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So bored……

So bored……

When will this virus give up – now at the end f week two of having it and I have really had enough….the rash has all but gone, the bone aching fatigue and neuropathic pain has not however….I have never had anything quite like this….just shattered….currently I am due to start work again on Monday, how I am going to manage the mass of emails and the ton of time critical things people will throw at me I have no idea…currently I can manage to decide what to eat….

So frustrating….

IRONMAN 70.3 Galway, Ireland Race Report

IRONMAN 70.3 Galway, Ireland Race Report

Note – Photos to follow – I had no time to integrate them…

Ironman 70.3 Galway, Ireland

Where to start
Well I wanted this season to be a little different – in 2009 I did my first 70.3 and in 2010 I did IRONMAN Switzerland, so I decided to do three 70.3 races during the season – The Marshman, IRONMAN 70.3 UK and IRONMAN 70.3 Ireland. The toughest of the year was always going to be the UK race, with its infamous hills on the bike and run course, but Marshman had its challenges too, being early in the season. So what about Ireland? Well when I entered I had no idea of course, location (apart from it starting in Galway), etc. When the route was announced as being fast and flat it looked promising, then they changed the route taking out one late hill and putting in another early on in the bike – it looked even better – only 400m climbing on the bike and the run was stated as being flat (no map at that point) – Game On!!

Well everything looked fantastic until we got out to Ireland….

The pre race training went really well, after my various illnesses and injuries following the UK 70.3 I managed to put in a solid four weeks of training and oneweek of taper. Mike and I had discussed taper length etc and decided that training hard up to the race and having a short taper was the best idea. I managed most of the long rides (2.5hrs being the longest) and runs including one 13km run – longest in ages. When I got to Ireland I was in the best physical condition I have been in ages – not as light as last year (I was 85kg last year at my last race – this year 89kg) but much lower Body Fat % around 15% – and I was carrying few injuries.

Lizzie, the kids and I toured around the Emerald Isle for a week before the race taking in: Slane Castle, the Barony of Slane (on of Lizzie’s Ancestral piles), The Battle of the Boyne, Trim Castle (worth going to), Blarney Castle (not worth going to), Connemara, the only fjord in Ireland and other places to numerous to mention. We also caught up with Fiona, Frank and Grainne at al (one of Anja’s classmates (who recently moved with her family back to Cork)).

We finally rocked up into Galway on Thursday afternoon. We had decided (based on Zurich last year) to stay in an apartment. We managed to find one in the Radisson Blu hotel complex which is near the city centre – the race was in Salthill so it meant a car drive to make it to the venue – about 3.5km away. The apartment was fairly good – more of a split level maisonnete but comfortable and well spec’d(although not cheap at €800 for 4 nights – all the hotels put their prices up and were full!).

On Friday I went for a quick ride down to the Salthill area to check the bike over. My first impression was wow the local community had really got the IRONMAN bug – there were banners and signs everywhere welcoming the Ironmen (and women!). the second thing I noticed was my rear gears were all over the place – a trip to the Bike Doctor before the race would be needed. Later in the day I registered and drove the bike route. It is an out-and-back flatish course with very little technical elements – the biggest challenge was the road surface, in bit brilliant in others awful. After that we went to the Pasta Party – I am not sure I would do this again unless I was on my own – it is a bit odd for families….

On Saturday we decided that I would rack my bike, sort out my transition bags and then we would head out for lunch north of Galway before the race briefing. This turned into the usual BCTTTesque cluster (“in joke” in the club) – I turned up to the bike doctor to have him look at my bike before racking and was immediately struck by the fact there was only one mechanic…for 2400 competitors..hmmmm…he was Russian (I think) and didn’t speak very good English but was amazing with bikes…he carefully played with the front gears resetting the perfectly and then dismantled the rear derailleur, at this point he mutter something about fishing wire and tried to explain I needed new cables…not good…he asked me to leave my bike with him and come back at 3pm…also not good – transition closed at 3.30pm and the queue to have bikes looked at was getting longer. Against my better judgement I left my bike with him and headed back to the hotel – you could not rack the bags until after the bike. We headed out towards Cong (north of Galway) realised it was an error (there is nothing, and I mean nothing out there) and headed back. We lunched in Lohans on the seafront at Salthill – quite nice and I went to collect my bike. Except the mechanic had done nothing with it, shrugged his shoulders and kept dealing with the minor issues other people were having. The time ticked on and 3pm came and went, by 3.20 I was getting concerned as the queue to enter transition had gone and the referees were looking like they were going to close the gates. Eventually I gave up checked the bike was roadworthy and took it into transition. I racked my bike in the middle of the longest racking I have ever seen (transition is 850m long – and you run it twice!) and hooked my bags up (well the blue one, my red bag just got dumped in a big pile). After racking we went home, put the girls to bed and I ate my new pre-race food of bean and bacon risotto – yummy!

The Race
Well. I woke up on race morning around 4.45 and looked out the window – not good, strong winds. The weather forecast has been mixed and undecided for the week and so it was very much a “see how it is on the day” race. Regardless I had put the 60mm SRAM S60 spoked front wheel on the bike rather than the HED trispoke – good choice.

After waking up and getting dressed we headed down to the race start – note no breakfast, this is my new nutrition ploy, and it seems to work – no food until needed. Getting to Salthill was challenging due to all the road closures for the race, eventually Lizzie dropped me off and left to find some parking with the girls. I headed in, said hello to my very wet (despite the IM plastic cover) bike, pumped up the tyres, re oiled the chain, filled the speedfil and set the Garmin. After that there was little to do apart from let the nerves build and head to the swim start.

The swim start was on Ladies Beach in front of the Galway Hotel. As the sun started to rise we could see the sea. I am happy to say that I normally have no fear of the swim, it is my favourite part of the race, today was not a normal day. The sea looked nasty, the official swell was 2.1m – it felt worse when we were in it there was a strong onshore wind too which was blowing a lot of spray. After lots of standing around – saying hello to Rachel Joyce (a UK pro) and worrying, they announced that the swim was to be cut. At the time I was gutted – they said they would cut it to 750m – as it was it was officially 1000m – when I got out I could see why. Lizzie and the girls met up with me and they shared my nerves for a while until my wave was called. I went forward and ended up in the second group of my wave (they cut the waves in half as a safety precaution too). The swim course was now a simple out-across-back route, the current was flowing left to right but the wind was straight in,  I put myself on the right side at the front, away from the main group. When the horn started I ran into the water, the water was quite warm (16 or so degrees) and I porpoise’d out until I could swim freely. As I cleared the wall alongside Ladies Beach the full swell hit me – it was massive, I normally swim pretty straight and never do breaststroke to sight, as I swam out I simply could not see anything but sea., no buoys – time for breaststroke!! I alternated about 30 front crawl strokes with four or five breaststroke and somehow I managed to keep a fairly good pace up, although breathing was fun as the waves didn’t have a nice rhythm as the wind was having an effect. Eventually I made it to the first buoy and turned left into the wind and against the current – it got harder, luckily this was only for about 100m until I did another left and headed for the shore. On the way in it was a bit easier although the swell seemed worse and I got swamped a few times whilst trying to breath – I drank most of the Atlantic I think…. I eventually swam in jumped up and ran up the beach access slope after 00:20:05 in 180th place. It was a really hard swim – one of the hardest I have ever done and more physically challenging than the full 3.8km at IMCH.

Once off the beach I started the looooong transition – about a 350m barefoot run to transition (no carpet…) then grab the blue bag – put on every item of clothing I had (including fighting with arm warmers!) – then run to the bike, then run another 500m to the mount line. I am not joking transition was nearly 1km long!

Once on the bike I started to really enjoy things – everything just worked. I saw Lizzie and the girls on the way out of Salthill, gave them a smile and a wave and put the foot down. Now normally every race I come out of the swim and spend the next few hours going backwards – not today!! I was on fire, everything just purred – even the hills were easy on the way out. I finished the first 10km without really getting the HR about 150, and I was overtaking people! Once over the hill at Barna the route opens up into a long out and back to Maam Cross, this is where the benefit of an aero bike really comes in. Head down I pushed the gear to 54-12 for most of the out leg, averaging around 40-45kph – it felt amazing, I should have realised this was wind assisted!! All through the countryside there were groups of supporters cheering us all on – they were amazing – especially the people of Moycullen – big banners, vuvuzelas, the whole works – fab! The nutrition plan for the race was based on the bike. Before the swim I had one ZipVit gel and then nothing until 30mins into the bike. All the time on the bike I had nuun (water+rehydration tablet) and from 30mins, every 30mins I had one ZV gel mixed with 50ml of water mixed in a bottle – it worked fabulously.

The weather started to worsen from just rain to truly soul destroying hammering horizontal rain at about 30km where I saw the first ambulance and casualty . When the pros came past (on their way back) around 40km they were looking fast, and the hail started (I was wondering what the pinging sound on my helmet was – then my arms hurt), I was so glad I had taken the time to put on all my clothing – it helped.  The turn at Maam Cross left a lot to be desired though. It was signed from about 200m and it was just a couple of blokes and a van in the middle of the narrowest bit of road I have seen in ages with a cone in front of it. We all had to try and do a 180 round this (I only just managed it) and then push for home. At this point things took a turn for the worse, the tailwind I had became a head wind and even in 54-12 with a cadence of around 80-85 I was only managing 28-30kph – really tough going. The rain continued and the road side support kept my spirits up and I carried on passing people. Eventually after lots of water, ambulances and passing people I made it into Galway. About 3km from the end the route did a dogleg through the University to avoid closing all of the N6 and this is where my day changed completely.

I guess I just lost concentration but turning left off the uni campus back onto the main road I stacked it. I probably went into the corner too fast (there was no marshal there) and as I went round I lost the back wheel that locked and I went down hard. I hit the ground with my shoulder, elbow and hip and the bike impacted on the handlebars, pedal and bottle holder on the back, somehow I also manged to sand down the top of my helmet! I saw it all in slow motion and as I write this I can see it again. Once I had stopped sliding (at the other side of the road – about 20ft) I got up and was amazed that I had not broken anything. The young marshal who should have been at the corner ran over and checked if I was okay, he asked if I wanted to stop – at which point I might have been a little rude and got on my bike and carried on.

The bike didn’t sound happy as I finished the last 3km, the handlebars were sanded down, the bar tape gone, the brakes rubbing all not good – I had blood running down my arm from the cuts and from under one of my fingernails where I pulled it off, my hip was on fire with pain and I just made it into transition – loads of people cheering. I had finished the bike leg in 2:50:11 in 371st place – a pb (I pb’d the first 40km by 10mins) and great fun – right up to the crash!

As I made my way into transition the bike didn’t want to behave, the wind caught it lots which made pushing it 400m down to my racking slot hard. I racked it and ran/hobbled down to the red bag tent (450m away…). Once there I asked for med help but there was none there, they suggested asking at the aid station. I changed painfully into my run kit grabbed a couple of ibuprofen and ran off to join the run route.

The first 5km of the run was absolute purgatory, I took the ibuprofen at 1km (the first aid station) after finding out they had no med aid either, these kicked in around 30min. the run route was basically a big out and back with some loops thrown in, all on the edge of the coast so the wind played a big role. Up to 5km I felt dreadful but then my legs gradually came back, and I was running well for about 10km. The pace varied from 6:15/km to 7:30/km into the wind – it was hard going. At around 13km I saw Lizzie and the kids and that gave me a huge boost – I saw them again at 14km they were shocked I was on my last lap!

I then started the last lap and that is where the wheels came off the run – I just ran out of energy. The nutrition strategy for the run was water/coke and it seemed to work, I had no GI problems but I just ran out of energy…when I turned the corner at the Spanish Arch to head for home I was reduced to a walk – I walk/ran to the aid station about a km away and took my time to get a gel on board and some fluids. After about 5mins I was running again and I kicked my heels for home – as I came up to the 1.9km turn to the finish line I welt amazing – I was running fast (well 6:15 at this point was fast!) and overtaking people again. I came up the green carpet into the finish cute where there must have been one to two thousand spectators, as I ran down the cute loads of kid put their hands out for “high fives” – who was I to say no so I ran down the cute high fiving everyone. I probably should have gone just a little faster though as my finish time was 6:01:23, my run had take 2:30:30, the last lap around an hour and I came in 1303th for that section. As I came over the line Lizzie and the kids were there – it was a great day.

Final thoughts
Well, it was a tough day at the office – a really challenging race, but finally a race on a course that suited me and with nutrition that worked. All in all, a fantastic experience. Would I do it again? Yes. I think there are areas for improvement but the weather is a little out of their control – if it was easy it wouldn’t be IRONMAN 70.3!

Finally a Wimbleball 70.3 Race report!

Finally a Wimbleball 70.3 Race report!

UK IRONMAN 70.3 – 19th June 2011

The days before….

So five weeks before my planned “A” race of the season (A race being the highest priority of the year) I overcooked the running…I put four sessions back to back whilst I was at EULAR in London, the weather was lovely, I had St James’ and Green Park to run through and running was going really well – however resilience was not on my side so I managed to tear both of my Achilles tendons on a hill set at the end of the week (not major tears but enough to impact my training). So, this meant lots of ice packs, massage, ultrasound and no running until the Wednesday before UK 70.3 and then the first run was a test to check whether I could even do the race! Everything worked fairly well – both ankles stiff but no needle sharp pains – a green light to start Wimbleball.

I wanted to practice my nutrition plan again so from Friday I started to cut out fibre – evening meal sausages with mash. Saturday was white bread and honey for breakfast, fish and chips (no peas) for lunch and pasta with green pesto for evening meal. All of this was okay, but, I think I had too much pasta – I was camping in the back of the XC90 and it was hard to measure properly! The plan on race morning was porridge made with water, Zipvit Recover (250ml) and the two gels 30 and 40mins out from race start. Once onto the bike I planned to use Nuun and ZipVit gels (with caffeine on lap 2 before the big hills) with a Biestmilch Booster (Colostrum and Gurana) for both the bike and run. On the run the plan was Nuun and a gel sipped slowly over 15mins every 45mins.

Time to race…..

So after quite a good night’s sleep in the back of the XC90 on an airbed – surprisingly comfy!! – I got up at 0350 to warm up and have breakfast – all done I went to transition to sort out the bike, that done I got into the wetsuit and warmed up. As usual at Wimbleball there was no warm up and the 10mins spent in the water before the race seemed to go on forever…..

The national anthem played and the horn went off – we were going. My plan on the 1.2mile swim was to keep wide on the left side and hammer the first 200m to keep with the lead pack. This worked really well and I kept on the heels of the second group of about 30 or so people behind the pros. The race to the first buoy was perfect, as was the turn but then I could not see the buoys and it was just “follow the feet in front”! At the second turn I was still with the group and that is where the swimming to plan finished…I headed for the next buoy, all good, but then I started to loose the swimmers to my right but I thought I was holding a better line as I could see what seemed to be three buoys which I assumed indicated the chute to come out of the water (no big IM arch which is normally there). Unfortunately I was wrong – after the second buoy on the return leg is was a straight line to shore and I had messed up and gone beck to where the start was – it really wasn’t clear if you were swimming!! After realising this and swearing a lot to myself I corrected and headed for the shore – I reckon it added 200 or so to the swim – I came out the water in 31:49 in 108th place…not the top 100 I was looking for…

Out of the swim and a quick run up the (amazingly steep) hill to T1 – grab my swim bag, change into bike kit and then I was out onto the bike. The bike was my biggest fear in 2009 and this year as it is a really, really challenging course climbing 5905ft over the 56miles with most of the climbing done on three hills in the second half of the course, these are done twice as it is a two lap course.

I had planned to use the first 10miles of so (with its two big(ish) hills) as a warm up before pushing and this worked well, I tapped up the first hill and overtook a fair few people on the next whilst keeping my HR below 165. The course then runs over and undulating section finishing in an insanely steep hill that descends to Machine Cross – the point at which I hit 58mph – great fun if a little scary!! Once the flatish undulating section was over the route hit the hills with short steep hill up to Morebath – I was amazed to see people off and walking their bike up on the first lap! I used a cadence of 10 pedal strokes seated, 8 standing which seemed to work to keep cramp and pain at bay – all looked good! The next big hill is the hardest on the course – with a max gradient of 17% and an average of 14% for 1.5km. All went well and kept to plan using standing/seated pedalling routine, right up to the point I changed down (I was about half way through the 11-28 block) and shifted my chain into my wheel disc (the spokes)…the pedals stopped turning and I only just managed to not go over the handlebars instead falling ungracefully to my right, bruising my hip and knee…after swearing at the bike a couple of times I got up checked over the bike (looked okay) and reseated the chain, spun the wheel and changed up and down a few times – no problems…preplexed I began the long walk up the hill…I had come off at the 17% section so there was no chance to get back on…

After an agonisingly long walk up the hill, watching all those I have previously passed zip past me , I got back on the bike and headed off for Haddon Hill the last big hill of the lap – again all went well, screaming down the downhill sections , tapping up the hills until the last section of Haddon Hill (it has two climbs with a short flat section in the middle) where I managed to repeat my chain debarkle this time not falling over but holding the bike upright until I had unclipped (to cries of “well held” from the surrounding competitors!)…again I reseated the chain and decided that changing from mid block to my lowest gear at the top was a bad idea for the rest of the bike – so I didn’t…I used the 11-25 gears…challenging up the hills but I didn’t come off again 

Once up Haddon Hill I zipped round the rest of the lap before starting on the second. The first short sharp hill of the lap is a killer but I went up it fairly smoothly (in 09 I cramped both quads on this hill!) and got into the lap – the second lap was fairly uneventful compared to the first – enjoying the downhills and pushing the hills. Overall I found the bike challenging but not half as hard as I found it in 09 – all the training with Mike from The TriLife has paid off!

As I got back into T2 I was pleased to see I had smashed my previous PB on the course finishing the bike in 4:06:02 in 09 I did it in 5hrs! T2 was fun – the standard process of look for red bag – run to chair and change into running kit…however once I had found my running kit I looked down at my wrist where I should have put my Garmin 310XT watch (after I had taken it off the bike) and it was not there…ARGH! I had left it on my bike, so I had to run back out into the racking area, find my bike, recover my Garmin and then get changed 🙁 very unhappy….

The run started like all 70.3 runs – painfully!! The first section of the run at Wimbleball is downhill to the shore of the lake before it loops up to the finish before going back to the shore before going back past the finish and up a 100m hill…you get the idea. Most people worry about the bike at Wimbleball, me included, but it is the run which is the hardest bit – there is over 1300ft of climbing over the course and most of the underfoot conditions are more reminiscent of a school cross country race than a half marathon. My half marathon run was really over before it started, as soon as I hit the first hill I knew I would be walking most of it – I tried running up the first hill and both my Achilles tendons developed the sharp needle like pain that I had in training, very unhappy, but I decided rather than DNFing (Did Not Finish) I would get round and get my medal. As it was I would have had issues regardless of the ankles, after the first hill I developed stomach cramps and these proceeded to vomiting after I tried running again. So I made my way painfully round the 13.1 miles of the run, walking the hills, running the flats and downhills until the GI cramps got to bad and occasionally being sick…it was very reminiscent of 2009…

Except this time I was not the last person, all on my own out on the course with no-one to talk to, instead I met a variety of people (some much fitter than me!) who had been humbled by the Wimbleball course and either had injuries or GI problems but were resolute in their determination to finish. In some ways this is the “real” bit of long distance triathlon racing. Whilst we would all like to be like Chrissie Wellington or Tom Lowe (the two current UK (and World for Chrissie) IM record holders) hammering round a 70.3 circuit in 4hours something or an IM course in just over 8hours the simple fact is we (the vast majority) probably won’t – I have a dream I could go sub 6hours on a 70.3 race and sub 13 or an IM one, both a achievable but equally a race where I come in 1.5hours after my PB is important, not for the time but for the fact that rather than giving up when my ankles hurt I decided (like those other racers) that come hell or high water I would get across the line and get my medal. In some part it is that place I push myself beyond in the really dark moments when I think “I could just stop now” that keeps me doing this, because very little – apart from my family – gives me as much sense of achievement and happiness. Ultimately I crossed the line in 8:04 – 53 minutes faster than 2009 – I would love to say I will be back to get that sub 7 at Wimbleball but I feel I have done it twice, the course really doesn’t suit me and there are lots of other IMs and 70.3s out there -this one has taken quite enough of my time and energy!