- Dublin Half Marathon
- Killary Fjord Swim
- Pulse Port Triathlon
- Dublin Marathon
Isn't that the beginning of many would be blogger posts? We write and record when the going is good and then when things take a dive the motivation does too. The funny thing is that since my last post, 'Ironman Vichy', things have actually gone really well. I had no reason not to write and that last line, "2017 will be even better" was a little bit hasty, I had plenty to get done before the sun set on 2016. So lets summarize what remained in 2016 after the year fell apart on me in Vichy, I was still competing in:
Dublin Half Marathon
Right so its a shocking statement to make for a would be athlete but, I ran the Dublin half marathon in fairly poor condition due to the fact I was in a pub the night before. I had no place in the race and right up until 11pm that would be the case, until the phone rang. A club member, down with the flu, offered up her spot at the last minute and I accepted. I dropped over to her place after my 6th pint to get the number and was home in bed by midnight for a 6am start, not ideal to say the least, hey I hadn't had a beer all year on account of Vichy so fek it. Added to all this fun, one of my best mates was being married at 2pm in Meath. I ran the race in a blurred state on my tod and had the most fun ever. I crossed the line in 1:37:56, grabbed my medal and darted home to suit up for the wedding, PB in the bag, maybe this year wasn't going to be so bad after all.
Pulse Port & Killary
Right so I did have a score to settle with Pulse Port after DNF-ing with a flat in 2015 but I by no means expected much of a result. I'd be training and racing long all year, what business did I have racing short course and resulting. Well it just so happens it was a decent day. The swim was somewhat of a disaster when my goggles leaked the minute I took my first swan dive. For a 750m race there was no way I was stopping to I pushed on and had a decent exit coming out 3rd in my AG with a time of 11:58. The bike was an eye opener as I raced it on my road bike and I really saw the difference a TT bike makes here. From there on to the run I ran (the short 5km Pulse course) in 18:09 leaving me in 8th place overall for my AG. Like I said, not expected on the back of my season but I was delighted. Overall time 1:05:59. Sadly this year there was to be no Great Fjord outing for me. The half marathon did a number on me and I picked up a cold that I really wanted to shift before the marathon at the end of October. See you in 2017 Killary for episode 5.
Dublin Marathon 2016
So here was the icing on the cake. An event I hadn't entered as I'd expected to sign off the year with Vichy. We all know where that ended. Thanks to a good friend in work, I ran the Dublin marathon in 2016 as Mark Fagan but that time is mine buddy. I crossed the finish line in 3:29:56 in a shiny new PB and all that was wrong in 2016 was now ok. The course was amazing as ever with crowds of people out, more than I'd ever seen before. In true fashion my training miles in the run up were a disgrace running no further than 23km. So I'd no right to take that PB but hump it, its mine. I'll be adding Dublin to the list once more in 2017 and there are also plans for a Cycle SuperStore relay in Ironman Dublin 70.3.
2017 is shaping up well. My mileage is well up in every discipline compared to January 2015 and 2016. I am more confident I can sustain this also and the body feels great. I never let up on training over the winter and this is something I cannot recommend enough. Taking time off is an excuse and only hurt me in the long run in 2015, each to their own but this was a strong winter compared to where I was this time last year. As for the year ahead, I have entered into Ironman Bolton in July and I am relishing the notoriously difficult course. Before that I am once again running the London marathon with my uncle and already my mileage for that, now in January is strong. Very unlike me. I hope to keep the reports coming more steadily now that the new year is underway and with that, new goals. Peace.
I have been dreading writing this race report but here goes. By now the world and his dog knows I crashed out of Ironman Vichy but I guess the finer details are important too. The trip as a whole was fantastic and it's easy to overlook that in the wake of disaster so I want to try and extract everything from my 8 days in Vichy, France.
From The Top
The Vichy adventure started back in November when dates for a good friend's wedding dictated my race calendar. Originally I'd set out to race IM Mallorca but this fell on the wedding date so that had to be scrapped. When looking at an IM race we look at everything, starting with logistics, then moving on to things like travel time, how nice the area is, the type of race it is etc. Vichy seemed like a nice option although there was little information about the race. This was because it has only been an IM race for one year, previously it was under the Challenge banner. The one thing that came up time and time again when I mentioned Vichy to anyone or did some research, was the heat. 2 years previously it was a non-wetsuit race and given the history of temperatures there, this was a possibility too. Vichy is best known for its water and spas and this appealed to us too. Logistically it was easier to get to that IM Austria the year earlier with a simple 1 stop flight to Lyon followed by an hour jump up the road to Vichy. I like France as a country so all in all this race worked. Flights were well priced and we rented a lovely property on Airbnb.
My training for Vichy was completely different to what I'd done the year before. In 2015 I hammered myself in preparation for Austria and this was done completely out of fear. Once you race one IM and you know you can do it, the pressure is off to rack up the miles but rather, focus on good quality sessions. When crunching my data in the week before Vichy, I found that I had biked 100km less in the 6 month period running up to the race when compared to 2015 and ran 120km less for the same period. However, as my Paris Marathon times showed, my marathon was getting faster and my training rides were equally faster than 2015. In fact, I was training at the same pace that I rode at in Austria and the reduced training load meant that all of my niggles had gone away. This all was truly a win win and I felt great going into Vichy.
Like any IM event the buzz in Vichy was ace. I was apprehensive before I traveled because I wasn't sure if Vichy could match what Austria delivered as my first Ironman. It is a relatively new race and if the welcome from the Parisians for the marathon in April was anything to go by, Vichy may not be all that. I was completely wrong. The athlete village was sprawling and full of life. The weekend incorporated a 70.3 race on the Saturday so this helped.
I was listed as an All World Athlete on account of my times in Austria and IM Dublin in 2015 and this added a real buzz. We got to register in the pro lines, received our AWA swim caps and numbers and skip plenty of lines. The training swims were held in an outdoor 50m pool that we were given free access to and this was special for me as an ex-swimmer. The facilities were very professional and reminded me of my race days.
In the run up to the event I'd had a few issues with my Cannondale Slice RS brakes. When I installed my deep rims the brakes needed widening and for some reason were prone to rubbing. I did however test the bike out on the Friday and all went fine but this was when I realised how savage the heat was. I decided to ride the 20km back to our house in Gannat from Vichy and the heat hit me like a wave. It was 6pm sun and it was 34 degrees. I cycled home directly into the sun and my heart rate was through the roof at an average of 157bpm with a high of 176bpm. These are not levels I am ever used to and immediately it worried me. At this point I knew the race was going to be a non-wetsuit race and that evening they announced it officially. I could not get over the heat and I really began to panic for race day. This was going to wreak havoc with my plans for a sub 10hr Ironman.
Ironman is what it is though and much of racing Ironman is adapting and accepting pitfalls. I would find this out the hard way on Sunday.
The swim was to be non-wetsuit but this didn't bother me. If you are training all year in a pool then you can do 3.8km without a suit, simple! My only issue was that I knew my planned time of c. 55mins was out the window and I'd have to make up for this on the bike or the run. No big deal, I'd see what time I come out and go from there. Vichy was running with waved starts and I was excited for this. I'd experienced the mass start in Austria and it does not work well for strong swimmers, you just get sucked into a melee no matter how hard you try to avoid it. The water in the Allier Lake was glorious and I set off with the 55min group knowing well none of us were going to make 55 minutes. At no point without the suit did I feel fatigued and watching the sun gradually creep over the Vichy buildings with each breath was such a highlight for me.
The Australian exit was a novelty and I got to glance quickly at my watch and see that the first lap took me 31mins, I knew then I was going to be over the hour, so be it. I sloshed on into the second lap and already could feel the sun on my skin. The temperature had been dropping since the Friday horror show on the bike but it was still going to be hot. I exited after 1:05:26 feeling fresh and ready for the bike. I was 23rd in my Age Group and knew I could have gone harder but there was a long hot day ahead. I was happy.
Before making for my bike, I managed a fast 3:42 T1 which helped me nip in front of a number of athletes. I am always quite fast with transition as I have all elements ready well in advance. The bike course begins with 10km of winding town like streets with lots of broken road and drain covers. It was hot from the beginning but for the first 60km I ticked over at a comfortable 34.4kmh average. Once you break from the towns the scenery is fantastic, like something from Kansans. Corn fields as far as the eye can see. It was here I realised that if a wind kicked up it would really slow things down.
As I neared 75kmh I noticed my pedaling became a real grind. The dreaded brakes I'd had recent issues with had struck, this time the front brake. Recently I learned from one of the mechanics in CSS that this was a result of me installing my deep dish wheels the days beforehand. The carbon wheels can expand and in this case they did just that. I jostled with it for almost 7mins before getting back on the road and from here rode angrily. I knew I'd lost a lot of time and was pedaling hard which was the wrong thing to do in this heat. As the second lap rolled around a nasty little thunderstorm whipped up with winds reaching 30kmh at times. Again my time was going to suffer because of this and stupidly I again allowed it to get to me. The roads were now like glass and as I hit 160km my front brake jammed again. I pulled in once more and this time in a rage I pulled the caliper open to free my wheel entirely. I spent 6 minutes playing with the brake in the muggy forest and noticed my Garmin had not stopped. I was down to 32.5kmh average and was furious. I made the decision to ride the remaining race using only my rear brake, and what a disaster that would turn out to be.
Riding hard with speeds of almost 60kmh in rain with no front brake while angry, well you can see where this is going. At the 169km mark, just 11km shy of the village, I hit a roundabout travelling at 38kmh and bang, next thing I knew I was sliding across the tarmac on my skin. You see, a riders body weight sits on the back wheel (naturally) and when riding with no front brake, all pressure is then applied to the rear brake. This meant that with the road conditions and my weight, any slight angle meant the bike was going to just pop out from under me and it did. I leapt up, pouring from all knees, elbows, hips and shoulders and made for my bike. The bike was in perfect condition bar a few scratches as it wasn't an impact fall rather a slide. This was good news as I could continue to ride, or so I though. Two officials rushed over to me and forced me to sit, I was in shock for sure. An ambulance arrived shortly after and all I could say from the time they surrounded me was "mon tete c'est bon". None of them listened. I was to be taken to the medical tent and not allowed continue. My race was over, so close to home.
I did my best not to let the crash bother me but it did. We had 4 days of holidays left and I put on the brave face and enjoyed my last few days in beautiful France. I dabbled with the idea of racing Ironman Wales but it's too much too soon. 2016 will conclude without having completed an Ironman and I will have to wait till 2017 to go again. It's incredibly difficult to accept after all the effort, the training, the investment, but that is life.
I have shifted my focus to the Dublin Marathon and have plans to beat my Paris marathon time from earlier this year of 3:32. I need a goal now to take the focus off the heartache that is Vichy. On September 17th I will race the fantastic Pulse Port Triathlon so this week its back to the pool in Westpark for some fast sets. Lets see if I can top a 2nd place water exit from last year...
Vichy was stunning, the race course fantastic, the people delightful. I have good memories of what it offered as a place and had some great nights with close friends and my partner but for me, it's sadly a place of disappointment no matter how hard I try for it not to be. The place of my first Ironman DNF.
I do also want to take the time to thank the people who have helped me in 2016. Westpark Fitness have been a crucial part to my rehab from 2015 and in all of my prep for Ironman 2016. All of my off-season strength and conditioning work was done in their superbly kitted out functional zone. I nursed a bulged disc in my lower back back to full health in the winter month and as the season rolled around the pool was a godsend. Working next door to Westpark means being able to nip across and push out quick intense swim sets. There are many times that without WP I'd simply not have got these sessions in.
Remie is the one who has had to put up with my moods over the course of 2016, not to mention the days after the crash where I was a bit of a mess. Rem, when I train and race, you're what gets me through.
Fahy and Babbs for continuing to use my race locations as an excuse for a holiday, you guys rock.
Cycle SuperStore for putting me up on the fastest bike I've ever been on and supporting me with training, time off when needed and the general good vibes they send when things aren't working out. The lads in the workshop are the most talented bunch of mechanics in Ireland, simple!
Shane Foley for being my expert fitter and hes good for a conversation too.
2017 will be even better.
Has it really been April since I posted? Well work has been super busy as the cycling season takes hold and to be honest it's hard to plant oneself in front of a computer screen in the evening when much needed training is required. So anyway, my last report followed my Paris Marahon debut and this report follows my Challenge Galway Half Iron race. It is worth noting that as of now I am exactly 6 weeks out from travelling to Ironman Vichy. So what's gone on...
Last year I did things slightly backwards, I raced a full iron in June and a half iron in August, this time I registered for Challenge Galway in a bid to get my half distance done a comfortable 8 weeks before my full. I left it late to get involved in Challenge but there were really no other options, I was not going back to Athy again for another bitter Double Olympic. For anyone that knows Galway or indeed the west coast of Ireland, there is one thing that comes to mind, wind!! June 26th didn't disappoint with gusts on the day of 33kmh. The swim to my disappointment was sadly cut short because of this. I clocked in a 27 minute 1600m swim which wasn't fast but given the conditions I would take it. The chop was rough and it made for a tough day for many swimmers. I exited my wave in 1st place and 6th overall in my AG. Once onto the bike I cut through some of the wave in front of me. Again the wind and rain was relentless and it was hard to enjoy although the course was flat and fast. About 30 minutes in I noticed my legs spinning out once I got up to around 50kmh and noticed that my cassette was acting up. I couldn't get into any lower gears and my chain was staying half way down the cassette. This was a disaster but these things happen. Despite this and the weather, I clocked a 2:47 bike ride. This was 10 minutes slower than my 70.3 Dublin time last August but weather conditions and mechanicals aside, I'd take it. It saw me drop into 12th place in my AG.
Once onto the run the rain and wind continued to batter on the Salthill promenade. Whenever I felt like s**t I thought about the brave souls out there doing the full. Hats off to that lot. Now, if ever there was a fine example of school boy error carry on, I was that example. I've raced enough times now to know the reals about treating your gut right. The facts are, I didn't show this event enough respect. The night before the race I went out with the OH and treated myself to a Rogan Josh at a local Indian. Are we all familiar with how hot a Rogan Josh is? On the morning I necked a bottle of beetroot and on the course I tucked into the course nutrition, 32GI. The #1 rule of long distance racing is, NEVER MESS WITH YOUR NUTRITION. In 24hrs, I managed to break this rule gloriously on 3 occasions. So lets cut to the chase. Felt like muck... Weather was the pits.... Stomach heaved and ached and I ran a 1:43 half marathon. Faster than my Dublin 70.3 time in August. Explanations on a postcard. All in all, a really tough day at the office that left me with 18th in my AG and a 5:13:05 finish time. I'd have to take it and my plan to go sub 5hrs will have to wait for a tamer course.
All that aside, how is training going? Its going ok. I'm not concerned about fitness as I have that in truck loads, I'm concerned about performance. Racing an Ironman so late in the season I have found out, allows you to think you have more time on your hands than you really do. I woke up yesterday and thought, 6 weeks. Now I am number crunching what I need to do to get under 10 hours and wondering if I've left that too late. I have notched away at the long bike rides and the Slice RS is finally beginning to fit me perfectly, she is a very fast machine. I need to increase the long runs and do more long brick sets but those things hurt like hell.
Last weekend I went for a 70km spin over the Sally Gap, again in awful headwinds. Why does this keep happening to me? I got back home and went straight out for a 10km run in the midday heat. It hurt like hell but I managed a steady 4:45 km/h pace. I need to be doing this and more every weekend from now till we depart. This morning I got myself over to the NAC for a 3000m swim and cruised through that in a 1:35 pace per 100m. Overall I am at satisfaction rate of about 60% which isn't great in my opinion but I do have 6 weeks. If you believe those adverts for getting a certain body in 6 weeks, then from where I am, I can easily be ready to smash Vichy in 6 weeks, but there will need to be a lot more head down between now and then. Big thanks to Westpark Fitness for their continued support. Great to see the main man Kevin completing his first Ironman in a solid 12 hours over in Frankfurt.
My last update was on March 2nd and plenty has gone on since despite my radio silence. In that last training report I made the following prediction: "drop my marathon PB by 6 mins at Paris." This was in relation to some goals I was setting myself as 2016 rolled around. The truth is, however, that I wanted to go far faster, but sometimes we get carried away with ourselves.
The night before Paris I wrote in permanent marker on my hand:
These were my numbers for the day. I was aiming for a 4 minute 45 second km pace. This would get me a 3:20:00 marathon. It was ambitious but I was after it. The absolute worst case scenario I would tolerate was 5:00. This would get me a 3:30:00 marathon. I would take this and anything in between.
Well, as the day came about my two day-long tummy bug hadn't gone away. I'm not making excuses but I really was in a bad way; even my expo visit was cut short the day before the race because of it. I was chomping down on Imodium and hoping for the best. The gun went off and I went a lot lighter on the gels than ever before, carrying only two.
Paris is spectacular and the run was stunning, but the Parisians are not too interested in the 45,000+ crowd of runners and parts of the course can get quiet. Let's get into the juicy bits. My pace was good. Very good. For the first 29km I chipped away and was sitting on a 4:53 average km pace. "I'll really need to fall apart for this to go over the 5 minute mark," I kept thinking. And just like that, as the 30km marker passed, the anchor dropped. My stomach was in ribbons. The temperature made its way up to 20+ degrees and I struggled. You can see my stats here and what will stand out is that pre 30km I had crept over the 5min per km territory just once. Look at every km post 30km and you will see I didn't get below 5min per km once. It was a complete struggle for 10 long kilometers. I was devastated at that finish line. Finish time 3:32:06
This is the kind of person I am. I had just set a new marathon PB by 4 minutes, sticking closely to my goals in early March, but falling outside the 5 min per km pace really bothered me. It's the reason this post took so long to write. Anyway, I was in bits at the end. I felt like the race hammered me and my time was poor. The weeks have passed on, and on May 30th I begin a 12-week training plan to take me right up to Ironman Vichy.
I am positive at the moment. I have taken the Cannondale Slice RS TT bike out only twice, but on our last outing it has begun to feel good under me. My average pace was OK given I have not ridden TT since last August.
Goals, times and ideas about Vichy continue to float into my mind but it's still far too early for them, and one of the worst things you can do is burn yourself out mentally with an event before it has even arrived. I am going to plod away with training for the next few weeks and when May 30th hits I will focus hard for the the next 3 months. Thanks Paris, despite the pain you were stunning as always.
Things are about to get serious. I know by now people are probably wondering am I racing at all in 2016? The answer is yes, of course. But I have pushed my A race out to August 28th, Ironman Vichy, so therefore my official training plan hasn't come into effect yet. That's not to say nothing has been done up till now. In February I totaled 25 hours of training. This is down from 36 hours in 2015 but at that point in 2015 I was working on a plan.
At present, my focus is primarily on running as I am running the Paris Marathon in exactly one month. With this in mind, I am very happy with how training has gone in February.
I am, however, at a small conundrum. I want to work off a 22-week plan for Vichy but this would mean starting it now. With the marathon in just one month I cannot manage this so I will begin my 22-week plan two weeks after Paris and begin on week 6 as I am without doubt up to speed.
Looking back on last year's data I am exactly where I wanted to be.
In my final race report for 2015, I noted that for 2016 I wanted to do the following:
To date I have been ticking all of those boxes and more. I was nervous about posting the photo above as it piles the pressure on me, but then I thought, well that's the reason I started this blog in the first place. It holds me accountable. So, as 2016 commenced I focused on the following goals:
As it stands my recovery through Strength and Conditioning has been bang on. In 2015 I dropped to 68kg training for Ironman and this resulted in injury. In 2016 S&C will be a big part of my plan and if that means less aerobic miles then so be it, I know I can race Ironman so I don't need that mental buffer of 'getting the miles in.' I am back squatting 100kg comfortably which has not happened in some time and I feel stronger than ever in the core and upper body. As regards times, I ran a 1:38:37 half mara training run on February 13th which was 6mins off my last PB. I like to think this means my run training is going to plan and that I am going to smash Paris.
My swim sets have been lacking somewhat and I have yet to hammer out an long spins or bike/run sets but as I said, Paris is the focus for now. The heavy miles will come from April to August, the beauty of a late season Ironman. I have to note, I do not envy one bit the lads training for May/June Ironmans.
A few side notes: I am training (albeit short distances) at the moment with Vibram 5 fingers. I said in 2015 that I wanted to develop my front foot running game and this is the beginning. Its early days but I can note the following:
Fingers crossed this works for me. The whole reason for it is to reduce any further damage to my lower back and so far it has been doing just that. When I come in from a run the only thing aching are my calves. This might be the way forward. Interesting TED talk on the topic below:
All in all things are shaping up well. I will start my weekly mileage reports again from this week on.
On February 15th I received my certificate from ISSA qualifying me a Personal Trainer.
I have recently adopted a high fat low carb diet and not much to report there. Interesting though that if you are doing things right, you can eat a high fat diet and have a body fat percentage of 10%.
Finally a big thanks once again to Blaithin in Old Bawn Clinic, thanks to her I am running, period!
The guys in Westpark continue to be great and their performance room has become a second home to me.
More to come...
First things first. My last entry was November 11th in the Apres Ironman section which will now be laid to rest as 2016 begins. I spent some time deciding on what to do with my Ironman Journey and Apres Ironman sections. Would I retire them as each event passed or would I simply continue on. I have decided that all off season activity will continue in Apres Ironman irrespective of the year and the same for 'My Ironman Journey'. I have added year date categories in each section so this should help people look back over what I achieved in 2015 and whats to come.
In the last few weeks plenty has happened. Christmas came and went and I got very little done in the way of training. I came down with a cold that I think half of Dublin had and thus the new year rang in having done little or no mileage. This continued right into January and it was only in the last few weeks that I have got back on track.
I registered for Ironman Vichy which takes place on August 28th so I have plenty of time. In actual fact, any official plan that I'm hoping to get on, doesn't need to begin till February. With that in mind, the last two weeks have really just been about feeling my way back into things.
In those weeks I've hit out some pretty decent swim sets, got one 30km bike spin done and a handful of runs. I'm mindful of getting my legs back to a good running level as I am racing the Paris Marathon on April 3rd. Last Saturday I got notification of my All World Athlete status at Ironman. I received the bronze level which places me in the top 10% in my AG. A lot of people don't think the AWA award is anything important but in my opinion, when it is achieved on the back of 1 full and 1 messed up half, I see this as a good result. The AWA status is of course something that can be gamed and Ironman have done nothing more than try to encourage people do take part in more of their races. I know that there are plenty of athletes that have achieved Silver or Gold but have done this on the back of 4 full Iron races. I also know there are people who have raced 2 full Irons and not achieved the status at all. Everyone will look at this award in their own way. For me, 2015 was a great year with some times to be really proud of. All of them can be re-read throughout this website.
My back has firmed up well in the last few weeks and that is down to nothing other than a good winter of structured rehab courtesy of Old Bawn Clinic, the fully equipped facilities of Westpark Fitness and a dash of discipline. I worked hard on my strength and conditioning over the winter and am now feeling strong. For next few weeks I will continue to slowly ramp up the mileage but for now, things feel right and I am excited for the season ahead.
Ironman Austria. 365 days since I registered. 365 days since making the decision to embark on this journey. It's been selfish, it's been epic, it's been difficult, it's been great; but more importantly, it's been completed. Now, however, I find myself looking for direction. No more Training Peaks reminders. No more meal prep and ice baths. I miss it all already. So what's next? Actually, let's leave that for now. Let's dissect the race and figure out where I can start shaving down that time. Full Results here.
For the last 20 weeks I have focused on one date, June 28th 2015. My first Ironman. I went into it blind and relied solely on the belief that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. That, and an online training plan that I worked off loosely for the duration of those 20 weeks. I finished Ironman Austria in 10:42:06. Before the race if someone offered me a sub 11 hour Ironman I'd have taken it and ran. Now I find myself trawling through the course in my mind, figuring out where I could shave off some minutes. Let the games begin.
Austria is stunning. My only fear for future Ironman outings (yes there will be more) is that some may not live up to this. The food, the landscape, the people, the lack of wind, the crystal clear lake water, were all elements that made this race great. It was my first time in Austria and the journey (via Frankfurt and Slovenia) was not one bit difficult. We rented a house 15 kilometers outside of Klagenfurt and it was like stepping back in time. I highly recommend this option if you wish to avoid the hustle and bustle of an Ironman. We could take in the pre-race buzz and after party but in the evenings we had our own head space. I used ship my tri bike to transport my bike and race apparel and the service was flawless. I won't go into too much detail about my training as that has been documented in detail over the last 7 months on this website.
Race day rolled around and the nerves never really hit me. I guess when you spend so long waiting for something to come (7 months) you become somewhat passive to its arrival. In actual fact I just wanted to get going. My injuries in the weeks running up to the event meant I was forced to take some time off (this ended up being a good thing) and so I was chomping at the bit as race week came around. This is how all athletes should be approaching an event. In hindsight, my injuries may have been a blessing in disguise as, knowing myself, I'd have trained right up 'til the day of the race. This forced me to stay grounded. Ok back it up for a moment, I did experience a flurry of nerves moments before the gun went off but by that stage it was too late. I froze for a moment, panicked, then regathered myself, hugged my other half and thanked her for all her support, then made for the start line. Anyway, my alarm was set for 3:30 am which stung a little bit, but surprisingly I slept like a log the night before. Dealing with a run bag, cycle bag, streetwear bag and bike registration on the Saturday was pure chaos and really kept the mind active but it never at any point stressed me out (well maybe there were one or two moments where I snapped, but it was minimal stuff). I would always remind myself to enjoy everything no matter how trying the elements became. Ironman racing doesn't come around every day.
I lined up with the fast wave for a 6:50am swim start and the buzz was electric. I met a guy called Inaki De La Parra as he was racked beside me in transition and as he was also an ex swimmer, we decided to meet on the sand and pace off each other. I was aiming for a 54 minute swim as was he so we were a match. I popped one gel before the gun went off and as the sound of Michael Jackson's 'Black and White' rang out (a childhood favorite of mine), I knew it was going to be a great day. I hammered through the swim out in front but allowed a significant pack to get ahead of me. The important thing to remember in your first Ironman outing is to follow your own pace. It's very easy to get caught up in guys racing either side of you but I stayed the course. The water was bliss and for the first time this season my sleeveless Zone3 wetsuit allowed me to cut through the water. I drank from the beautiful Worthersee as I swam and took in the sights where possible. I hammered home up the canal to a roaring crowd and clocked a 57 minute swim which now in hindsight I'm annoyed with. This was good enough for a 12th place divisional exit but I am faster than that. Next time I will turn the afterburners up ever so slightly. I got through transition in 5 minutes and made for the hills of Austria.
Well, what's to be said about the Ironman Austria bike leg other than it is NOT a flat course. All throughout the journey and conversations with those who have gone before, I heard about this super flat course. This is not the case. Replace the word flat with fast and then we have something to agree on. The roads are stunning to ride on and this, coupled with killer descents, means you can get all kinds of speed going on. But, you do have to get up those two nasty hills before that, twice! There was an incredible amount of drafting going on and I found myself alone for much of the bike course. This was the result of coming out of the water with strong athletes who just lost me on the bike. Before Ironman, I was hoping for anything under the 6 hour mark. Halfway through the bike leg I knew I was going to crush that. I was recording an average speed of 35km/h and I knew if I could keep fatigue at bay I could sustain this. I followed all of my plans like clockwork. 2000 calories on the bike in the form of pre-mixed gels. Two 720ml bottles with 1000 calories in each. One bottle for each leg and I would be well fueled for the run. I maxed out on the bike at 68.9km/h and that was some rush. I made for T2 feeling great and cruised through in 4 minutes. Bike leg time: 5:26:24.
Finally, the marathon, something I have really began to love. I raced my first in Dublin last October and went under the 4 hour mark immediately. In London in April I knocked 15 minutes off and went 3:44 and after that decided I loved long distance running. However, it is a slightly different affair when it comes after seven hours of racing. The first 5km I thought to myself, “this is not good that I feel this poorly so early on”. To be honest I neglected ‘run off the bike’ training sessions all year so what was I to expect. My stomach ached from all the sugary gels and I craved some hard food even though I know it’s ill-advised while running. I wolfed down some orange slices and bread at the first aid station and decided I was going to allow myself to walk any aid station I wanted to. This tactic worked as a comfort tool as I knew that with every 2/3km mark I’d be getting a break, if I needed it. Before Ironman I had a mini goal to jog the entire marathon, I reminded myself 20 minutes in that I am not a pro triathlete! I completed the marathon in 4:07:15 which I am not too disappointed with but not delighted with either. In my head I knew I was going sub 11 hours bar a complete catastrophe so that played a large part in not going any harder than I needed to. For my first outing, I was going to gladly take 10 hours something. Next time it will be a different story.
Take Away Notes
So what have I learned from this entire process?
Things haven't got a whole lot better since last week. The hamstrings feel great but the back is not right. I am trying my best to put it out of my mind but it is proving hard. These last few weeks are supposed to be exciting and I am supposed to be feeling on top of the game but instead I am training cautious (when I actually am training) and generally feeling down about the whole event. I did however get a decent 3.9km swim in on Friday recording a 62 minute time using a pull buoy so I'll take that. On Saturday I managed 11km on the legs so things aren't completely dire.
This time next week I will be getting ready to fly. Ship my tri bike are collecting my bits this coming Saturday so I don't know if I'll get another spin out on the bike before that, perhaps Saturday morning if that back feels up to it although advice from my physio is that I remove all training between now and race day. Ice baths and compression at night and hot packs in the morning are my new best friends. I can say one thing, if I get through this I am made of more than I ever thought I was. Phil
I bet you're wondering what that picture is all about. Some people will know straight away and will feel my pain, others will think they are looking at frogspawn. This along with hours of foam rolling and physio is what my last few days have involved, ice baths!! If you read mileage report #13 where I moaned and whinged about a 6hr training week, imagine how this last week has been for me with just 1:56mins logged... I am 2.5weeks out from Ironman Austria and the outlook is not good.
Following on from last weeks report that incorporated my TriAthy race report, things have not been ideal. What began as a recovery week from a Double Olympic event, has quickly turned into a race against time to be ready for Ironman. The last number of months I have had a small niggle in my lower back that I have ignored. This is something rugby players and ex rugby players alike are masters at, ignoring pain. It's no wonder this Ironman business has come so easy to me. However, after a busy few weeks on the legs that have included 6 half marathons and a full marathon, my high hamstrings (right up under my sit bones) have begun to bother me. So much so that on Thursday evening, (my first session after Athy), I managed a pathetic 2.1km run before pulling up with a searing pain up my leg. The next day I arranged to meet my long term physio and have it looked at. 1hr later after some deep tissue work and a long chat it was concluded that I may well have a stress fracture in my lower back but only an MRI can confirm that. This in turn has lead to weak hamstrings and indeed the suffering pain I am now going through within them. With Ironman in just in 3 weeks, my plans for a Wicklow 200 spin out and the Waterford triathlon this coming week were quickly dashed and instead replaced with orders to rest up, ice up and pray for the best.
This has resulted in some pretty dire mood swings and a general feeling of doom and gloom. I have poured 26 weeks into this goal and I'll be damned if its dashed now. I have gotten through worse than this. Blaithin did wonders with her physio and the ice baths are really helping. The pain is not so much there but I am still aware that I am not 100%. Compression legs are my outfit of choice daily and tennis balls up under the butt fill my evenings. I am just over 2 weeks out but I will make it. On a positive note I can swim to my hearts content. Swimming ay, the sport that keeps giving. Sadly I have little more to report on this week. Fingers crossed next week I am back running and cycling. ~ Phil
The season is well and truly underway. Races are great and provide much needed 'dry runs' before the main event, but, worryingly, I feel like I'm missing some long training miles due to them. Take TriAthy at the weekend for example. I know I have always harped on about normalising the abnormal, and I think I am well beyond that now, but it is Wednesday and the reason this post is so late going out is because I am still beat from Saturday's event. I raced a middle distance event last August (Ireman) and I do not remember it hammering me as much. Anyway.
Training the week before TriAthy's Double Olympic was tapered as it's supposed to be, and this week, well, not a lot has happened. The fact that I will be on a plane exactly three weeks from now bound for Ironman Austria is worrying me. I am riding the 200km Wicklow 200 on Sunday which I am looking forward to, but really my training miles need to get back on track ASAP. The race on Saturday was largely one big mess but I have taken lots of positives from it and am still very happy with the time I managed despite numerous hiccups. So let's delve into it.
I had big plans to get out ahead in the swim - as is always one of my mini goals - but right from the start it all went wrong. The far left of the bank was rammed as every genius with a plan was looking to avoid the central flow of the river while we went 900m upstream. I opted to go up the middle arch of the bridge and outswim the pack only to link up with them on the other side. As one would expect, mother nature won, and I must have been behind about 30 bodies by the time I met them on the other side of the bridge. I did however really enjoy the swim and hacked through some 15 competitors to exit after 3km in 15th place. I was hoping for a 45min swim but would have to settle for 51mins. This is where things went bad. The conditions for that hour of the morning were, as to be expected, cold. I mounted the bike after an awful T1 frozen to the core and made my way onto the 80km circuit. After 10mins on the bike I had to pull in and put arm warmers on. At this point I did not think I'd finish this event. I was so cold my jaw ached well into Sunday from all the chattering. After about 40km I warmed up and finished the bike leg with a 32km average in 2:29:01 - the 3rd slowest bike leg of the top 50 competitors. I did spend 3 minutes pulling arm warmers on, but no excuse, my bike power needs to improve. I finished up on the bike in 30th overall dropping 15 places and made for the 20km run.
The run was tough as you'd expect but the joy of warmth from that bike meant I relished it that little bit more. I finished up with a time of 1:39:25 and a run average of 5:03 per kilometre. Not bad after a miserable bike leg. That time actually had me on course for my half marathon PB so I'll happily take that. I finished in a time of 5:05:47 which overall I am quite happy with. My nutrition on the day went well. I've started putting my gels into a water bottle on the bike (5) and mixing them with water. It beats the hell out of tearing through gels throughout the event and I advise people to give it a try. I was hoping for a sub 5hr race but with each of my mishaps on the day I will take that time. If I can replicate that and allow for some fatigue that would leave me with a sub 11hr Ironman. Anyone who is familiar with my stats knows that I can tend to hang on and am very consistent in my suffering so this aspiration is not beyond me. This weekend I ride the Wicklow 200 which will be a nice precursor to the 180km bike leg of Ironman and after that it's Hook or by Crook on June 13th. Oh, one last thing, a notable PB at the start of my training week, where I ran a 40min 10km out of nowhere. Yeah sometimes these things just happen. :)
From rugby player to Ironman.