Friday, July 15, 2011

Ironman Korea - A few choice piccies

(Photos courtesy of Karoline and Steve - great support guys - thanks it really meant a lot)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ironman Korea - Race report

Ironman Korea

The build up to Ironman China was somewhat bizarre. Somehow I’d begun 2011 horribly overweight, out of shape and chronically burnt out. When I eventually turned things around I did so pretty quickly, shedding the kgs and in the process qualifying for the Xterra Worlds (off-road triathlon) and 70.3 Half Ironman Worlds. The plan was to go for the hat-trick in China and qualify for the Ironman Worlds.

Three weeks before China I was a long way from my peek fitness of a year before... but then they announced the cancelation of the Ironman China swim. Even though swimming is my weakest discipline I was not very happy about it, I did not want to qualify in a duathlon rather than a triathlon. They must have heard me because one week later they cancelled the whole event and added half the qualification slots to Ironman Korea.

On the face of it the odds had swung in my favour. However, just about the entire China field entered Korea (certainly the majority of the most competitive athletes) and as the number of slots had only increased by 50% the odds had probably swung against me! Additionally, with IMMY and IMJapan cancelled for 2011 this was now the ONLY Ironman in Asia.

However, working on my tried and trusted approach of DENIAL, I was still quietly confident, I’d been gifted an extra (and much needed) five weeks of training. As soon as I heard, I switched my bike training from a rolling 185k course to an extremely hilly 195k course. I upped my brick bike/runs in distance and hills and increased the hills on my 32k long runs .

I lost a couple of weeks training to a chest infection and had a last minute scare with injured glutes (bum muscles due to the increased hill training); nonetheless I was happy as I lined up at the swim start the morning of the race.

I’m not the greatest swimmer in the world and there’s been so much talk about panic attacks in recent weeks that I was a little paranoid that I was going to have a bit of an episode myself. To counter that I’d decided to do a 4k wetsuit swim in a 40m pool on the Monday before the race and was blown away how well it went (even if I had poached myself a little in the Malaysian heat haha). The day before the race I did a 1k swim at the race start and again felt brilliant.

So, back to the race start, the pros were lined up at the water’s edge, a thousand age-groupers 10m further back. I decided that there was only one thing for it. I was here to qualify and starting the day off with a mass fight in the middle of the mêlée wasn’t part of the plan, so I went right to the front and on the side by the buoys/rope marking the course (yes that's me waving). BOOM, we were off.

A bit of bumping, the odd flailing arm, a bit of being swum over and of course a few deep breaths of water but then it all settled down. 30minutes and 30 seconds later, one lap completed. 1hr2mins32sec and a new PB for an Ironman swim HOOHA!

A solid transition and I’m on the bike, hello Gladys, Daddy’s here! (My bike is called Gladys just in case you didn’t know). The bike course wasn’t too bad, somewhere between my usual rolling course and new hilly training course with a total of 1,400m ascending. There was the added difficulty of the wind though, it wasn’t too bad but basically turned the flat part of the course into resistance work too.

I spent the time on the bike really trying to ride in a disciplined manner, watching my power meter, heart rate, cadence, nutrition and hydration. I thought I did pretty well although on reflection I would have liked to have seen the early power numbers to have been a little lower.

The briefing had been a joke, the worst EVER. There had been some mention of yellow flag areas - no overtaking. One at the finish and one on the course but no mention of where on the course. You can imagine my surprise when we were riding down a perfectly straight, wide, safe dual carriageway and some little Korean man jumped out at me as I was tootling along at 60kpm screaming and waving a red card. I certainly hadn’t been drafting (quite the contrary, at least one guy got red carded for drafting off me and another bloke came up after the race and thanked me for the tow!!!! I didn’t know whether to tell him to stop being a cheating b*stard in future or fact all I said was “You’re welcome” haha how lame was I?!) I assumed I must have been red carded for overtaking, either way I was paranoid that another infringement would result in my first ever DSQ!

As it turned out I finished the bike in good form, was VERY careful in the yellow flag zone at the finish and went straight to the penalty tent. All the penalty numbers were chalked up and mine wasn’t one of them! Even so, I wasn’t taking any chances, this was my chance to qualify and I wasn’t going to let 4 minutes ruin it. I registered and sat out the 4 minutes while Alex kindly passed me my run bag and said “You can’t get changed in the penalty area but there is nothing to say you can’t get organised”. COOL, thanks Alex. In the process of getting “organised” I was ready to run bar one shoe when an official wagged his finger at me, counted down the last 30secs and said “GO”.

This however, is where I made my first real mistake of the day, in the penalty tent I’d necked a 500ml bottle of water and as I started the run there was a severe downhill for about a kilometre and I had chronic stitch immediately. I eased off and within a couple of K the pain relented.

Once again I was in control and making decisions to get me to the finish and qualify. I’d measure the liquid volume of the cups pre race and knew I could no6Ilore than 2 cups per aid station to avoid overstressing my stomach (the body can’t absorb more than 1.5ltr of fluid an hour so there’s no point in taking more). I was alternating between coke and Gatorade for energy (no more than 250cals per hour as the body cannot absorb more) and water.

My pace felt easy an as a DVD I’d been watching on race management (thanks Richard) stated, “Everyone leaves T2 too fast, so make sure you’re going so easy you can still talk”. So to test my pace I regularly had little conversations with myself out loud. All seemed good and at what seemed an eternity I reached the first turnaround at 10.5k at 55mins30secs. This was a little faster than projected race pace so once again I look back and wonder whether I should and could have gone slower???

The hills were relentless on the run but also my body was starting to find it harder now. I got to the 21k turnaround in about 1hr51 which was right on target time. BUT....... as I turned for the 1 kilometre of extremely steep downhill running the stitch came back BIG TIME. Painfest or what (note my face matched my shirt haha). I knew I had to work and walk it off but however much I tried to get going again the pain was unbearable. My heart rate went through the roof, I started hyperventilating, sweating profusely and got close to blacking out a couple of times. Was this hypernatraemia, dehydration, over-heating, bonking or simply bad pacing? I have no idea. I have suffered these symptoms at similar times in almost every Ironman that I’ve done, it’s really frustrating and I’m at a loss to fix it. The stomach cramp/stitch is the deliberating aspect of it.

So that was that, a long walk with bits of very painful runs thrown in and a finish time of 11hrs 35mins 10secs. As it turns out the 45-49 age-group was ridiculous in terms of quality. The top 7 were Japanese and all did under 10 hours on one of the hardest Ironman courses!

To qualify I’d have to have taken 15minutes of my Ironman Marathon PB. However, at the 21k I was on track. So another Ironman full of “could have, should haves” but let’s face it, I wasn’t as fit and lean as I had been for IMMY 2010, so no excuses, I failed but I have a second bite of the cherry at Ironman Lake Placid 3 weeks after this one. So...?

On that note, I'm under no illusion, the first attempt is always the best chance so there is little chance of qualifying this year. However, I shall give it my best shot; I shall DENY any ill effects of IMKorea and wait for my overdue miracle to kick in. I shall follow the same pacing regimens that I did for IMKorea, drink a little less towards the end of the bike and take in a few more calories and we shall see.

One thing I have realised, I am fit enough, I can be smart enough but I need to unravel this stomach/stitch issue. Then there will be no stopping me.

Swim: 1:02:32
Bike: 5:19:11
Run: 5:04:51
T1+T2+4min Penalty 8:36
TOTAL 11:35:10

I just wanted to say a big thank you to my fellow "Malaysians" Bee (Team Manager), Hoo, Jason, Chris and particularly Richard (who continues to inspire me with his attitude and preparation, not to forget that he well and truly beat me too!). Ironman Korea was huge fun, the disappointment of not qualifying faded the second I got across the line to be met by Richard who'd waited until I finished to place my medal around my neck and show such great support.

It was so much more rewarding to be part of "Team Malaysia" rather than "Team Nigel_No_Friends", partuclarly as the next day we went hiking up volcano's, freezing our butts off through lava tunnels and getting absolutely smashed together until the early hours of the following morning - I've no idea how I made my plane and even less idea how Richard managed a recovery run that morning too.

A first for me, I pee’d on the bike (while in motion I mean). In the past I rarely have needed to and when I have I’ve stopped to pee. I was always concerned about subsequent chaffing once the bacteria built up later in the race.

I also pee’d as I ran (again on the move). Both bike and run pees where Gatorade colour so hydration was obviously good. However, it seems that I was right to be concerned about the chaffing, Oo arrgh, ouch, after sitting down at the end of the race I could barely walk due to the chaffing between my legs. Not nice!

I’m told I should have sloshed my nether regions with loads of water but I was a)too pleased with myself having pee'd for the first time on the go and b)too focused on the race to think about it. I’ll know next time haha

Monday, July 11, 2011


(Courtesy of Steve Dennison)

A man was sipping on a glass of wine, while sitting on the patio with his wife, and he says, "I love you so much, I don't know how I could ever live without you.

His wife asks, "Is that you, or the wine talking?"

He replies, "It's me ............. talking to the wine."..

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The day is almost upon us


Left arm

It's 7pm, I'm off to bed. Ironman Korea kicks off at 7am in the morning. Alarm set for 3:30am and I get to taste coffee again, yippee!

I have four cans of Guiness draft and four cans of Hoegarden in the fridge for post race recovery. I hope it will be post race celebration too.

Team Malaysia have all dialled in their target times and all have committed to be drinking in a bar by the beach post race (we shall see).

My race number is 591 and can be tracked on throughout the race if anyone is interested. (From 7am Korean time).

I'm roughly aiming for times of: -

Swim - 1hr5min to 1hr10min
T1 - 2min30sec to 3min30sec
Bike - 5hr10min to 5hr20min
T2 - 2min30sec to 3min30sec
Run - 3hr40mins to 3hrs50mins

So best case scenario is 10hrs and hopefully worst case is 10hrs27mins.

Mmm! The concensus amongst team Malaysia is that a 9hr45min will guarantee a Kona slot but a sub 10hr is essential to even have a shot! As I said...Mmm!

We shall see, the projections are all so subjective and race day can throw so many unknowns. I'm determined to win or lose my slot on the run and not by over cooking the bike.

It looks like it's going to be hotter than the previously forecast temperature but hey-ho hot weather follows me wherever I go, I expect it.

Whatever will be will be, I'll give it my best and you can be assured that I'll lay everything down on that race course - there will be nothing left as I cross that line.

Nighty night all.

Right arm