Monday, April 02, 2012

Ironman Melbourne, Asia Pacific Championships - Race Report

(Photos courtesy of Finishers Pix and Ivie)

So here it is the race report, after my last post I'm rather pleased to be able to write one but hey we all know that Gladys may have collapsed into 1000 pieces as she rolled into T2 but she was never going to let me down.

The day unfolded with a 2:30am wake up and whey-hey COFFEE. Unusually I only given up coffee for two weeks rather than the usual month (coach said the science suggested a month was unnecessary) but I was gagging for it. My amazing hosts Narim and Alex didn't let me down, not only was the coffee ready to be poured but Narim was awake to serve it to me - AWESOME or what? Not only that but Shilpa set her alarm, woke up and called me from KL to make sure I didn't miss the start. So cool, thanks to both of you.

The earlier than normal start was because I was staying 7k from the finish but as the run was a point to point I was 50k from the start. A taxi had been ordered and my second pint of strong coffee was poured in my thermos for the journey. There was a problem though, a small problem but one that could be a race breaker...I only managed one "sit-down" and I didn't feel the need for more...gross, maybe but a very significant issue before such a long hard race believe me. Anyway more on that later.

I headed out the door at 4am to me met by three blokes staggering home with their kebabs, taxi was waiting and off we went. Then we almost got car-jacked. Some bloke ra\n out into the path of the taxi and literally was prepared to be run over. He could barely speak and his mate was passed out on the pavement. "Call us a taxi mate, we got money and everything" he begged the taxi driver. The driver promised he would and the drunken yob let us pass. Funnily enough the driver made no attempt to call a cab. I reflected on the encounter and realised I'd just come face to face with myself a dozen years earlier. Haha, sad but true, the drunken yob was me, I was just much, MUCH fatter.

No other incidents and I was dropped off at St. Kilda for the bus to Frankston. Upon arrival Gladys was set up, tyres pumped, all set to go but now for my 3 missing "sit-downs". I joined the longest line for the portaloos you've ever seen and I literally hadn't moved an inch in 15 minutes. Not good I thought so I bailed, scaled a couple of fences, body swerved a couple of security guards and piled into the transition toilets. Naughty but hey, you gotta do what ya gotta do. Only one "sit-down" and it was time to head towards the beach for a warm up. As it turned out I didn't get adversely affected as it seems a substantial "download" the night before had done the business - RESULT haha.

The water was pretty calm, not too cold at all and I was feeling great in my super buoyant 5mm wetsuit. I didn't have a watch on but felt that the start should be soon, yet more than half the competitors were 50m in front of the line. Surely they'll push them back I thought and anyway, it's still dark but just in case I started pushing forward too. I was now about 50m ahead of the start myself yet hundreds of people were still a further 50m further forward. Then all hell let loose, I didn't hear a gun but everyone was swimming like crazy. Oh well I thought, better get to it.

Now here's something you won't hear me say often, I LOVED THE SWIM. I felt like I was swimming well and although there was no way I could see any of the buoys as they were too small, too far apart and it was still dark I felt my navigation was pretty good. The 1k turnaround came in double quick time and that's about all I can say really, I lost concentration a couple of times towards the end but on the whole I was very happy.

SWIM TIME: - 1hr04mins25secs (my second fastest time but I say my best ever Ironman swim performance as the course was difficult to navigate and there was swell and chop towards the end)

My transition was pretty good but since my transition bag was empty it should have been. So, wetsuit off, hand it to the volunteer with the goggles and swim cap and I was off. He did look a little put out though but I was gone. Helmet on at the bike, shoes attached to the pedals, no sunglasses (good choice)...faster than a speeding bullet.

T1 TIME: - 2mins35secs

It's official, I LOVE GLADYS, there I've said it, glad that's out of the way. This ride was going to be a no-brainer provided Gladys held together. Soon after we got underway she started making a tiny noise which progressively grew louder throughout the race, it made me ride more cautiously for the first half but I ignored it after halfway. I suspect it was either the dodgy dropout or the headset, either way Gladys got me through.

So the plan was to strictly adhere to my wattage numbers on the power meter for the first half and then push a little if I felt good for the second half but judge that by heart rate. The bike course could be described as a bit boring but I didn't come here for the views, what did strike me was that it was a rolling hill kind of a course with a perfect (and I mean PERFECT) road surface, there was a slight side wind to begin with that picked up throughout the ride. I was pretty cold for the first lap, my fingers and toes were painful and didn't really work. There was a huge tunnel just before the turnaround which was a few degrees warmer...a very welcome feeling.

At the turnaround I was about 5watts too high so I consciously backed off a smidgen on the return leg to Frankston. At halfway I hit the turnaround just 2 watts above target pace. I'll take that I thought but now to start winding it up a little. My heart rate was only averaging at 116 so I had effort to burn. Nutrition was going extremely well. I had put 1400 calories worth of Gatorade powder in a 500ml bottle. You could quite literally stand a spoon in it. I was taking that on board and then just plain water from the drink stations.

I almost never pee after the swim in an Ironman but after 2 pees during the swim I managed 6 ENORMOUS pees on the bike, and when I say on the bike, I mean ON THE BIKE. Don't worry about Gladys, she and I are close enough for things like that...we can laugh about it afterwards. I learn a trick last year from Disco Dave to have some boiled sweets in your Bento Box as treats and of course extra sugar. I got 5 foxes glacier mints, I'd eaten before I started peeing but after that they tasted kind of different...don't get me wrong, not bad, just different. Haha

My coach, Steve Lumley, had also talked to me about the half-life of caffeine and the need for a "top-up" towards the end of the bike and run. These definitely helped perk me up over the last hour of the bike. It's the first time I've taken caffeine during the race and I'll never do an Ironman with my "No-Doze" again.

On the last 45k heading home I was nailing it, 25watts higher than the first lap and amazingly my average heart rate remained unchanged at 116. I just felt so good. The wind was now a factor though as even though I was pushing considerably more power my time was slightly slower. I felt my legs were a little strained which is unusual and may have been indicative of my hamstring injury coming into the race but all in all I couldn't complain. On reflection I could have gone 10mins or so faster on the bike but this race was about sticking to the numbers and PROCESS. I kept reminding myself that the race only started at the 32k point on the run.

BIKE TIME: - 5hrs07mins55secs

Gladys was handed off and I was suddenly in need of my 9th pee for the morning. I sat down on a plastic chair to put on socks and runners while simultaneously unleashing a seated pee that a horse would have been proud of. I had to change my heart rate monitor, grab caffeine tablets, visor and sunglasses from the bag and I was off. No, I forgot my new hydration belt with my concentrated Gatorade...a few seconds lost. Then I was off...then I was back, I'd forgotten my new Garmin 610, critical for my run which the same as the big was going to be all about the numbers - heart rate and pace. Another few seconds lost and I really was annoyed with my faffing, never mind

T2 TIME: - 4mins06secs

Onto the run and I felt brilliant. Heart rate was soon in check (low 120s) and pace was perfect (5:15mins/k). After a couple of k I heard "hello mate" or some such greeting on my shoulder and there was Damian. I seen him on the bike and even though I'd been nailing it coming home he'd gone even faster, nice one! It was clear to both of us that we were happy running the same pace and hugely welcomed the company of a friendly face. We ran together for about 18k when I sensed Damian drifted back a little. I wanted to keep the pace even so kept going. As it turned out he'd needed a portaloo stop so that was that, I was all alone.

I was anal about my pace and heart rate. I kept reminding myself that this was all PROCESS just like the swim and the bike. The race only started at 32k on the run. One thing I hadn't counted on was about 15k of the most severe camber you've ever seen on a road and it was never ending. My left leg is slightly shorter than my right and as we were running on the left lane it became a major issue. Damian very kindly let me run on the slightly flatter right side of the lane but even there it was severe.

At half way I picked up two new bottles of concentrated Gatorade for my hydration belt and faffed a bit again losing probably no more than 30seconds but I was annoyed. I could tell the day was starting to wear hard on me. At one point we ran down onto the beach path and then WHAM up a super steep stretch to get back up to the road. This happened twice, not long stretches but super steep. I still hadn't walked a single step of the run so I pushed on. Then at about 28k AAARRRGGGGHHH my left knee gave out to an almighty pain, it stopped me in my tracks. I lent on a post and stretched it out, while I was stationary I thought I might as well have my 10th pee of the day. I started running again very gingerly but my knee was in perfect shape again - weird.

I got to the beginning of where I considered the race to start at 32k on the run and I was a spent force. My heart rate was creeping up and my pace was starting to slip to 5:30mins/k. Time to take the caffeine tablets and I got to tell you I don't know if it was just psychosomatic or what but instantly I was feeling much better, sadly the feeling each time didn't last long but I was happy to have them. At each aid station now I'd take a shot of the Gatorade, a caffeine tablet and a little water and walked while doing so. It still meant I was running before the end of the station so not much time was lost but these little rest bites helped immensely to keep me going at a decent clip in between.

The last 4-6k were pretty mind-numbing and never ending but I knew they would end and they did. The finishing chute was awesome, the crowds wonderful. I had a new PB but had missed 10hrs not to mention my "A" target time of 9hrs45mins and I knew that I hadn't qualified for Hawaii. With that performance though I expected to be about 15th in my age-group so when I found out I was only 41st all I could do was laugh hysterically. The standard of those Aussies was phenomenal. I can only imagine trying to qualify in Germany would be harder.

RUN TIME: - 3hrs47mins20secs (my second fastest marathon even in standalone marathon!)

I was very happy with my swim position of 50th out of 240 in my age-group. Aussies are renowned swimmers and usually I only hope to come in the top 1/3 in the swim and then make the rest up on the bike and hopefully hold on on the run. So being in the top 20% was a huge improvement, only picking up 9 places on the bike and run was a tad disappointing though. All in all though, a fantastic experience, a fantastic day, perfect weather conditions and an almost perfect course (for me at least).

OVERALL TIME: - 10hrs06mins21secs


I've had a week off now, reflected and before I turn my attention to Challenge Roth I thought I'd better pen this report and my thoughts.

I went to the lions den to battle the beast and qualify for Kona. I made no bones about that and I failed in that but gained some amazing experience. I now know how to race an Ironman fast, it must be done with patience but it's till gonna hurt...A LOT. I hopefully have got a big part of my stomach cramping behind me with better nutritional and pacing strategies although that may also be heat induced, we shall see in future hotter races.

As it turns out I needed a 9hours33mins to qualify in my age-group so even my "A" goal of 9hrs45mins wouldn't have cut it. Disillusioned? ABSOLUTELY NOT, it just means that I get to go faster. My training was a bit rushed, I spent a lot of effort getting down to weight and I still had 5kg to go to have been perfect. The weight issue in not an excuse but rather a good indicator for the future. Roth will be done down to weight and I shall do it sooner rather than later (coaches orders) so that the last few weeks of training will be optimal.

Some interesting stats here produced by Beyond Transition for all you number geeks out there

I am aiming for the following goals at Roth based on what I have learnt: -

1) Sub 9:30

2) Sub 9:45

3) Sub 10:00

4) New PB sub 10:06

And it's always important to have an easy goal so that if all else goes wrong you've still got something to aim for. So my final no-brainer goal is: -

5) To CRUSH @Training_Payne aka BryBaby aka The Captoon aka my_b!tch.


Matty O said...

Wonderful performance man!!! Unbelievable!!!

Wow, this is clear proof that all your training is clicking and paying off.

I might try the caffeine tablets this year, sounds like they gave you just enough of a kick to keep going.

"A pee even a horse would have been proud of" HAHAHHAHA

My Boring Triathlon Blog said...

great race!

Lindy said...

Congratulations on a great race, great new PB, and excellent goal #5 for Roth! ;)

DRog said...

the pee helped your knee ???

with MattyO
GREAT EFFORT and Such a rockstart performance

way to go
huge congrats on such a solid race
lookin fwd to the Captoon TriTwins showdown @ Roth!


JohnP said...

I picked up caffeine tablets the other day, haven't tried them yet. I figure they'd come in handy for ultra/no-sleep situations. Glad to hear they work! :) I dont drink coffee so they'll probably hit me hard, I feel a hard kick after the odd coffee.

Holy crap, glad to hear you're still motivated! After having an amazing race with a mind-blowing time YOU STILL DIDN'T QUALIFY. I'd he pretty frustrated by now but it's clear you have obvious room for improvement so the chances aren't lost on you. Inspiring!

5) I can't wait to see you mop the floor with Payne. There's only a few of us in the 'I beat Training Payne club'. After spanking him at Olympic distance I let him have Lake Placid. It's only fair that we have a tie-breaker at Virginia Double-Iron but he hasn't manned up yet. Probably scared he'll lose again. ;)

That's cool that Shilpa called you and woke you up! :)

Mike said...

Great race Simon and congrats on the PB!

plee said...

Awesome performance Simon!!!Well done! Am truly blown away by yr report... great insight and tips to pick up.. gonna get the caffeine tabs too!!

Paul Lee

Simon said...

M, Thanks buddy,

I had mixed feelings about it in the end, can't argue with the time or PB but miles away from qualifying - those Aussies are animals.

The caffeine tabs are just a tiny part of the equation but one that helps a little and every little is welcome, I'll use them in future but there's a lot more on the training, prep and speed front I need to do.

L, Thanks. Goal number 5 is a bit mean but the boy needs a slapping every now and again. Keeps him honest. And can you imagine him drinking beer with flavour and alcohol in it?

D, No not the pee, just had that since I was stationary. Stretched my quads and all was good so I had a pee to celebrate haha. Thanks for the comments. I think everyone is looking forward to the BryBaby vs TriTwins smackdown...except BryBaby haha

JP, Thanks buddy, as per all the above and yes still lots of room for improvement. As for not qualifying...I didn't qualify by ferkin miles. Bloody overactive Aussies haha.

Only take the caffeine when you really really need it. Then it'll work a treat. It's not Charlie though, now that IS something I'd like to try with 10k left in an Ironman.

M, Thanks, much appreciated. More to come in Roth

P, Thanks buddy, I appreciate it. Don't expect too much from the caffeine but it does help a little when you really need it.