Ironman 70.3 Buffalo City 2014 Race Report

I went into this race having some of the most consistent training I have ever had behind me. For the first time in a long time I had been able to train without injury so I was able to complete what was necessary.

My goal for this race was simple: podium in my age group. The intention was to actually race this race to get in the mindset of racing others not just participating. This was a big mental step up from where I had previously been but I knew I had to do this if I was to achieve my goal of qualifying for Kona at Ironman SA.

The swim was pretty non-eventful except I probably could have gone faster. I was out of the water in second position in my wave although I had held quite a bit back. I did at one stage make a break but swam off course so I returned to join the person who was leading my age group (Sascha Braendle).

The bike was a bike of two halves. Uphill into the wind on the way out and downhill with a tailwind on the way back. My power meter had decided to die so I was riding without power, just going on feel. I cycled what I thought was a sensible leg which actually turned out to be pretty fast! I was in fourth position after the bike so I had slipped off the podium.

The run was hot as usual so I had to keep squeezing sponges over my head. I walked the aid stations to ensure I got nutrition and cooling an a little bit of Bunkers hill on the second lap but otherwise I felt reasonably in control. The wind had picked up by this stage so running back to the finishers area was pretty tough – I really felt for those (including Cindy) who were still on the bike by this time.

Overall I dropped a further 2 place on the run to finish in 6th position but did a PB for the course on what was a slow day (most people were slower than previous years). While I was not over the moon with finishing 6th I was happy with my time but it did expose my glaring weakness of running, yet again.

Race Summary

Swim: 00:28:20

Bike: 02:39:26

Run: 01:46:22

Overall05:03:10

Ranking – Details

Overall Rank: 45/2243

Category Rank: 6/301

Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

Mont Tremblant, in Canada, hosted this year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship. It was the first time this race was hosted outside the U.S. and they really couldn’t have chosen a better venue. The town of Mont Tremblant is a ski resort in winter and triathlon heaven in summer. It is beautiful, with great paths for running, roads for cycling and lakes for swimming.

The days leading up to the race involved the usual taper niggles – my legs felt sore and I was completely paranoid about getting sick after having to DNF at Ironman Canada the year before (tip: Robs told me about Linctagon earlier in the year and I now swear by it – thanks Robs!). To make matters worse the weather was predicted to be cold on the day of the race, with a forecast of about 8 degrees at about the time I was due to start the swim.
On the morning of the race I felt good. I will always remember the excitement of standing on the beach prior to the start as an F15 (Canadian fighter jet) flew overhead and listening to the cannon as the pros lead off first, knowing that I was soon going to be in the same race as Gomez, Frodeno and many other great triathletes.
The start of the swim was pretty calm. Over time I have learned to keep away from the packs (in this case I kept left) and finding my own space so that I could set my own pace. Once in space I moved back towards the pack but on my terms. I exited the water after about 27 mins having felt comfortable the whole way and started the rather long run to T1.
I had decided not to wear a shirt under my wetsuit as I didn’t want to start the ride in the cold wearing a wet shirt. Big mistake. Putting on a cycling jersey while wet is not easy, so my T1 took a bit longer than planned. Eventually I managed to get the shirt on and headed out on the bike. The first 30k’s of the bike was a real draft fest with packs forming making it difficult to keep a legal distance from those around you.
The roads in Mont Tremblant are the stuff dreams are made of – they’re silky smooth and really comfortable to ride on. This meant that I could actually get in the zone and not have to worry about being bounced off my bike (unlike PE :-)). From 30 – 70k was great fun. I usually train to power but didn’t actually race to power I just tried to ride comfortably. The final 20k of the bike was pretty hilly with some rather steep gradients but nothing too bad. I finished the bike in 2:24 a bit ahead of my planned pace of 2:30 so I was pretty chuffed with that.
T2 was pretty uneventful and over with pretty quickly.
Shortly after leaving T2 I saw Xavier Gomez going the other way nearing the end of his race, it was pretty awesome to be out there on the same course as the best in the world – an experience which is unique to triathlon.
A highlight of the run for my was running past my Canadian family with my nieces and nephew (2, 3 and 4 years old) cheering go-G-go!! as I approached and for minutes after I left, all of them waving flags and ringing cow bells!
The run was 2 loops with a pretty insane hill towards the end of each loop (shorter but steeper than Bunkers in East London). While my swim and bike preparation for this race had been good my run had not as I had problems with my Achilles. This meant that I ended up walking some of the aid stations but still managed an ok run time for me of 1:45.
My total time was 4:44 which was a PB by a long way. I really want to thank my coaches and all those at MTD for all your support, but mostly I want to thank my triathlete wife Cindy, for putting up with my OCD and eventually deciding, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Ironman SA 2014 Race Report

Race Summary

Overall happy-ish with the result. The swim was easy and pace was good. The bike was a shocker (more on that later) and the run didn’t feel all that difficult. I didn’t push as I knew I wasn’t going to PB the race and I was going to PB the run.

Results were as follows:

Overall Position Name Country Bib Number Age Group Overall Swim Bike Run
171 Graham Toms South Africa 1367 M40-44 11:16:52 00:58:04 05:57:55 04:10:50

What went well

  • Swim was easy although I was dropped in the sprint into the water and had to make up those places again.
  • Swim: Ended up in a reasonably paced group after putting in a surge to catch them. It’s worth spotting a group then chasing up to them to get a faster draft.
  • Overall bike power was ok – didn’t drop off nearly as much as last year, but distribution and VI needs work.
  • Really kept an eye on my heart rate during the run. It kept going over 150 even though I was going slow. I believe this to be heat related so I am really not sure what can be done about it. It did help to take my cap off every now and then to get wind in my hair which helped cool me.
  • My natural run pace when running was really good and didn’t feel uncomfortable from a GI perspective.
  • Nutrition went quite well. Used 32GI endurance drink, 32GI chews and 32GI real bars as well as some bananas. I did run out of juice (or any liquid) at one stage though so had to get some water from an aid station.

What didn’t go so well

  • Bike power was way too high on the first lap.
  • Bike gearing was probably too low as I had to grind on some of the hills.
  • Bike rattled on rough roads (most of the course). This affected my confidence in my bike and I living to tell the tale.
  • Bike felt unstable at speed. Probably to do with using such deep section wheels – need wider, more stable wheels for next year.
  • Descended way too cautiously. Need to practice descending at higher speeds.

Race Report: Ironman South Africa 2013

Build up to the race

I trained more for this Ironman than I have for any previous Ironman. Most weeks in the final block were between 17 and 21 hours of training with long rides of up to 205km, long runs of 30km and swims of 5+km. I was training to try to break the 10hr barrier however I had a few problems during this build.

A recurring problem with Sciatica meant that at some stages I couldn’t run and I did miss some of my core long runs due to pain and the fear of doing further damage.

I also had a few bouts of illness which interfered with training and generally left me feeling really tired. I mean really tired. So tired it was painful and my head was in a haze.

Results were as follows:

Overall Position Name Country Bib Number Age Group Overall Swim Bike Run
239 Graham Toms South Africa 719 M35-39 10:57:51 00:59:34 05:20:01 04:27:49

Race Summary

I was happy with my swim and transitions. The rest of the race left something to be desired. Given the amount of training I have done things should have gone better.

What went well

– My new Coral wetsuit was comfy and not as restrictive as my previous suit felt. I think this and the increased level of intensity in swim training let me cruise the swim at a better pace than previous races. The swim felt very comfortable.

– Racing off the start line meant there were fewer people at the first turnaround buoy which reduced the washing machine effect.

– Lap 2 of the bike felt fine, in fact after 120k on the bike I felt good. It would have been great to start the run then!

– Transitions were around the time expected (5 mins each) although I didn’t get help from volunteers.

What didn’t go so well

– Nutrition on the bike (see below)

– Pacing on the bike (see below)

– My legs felt terrible on the first lap of the bike. Everything was more effort than it should have been.

– My sciatica meant that my left leg was in a rather large amount of pain through the first lap of the bike with a numb, dull pain running all the way down the outside of the leg. I had experienced this in training and know it goes away after a couple of hours so I just dealt with it.

– The tape holding down my disc cover came loose on lap 2 and had to be removed.

– I sheared a bolt on my elbow pad on lap 2. I stopped at the beginning of lap 3 to try to fix this but couldn’t meaning I was out of balance for lap 3 and couldn’t rest on the bars as much as I should have been able to.

– Running off the bike was close to impossible. Everything felt terrible and the heat felt oppressive – although I’m not sure how hot it really was.

– Trying to use flat coke for nutrition didn’t work well. Coke make me feel nauseous and I had to tighten my waist  belt to keep the coke bottles from moving which put extra pressure on my stomach.

– I bonked on lap 1 of the run but mostly recovered after taking in a gel.

– My run pacing was all over the place. When I was running it was mostly at around the 5min/km pace which was the pace I trained at and therefore the pace I felt efficient at, however I kept having to walk which slowed down my overall pace. It’s hard to say whether this was just nutrition or whether I should do my long runs slightly slower. I will need to chat to Claire about this.

Swim Analysis

The swim went well. I started pretty much at the front of the group and sprinted into the water then pushed for the first bit of the swim. There was a bit of argy-bargy but not as bad as previous years although I could feel my heart rate going through the roof. I settled in after the first buoy and sighted off other swimmers. I do think I swam in a fairly straight line, there was some room for improvement but it was better than previous years. Leaving the swim I took it easy as I had jelly legs.

Bike Analysis

Bike Analysis Distance  Total Duration  Stopped Time  Moving Duration Speed Avg Power Normalised Power Variability Index Average HR 180k Pace
Lap 1 60 01:41:05 00:00:00 01:41:05 35.61 226 245 1.08 140 05:03:15
Lap 2 60 01:43:53 00:02:30 01:41:23 35.51 219 239 1.09 142 05:04:09
Lap 3 60 01:54:38 00:02:30 01:52:08 32.10 182 205 1.13 137 05:36:24
Total 180 05:19:36 00:05:00 05:14:36 34.33 208 231 1.11 139

On lap 1 I just wanted to ensure I was on pace but ended up being over pace.

On lap 2 I tapped off slightly as I knew I was on pace.

On lap 3 I tapped off further as I wanted to try to save my legs. My aerobars elbow pad had snapped at this point so I struggled to use the bars properly.

Clearly I went out too fast on the bike and slowed down over the course of the bike leg, although a lot of this slowing was caused by me realizing I didn’t need to go faster and the impact of not being comfortable on my broken aerobar. This, together with nutrition issues and a potential power meter over reading in training may have caused my problems (my IM pace training sessions were at about 250w and a variability index of 1.05 or thereabouts and felt comfortable).

Run Analysis

The plan was to run the first lap at just below 5min/k pace and then slow to around 5:10/k pace towards the end of the run. This lasted about 1km. I then had to switch to a run walk mode, running for 100steps then walking for 50. I kept this up most of the run, switching to a higher proportion of running for the final lap as I wanted to break 11hrs.

Throughout the run I felt quite uncomfortable and sometimes nauseous. I tried to use Coke for nutrition but this didn’t seem to give me the kick I needed so I switched to gels after bonking on Lap 1 (I knew I was bonking as I couldn’t count my steps anymore!). Once I switched to gels I felt a bit more energy but also felt quite bloated and generally not that well.

The final lap was a real push, although I worked with a couple of other athletes throughout the lap who were also aiming at 11hrs and eventually made it!

Nutrition

  Actual Guidelines Surplus / Deficit
Nutrition Description Calories CHO g Calories CHO g Calories CHO g
Swim Bottle 270 47 360 90 -90 -43
Bike Bottles / Perpetuem / Coke 1187 197 1980 495 -793 -298
Run Gels and Coke ??? ??? 1260 315 ??? ???

Lessons tom implement before Ironman Canada:

– Sort out bike pacing

– Do 20 minute FTP tests every Tuesday. Watch the upward trend 🙂

– Re-calibrate power meter before every ride.

– Less spinning more race pace riding (minimum 220w average per ride)

– Sort out nutrition

– Use the “never-bonk” formula as a basis.

– Use gels on the run.

– Top up on calories before the swim and straight after the swim.

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