Since Ironman New Zealand in early March my focus had been on this race and going under the 8 hour barrier. It’s something which I had wanted to do for a long time, partly because no Brit had achieved it yet and also partly because it fascinated me. I just wanted to say that i had achieved a 7 hour something Ironman.
I flew out on the Wednesday before the race and stayed with a really nice family the Fielder’s, they were awesome in many ways, one of them being the fact that they put up with me knowing no German, and the other they came out on race day and supported me, even holding a big sign saying ‘GO JOE’ and just doing everything they could to motivate me to do well.
In training I had been swimming well over the last few weeks and was really looking forward to seeing what I could do in Roth. Also I thought that the fact that the fast age groupers started in the same wave as the pros would be a positive as there would be bigger packs and it would be a faster swim. I suppose I was right in that respect but what I wasn’t expecting was how violent they would be. I got a great start when the race started and felt like I was really close to the front, it definitely seemed like the best start I had ever had and I was thinking yes I’m right in the mix here. However my fortune soon changed when an absolute chopper dunked me and just held me under, I grabbed hold of their shoulder and pushed off them to try and get away which worked, well I thought it had worked until they grabbed hold of my leg and pulled me back and then proceeded to dunk me again. It didn’t help the fact I had a pink hat on so they could easily identify me. After the second dunking I had to swim away from them as I thought I’m just going to keep getting dunked and loose a lot of time which I couldn’t afford to loose so I swam over to the side away from them. Initially I couldn’t swim at any decent pace, due to the lactate it felt like I had built up from being without oxygen, I lost a lot of places and when I recovered I had to put in a lot of effort to bridge up to a pack. I stayed in this pack for the remainder of the swim and exited the water in around 52.30ish. I would have liked to have been closer to 50 but I reckon my swim is definitely going along the right track and with a hassle free swim I would have been faster.
So out onto the bike and I new I was a bit behind my target schedule to get a sub 8 performance. While I’m at this point I’ve seen a few posts on twitter where people have said what would you rather do get a sub 8 or win a race. I don’t know if they were trying to stir things up or not but it’s a good point. My thought process was that I wanted to go under 8 hours and I thought that if I do this then I should be very close to the podium which would have been a great result for me. I wasn’t going to tow anyone along for a free ride and ultimately you can’t control what anyone else does, all you can do is use others to push you on and go as fast as you can. I wanted to go sub 8 and get the best position I possible could at the same time.
So yeah as I was saying I was a bit behind where I wanted to be so I knew I had to push it pretty hard to get onto schedule. I knew what the course was like as I had done a recce of the course 4 weeks beforehand and at the time I remember thinking this course doesn’t feel as fast as what people say as there seemed to be quite a lot of climbing for what is referred to as a drag strip course.
I felt really good when I got on the bike and was holding around 320-330w for a lot of time on the flats and pushed the hills a bit harder and took the descents easier. I was making decent time up on the others and just after the big climb on the course at Gredding I could see a biggish group of around 6/7 riders which occupied positions 5-11. I noticed a few of the guys in the pace line were barely pedalling and also the group wen’t going fast enough for me to stay with them. I thought I’ll be towing all of these guys around the course if I stay with them which is very off putting and also like I said earlier I still wanted to get a decent position. On the next climb which was the one before the Sollarberg I hit it hard as I thought everyone would be working hard on the climb, also the atmosphere was really good and people were shouting my name, There was loud music it was bloody awesome and I felt f**k it lets see what they’ve got. Once over the top I quickly accelerated up to a high pace to put pressure on the guys behind me and to string it out. Next up was the Sollarberg and the atmosphere was absolutely electric, way better then what I was even expecting and i had heard a lot about this, I pushed it hard up the hill. Harder then what I should have but I wanted to split the group up and make sure no one was on my wheel. I managed to do this and then just carried on plodding away until at around the 165k point Cyril Viennot came up to me and I rode the last 15ks with him. Towards the end of the bike I was feeling pretty tired and I was even further behind my target pace for a sub 8 hour race. I wanted to do a 4.15 for the bike, worst case scenario a 4.20 bike split. I lapped my bike computer a bit before transition so I could focus on getting through as quick as possible, I looked to check if I was on schedule and noticed I was a bit behind where I wanted to be. I could see I was a few minutes slower then my slowest target pace for the ride so new I would have to have the run of my life to go under 8 hours. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would need to run as I didn’t want to de-motivate myself by checking.
Side point, nutrition wise I took 4 bottles of Torq Vanilla energy drink, I made each bottle with 75g carbs and took 5 gels and 1 energy bar which was an additional 180g carbs so a total of 480g carbs in 4 hours 20 minutes and still felt a bit hungry starting the run.
I left transition with Cyril and I have to admit I didn’t feel that great. I thought I’ll just have to try and stay with Cyril for as long as I can and see how things go, we went through the first mile in 5.59 which was alright especially given how I was feeling. It was at around this point that Cyril started to pull away a bit and I felt like I really needed to pay the bushes a visit, I felt like I needed to go to the loo at the start of the run but hadn’t seen a toilet. While I was running I was scoping out the bushes waiting for the ideal place, I thought bloody hell not this again! Luckily though I found some cyclists standing next to some bushes. I got them to quickly pull my tri suit down, jumped into the bushes, dropped the boys off and got them to help me do the tri suit up. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment they were quite rough with the suit and I got a rip in the armpit area. Luckily though I felt much better after stopping and my pace picked up quite a bit. After about 2.5 miles I was on the canal and could see Cyril in front of me, it was great having a target and I just got into a rhythm and clocked off 6 minute miles one after the other. I caught Cyril after around 5 miles and tried to Gee him up into coming with me but he wasn’t really having any of it. Shortly after catching Cyril I had Tyler Butterfield as a target and I just focussed on catching him. I got a time split on 2nd and 3rd at around 12 kilometres in and they had about 9 minutes on me so I knew it would be a tall order to catch them but I was hoping that one of them would blow up as I really wanted to get on the podium.
Nothing much happened after this until around the 28k point when all of a sudden I had Nick 30 seconds in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. I also saw I was only around 4 minutes 30 behind 2nd place so I just focussed on pushing hard and hoped he would blow up and I could get 2nd place. I didn’t know that the time gap was going down as I couldn’t see 2nd but I did see some of his team riding back and forth to tell him the gap and they looked like they were getting increasingly flustered which made me think maybe I’m getting close to him. I was really struggling at this point (35/36Ks) but just thought it’s only two laps around the road circuit which I do intervals round where I live and this helped me get my head around it and the fact that it wasn’t that much further to run.
With one mile to go I heard people screaming at me that 2nd place was just ahead of me. I just caught a glimpse of 2nd when doing the loop in the town centre and thought this is going to be painful but I reckon I can catch him and it will be so worth it when I cross the line. So with 1k to go I made the pass and picked up my pace to make sure he didn’t come with as although it would have been exciting having a sprint finish it would have been bloody painful at the end of an ironman. A few minutes later and I was running into the grand stand area in 2nd place and heading for a time of 7 hours 56 minutes and 23 seconds. It was an amazing experience and to finish the race off with a 2 hour 38 marathon was fantastic.
Nutrition for the run was:
6 Torq Nutrition gels 30g of carbs in each one.
2 energy drinks, I reckon I consumed 50g carbs in each one.
lots of water, had one or two cups at every aid station.
2 cups of coke
2 cups of energy drink.
I would like to thank the following people for this race:
Laura my girlfriend for supporting me in the build up and coming out to Roth with me, it means a lot and it was great to have you there.
My Dad for similar reasons as Laura.
Anne Jenson, I only met Anne in Galway 2 weeks before hand and she drove from Denmark to Roth when she has an Ironman the week after Roth. Probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. As well as this she was biking all over the place during the race handing me out bottles and gels at aid stations. I couldn’t have got 2nd place without her.
The Fielders, this was the family who I stayed with. They were really kind and enthusiastic, a great group to spend time with.
Race Force for taking my bike out to Roth. Thanks to them there weren’t any last minute cries of desperation on social media asking to borrow something for my bike or needing to get it fixed. Race Force are awesome, if you are travelling to a European race you definitely need to go with them if they are going as it just takes away so much stress from the trip and a nice touch is they pick your bike up straight from T2 as well and deliver it to your door.
All of my sponsors for all their support leading into the race and after and for the great kit and equipment which I am able to use. Boardman Bikes, Endura race kit, Recon Instruments for training tech, Alto Velo wheels, Rotor bike components, Luke1977 for making me look the part, Zone 3 wetsuits, and Torq Nutrition.
Thanks to everyone after the race for all the positive comments and for following me during the race, It means a massive amount to me to see all of the messages and it really surprised me how many people I have that follow my progress. So thanks to everyone I see all the messages and every single message means a lot to me and I appreciate it massively.
Next big race is Kona, I’ll do some 70.3s in the build up but am not sure which ones at the moment.