Ironman NZ race report!

As promised, race report from Chris! He started training in September, having completed one sprint triathlon the August before in which he swam breastroke, as front crawl was not quite up to scratch at that point!!! Over the last 6-7months, Chris consistently trained hard but sensibly in the time available, he was dedicated to achieving his goal, and not only stuck rigidly to his training plan, but listened to his body, and rested when it was necessary, and thought carefully about his nutrition as well. He completed the event on an entry level bike, having completed one 70.3 event early in January! (see earlier race report) Take a read of how the race went……..AND, he is already planning the next one! :)

Swim: the course was clockwise round a rectangle approx. 1750m x 50m long with an extra 200m to the shore after the return 1750m. Mass start as per ironman tradition. Conditions were good with little wind and only small waves. I positioned myself about 10m back from the start line directly in line with the sighting buoys for the first 1750m straight. This was because the current was weaker here than further left from the buoys and I’m better at sighting straight ahead of me than running parallel to a line off to the side. I also thought there would be a higher chance of drafting someone quicker here. When the cannon went off it was madness as expected. No one swam over me but it was impossible to find room and settle into a rhythm. This was the case for the whole first long side. My sighting was also not great and cut quite a wiggly route. Made the mistake of hitting quite close to the apex of the first corner buoy and got slowed up in a bit of a jam there. Took a much wider line for the second corner buoy which worked better. Things were thinning out a bit now but still had to fight for my place. Managed to finally get into a bit of a rhythm and my speed increased a bit as well as sighting the buoys much better so I was going in a much straighter line. I also developed a good technique for getting people out of my way if they were in front of me – I would swipe their legs to one side with my arm and this would normally open up enough room for me to get through. Final 200m after the last buoy I raised the tempo and kicked harder to wake my legs up. Very pleased with the final swim time of 1h11.

T1: there was a 400m run from swim exit to the transition area which was very frustrating as the route was only wide enough for one person so I got massively held up by people jogging it really slowly. Things went fairly smoothly in the change tent all things considered.

Bike: the bike course was a short ~75m climb out of taupo before a 150m descent and then flat land up to 45km and then turning around and completing 2 laps like that. The road surface was a hard gravel seal so the bike was bouncing and juddering the whole way and it really sapped my energy. All of my joints are hurting today and I’m pretty sure that’s what caused it!! Wind conditions gave you a ~20kph tail wind heading out, that then became a head wind coming back. This is where I was a bit stupid and learnt a valuable lesson in long distance triathlon racing the hard way. I had it in my head that I wanted a sub 6hour bike time and my plan was to work with the wind on the outward legs to get as big a buffer as possible over 30kph average so that I could take it a bit easier on the return legs against the wind. With this in mind I came haring out of t1 way too hard. In addition to this i also abandoned my usual training nutrition of 1 Powerbar + 1 powergel per hour as I was worried about having too many gels across the day. I don’t think my alternative of oaty bars over the first half of the bike and powerbars over the second half was anywhere near as effective and I should’ve stuck to my training nutrition. All this meant that by the time I hit 140km and was inbound working against the wind for the last leg (it felt like the wind had picked up too but maybe I was just knackered) I was already starting to blow up and my legs were really struggling and feeling weak. I think in hindsight a reality check that I had hardly hit 30kph in any of my training rides out here on the gravel seal should have realigned my expectations and I should’ve looked to average maybe 28 to 29kph.

T2: went very smoothly, nothing to report.

Run: the run course was 3 x 14km laps. The outward half was much harder than the inbound half, with a lot more climbing. my legs were shot to pieces after the bike as I’d hit it too hard and it really cost me. My nutrition plan was 1 gel every 25mins, approx and to drink water/electrolyte on taste. I saved coke until the last lap. This worked quite well I think as I never felt sick but my legs were just knackered. I tried to do what I did in auckland, just run easy out of transition but this was a full 40s per km slower than that pace. I didn’t have the strength in my legs to get my usual stride length so I had to shift to very short stride high cadence running, which isn’t particularly natural to me. I was able to run the whole time, except for walking through aid stations. I had the classic drop off around the 30km mark, where my pace really fell away but managed to pick it up a bit for the final few km’s. Toe wasn’t an issue at all the whole run as I never got near the speed that would make it flex enough to be painful.

Overall: thrilled to bits to have finished. I’m slightly disappointed with my performance in the run but I think I’ve now learnt an important lesson about controlling the bike to set you up for the run. I think if I’d given up 15mins on the bike I could’ve mate take 40mins off the run. I think my performance in auckland made me slightly arrogant about what was achievable and I underestimated how much harder the full IM would be. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it – I started off in July wanting to complete an ironman and I’ve achieved that and I couldn’t be happier.


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