Ironman World Championships

Race Report

So that's my first Ironman World Championships completed. I'll get straight to how the race went.

The Swim:

I had an alright swim, in the front pack there were 5 people off the front. In the second pack there were quite a lot more, probably around 20 athletes and then I was in the 3rd pack. I was right at the back of this pack so probably around 45 seconds behind the first person in this group.

Going through transition I lost about 40 seconds putting my top on and helmet. I definitely need to work on this as I am always losing time in transition and I really don't know why as I don't feel what I'm doing is slow, but I'm clearly doing something wrong compared to the others.

The Bike:

Getting my shoes on lost me a bit of time as I have two circular Boa straps that I have to tighten up and then a zip which can be very tricky. It would have really helped if I'd had a good transition and was quicker getting my feet in as I might have been closer to the front of the pack. From there I would have probably been able to drag a couple of strong cyclists away with me early in the ride which would have helped me ride faster and be a bit fresher for the run as there would have been a few of us to share the workload. As it was, I literally rode the whole bike leg by myself and just kept it at a consistent power output.

Towards the end of the bike it was amazing how many people were blowing up, I couldn't believe how many I was going past and this really spurred me on. I ended up riding a 4 hour 28 minute split with the fastest bike split only a couple of minutes slower then the front of the race which I was really surprised by as I didn't feel as though I was smashing it - I felt alright but I wasn't on a really good day.

One interesting thing is I changed my power meter prior to flying out to Kona and wasn't managing to get very good numbers out in Kona, I wonder if this new power meter is under-reading compared to my last power meter as my average power was only 270w, which is very low compared to what I can hold on the other power meter I have used. If it is accurate then there's definitely a lot more to come as I could hold 30-40w more then that on a good day.

The last few miles I knocked the effort down a bit to give me a chance to get my heart rate down and prepare myself for the run. I finished the bike in 15th position.

The Run:

I felt really good starting the run and for the first 4 miles I was running with Cyril Viennot who finished 5th last year and was feeling pretty comfortable. I was actually really enjoying it and  thought that I had a really good chance of finishing in the top 10. However that all changed as after a while it just seemed like I was really struggling with the heat and was literally having to walk through all the aid stations taking water and Gatorade on and chucking a ridiculous amount of ice and water over my head in an attempt to cool myself down.

I felt absolutely terrible running the last 5 mile down Ali'i Drive and I wondered if I would actually be able to even finish, but surprisingly, I overtook another two people and that gave me a bit of a boost. Running up Palani was horrendous. I felt like I was melting. But then, once I got onto the Queen K, it felt a bit cooler and there were a group of people playing some really good music which motivated me.

My pace picked up along this next bit to the Energy Lab and I thought it must have just been a bad patch going along Ali'i Drive and that I had turned things around. Although going down the Energy Lab hill I didn't feel too great.

At the turnaround point I saw I was getting caught by David McNamee and Lionel Sanders. I decided I would just get to the top of the energy lab hill and then push on like I had done on some of my training sessions prior to the race. However when I tried to up the pace I literally had nothing and I was running 7m30 miles, which is terrible. It felt so hard to run at that pace which is crazy as even when I'm nailed in training that would feel a really easy pace.

David, Lionel, and then Ivan Rana all came past me in the space of about 2 miles, David and Ivan pulled away quickly but Lionel was starting to struggle as well and I tought if I can just limit the time I loose to him to the section at the top of Palani I could try and beat him in a sprint for the line. I put a massive surge in when I got to the climb whih you do up to the top of palani and managed to get myself within 5-6 seconds of him and then just let my legs go on the descent of Palani, I pulled away from him but didn't dare look over my shoulder until the finish chute. I did manage to hold him off and finished in 13th place.

You can view the full race results list here.

Post race reflection

What I've learnt from this race is that the swim is very important as you definitely need to be up there from the start. Also a lot of people blow up on the bike and on the run. On the run, as long as you are moving forward you will probably do alright. It was a shame for me that on race day it was so bloody hot as I've been running very well in training and was truly expecting to be able to run a sub 2:50. In the end it felt more like I was trying to finish then actually run!

After giving it a few days to sink in, I would say that I'm not very happy with how the race went. Not necessarily with where I ended up overall, although I really did want a top 10 position, but more with my own performance. On the day, it felt like it was the best I could do, but now I think I can do a lot better then that and to be honest I don't really see how you can be happy with having 12 other people beat you! I'll definitely be back though and I'm sure I'll be a lot higher up the results sheet!

I would like to thank all my sponsors that have supported me throughout the season, Boardman, Rotor, Endura, Huub, Mail big File, Luke1977 and Xhale. And also to my parents and my auntie and uncle who flew out to support me, it meant a lot and I really appreciate it. I'm in the process now of sorting my sponsors out for the 2016 season so if you are interested please contact me.

I'm already excited about next year as I really think I can improve a lot and there's much more to come. With regards to my swimming in 2013 I made the front pack in a challenge race, and in 2014 I made the front pack in another pro race. These two races are the only pro races where I managed to make the front pack and I've been looking at trends as to what I was actually doing in training leading up to these. It seems I was doing a lot of stuff with paddles and a band and was training my swim in a similar way as to how you would if you were running or cycling. I've been playing around with lots of different swim sessions as I didn't really know what worked for me but now I feel I have a very clear idea of what I need to do.

I've taken a lot of confidence in seeing people like Cyril Viennot and Sebastien Kienle who have made the jump up from chase pack to front pack swimmers and it shows me that if you work hard it is possible.

Also training with other people really helps me as I'm a very lazy swimmer. At the moment there's no masters swimming club or training groups that are focused on long distance swimming in Norwich - so I'm going to set my own group up. I've already looked in to hiring a lane and when I get back home I'll be hiring a lane for 3 sessions a week and maybe 4 which will all be structured sessions and will progress week on week. I think this will be key for me in making some decent gains. if you are local to Norwich and want to join in contact me for more information.

I will also be organising running and turbo sessions in the area over the winter, so if you don't have a coach or a training plan then these might be of interest to you. Keep visiting my blog as I'll be updating session plans on there.

7 Responses to “Ironman World Championships”

  1. alex

    Great race report joe. You should be proud of yourself, the way you dealt with the conditions at Kona show your a top athelete. Your plan makes sense and things will come together for a sucessful 2016. Best of luck, Alex

  2. Grant Baxter

    Joe: very honest post, so thank you for sharing. Good luck with the sponsorship and training for next year. I think you have a Kona podium in you at some point over the next few years.

  3. Petethefish

    Joe, don’t be too hard on yourself. I was out in Kona and what you achieved in your first outing was magnificent.
    Lots more to come for sure but what impressed me most was how you conducted yourself . Refreshingly open, honest and above all friendly – a lot of people were rooting for you. If I was a company looking to invest in tri I would be beating a path to your door-let’s hope you get all the backing you need and deserve and I look forward to seeing you on the Kona podium one day

    • Joe Skipper

      Thanks guys.

      It was a brilliant experience being out in kona. I’m looking forward to winter training and am already excited about next years races.

  4. Dan Sims

    I’ll second that Pete, very friendly, easy going but still seriously ambitious professional. Good luck with the sponsors. You’ll do bloody well in Kona in the future mate. I was competing this year as well, you pretty much described the race I had, seriously under power on the bike and couldn’t seem to run any quicker than the speed I run with my wife on a dog ‘walk’ back home! Brutally hot!! If I was in Norwich I’d definitely snap up this chance to train with one of our top pros. Best of luck next year!!

  5. Simon Edye

    You did really well Joe. You can’t fight the heat & the wind, you just got to run with it. Awesome race.

  6. Tom

    Awesome race and report Joe!
    I definitely agree about the importance of the swim and you really should put the hammer down there, as you obviously got the cycling power to be up there with the front pack.
    You should really think about training more in the heat as your body will learn how to adapt and perform.
    Thanks for your sharing.


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