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Tales of an endurance athlete
Duathlete at heart, but will do aything running/cycling/swimming/multisport related. Within reason of course:-)

Ironman Mallorca - not quite what I expected!

tiggaby tiggaNov 2nd 2015
I’ve had a few weeks to digest (excuse the pun… you’ll understand why once you’ve read this!!) the ‘bad’ race experience I had in Mallorca.
A race report to soon afterwards would’ve had me handing out my excuses and sounding disappointed. Yes of course I was and still am disappointed… but life goes on as I try to figure out how best not to have the same issues in my next one! Yes, there most definitely is a next one â€" I worked too hard at my running to get it back to injury free running to let this slip by

Ironman Mallorca would be the first event that both myself and Jacks had done together and both wanted to achieve a tough goal. You would think that is a good thing… both training for the same event. If you factor in that both of us work full-time, sometimes a busy/stressful job and then add in a teenager in the household is heading off to Uni and then the fact our house has had a major facelift over the past 12 months and there is a never ending list of things to get done?! You can see now that this was a mad juggling act. For the most part we could do our silly long day of training (up to 6hr30mins!) on a Saturday at the same time but not together. As much as I would love to be out training with Jacks, she knows it’s simply not practical as my training speeds are a little too speedy for her. During the week I used my commute as much as possible to get the riding done and we had to juggle our training schedule to make sure Wiggo (that’s our working cocker fourlegged friend) was not neglected. Wiggo is the worlds fittest dog… Running up to 15miles in a day, even on my tempo runs he’s happily darting up and down, in and out of the hedges… often popping up with a pheasant flapping madly in his mouth. Luckily we live in the countryside and have plenty of trails around and he’s quite good at staying close by, so no lead is required and so long as there are no pheasants within sniffing distance he’s quite obedient. There’s that saying… ‘Fit as a butchers dog’… Then on a whole new level of fitness is Wiggo!

Training wise I couldn’t complain… I struggled a bit to shake a recurring calf injury and slowly built the run mileage up over a 6 week period. I raced a half ironman 5 week out from the big one and without resting completely I had a huge confidence boosting race finishing second in a decent quality field of athletes.

Jacks had a slower start having to have two minor back operations (operations on the back are never minor!!) in May and June. Once she got going though it was an upward curve of fitness and strength for her culminating in a near perfect race for her.

Not only was I writing out Jacks training schedule, but I had another five athletes I’ve been helping in varying degrees out doing this race â€" It was always going to be an emotional day! Even in training we all have our bad patches and part of my job was to help and encourage them all along the way.

Race day seemed to come along very quickly… one minute we had four months to race day, the next we were flying out to Mallorca wondering how the hell we managed to fit in all the normal day to day stuff along with the training you would hope gets you to the finishline in your goal time.

Ambitiously I have been targeting sub 9hours. I knew it would take good preparation and a good day. The preparation was great, better than expected. I managed a biggest week of about 17 hrs and was consistently around 14hrs for 15 weeks. Now all it boiled down to, was race day.

This was a rolling start, which means you put yourself into a seeding pen based on your swim time. I put myself with the sub 60mins group â€" this self seeding rolling start was a bit of a nonsense as they started the other ‘slower seeded’ pens before ours was anywhere near done. I ended up swimming over a fair few slower swimmers… and very few passing me. Out in 61mins… about par for performance I thought. Sub 60mins would have been perfect, 60-62mins was expected. In transition I had major quad cramp getting my wetsuit off which was a bit concerning, as was the fact my nose and throat were a little ‘raw’ from taking in the sea water.

The plan was to ride strictly to power, as I had done a lot of training of 4-5hrs knowing I could hold 255-260W and get off the bike with something in the tank for the run. Secretly I really wanted to take a risk and try hold 275-280W but ultimately there was a real chance I would ‘explode’ on the run if I rode to that kind of wattage for the whole 180km. The course was nice and flat first half and big lump of a hill midway through the second half â€" Spectacular warm with a few switchbacks thrown in, just what I like! Problems started very early on the bike though, as I pretty much threw up everything I tried to consume for the first 50km. My nutrition strategy was as I’d practised for 3+ months on my weekly long brick at 400cal/hour consuming my electrolyte/carb/protein mix and jelly babies. Now I was already faced with choices to make… and I’m just 70mins into my race??
Do I stick to my race planned watts and hope the stomach accepts the race fuel a little later, or do I back right off and ride 15-20mins slower and get through this in a respectable time but most definitely not a sub 9hr. I chose option one â€" purely because I had prepared for a sub 9 and I’d ridden enough at this wattage to know I could get by taking in less calories I just don’t know what would be left in the tank for the run. I’ve always been one to try and fail rather than not try at all! I figured I could consume a few extra calories once/if the stomach came right. And I managed to do that too… however with 15km to go on the bike I was smacked around the back of head by a large energy sapping hammer. I went from pinging at 250-260W with ease… to barely being able to pedal. I ate more and backed off right to the end of the bike ride and started to feel much better for it too as I hit transition I felt pretty normal again. I stupidly forgot my garmin GPS on my bike so had to run back to collect it add to that a world record pee T2 looked a bit slow, but actually went relatively well. Not even a hint of cramp I’d suffered in T1. Looked at the watch and thought 2hr59mins for the marathon and that’s my sub 9. Not impossible, but it was going to take a near perfect run to get there.

4:15/km is what I’d targeted all along… It's pan flat, roads and beach front running, what's not to like? 4:15's this I thought was an achievable pace to run at from all my training data (and I do like data!!). As I set off for the run I actually felt pretty bloody good and heart rate was exactly where it should be… so now it was a matter of making sure I stay on top of nutrition for these early kilometres. I made sure I collected a good dose of calories as I left T2 and calculated I’d had at least 200… I took a only about 100calories at the first aid station as my stomach felt quite bloated and I thought I’d give it a rest from ‘calories in’ seeing as it been fed a fair amount at the end of the bike too. This was when that big hammer came down in my head again and this time near enough knocked me out… and suddenly there was no energy… nothing, I was seeing stars… things were looking very dark and hazy, I barely made it to the second aid station walking let alone trying to run! I’ve had many a blood sugar lows in training and know what it feels like and never experienced anything quite so sudden. The swing in energy levels was unbelievable… one minute I’m running along at 4:10/km heart rate at 130bpm… next thing I can’t even get my heart rate over 100! And I’m doing 5:30+/km. I knew that was my day shot to pieces and I really did suffer my way through the final 39km of the run. Between the extreme lows and a stomach so bloated and not actually dealing with any calories I tried feeding in… I ended up having a 10-15mins lie down to simply give the stomach a chance to deal with the food without having to run at the same time. Throughout the run I saw ‘my’ athletes all having a far better day than me and much to Jack’s surprise… she caught me up and I struggled through my worst patch at the end of Lap 1 with her for a few km’s. I really battled some demons in that run… In my head I knew I was physically capable of a sub 9hr, my heart said just finish this thing… my body had set a whole new of rules and slowly but surely every muscle seemed to cramp and after my little lie down I decided to hobble my way around and manage the cramp and indigestion as best I could. The lie had done something good as I felt a little better and was able to plod more frequently. A whopping 4hr55mins for the marathon… at an average heart rate of 96bpm including a 10mins nap… crossing that finish line was an epic achievement in my books as look back and think just how low I felt with 39km still to ‘run’.

Naturally my first feeling as I crossed the line was major disappointment. I’ve not given that much in training since RAAM 2011… so to have a complete disaster of a day I was simply gutted. I crossed the line with a great buddy of mine Ant who is ever positive… we’d traded places a fair few times out on the marathon and I’d managed to plod the last lap as he really struggled. I walked the last 1km or so waiting for him knowing sub 11 hours was there and to cross the line with such a good mate when we suffered in our own way to get there was better than crossing a finishline really grumpy. As they say at the race briefing the race photos tell a story… and I’m glad I waited and I even mustered a smile.

As for ‘my’ athletes… massive PB’s, one by a whopping 2hrs!! Jacks went 12hr02min18ecs which was also a 30+mins PB, which considering two back operation 14 weeks earlier was spectacular, although I know she was disappointed not to break 12 hours she took heart knowing she’d done someone else a favour by letting them go to a toilet before her as he came desparately bursting as she was about to step into the portaloo â€" the end result was she had to wait a long time for her pee stop which should really have been a quick one!

So whilst the athlete in me was a little disappointed, the coach could not have been prouder!

Loads of time to mull things over and these are my lessons:
1) Adapt your race plan and strategy for what is happening to avoid the hammer â€" ploughing on regardless only means a big hammer (or two) later down the line. Although even though I now know this, I would have done exactly the same again â€" it really was a sub 9hr or bust effort
2) Learn to swim/breath without taking on water in the swim
3) My stomach doesn’t like a lot of Alcudia bay seawater churned up with sand and seaweed
4) The hard earned medals are worth just as much as the ones from good races â€" if not more!
5) Even a bad race experience doesn’t dull my mojo and love for training â€" eyeing up my next one already

Until that next time peeps…

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