Sunday, 10 November 2013

Post Ironman World Championships review

So I've been back at work a few days and the race has been over 11 days ago now but it is still raw and fresh unlike the massive blister I managed to acquire on Ali'i Drive. The blister was probably the worst acute injury I have ever endured whilst racing in terms of pain, but more of that later.
I just re-read my race plan from the previous blog and things went well and pretty darn close to the suggested plan.
I arrived in Kona with 9 days to acclimatise and it was pretty hot the first days but either I did get used to it or the temperature/humidity dropped by race day. Each morning I would get up at 6.15am, have some breakfast and a cup of tea and wander the mile into town for a swim about 7am. Depending on who was in the water or around me depended on how far I went due to the shark sighting the previous week. I did manage to swim the whole distance one day and most swims where approximately at 1:30/100m pace which was very satisfying. I had been doing lots of 50's and 100's effort sessions at Marple and Stockport pools but using the Garmin I was able to analyse my stroke rate and metres per stroke etc and know I was relaxed and smooth. I also picked up an Xterra Velocity swim suit and despite being a UK ambassador for Xterra Wetsuits UK I did have to pay for it. It feels so slippery in the water and psychologically I knew I would be better in it than a standard trisuit.
The Xterra Velocity swim suit with the Ironman World Championships swim start in the background.
After the swim I would head back to the condo via Island Lava Java for Kona coffee and a muffin and head out for 30-40 miles bike ride along the Queen K highway. Running was not on the agenda as I had discovered that I had a torn meniscus and really shouldn't be at the race but for the fact the insurance company thought it doubtful they would pay out and I didn't want to risk loosing 3-4K with nothing to show for it. I did however decide to do the Under Pants Run, which, is more of a jog and a micky take out of the athlete tourists that walk about town and shops in their speedos and flip flops flexing muscles and shopping oblivious to the local residents and respecting the heritage of Hawaii. The youtube video can be seen here and Steve Clark and me can be seen at 3:06 and 3:26. It was fun but I did feel ridiculous and probably made me realise how ridiculous people look when they do it for real.
So Ali and my Mum and Dad arrive on different flights on the Thursday prior to the race and put up with me until race day. Race day came and I had slept well, getting up at 4am for breakfast of porridge oats with cranberries, toast, cups of tea and other obligatory hydration fluids. Race numbers went on in true military precision through the marque tents and I was good to go with an hour spare so I went to find Ali, Mum and Dad to say bye before making my way back through transition and into the water for the start.
I was feeling confident as I tread water at the front of the masses with the paddle boarders whizzing up and down to keep everyone contained. I had a bit of space but when the one minute marker notification the atmosphere changed and people where trying to jump the line. Bloody stupid when you think each meters equals about a second and we are going to swim 3800 metres. The madness goes haywire as the cannon fires and I jockey for position with hundreds of other swimmers in close proximity. As a veteran of seven ironman races and hundreds of open water swim this is still bloody scary and after 12 minutes(glance at my watch whilst single arm swim) I am still in the midst of a threshing machine. I am not to afraid to admit I felt claustrophobic and tried to make my way to the edges and I fought some internal demons and told myself to just swim and be aggressive. Its the only way. Another glance at my watch at the Bodyglove boat was at 27 minutes and the final turn for shore at 29 minutes. Why then did it take 34 minutes to get back? There was only maybe 100m extra from start line to shore and I was able to swim smoother and more relaxed as the swimmers thinned out but I finished 58th in my age group at 1:38/100m pace. Better than my 2005 time at least so happy enough. The down side was my swimsuit ripped straight down the middle to the white X despite being ultra careful. I'm waiting to hear from Xterra about a replacement.
A smooth T1 in just over two and a half minutes and I soon start overtaking loads of cyclists and I feel awesome. When I turn at Kuakini on the out leg I feel the tailwind and I set off and it feels effortless as I push up and over 30mph and quickly get fluids and gels on board. I'm wearing a white cycle top with a pocket full of gels and white arm coolers which reflects the heat and keeps the sun off. I look like a milk bottle but I don't care as long as it works. There were plenty of drafters or effing cheats as I prefer to call them and many got penalties but some didn't get caught. The most obvious was one Aussie that overtook me and others and pulled right in front and sat up forcing the rider to overtake or he rolled up to the next rider, sat in for a bit freewheeling then attacked again. He got a few choice words from me.
After the Hawi turn we headed down hill fast but I started to develop cramps in my left thigh and could get the dioralyte powder into the cheap plastic bottles they where giving us so I tried to drink more Powerbar Perform. After 70 odd miles and just before the turn on to the Queen K is where Steve Clark caught me and I wasn't able to keep him in my sights as we pushed into the headwind. My leg leg was starting to go numb and my foot was tingling so i assumed I had a bought of sciatica. It was all I could do to push for the sub-5hr ride, one of my goals, but when I got to T2 I could barely walk and hopped and limped through transition to the med tent for a gluteal massage. Never before have I spent so long in transition but I didn't take the record as some spent nearly an hour there.
I finally headed out on the run but walked up Palani Drive before the commentator got me to run with crowd assistance but my foot, leg and butt were killing me. A change of run style to compensate for the knee injury and my ultra tight compression socks are to blame for the blisters that were to come in later miles. I always knew I would have to walk but never really anticipated walking so much or I never really gave it thought about how it would feel whilst everyone around you jogs by. Bloody demoralising is what it feels like and hats off to anyone that spends hours and hours out there plodding along to the finish line. My run was nearly as long as my bike section in time but I managed to jog the final 7 miles whilst walking through the feed station whilst chatting to a fellow Brit, Steve from Preston.
The blisters took some time to recover from and the main one is a little sensitive even now. When all is done and dusted I completed my 7th Ironman(second world champs), albeit my slowest, but broke 5 hours again for the ride and  nearly beat my 11 hours target. I finished in 11 hours 16 minutes and 1 second. When it got beyond 10 hrs 30min I didn't matter where I finished or in what time just finishing would be enough. Ironman number 7 and my second World Champs has left me wondering what might have been if i had been race fit but there is always time for more. If you can qualify once you can do it again and if qualified three times but I'm still waiting for the perfect day when you arrive healthy, fit and you have Lady Luck on your side. One day.....maybe, hopefully.
there were some great performances out there and a lot of surprises amongst the pro's. Rinny Carfrae stormed the run to take Rachel Joyce's lead and win her second world Championships and in doing so beat last years men's winner, Pete Jacobs. we had two British girls on the podium, Rachel and Liz Blachford and Catherine Faux making the top ten overall ladies result with a first in her age group. Pro soon?
The few days after the race were painful trying to walk and I had to cut the skin from the blister to get the sand out. At least my knee was painful. I spent the remainder of the days sightseeing with trips to Waip'o valley and Waimea but the highlight had to be swimming with Manta rays at night. There must have been about 10 rays ranging from 5 foot to 14 foot wing spans within inches of your face, turning loop the loops to catch plankton in their gaping mouths. Ali was screaming with excitement like a little girl, my dad had gone quiet and my mum caught a glimpse of the first two and the depth of the dark water and got back in the boat. A brave attempt considering she has never snorkeled before and doesn't put her face under water.

So what's next?
Recovery recovery recovery and contemplate the next challenge. Unfinished business in Hawaii can wait but I really am considering taking on Xterra off road triathlon with the vision of racing in Mauii World Championships soon. I'm also thinking of doing the 'canoeists Everest', Devizes to Westminster kayak race, with Ali in a K2 in under 24 hours. That's our target time but a finish would be great. I also have surgery to think about.
Since I was too jet lagged and work got in the way this blog has taken a month to write and I had my knee arthroscopy on Friday. But more on that next time. Needless to say I'm taking it very easy and my exercise consists of walking to the kettle for a cup of tea and lifting my hand to my mouth with paracetamol, codeine and ibuprofen.

1 comment:

Sags said...

Awesome Mat. That must have been mentally so hard. Respect.