilometres to go he overtook me and I was now in 3rd then with 7.5 kilometers to go Bittner overtook me, I was hanging at this point but being on the last lap helped and you just zone out don’t you I mean everyone is o the limit at this point and it’s just sport at it’s purest isn’t it just pure suffering, proper last man standing kind of stuff. I saw Bittner stop and hit his legs as he was cramping up, my eyes lit up and I had a second wind I thought yes 3rd place is back on the cards, Rock and f****n roll unfortunately he also got a second wind and once he started running he pulled a little bit further and further ahead and almost got into 2nd at the end. With 4 kilometres to go I got overtaken into 5th place he was going well but he wasn’t pulling away that quick and you always live in hope and think you can catch them however it wasn’t going to happen and I eventually finished in 5th in 8 hours 23 minutes 57 seconds. I was nailed when I finished as soon as I crossed the lie it hit me, it was like someone had landed a bloody haymaker on me and my legs turned straight to jelly two helpers grabbed me, put me on a wheelchair and pushed me off! Quite surreal really, they took me to a big old tent, slung me on some bed and did loads of random stuff!
Well that’s my long winded report of the ironman, I’ve learnt a lot from it and in hindsight I would have done the following things:
- Took more clif shot blocks on the run, I only carried one pack with me and the stuff at the age stations was shite. I started to go through hunger lows on the run as it was hard to get the nutrition you wanted from the aid stations.
- Had a helper at the aid stations some of the guys had this and they got exactly what they wanted which looked to be a massive help. Next time if I have to I will get a random to do this for me!
- Not be such a TWAT and up the pace halfway through the marathon, I felt to good and this led me to go to hard to early. 13 miles is a long way to go still but you live and learn eh!
Nutrition wise for the bike I had:
4 Shot Blocks
3 Clif energy Bars
I think this works really well as I think if you have lots of gels you’re going to risk upsetting your tummy as to be honest thre pretty shitty aren’t they! I think they are good for a quick fix but I think with them the effects soon wear off and you get more highs and lows throughout the race. The energy bars and Shot blocks may be harder to eat while moving but I think they give you a lot more sustained energy and you won’t get so many highs and lows. For an Olympic though I would just use gels, for a half more of a mix but for an ironman very few on the bike but on the run a few gels and I will use the shot blocks as you can just eat one every so often which keeps you topped up and is easy to eat even while running.
As this is my last race of the year I just want to say thanks to all my sponsors who have helped me massively this year:
- Royles with my Cervelo P3 and loads of kit to train in which is awesome.
- Clif Bar with all my nutrition which is amazing and were my 1st ever sponsor.
- Mail Big File with travel expenses and accommodation which is huge as without these guys I wouldn’t have even been able to do Barcelona
- Paul Savage for the coaching, there is no I in Team!
Any questions post them up I’m more then happy to answer them?