Great Lessons From My Bad Race at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

"If you learn more from a bad race than a good one", I wrote to my coach after finishing Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire last weekend, "then I've just had a great lesson".

It was an eight hour drive home, giving me plenty of thinking time.  I then poured over the metrics from my Garmin and know a lot more about what went on.

But there's something more basic than that.

It's all about expectations.  Another athlete, with the same coach, was jubilant about her result yet she was slower than me.

Stupidly, I expected to improve on my result at Weymouth IM70.3 last September.

I conveniently ignored the facts that I had gone into Weymouth much fitter, fortified by a year of full ironman training and competition.  Not only had I lost fitness over winter, I'd managed minimal training in March and April due to a virus.

All this I ignored.  Stupid.

My swim was almost the slowest I've done for 1.9km, 41minutes.  My 3:07:16 bike was good and matched Weymouth to within one second.  But my run was a disaster 2:16:11, twenty two minutes down.  At least I could smile when I tweeted from the finish area.

Driving home, thinking things through, I turned on the Oxygenaddict Podcast and heard triathlon legend Mark Allen say, "the only bad race is one where you don't learn anything".  Motivated, I drilled down into my numbers.

Swim - my speed was not too bad.  My pace was only 2" per 100yds slower than Weymouth, so that would account for 48".  It might have been because I hadn't managed a body warm-up or because this race started with Age Group waves, within which we self-seeded for expected time.  That meant fewer bodies in the water, so less of a moving flow of humanity carrying swimmers forward.  Also fewer good feet to follow.

I swam like a drunken duck
What mainly went wrong with the swim was my sighting.  On a 1.9km swim, I swam 2.2km, zig-zagging all over the place.  Weymouth was a simple out-and-back whereas Staffordshire was a loop with separate starts and finishes.  Clearly I need to pay more attention to my straight line swimming, and must focus more on the course pre-swim.

Bike - at first glance this looks good.  Almost the same average speed to Weymouth but for 30watts less average power.  However, my heart rate was much, much higher.  And why couldn't I get those extra 30 watts?  

This I will discuss with my coach later today and reassess my power numbers.

Likely it was a combination of adverse situations.  30C heat was utterly frying and my HR skyrockets in such conditions.  I made a basic nutrition mistake, adding extra flavoured electrolyte tabs to my bottles to help with the heat but instead it produced a sickly, syrupy mess.  It was my first race on my Cervelo P2.  And, of course, I'm not as fit as at Weymouth.

Run - because of those factors, my run became a shuffle.  Stomach cramps seized me the moment I rose from the bike, I couldn't down any energy products just water, and I nearly pulled out on the first lap.  Despite the baking heat, I'm sure my form was best on the last of three laps.

In advance I'd written this was only a training race, my first of 2017.  I would save my legs for Edinburgh 70.3 on 2nd July.  I now realise that, even if everything goes to plan my fitness is not yet where it was, and won't be for another month at least.  Perhaps Edinburgh will hand me another learning opportunity?  

First Race of 2017 This Weekend

My first race of 2017 will be the half-Ironman in Staffordshire next Sunday 18th June.  That wasn't the original plan.

My aim had been to race Loch LoMan four weeks earlier and iron out any race-related problems.

Lethargy and a persistent cough, possibly virus, put a month-long hole in my training and pushed me out of the Loch Lomond race.

I'm using a new bike, new trisuit and new nutrition products, all of which work well in training but none of which have been tested under race conditions.

Where To Carry All That Stuff On A Triathlon Bike?

That's a serious question - where do you carry it all?

Especially for middle and long course events in the UK and other parts of northern Europe.

The weather can be less than perfect and try jamming a rain jacket into a tiny Tri-suit pocket!

If you have any suggestions / thoughts / ideas please let me know in the comments.

This is my Cervelo P2 rigged for training rides of 4-5 hours in duration around the Scottish Highlands.  Actually, it has never been used for racing.  Staffordhire IM70.3 will (probably) be its first race.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh Bike Course Recce

All three courses, swim bike and run, on the Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 have changed since the original maps were posted at the launch of this event.  We're told the final routes are in place but no-one can be certain.

I ran the run route (the old run route!) back in January.  The new iteration is not so different as to give me many concerns, but I will walk it before the event.

However, the swim and the bike are on routes mostly new to me, so a recce was always going to be valuable.  I hope you'll find the info useful too.

Virus Affects Endurance Athletes

"I have had this conversation with eight of the athletes I coach",  Joe Beer told me.  "It's rife. I've never known anything quite like it".

My local Doctor pretty much confirmed Joe's anecdotal observations.  "We've seen several types of Glandular Fever going around recently", she said, "you might have one of those."

[Edit: I'm delighted to say that as of 13th May I seem to be all clear.  The blood test was negative, my power has returned and the sore throat faded.  Back to training for IM70.3 Staffs and Edinburgh].

Thank goodness for my training diary.  I've been riding less than two hours at a time because of a persistent cough, sore throat and occasional tiredness bordering on lethargy.

Triathlete in Scotland? Do This.

If you're doing a long course triathlon in 2017, please give serious consideration to doing this swim.  I did it last year and wrote about it on my Ironman blog.  It was a genuine challenge which I honestly did not know I could complete.  But after that, I could take on anything.  

So when I stood on the start lines of my half and full Ironman races last year I was actually looking forward to those swims.  They held no fear because, after all, I had swum the Sound of Mull.  

Entry is by donation - give what you can.

[Edit - this was a SUPERB day, with many swimmers far exceeding limits many would normally set themselves.  Take a look at the photos from this event, then follow Highland Open Water Swim on Facebook to make sure you don't miss future swims.]

Sunart Swim & Kayak

We had a safe and successful weekend of open water swimming based at Resole Campsite on Loch Sunart, raising money for the Children with Cancer charity.  It was the second event this year organised by (the first was Corran) and 35 swimmers took part.  They were ferried by RIB across the loch to swim back to the campsite.

The swims are building to the main challenge, swimming across the busy shipping lane that is the Sound of Mull on 6th May.  That's just 2 weeks away.  I'm responsible for finding the kayakers, so fingers crossed everyone turns up.  Any kayaker reading this who'd like to take part, please get in touch - I can promise you a great day and your help will be invaluable.

There are a few photos in this slideshow but you can find more on Flickr

Created with flickr slideshow.