Many, many, many thanks to the messages of support pre-race, they were much appreciated! They really do help and makes me glad I joined such a great club. Without the support/advice/tips/encouragement available I don’t think I would have signed up to a full distance, and the knowledge base which can be drawn from everyone really is one of the greatest resources. The race was an absolute delight especially the swim and I couldn’t have wished for a better ironman distance experience.
Swim: 1h02min (4th non pro out of water)
T1 : ~5min
Total 11h 15min 13 sec
1st in age group (out of 22), 16/~318 overall male excluding pros.
Long report (It’s long as I’ve had a long flight to write it)
Bit of an unusual race to pick for my first long distance experience but there were good reasons behind it. My dad had already signed up to do the full and I figured it would be a once in a lifetime experience to do it at the same time. Racing is so much more fun when doing it with friends and/or family and having seen pictures of the course from the prior year I figured this would be perfect. In the lead up to the event, training had gone relatively well, especially the swimming which is something I really worked on this year. I’d managed to put a lot of time in on the turbo trainer (unfortunately more than I would have wished with what seemed like a long wet winter), but a running injury meant I hadn’t been able to log as many km (being European I don’t do miles :) ) so the run was going to be a big unknown for me.
I flew out early and arrived at the race venue on Wednesday morning which gave me 3 days to acclimatize and recover from the jet lag. As soon as I arrived it felt hot and humid and I was a bit worried that that would be my downfall. I went for a quick jog and was soaking after 10 min, not a good sign especially with forecasts calling for hot sunny conditions with some wind. I foolishly at the time wished for a breeze…famous last words.
The swim venue was basically a large natural reservoir measuring about 1km long, with clear turquoise waters and was about 2m deep, essentially a massive pool, which would involve two laps. I had a quick dip on Thursday and I just remembered being stunned by how awesome it was. That combined with seeing some of the pros doing some media at the lake (Macca, Belinda Granger and a few others) and it suddenly clicked this was real and was soon all about to begin. Later that day at the race briefing it was announced it would be a wetsuit swim (the water was 23.5 deg, but apparently the rule used was 24 deg), also found out I would be heading off in wave 1 based on my predicted swim time wearing a nice pink hat. They also had a ‘PFD’ wave starting last – which stood for personal flotation device…..if you wanted to, you could do the swim course with a floaty and as the announcers said when a few people gave some quizzical looks ‘don’t worry, they are not going to be competing for age group prizes’. Triathlon is still relatively new in Asia and the swim is generally the weakest leg so there was a big emphasis on safety and giving people the chance to finish…it was quite nice seeing a big emphasis being placed on enjoying the experience as its easy to get carried away with the competitive side of things.
I’d been looking forward to the swim for a while which is not something I expected to say 12 months ago. I remember when I joined the swim rota and I was happy to do a 2min 100m sprint and watched in awe at the guys in the fast lane. Through consistently swimming at least 3-4 x per week I’d managed to get quite comfortable in the water and therefor positioned myself front and centre and the start next to a few guys who looked like good swimmers. After about 500m the field had thinned out significantly and I managed to find a pair of feet to draft on, I recognised him as Jens a German guy I met the day before…we all know Germans do well on the big day / tournament finals so I thought this was a pretty good place to be and we shared some of the work load up to about 1.5km when I jumped on another swimmer swimming past at a slightly faster rate – turned out he was doing it as part of a relay. Had to let him go for the final back stretch as he started to kick and accelerate and I wanted to try and stay as relaxed as possible and not go into the ‘red zone’. … Overall the swim went well and was really comfortable although swallowed some water and felt a little bloated towards the end. As I got out I saw my mum next to the first set of stairs on the way out of the water and heard her say I was 4th, gave her a high 5 and heard the announcer say my name which was pretty cool, less cool was the long run to T1 and throwing up as I ran in….I kept running and hoped it was just a case of adjusting to being on land and not a case of stomach issues.
Got changed (no messing around in transition) and picked my bike noting a full rack of bikes which was awesome to see. As I headed out on the course I got over taken by Jens and another guy who headed off like a spear, I was conscious it was going to be a long day and my heart rate was sky rocketing….oh crap I thought, it needs to be about 140-145 and I couldn’t get it below 160 despite not really pushing hard on the bike. Looked behind me and it felt eerily quiet on the course so backed off somewhat, stopped stressing about looking at my HRM and tried to go by feel and focused on eating and drinking based on what I had trained on.
The bike section was beautiful, a two lap course on a coastal motorway but it was a lot tougher than I expected. Although there were no major hills it was continuously undulating so I was constantly changing gears and found it hard to find a rhythm. The real kicker was the wind, the forecast was for a headwind out and tailwind back….initially on the way out there was no wind but then it picked up except in the opposite direction…i.e. a headwind on the way back. Psychologically that was probably one of the hardest moments of the race. I guess I should have noted something when I saw the pros on the way back as I was approaching the turnaround and wondered why they didn’t appear to be going that fast! Don’t worry I told myself, everyone is in the same boat and by the end of the first lap I caught up 2 of the guys that stormed off in the beginning and think I had been passed about 4 times in total. Was managing to get through my gels and energy drinks as planned but I did start to feel a little nauseous about 130km in. On the second lap unfortunately my chain also fell off and when I tried putting it on realized it had also become stuck…in a training ride it had taken me 20min to fix so I was a little worried, luckily managed to fix it within about 3 min – pfew panic over. Over the last 45km slowed down quite a bit, the head wind was picking up and wanted to try and save the legs as much as possible for the run.
As I came into transition I remember thinking, what a relief to get off the bike. I think the biggest relief was simply having some company on the course from the guys doing the half distance, Id been alone for most of the bike and quite frankly was getting a little tired of my own voice…the combination of being tired and the heat resulted in me coming up with strange hypothetical scenarios that made me question my sanity on occasions.
As I got in, I counted 7 bikes in transition (discounting the pros) so things were still looking good. The run course consisted of a 6km small loop before joining a 2 lap course through a series of parks and the old part of the town. I had no idea what I would be able to run, I’d only ever done one marathon before (3.56 in Paris 3 years ago) but was now in much better overall shape and based on a number of half marathons and training runs thought a 3h 20 stand alone marathon was realistic…knowing this was a whole different kettle of fish I hoped to do about 4h but figured I would start off slow, walk the aid stations and see how I felt after 15km. Heart and lungs felt fine but legs were pretty tired, and suddenly after 3km Pang! – had a massive cramp spasm in my inner right thigh and couldn’t move. I’d adopted the stuck in the mud position and stood there like a statue in the middle of nowhere… For a moment I was worried that was it, I even calculated the odds of how long it would take to hobble the remaining 38km. After a few mins managed to start running and focussed on good technique and it slowly passed. After that the first hour went by pretty quickly and I kept telling myself just make it to the next aid station.
Id shifted my target to 4h30min and managed to keep running up until 18km at which point I ‘speed walked’ 1km and then employed a 2.5km run 500m walk strategy. Every step I took felt like someone was taking a baseball bat and hitting it against my quads. I remember thinking if it would be ok if I was caught by a photographer crying on the run at which point I also came across 2 of the female pros who were struggling – I guess everyone feels pain. A bit later I came across a cute girl who was running about the same speed as me so thought I would try and keep up with her, got to give yourself these little victories to focus on :) . The last 10km are somewhat of a blur but got through it and managed to speed up the last 3km. As I approached the finish I could hear the announcer calling my name and I saw my Mum cheering at the finish… I must have been grinning like a Cheshire cat and grabbed the banner over my head – For a few moments I think I was a bit of an emotional wreck feeling pain, joy, excitement and relief it was over.
One of the cool things about the challenge races is that you get to cross the finish with family and friends alongside, I knew my Dad was about 1h15m behind so waited for him with my mum and when we saw my dad approach we ran down the finish chute together to massive cheers. We later found out we both won our respective age categories which was an added bonus. The awards ceremony was pretty cool and the professional athletes were all really down to earth as well and it was nice to see them hobbling around too the next day. Got a nice shot in with Macca too. Its off to Rhodos now, cycle relay leg, which should be great fun and then its time to make more time for beer and partying.
I know it wasn’t the most competitive of fields but a win is a win and generally really pleased with the way things went. It was a complete step into the unknown for me so when people asked what time I was going for I genuinely didn’t know but thought sub 12 was realistic and if things went well maybe sub 11. I know I hadn’t done enough running too justify that and probably pushed the bike a little too hard in hindsight but overall I’m pleased with how things went and that I didn’t completely blow up on the run. And at least I know that if I do another one I know I need to focus on bike endurance and more running volume.
Attached a few pics in case anyone is interested.
PS: Some other great little things I did not expect to see were:
– stereo strapped to the back of one guy’s bottle cage under his seat belting out Chinese rock
– Full aero TT bike and disk wheel but putting all the jells in a plastic bag tied to the front
– One guy wearing a full white piece lycra outfit and holding an umbrella during the run to avoid sunburn
– doing the swim in floaties
– Some guys stopping during the bike section to take a selfie