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IRONMAN Australia - Race Report

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Hello all, I haven't been active on this forum for a little while now but always love reading race reports so thought I'd share my experiences from Sunday's IM:

IRONMAN AUSTRALIA – RACE REPORT – Scott Connolly (M30-34 AG)

This was my 7th iron distance race now, and my first triathlon since doing IMOZ in 2015 so I was low in racing exposure over the past 12-months. My goals for the race, which I kept relatively quiet, were to come between 5th and 10th in my age group and PB in my overall placing for the race (my best result was 70th overall in IMOZ in 2014). I knew coming into this race I was the fittest I had been in all 3 disciplines, I had done a fair bit of work leading in. For those that use Training Peaks and love numbers my peak CTL for the lead up was 134 and I was probably training 17-18 hours for 3 consecutive weeks and then a ~10-hour recovery week. I had pretty much done this cycle for 7-months leading into Port. I had done 7 race simulations in the final 10-weeks which involved a 30-minute easy run, 3.25 hour race effort on the Wahoo Kickr and then a 2-hour run at race HR (which I was doing as 13 x 2km loops around my house in the Southern Highlands). 5-weeks out from race day I did a big week which was ~27.5 hours of training. I knew I had some decent fitness coming into the event and was confident on a good performance but needed to execute well.

 

A very vague outline of my training would look like:

 

Monday – Squad swim (3-4km) (AM), easy run (30-60 minutes) (PM)

Tuesday – 2-hour bike + 30-minute T-run

Wednesday – Squad swim (3-4km) (AM), easy to moderate run (30-60 minutes) (PM)

Thursday – 1.5-2 hour bike + 20-minute T-run

Friday – Swim (3km) (AM), easy run (30-45 minutes) (PM)

Saturday – Race simulation

Sunday – 2-2.5 hours easy bike ride

 

I drove up to Port Macquarie on the Friday and after some stressful valve replacements and bike repairs at 2 different bike shops everything seemed in order. Did a few little sessions on the Saturday before the race to make sure everything was good to go. I had a few mates doing the IM and half IM so there were plenty of familiar faces around town. I had been following a LCHF diet up until about 6-weeks before the race before gradually increasing my CHO intake. Thankfully, after a few IMs I feel like I’ve got my pre-race and during race nutrition dialled in so it’s one less stressful thing to worry about.

 

Race day: We were only about 1.5km from transition so Azza and I strolled down to the race, fiddled with the bikes for 10-minutes and then headed back to the hotel for the normal pre-race toilet stops (plural, yes). We headed back down about 40-minutes before kick off, popped the wetsuits on and then it was time to go. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the weather forecast leading into the race, I figured it would be fine, maybe a bit warm but nothing outstanding. The relentless rain, wet roads, muddy run and wind gusts weren’t in my thinking – some ignorance on my behalf admittedly!

 

SWIM (3.8km): I was confident after doing this race the past couple of years that I would swim in the ball park of 1-hour. I’m not a great swimmer and my pool times show that I shouldn’t be swimming near an hour but I think I’ve improved my drafting and general open water swim skills the past few years that one hour was attainable this time around. A rolling start in IM is something I absolutely love, I must say. After moving from feet to feet in the opening ~800m, I found someone who was swimming bang on the pace I wanted so I quite literally drafted him for the remaining 3km of the swim. I was checking every now and again to see how his navigation was, and all seemed good so I tucked in and just used him the whole way around. The swim was very uneventful which I think is a perfect way to start the day. Water was calm and conditions favourable.

 

Swim time was 1:00:42 (240th Overall and 32nd in the age group – a PB swim time and placing for me.

 

T1: I was dirty that I didn’t get anyone to help me off with my wettie but thankfully it came off without a drama and it was time to go.

Time: 2:55 (100th OA and 12th AG).

 

BIKE (180km): Having done the course a couple of times I knew what to expect. There is a lot of rolling getting out of Port Macquarie, some flat open sections, some more rollers and then Matthew Flinders drive – I had changed my cassette purely for this race because I was scared shitless of this hill after really struggling to get up last year. I moved from a 21 to a 25 which made it quite simple in the end thankfully!

 

My plan for this race was to ride between 210-220 watts for most the race and let it rise to 250-270W during the climbs and aiming to finish with a Normalised Power of ~220 watts. I had put a disc cover on my rear wheel for this race and the day before popped some tape over the flaps – within the first 10km I saw this tape wrapped around my rear hub and I was worried it would somehow find its way into my chain so I pulled over and took it off and popped it in my pocket (no littering of course). Everything felt like it was going along fine coming out of town. I had been listening to Fitter Radio podcast on the drive up and the reiteration of being conservative in the first 40km so I had that ringing through my head but after 20km, bang! My right tri bar had come loose and bent inwards! So basically my right arm rest was now resting on my drop bar and the extension had turned in so it was now touching the left shifter, a most uncomfortable position but not unbearable. It was annoying because I like plenty of room on my right side so my hip doesn’t ‘jam up’ when I ride. At about 30km a nice little group went by me at a decent clip so I tacked on the back and rode legally but I found the constant changes of positions and surging was making me stressed and I was already worried about my bike so I made the decision to relax, let them go and try to ride conservative. I realised after about half an hour of riding I had forgotten to clear my ride from the day before so I cleared everything and started again (in hindsight I really shouldn’t have done this for race analysis purposes, but anyway). There was a nice tailwind going along the main stretch and everyone was moving at a decent pace but the rain started really coming down the further north we went. It was relentless the whole bike ride, I was saturated and even though the air temperature wasn’t too cold, I was soon becoming a little cold from being wet. Port is definitely not known for its smooth roads and the wet conditions just amplified this! I went around the first lap in ~2:40 which was a little slower than I hoped, I was hoping to bike 5:15-5:20 to put me in a decent position and I knew the second lap was going to be slower and it sure was!

 

After the turn around I checked my power and had averaged 200w (218NP now looking at the data but I didn’t have this available to me on race day). I felt just as I thought I should at this point in time, quite good. The second lap I was completely isolated the whole ride, anyone I went past seemed to be people who had over-biked the first lap so they weren’t any use to me unfortunately as they were slowing and I wanted to try and pick up the effort. The straight bit, which had been a tailwind out now turned to be a headwind! For the same power I was now going 4-5km/hour slower this time around and the rain was hitting me straight in the face making visibility difficult. I started getting some cross-wind gusts which with the disc cover and a broken aero bar made me crap myself and ride up on the drop bars for a while. By ~120km my shoulder was getting really sore from being in this stupid position and my back was the same. The last 60km just felt slow the whole time, my effort felt OK, I didn’t go through any significant bad patch, my nutrition was bang on but it was just an uncomfortable slog. Got back up Matthew Flinders drive and back into town feeling disappointed with my ride time and knew it had put me out of contention for a top-5 AG finish unfortunately but there was still a marathon to go and my legs felt quite comfortable and ready to get running.

 

Total bike time 5:32:02 – From the data I have my NP was 216 (average 201), weight 74-75kg, HR was playing up for the majority of the ride but seemed to be 130-137bpm when it did come good. (170th OA and 21st in the AG) by this point in the race I was 164th overall and 22nd in the age group.

 

T2 – Here is where I peaked for the day! Time 1:01 (4th fastest overall and 1st fastest in the age group!)

 

RUN (42.2km): I knew I was IM run fit, I was confident I could run 3:10 (ish). I had a plan that revolved around HR but this didn’t even come into contention, it was all about how fast I could run without a) my right hamstring cramping and B) my quads not falling to pieces. I had set my Garmin to alert me every 2km and I knew I would have to start at about 4:20-4:25/km pace and then let things drift if I was to run a decent time. First 4km I averaged 4:12/km – too fast! So I slowed myself down and over the next ~15km I was running in the vicinity of 4:20-4:25 per km. I checked my time at 14km and I was “on pace” for a 3:04-3:05 marathon (I knew I was going to slow down so I didn’t think I was actually going to run this fast mind you.). The first 2 laps flew by without too many problems. I had heard Tim Berkel being interviewed on Fitter Radio and he mentioned in South Africa he went through a bad patch at 22km so this stuck in my mind also so wanted to make sure I stayed mentally focused around this point in time and kept chugging along. Even though I was slowing down between the 20-30km, I was still moving OK at about 4:35-4:40/km pace. I could feel when I was moving into bad points and I would consciously make the effort to force 3-4 cups of cola down at aid stations, even though I really didn’t want to but I knew I needed the calories. By this point, the rain had stopped but the ground was wet, and there is some grass which you have to run over which was now just thick mud and no fun at all. By 34km I had had enough and would have liked to curl up and have a nap. Even though there’s “only” 8km to go, it is still a LONG time when you are in a world of hurt as any IM athlete will tell you. I kept chugging along for the next 4km at 4:50-4:55/km pace and then tried to ‘pick it up’ for the last 4km (who was I kidding – all I did was not slow down but managed to run ~4:45/km for the final few kms). The last 10km of an IM is about minimising lost time, many people lose a lot of time in this period if they haven’t paced the day well. I remember seeing the 42km sign and instead of thinking ‘great, I’m almost finished’, my thought was ‘shit, still another 200m!!’ – I was stoked to get into the finisher chute. I enjoyed my jog up, taking in the atmosphere, got to the finish line and then hit the deck, got wheel-chaired into medical to deal with this really bad dizziness I was experiencing. After about half an hour in medical I was good to get some food into me and enjoy the recovery ice cream and milo.

 

Run time: 3:13:17 (16th fastest run overall and 2nd fastest in my age group)

 

End result: 9:49:58 – 53rd overall and 10th in 30-34 AG. We had 4 allocated slots and it only rolled down to 5th.

 

Positives of the race performance:

 

· An overall IM PB on this course. An overall swim and run PB.

· My swim performance and execution was exactly the way I envisioned it happening.

· I ran close to my potential in an IM, I still think I have another 3-5 minute improvement in me.

· I ticked all the boxes I could in this lead up to the event, I was very processed driven and wasn’t overly outcome-focused although I did have goals I wanted to achieve as mentioned above.

· My nutrition seems dialled in which is great!

 

Negatives of the race performance:

 

· The bike was a big disappointment. I haven’t had an in-depth look at the data but I expected to be riding ~5:15-5:20 for the power. I am going to see Alex Price again before my next race to get my position tweaked and get some more advice from him. I need to work on my biking in general if I want to press for a top-5 finish in my age group. If I can take 10-15 minutes off my bike leg I will be in the mix.

· I did a hard treadmill session 10-days before the race and twinged my right hamstring. I shouldn’t have done this particular session on the treadmill and I should have dialled it back a fraction in hindsight.

· Initially feeling quite despondent after the race. That’s why I think these race reports are so valuable as it’s made me realise there were so many positives from Sunday’s race and I’m proud of what I’ve done with it.

 

I know I’ll learn from this race and I still feel hungry and motivated to continue to train and race as opposed to last year where I knew I needed to step away from the sport to recharge my batteries and let my motivation return.

 

What’s next? I’ll be back to Port in 2017, that’s almost a definite but I am actually going to try and do another IRONMAN before the year is out hopefully, but will run it by the girlfriend and coach before committing to anything.

 

 

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Nice work mate, spot on re bike conditions I had a similar outcome but def don't have run legs like u well done!!

 

 

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