I started this blog in 2010 when there were 11 weeks to go before my next Ironman triathlon. People have found it interesting (mainly my Mum!) so I continue to write.
The Ironman is a long distance triathlon; Swim 2.4miles, Cycle 112miles, Run 26.2 miles (marathon). I have competed in one every year since 2004. I hope this blog can help others see what is involved. I find the process of writing it makes me more accountable and motivates me to do the harder sessions when i'm not feeling like it!

Sunday, 31 July 2011



So for the first year ever I made my way to the front of the swim start (well one person back). It was wide and not too crowded. 

What went well:
1. This is the first year i've felt I understand what technique works for me. Particularly, I now know what to concentrate on. To start with,whenever my head was underwater, it was blowing out - it's easy in all the excitement to hold your breath. When I felt panic, rushed, and out of breath, I also noticed that i hadn't been blowing out. 

2. Wet suit - I spent a lot of time trying to get both sides of the zip as close together before zipping it up. Consequently there was a lot less restriction across the shoulders. I wasn't even aware I was wearing one.

3. The catch - This year has been spent working on the catch, I was happy with this. Recovering thumb first so the hand entered either flat or little finger first made a big difference. This set it up well. Extending underwater without droping the wrist. Not pressing water down at the beginning but waiting until the hand was facing backwards whilst keeping the elbow relatively high.

4. Other swimmers! - as usual there was the usual argie-bargie. Even though someone grabbed me and was pretty aggressive this was the first year I didn't get sucked in for one second. That was amazing it usually makes my heart rate max out and takes 5 minutes to recover both mentally and physically.
What I did find hard was knowing how fast I was going. I was able to stay behind or to the side of several people, so I didn't know if they were going slow or I was just drafting well. It was too crowded till much later to overtake. Looking at their strokes I was reasured by the huge amount of energy they seemed to be putting in; very hard kicking and high stroke rates.

5. Fitness - for the last 20mins in 2010 I was ready for the swim to be over. This year felt really good with no fatigue at all. There were a lot more people getting out around me so I thought I had gone a fair bit slower this year.

What went badly:
1. Goggles - these leaked right from the start. I did everything I could to stop it. My hat wasn't under them etc, They just wern't sitting on my face well. I swam with them fairly full for much of the time. Going onto my back 3 or 4 times to empty them. Only for them to start fillling up again. I also forgot to put that anti fog stuff in. I don't put it in for pool swimming so it's not really something I think about. I now know the colder lake temperature makes fogging up a bigger problem.

2. Drifting over to the left - every single time I looked up I was over to the left. I couldn't work it out. I used to have a problem with that but for a long time I have swam straight. I think it must have been due to breathing to the right more than the left and the right arm crossing over the centre line.

3. Back of the stroke - all the focus on the catch meant I didn't give any thought to the back of the stroke and very little to body rotation.

4. Awareness - this was low. With the goggle problems and drifting to the left it was largely a head down and follow event for me. I was conciously competent. As you improve whilst aquiring any skill you free up more mental space to take in everything around. One day I hope to be unconciously competent with the luxury of being able to think about tactics.  


Everyting here went according to plan. Wetsuit off (goggles and hat into sleeve), rolled as far down as possible before taking off. Hat on. Number belt on. Pump and meds in pocket and away. 
I decided to put gloves on again this year. My aerobars are slippery and I just feel more comfortable with them. They did however take 30seconds of messing around as my hands were too wet. At least this year I put them on before getting on the bike. 
Ella shouted 58mins for the swim. There was no way I thought that was right. I assumed she had made it up to motivate me especially as it was the smallest improvement on last years time. 

What went well
1. I didn't fall off as I did last year. Being very conscious of this I took it easy for the first few Km, especially over the obstacles that had previously got the better of me.

2. The nutrition plan went well - I took half the calories with me and picked up the other half at the special needs station. I started on water for the first 20mins or so. Last year I took too much on and felt ill - this year I aimed for 80g carbohydrate an hour and could probably have had more.

3. Tactically - I could remember which hills and bends were worth putting the extra power into.

4. It was the first ironman using the third brake on the aerobars - this was fantastic.

5. Held the aero position for the entire time when over 25km/hr

6. Span up all the hills - no grinding and heart rate only ever briefly over the 145 ceiling. This was probably the biggest improvement. I was passing rather than being passed on the climbs.

What went badly
1. SADDLE HEIGHT - I got this very wrong! About 40mins in and I started to get pain down the outer back of my left leg.
There were two main consequences of this - a) Physically slowed me down a lot, b) A lot of mental energy focused on this problem.
So at 2hrs 20min in I stopped and dropped the saddle. This made things a little better. The main reason was a growing fear that this would really impact the run. I dropped it again at 3hr 30min and at 4hr 52min. Each time took about 3mins. Lots of people passed me and I remember being surprised at how good (fast) they looked.
It then became a mental battle - from feeling relatively confident to thinking I'd lost any chance of Hawaii qualification and would be lucky not to have any cramp issues on the run.

2. Aerobar pads - These had become a little sticky over the 3-4 years they've been on the bike. I put some bodyglide on them at the start - what a mistake this was. They were like superglue and stuck to my forearms. I managed to wrap some insulation tape around them but this soon came off. My main worry was them falling off my arms when out of the saddle - i'd then have to rest my arms on the hard velcro that was underneath them. I now have a big scab on my left forearm as my skin didn't last long. I was reduced to spitting on them. Only afterwards did I think I should have covered them with my gloves.

3. Hydration - I didn't pace this that well - although I only took water from the aid stations, I gulped it down too quickly and was very slow getting it into the aero-bottle at the front. I can now appreciate the horizontal drinks bottle cage in place of the aero-bottle at the front.


Got out of my shoes whist still on the bike. This had the effect of making my leg pain go - resting on the shoe upper was similar to dropping the saddle further. If I had this problem in the future this would be a good strategy to investigate if the saddle was too high. I spent a little too long taking things out of my pockets whilst sitting in T2. I could have got all this done whilst running up there. No problems taking the garmin off the bike (I had made my own quick release arrangement with some double sided velcro). Found myself running out of T2 still holding my towel which must have reflected a bit of sensory overload.

What went well
1. I felt good fairly quickly
2. I kept my pace at 3hr marathon (4.15min/km) to start with
3. I walked the aid stations (initially) allowing 0.5-1min to do this
4. In the first 8 miles I passed at least 10 people
5. Arm swing - recently this is something i've been working on and was pleased I kept it going for the duration.
6. With about 10 miles to go I was able to suspend judgement and lift the pace a little. Ella shouted I was 12th (age group wise) and should dig deep. There was a big internal battle that I only just won. I soon passed the people who had passed me and still walked the aid stations.
7. There was a fair bit left in the tank. I managed a sprint finish and passed another bloke in my age group in the last 400m.

What went badly
1. At about mile 10 my motivation just disappeared. The run is normally something I really enjoy - not today. I can't put a finger on why.
- I had some GI discomfort and felt like I was about to vomit. The Pepsi was fizzy and was sloshing around in my stomach.
- I didn't know whether I had taken on too much fluid or not enough.
- I couldn't stomach the thought of having any Gels
- People started slowly passing and I resigned myself to not getting the Kona slot. I kept revisiting the disappointing bike which i'd hoped to be 30mins quicker.
- Plans to try a run walk strategy as i'd practiced in the London marathon became half hearted as I made it up as I went along.
- I found the course monotonous.

2. I needed 3 or 4 toilet stops
3. I stopped just before the finish not knowing if i'd taken the right turn!
4. There was a real sense of central fatigue that i'd not experienced before. It's always been a peripheral sensation in past races.
5. What dictated my speed at the beginning was a desire to overtake people to make up for the bike leg. I would have been better to ignore other people until the last half and just go by pace and feel alone initially.

So the times:
6th in age group
Swim 58.29
T1 2.54
Bike 5.53.05
T2 1.38
Run 3.10.05
Overall - 10.06.09

I was lucky enough for that to give me a Hawaii slot. I thought i'd blown it on the bike, so was extatic once the shock had subsided. Here's the picture of me finding out i'd done enough:

I don't believe it


George didn't quite understand

There's not much time until Hawaii - the blog will have to change it's title to 9 week ironman as there's only a little over that to go.

RACE DAY - Getting to the start

It's useful for me to have the timings of everything in case I am lucky enough to get to the start line again next year.
3.30 Wake up, dress, eat porriidge,
4.00 Leave hotel - drive as close to start as possible
4.30 Walk to transition
4.45 At tranisition, body marking and drop off special needs bag (bottle for half bike calories, inner tube, gas cannister)
5.00 Bike - put on bottles, shoes + elastic bands, garmin, gloves, saddle tool kit. Pump up tyres - I had a mini cause for excitement as I accidentally removed the valve from the tyre instead of just loosening that little thing at the end. I put some bodyglide on the aerobar arm rest pads as they have been getting a little sticky.
Wet suit on, as usual forgot to put heart rate strap on so top of wetsuit down again!
Toilet - people were taking forever.
Upper half of wetsuit on and down to the swim sipping my energy drink.

In the water with about 10 minutes to spare before the start.