Another year, another race, another blog update.... I really need to race more!
First a summary for the lazy or who couldn’t be arsed reading it: Good Swim, Good Bike, Crap Run!
This year we went down memory lane and decided to take on IM Florida again; nine years after our first outing there. Panama City is situated in northwest Florida on the Gulf coast, a nice large town, all geared towards tourism and known locally as the "Redneck Riviera". Classy!
2017 was a mixed year for me training wise, a torn calf in January stopped me running for six
weeks and then a Gilmore’s groin surgery in March resulted in another six week layoff. Not ideal, but then again with a race in November plenty of time to prepare.
Coming from a good race last year in IM North Carolina, I had some high hopes of improving on each discipline in 2017. To kick-start everything I went on a primed coaching training camp in Mallorca at the end of April with Oliver Harkin. A good hilly 800 km’s in the bank. A small bit of swimming and a few good runs. Mallorca is a cracking training area, I highly recommend it. Once I got back I tried to become a little more specific with sessions. However, after a period of time I was feeling flat and decided I needed a change to suit my lifestyle and relationship, as both of us were using separate coaches. I moved to a new coach with 12 weeks to go, Owen Martin. The first week of that was a corporate Mizen to Malin cycle; loads of base miles but not ideal with 10 weeks to go.
After a week or two with Owen, I felt invigorated again and really got enthusiastic with the training volume, being back in the pool regularly and loads of biking and running. I was moving well. With five weeks to go we even managed a week in Lanza for another training camp. This worked really well and we both saw a great jump in fitness when we returned home.
Onto the race, we travelled to Orlando on Tuesday 31st (Halloween evening) before the Saturday race, drove and stayed overnight in Gainesville before finishing the journey on Wednesday. We stayed in the host hotel to minimise stress and travelling. T1 was in the car-park of the hotel. It was fine for the race but would I stay here if it was a holiday? Not a chance! It ranked 44th out of 48 hotels in Panama city on Trip Advisor!!
Temperatures were unseasonably high for the last two months in the area and it looked like a mid 80 degrees Farenheit for us on race day, or 29.5 Celsius..... mmmhhh, toasty. The days before consisted of the usual, registration, relaxation, some training and fine tuning, gear check.... all good. Felt great. Nervous but not crazy nervous.
We were up at 4am for the race, had breakfast, dropped off special needs bags, pumped tyres, added Garmin and nutrition to bikes. Back to the room and chilled. Sunscreen on, more liquids, final pee, wetsuit on. We were so close to the swim pen, we got into the wetsuits in the room. Perfect! I set myself up at the 1-1.10hr swim sign beside Paul; Donal was in the 1.20-1.30hr pen. The cannon went and off we went, eight in at a time so no stress there. Swim was great, took it handy, got some feet, lost some feet, became the feet for others. No pressure, minimal slaps.... and came out of first lap on 31 mins. I was happy out!
The second lap was uneventful so just focussed on easy swimming and reserving energy. I came out in 1.04hr and was really happy with that. Off up the beach, through the showers, suit off, grabbed my bag and into the transition room. It was a long T1, all neutralised. Had a pee just before I collected the bike. We had a plan to have a conservative bike so I could focus on the run. The planned Heart Rate was to average between 135 and 138. The bike course consists of long straight roads, some very small rollers and one bridge, 500m climbing in total, not much really. Bike went fine, windy in places, found my rhythm early on and stuck to it. Let the guys and girls pass. I was sticking to the plan no matter what.
Some pelotons went by, I cursed a little at them but stayed out of that and just focussed on cadence and nutrition. I was mainly on a liquid plan for the bike, Tailwind, naked flavour, providing 75g of carbs per hour. I only took water from the aid stations and that was mainly to pour over myself to keep cool as the temperature rose quickly and was high 70’s F by 9.30am. I had to stop at 90km for my special needs to collect another three bottles of tailwind. All was going to plan until 147km. Saw a smooth piece of ground and moved the bike onto it. After 100m I saw a guy changing a puncture; poor sod. Then all I could hear was, hiss, hiss, hiss..... Fuck...... front puncture. I was super calm. Wheel off, tyre off, tube changed, tyre back on and tube pumped up. I was back on the bike within 4 mins, not a lot of time lost there.
Then it was back to the plan again and soon enough I was back in T2 in 5.05hr, including a puncture; not too shabby. I had 3hr 40mins to get a sub 10 hour time, that was the goal. I even met Paul in T2, he was motoring on the bike with a 4.56hr split and he said he took it handy for the last 40km. Savage! He was second in his age group going onto the run. Not bad for a 6'7'' guy, weighting 101kg. We both hit the run within 1 min of each other.
I had a plan for the run and was feeling confident. The first 3km went to plan, 4.40per km, finding my rhythm, running relaxed and tall. Then Ironman came and bit me in the ass..... the wheels fell off! I just started walking, power-walking mind, none of this head down, giving up style walking!! I hadn’t bonked.... yes it was stupidly hot and humid, but I still expected to continue running. The next few km consisted of a run/walk and cool-down at the aid stations. I couldn’t get my head around this.... "I’m fit, running well, why o’ why am I walking"? It really got to me and I suppose my head left the game for a while, well for about 20km to be precise! I saw Rob from Wheelworx, Paul, Donal and Gareth on the run and we all looked like we were suffering to some extent. My stomach felt off but not terrible but I wanted to get running again so I ejected what was there (yes a fingers down the throat moment) and set a new baseline. At about 27km I had ‘the chat’ with myself and went at it
again. It worked! I was running again, not super fast but running. I calculated that if I could hold a certain pace I would get a PB, and break 4hrs for the run (not super; but hey a goal is a goal). I reckon I was on plan D at this stage... Nutrition for the run was also tailwind and then coke at the aid stations. Fizzy coke with lots of burping! The last 3km were pretty cool, not in temperature mind, more in vibe, with plenty of spectators to keep you spurred on and focussed. I was running well and knew I would get the ‘mini’ goal. I was lucky to pass a few early in the finishing lane so had a nice run in to the finish for the photo opportunity. I LOVE that section of the race! The relief, excitement, the feeling of pride, joy, all rolled into 100m of running. My run split was 3.58hr, ot a great time for me but happy nonetheless. My overall time was 10.20hr– a PB by 5mins.
I ended up in the medical tent post race and they were awesome providing electrolytes, chicken broth, water, blankets and even pizza; they were just super! Paul, Donal and another friend Gareth came in within 20mins of each other, 11.10-11.30hr.
It was a super super race and I will take a lot of lessons from it. If I was in school I think the report would say: "B"-, Good effort but improvements to be made. Sure, we’ll go at it again next year and see what happens, maybe I’ll chose a race in Siberia or something !
Bike: Argon 18 E-119 Tri +, Large
Wheels: Super 9 disc, 404 front NSW
Jockey Wheels: Ceramaspeed oversized jockey wheels
Groupset: Di2 Ultegra – 5 speed junction box
Saddle: Prologo T-Gale Tri saddle
Nutrition: Tailwind – 75g Carbohydrate/hr
Clothing – Compressport TR3 Aero Tank / TR3 Brutal Triathlon Short
Runners: Nike Air Zoom Elite’s 9