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monkie

IMNZ 2018 - First Full

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As promised... the long and overly in depth race report!

Build Up

Was self coached throughout this, building on some decent fitness from the last two years of training and competing in various distances up to half. I built my own plan based on things from Tri-Radar and then later Trainer Road. The prep wasn't perfect... Honeymoon across Christmas saw me in NZ drinking far too much and not exercising anywhere near enough but came back in January and started putting some proper structure in place. Thanks to Trannie Strava group for helping with the motivation!

I also adopted the Trainer Road Full Distance Triathlon Specialisation training plan for the bike which was an absolute game changer. It meant I did most of my training indoors but I feel it made a huge difference. I had some big 18 hour weeks and remained totally injury free which I'm happy with. If (when) I do it again I will try and not have the honeymoon three weeks (here's hoping there won't be a need for another one!) and I would sort out my taper... I tapered well from an exercising point of view but not from a not drinking / looking after myself place. I had a shed load of work, a trip to HK and a load of visitors in between... not good but easy improvement next time.

Pre-race
We flew over on the Wednesday, I knew my brother and his other half were going to come over from Singapore and my folks also were coming on their way round the world from Hawaii. The total surprise on the Thursday was when my little sister also turned up all the way from the UK... I was borderline fragile and this very nearly tipped me over the edge but having my entire family in town to support me was the most special thing in the world! Soppy I know but hey, I loved it.

I got my wetsuit checked early on the Thursday then went for a run, Z2 was around 5:00 pace which indicated the taper had actually gone reasonably well and I ticked up to 4:00s for 15 mins without breaking a sweat. Got in early for check in and the whole process was smooth as, meeting the incredible volunteers was a privilege. I got my bags etc which included the very special letter from a local school kid. In my case Quinn who included the very sage advice to drink lots of "electralites"! We spent the rest of the day heading up to Hobbiton for a look around before eating superb pizza from Hells.

Friday I went for an explore in the lake mainly to get an idea of temperature. It was chilly but with  a wettie on it was all good. Pootled around for a KM and enjoyed the flat and crystal clear water, much nicer than Huskisson where I had already done the swim distance so a great confidence booster. I then got the bike into transition and was again 
amazed by the vollies. 

The race
My totally plucked out of the air stretch target was sub 11... It wasn't to be but it acted as a good mental aim. Walked from the motel at 0545 and joined the awesome procession of nervous folk heading for the unknown, turned up to transition to drop off special needs, pump up tyres etc. I was again amazed by the incredible organisation of this race throughout
and understood why you pay so much more for the IM brand (I'm only talking about this race, I know it's not the same everywhere and haven't experienced any other M Dot race).

The Swim
I headed down with the whole family to the swim start, we had hoped to see the traditional welcome but missed it by five minutes. At this point my sister cracked out the first sign she had brought with her. It was to be a feature!

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We watched the male pros go off with the very loud cannon signalling the start and then the females before we all headed into the water. This is one of the few IM mass starts left in the world and it was nothing short of sensational. 1200 people treading water and waiting for a cannon... I had some quiet time and calmed myself, reminding me that the 
swim was the warm up. I was ready for the cannon but when it went off the adrenaline spike was massive!

The start (and the rest) of the swim was a total washing machine but it was one of the best natured swims I have been in. There was very little time I wasn't in or around or under or over other people but everybody seemed to be looking out for each other. Plenty of feet to hang off and I had many and various hanging off mine but dropping back every time they accidentally made contact. I loved the straight line out and back with the numbered buoys as it meant I knew where I was the whole time without checking my watch. We started heading towards the sun but the timing was perfect and it rose as I hit the turnaround. On the way back I tracked left a bit and found myself on my own which was calming and a great way to set up for transition. I was aiming for 1:20 in the swim and came out at 1:12 feeling fresh so was stoked about that. It was a long walk / run up to T1 about 800m but surrounded by cheering supporters it passed in a flash. I again saw the brilliance of the IM organisation as I arrived my bag was ready for me and I entered the change tent and got a great bunch of people sorting me out.

Taking my wetsuit off hit my Garmin so the bike started too soon on the watch so I had some maths to do later but it kept me occupied!

T1: 8:17 including the run.

The bike
HUGE thanks to the advice here on clothing. I went out on the bike in my trip top and shorts (worn throughout the day) but with arm warmers and a gilet on top. I was extremely grateful for both as it was chilly whilst wet. We headed out through town past the frankly ridiculously amazing amounts of support. I clocked my team early on who were easy to spot 
because of the "MOTIVATIONAL SIGN", so a quick wave and then tucked into the bike. The first real hill hits pretty early out of town and then keeps going for quite a while. My aim was to take it super easy up those first slopes and then get on with it once it flattened out. My cycle is still my weakest leg but I have to say this ride felt a world away from last time I tried the distance at Long Course Weekend. Yeah it had about 800m less of climbing but it was non drafting and I was over an hour faster. Hoping to be able to knock another 20 mins off with another structured bike training approach this year.

The scenery was stunning, a couple of steaming geysers, middle earth backdrop and not too warm sunshine made it a pleasant ride on lap one. The road surface is not great especially where they have "repaired" sections of the road but there are hardly any potholes. My nutrition plan was 1 x SIS Isotonic Gel every 25 minutes with one with added electrolytes every third and then just drinking water. I switched out a standard gel for a Snickers whenever I felt actually hungry (about 2 every three hours). I felt nutrition was something I nailed in this race.

Behaviour on the ride was pretty good, there were a couple of exceptions, one group of three all in matching cycling socks who were blatantly just towing each other round and working as a team and a couple of blokes on matching bright red P3s doing the same. I saw the threesome in the penalty box and saw the two P3s stopped with one of them looking like they had a blown up rear tyre (hooray). It was too congested to be totally draft free though on the first lap but thinned out later on. There were also too many people around for an "on the bike loo stop" to take place (I wouldn't want to accidentally baptise anybody) so I had a couple of quick pit stops.

There's another set of hills on the way back into town but the last 6k of the lap are glorious, beautiful road surface, down hill and cheering crowds as you come into town. I went through the town and panicked a bit as I realised I had no idea where or what Special Needs was or looked like (turned out it was really obvious so no need to worry) but this meant as I went through the support station I was asking the vollies "IS THIS SPECIAL NEEDS?" to which nobody could answer so ended up overshooting and then needing to stop to get some water which meant somebody almost went up the back of me (apologies to them). A bit of a stuff up as I had been tootling along at 45km / h before that. On the way out of town another wave to the support crew followed by the best sign of the day...

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Up the hill again out of town and nicely into lap 2. I lost my GPS signal for about 30 mins and thought that was it for the rest of the race so realised I was going to have to race by feel, it came back 30 mins later but I was pleased with the way I handled the mishap. As we passed the 110km mark a serious headwind started up it also started to get hot. This was the grotty bit of the race, 110km up to about 155km which was approx the turnaround point. The way back was better with the wind behind us but the second lap cost me dearly in race time and energy. On reflection I should have sacrificed a bit more time whilst heading into the wind to leave a bit more for the run.

Back into down down the nice downhill and into T2 with a total bike time of 06:03:29 which was a serious positive split, first 90km done in about 2:50 and then 3:13 for the second!

T2: Nothing to report here but  great volunteers again except I was let down a bit by the suncream folks who managed to miss most of my shoulders for which I am suffering now... hey ho, learn for next time!

The run
This is my favourite bit of most races where I get to start reeling some people in (not that this was a race against anyone else). I hadn't recced the run route so was surprised by the gradient and amount of hills. It's not flat! The support through town was again, incredible but it became a bit harder the further out you went. By this point the sun was properly up and it was getting seriously hot. My plan was to run between aid stations and walk the stations to give me time to get some proper hydration on board and to relax the muscle tension a bit. I stuck to this nicely for lap 1 (5:01 pace) and just about for lap 2 (5:13 pace) and then lap 3 I decided to allow myself to walk up the hills too which then became generally run when I could and walk when I couldn't. I set myself targets for the walking and forced myself to kick up into running after 100m (which then became 150m after the 35km mark). I had massively overestimated my run speed, I was hoping for 4:45's... LOL.

I struggled to get enough water in just at the aid stations, next time out I will definitely have a small running bottle with me and fill it each time. I can do a standalone marathon off the aid stations alone but that is (as I learned) a different world.

That third lap was a killer. Setting out on it I was thinking "Yay, 2/3rds of the way through... easy now" and then you realise "No, it's still 14km, that's still far." Coming back into town was grim... I was waiting for the magical "YOU GOT THIS" feeling but it wasn't there until a stranger spotted my coveted third band and just told me to "Get it effing done Chris". I started to run fast (well, it felt fast) passed my parents who hadn't gone to the finish in case I needed the cheers to get me there (bless them!), a quick walk through the last aid station for some water and then the run up towards the turnaround point where I could finally go straight on. As I got nearer I heard Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer start to play at the finish and that was it, I started bawling (I'm a cryer at the best of times) and hurled myself around the top curve to see the red carpet. I managed to high five my sisterand kiss Mrs Monkie before getting over the line and hearing those words for the first time spoken by the big man himself...

Run time: 3:53:32.

I felt remarkably fine after that, I reassured the medics (I tried to tell them that I did medical cover for finish lines of marathons in the UK, they didn't care) and weighed in only about 400g lighter than the Thursday check (which I did in jeans... maybe I put on weight?). I didn't hang around in the finisher tent as I knew if I stopped I wouldn't start again so headed straight out to meet the family for some more hugging and a tiny bit more crying before wandering down to the lake for an ice bath for the legs.

Got showered and went out for dinner, had a beer and ate enough with the intention of heading to the finish line to watch some late finishers but at about 9pm I just crashed and had to head to the motel to get my head down.

Next day I felt great... except for the sunburn which was the most painful bit!

An incredible few days in a beautiful part of the world surrounded by some of my favourite people and supported by a bunch of amazing strangers. The very, very best of times.
 

Edited by monkie
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Crikey, it took me longer to read than to do the actual race. Great story. Welcome to the club.

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Congrats! And great report! The first one is always special, here's to many more to come!

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