Ironman New Zealand, 2011

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Ironman New Zealand, 2011

Post by NAB777 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:47 pm

A bit of a long read, but here goes.

I hadn't done a triathlon since 2004 (the BRW!), and hadn't done a 'real' one since 1999. So 9 months ago, I decided to enter IMNZ. The reason I did this was because I have always wanted to do an Ironman, and if I didn't enter, I would still be talking about it. I had done 3 Olympic distances, plenty of sprints, but no halves.

Since my training 'officially' started, (May 31st 2010), the total kms completed are as follows..

Swim: 147.9 (46 hrs 20 mins)
Ride: 7235.85 (251 hrs 32 mins)
Run: 1125.2 (102hrs 24 mins)
Total time = 400hrs 17 mins

My training was broken down into three phases of approx 3 months each (easy/build/hard). Some of the averages are as follows.

Total weekly averages in kms (since May 31 2010):

Swim: 3.79 (heh heh, winter is a cruel mistress)
Ride: 185.53
Run: 28.85
Hrs: 10:15:49

Last 6 months:

Swim: 5.61 (a little better!)
Ride: 206.1
Run: 31.00
Hrs: 11:35:49

Last 3 months:

Swim: 6.77
Ride: 241
Run: 38.36
Hrs: 13:45:35

Averages can be deceptive, because in the total numbers, there were three weeks where I did hardly any running (due to a hip problem), and many (9!) weeks of zero swimming. But... generally, I am pleased with the amount I did. My best phase was the 8 weeks before taper, which was the following.

Weekly averages:
Swim: 7.19kms
Ride: 264kms
Run: 41.58kms
Weekly hours: 14:53.29

Biggest swim week: 11.6kms (two weeks out!)
Biggest ride week: 313kms (x 2)
Biggest run week: 51kms

Longest swim: 4.0kms
Longest ride: 187kms (6 hours 17 mins)
Longest run: 27 kms (2 hours 24 mins)

General training notes:
5 swims of 3.8k or more, 5 rides over 130kms, 5 runs over 2 hours.
Biggest week = 17 hours

My weight went from 81kgs a year ago, to 77.5 last May, down to 71.6 a week out, and settled on 72ish on weigh in day.

Now - for the race...

Phew. What a day. To describe it as epic would be an injustice. My girlfriend Sam & I were talking over the past few days, and the one recurring theme was that there would be no way we could accurately convey Saturday's events & paint a true picture. In short, I have never spent so much time getting rained on. So, as a Maori told us at the carbo night, I decided to make the conditions my friend. In all honesty, as competitors, we had it easy. The spectators & volunteers were the stars of the day.

Build Up
The 24 hours before flying out last Tuesday morning was a story within the story. When I set out for my second last run (8 days out), I had some tightness in my left calf, so stopped after 5 minutes. An all too familiar feeling - the same feeling that stopped me six times in 2007. My physio Stu was away all weekend, and due to being out of range, I didn't get his refferal to another guy (Albert) until 5pm on the night before we flew out. I tried to call Albert, but the phone went weird. 30 minutes later, he called me and said 'I will be free at 9.45 tonight, if you like'. I told him I would call him back in 30, to which he replied 'well, my address is..."
So.. I ended up getting treated from 9.50 until 10.50pm. Albert said to me 'I heard in your voice that you needed the session'. He also said to me 'this would have come back to haunt you'. I have no doubt that without this session, I would not have finished the race.
On top of this, Sam had an urgent spreadsheet to finish, so she didn't get to bed until 2.30am. 4 hours later, we were up & getting ready to go.

The Touring Party
We travelled with an organized group (Tri Travel), and it couldn't have been better. Everything was organized for us, and we met some great (& intense!) people. Registration, bike check in, looking over the bike course, swimming.. all sorted. It was great to have an organized group to keep everyone prepared & calm.

The Night Before
A very light dinner, relaxing, and surprisingly, I wasn't that nervous. I had a feeling that I could make it as hard, or as easy (to an extent), as I wanted to. Well, that turned out to be slightly off the mark (!!!), but it helped me get some sleep.

Race Day. Rain, anyone?
Rain. Plenty of it. 4.40am - when I opened the blinds, and looked outside, I smiled. 'Appropriate', I thought, given Melbourne's weather over the past 6 months or so.
I couldn't eat much - about two spoonfulls of oats.
Sam & I got our things together & headed to the bus. Nervous faces greeted us... There were a few other first timers in the group, and while some tried to smile & appear confident, a twitching lip will give you away every time..
As we travelled through the gloom, I sensed that this could be a day like no other. The rain looked like it was setting in.
When we arrived at the race site & walked into transition, one word kept hitting my mind - torrential..! I quickly checked over everything & headed out of transition at 5.40 or so, to start the 1hr 20min countdown to the race. Sam & I spent the next 30 minutes huddling under a tree, until I went to get my numbers written on my arms & legs. Ahh, so this tent has jet heaters...? I went back & got Sam & we stood in there, with a few hundred others, until 6.40, during which time I got into my wetsuit. I said to Sam "It could be worse - I could be going to war..!"

The Race

When the pro's started, it was basically dark, but by the time we started 15 minutes later, visibility was improving slightly. When the cannon went off, nine months worth of emotions hit me, yet I stayed calm. I got belted around for about the first 10-15 minutes, but I kept finding some good feet to sit on, and at no stage went into the red. In fact, I felt like I was just loping along, and noticed that every time I was next to someone for any length of time, they were doing three strokes to my two. Lots of open water training & racing has undoubtedly helped. I quickly checked my watch at the far turnaround point (1845m) and saw ~ 28 minutes. Quick calculations meant that If I could do the remaining 1955 in ~ 32, I would go sub 1 hour. I was pleased & on target. The trip back was pretty easy, alternating between clear water & getting on some speedy feet, and I ran under the clock at 58.30, although my official time was 59.08.

Swim notes:
1) Although the time was respectable given the amount of training I put in, I learned a valuable lesson. Although I felt ok in the water, my bike suffered initially, and I feel it was due to being nowhere near a good level of swimming fitness.
2) My goal (if I do another Ironman) is to get down to sub 55.

The swim to bike run to transition is pretty long in NZ - about 500 metres - and I managed to see Sam half way along. I was really pleased - she was smiling, but cold & wet..! I had help from some great volunteers in transtion - talking calmly to me, saying how well I was going, and making sure all of my clothes/swim gear was accounted for. My transition time was 11.23 - very slow, but I triple checked everything (nutrition, gear etc) before I headed out. Putting on gloves, vest & arm warmers was a very wise move. Although I was initially cold, I soon warmed up enough & wasn't really bothered TOO much for the whole 180k.

It took me about an hour to feel 'normal' on the bike. 10kms in, I knew it would be a relatively 'slow' ride, because the road surface was rough - I couldn't descend in an aero postition because it was so bumpy, and my hands were slipping on the bars. My plan of combating the road surface by riding in the car tyre tracks went out the window pretty early, because these tracks had become small streams of water. Remarkably enough, I saw some people riding along these streams.

I was very conservative early, which I think paid off, and there was probably only a 5k patch at 165k when I felt tired. I finished up with a 5.43.52 (on my Garmin, 5.44 & change officially). I managed to see Sam at around the 95k mark, which was right outside our hotel. She had gone back there for her first (of three) changes of clothes. I remember yelling 'Going OK!!'.. My 'worst case plan' was to pull in there on lap 2, have a shower, get changed & have a sleep, but things never got that bad! I passed a lot of people on lap two - I believe it was a result of my even pacing. I had a really good phase from 135-165k, where I passed 50 or so people, and felt strong.
By the way... it was still raining when I hit transition.
Bike notes:
1) I had no stomach/nutrition issues. I had all of my calories in one bottle, and luckily timed its consuming to perfection.
2) The decision to buy a power meter was one of the best I have made. Instead of worrying that I was only averaging 24kph after 10k, I was pleased that I was averaging 165 watts. Sure enough, by the time I had finished the ride, averaging 167 watts meant 31.4kph, on wet, rough roads.
Some quick power notes: My goal was to average 170-175 watts. I ended up averaging 167, which was fine.
The first 90k was 2:49:55, 166 watts, 31.8kph;
The second 90k was 2:53:57, 169 watts, 31.0kph.
By lap two the wind had come up slightly, and it also contained a slight detour to make up the distance, which included a long-ish climb not present on lap 1. So the increase in power didn't equate to a faster time.
3) I encountered a lot of people who didn't know to drop back when passed.

The Run

... deserves it's own section..! In all honesty, I am as proud of this run as I have been in anything I have done in sport. Not because of how well I did (read 'didn't..!), but by how much I was tested. This was truly a matter of survival, and that is not an area I have prided myself on in the past. I experienced the hints of cramping in the quads during the first k or two, but the legs settled, and after an hour, I was on 4 hour pace. At that point my lack of a real background caught up. Nine months, with a two week interruption (that actually set me back about 6 weeks), was just enough to get me through, but not enough to get me through as well as I would have liked. My quads started to get sore, and within the next 10k, they were gone. Running downhill was a nightmare... My pace gradually dropped, but I only stopped for a few seconds at each aid station to drink. Having previously run a maximum distance of 27k, to basically run the whole marathon was satisfying. There was no bloody way I was going to walk, because I wouldn't have been able to start running again..! According to, my pace went from 5.45 minute km's in the first hour to approx 7 minute km's by the end. A shuffle, but I'll take it..! Total time was 4hrs 33mins, including a 3-4 minute portaloo break, at around 6.25 per km.
Run Notes:
1) There is no way I would do another Ironman without another 18 months of consistent running behind me.
2) The support from the spectators was invaluable. Having your name on the race number meant that 'Go Nicholas' followed me for four & a half hours. Phenomenal.
I managed to see Sam another three times during the run, and a friendly face was great. The first time, I said 'Feeling ok, the bike went well'. The second time, I said 'Don't let me do another one!!'. The final time was 150m before the finish line. Emotional.
3) There was a funny guy who kept calling me 'yellow hat' every time I went past. There was another guy who I had seen early on (5kms into the bike) banging a saucepan & spoon, and by this stage, he had moved to the 4k point of the run. I said 'are you still here!!?' His reply was 'I'm out here all day, mate!'

Crossing the finish line in 11.35.03 brought a tear to my eye. Cliche alert - so many emotions rolled into one. I was pleased that my body held out (training & race day), I was tired, happy, satisfied... I was also thinking of my dad, who died in 2005 from cancer, and with whom I shared a lot of experiences in the triathlon world. Jeez he would have loved to have seen this - I reckon he would have talked about it for months..! A couple of minutes after the finish, I kept going from calmness to nearly crying. This lasted about 10-15 minutes until I found Sam, and celebrated as much as I could... which was not much. I couldn't really eat, and had to hold on to her shoulders & follow her around, because walking was a joke. We spent about 40 minutes sheltering from the rain (did I mention it was still raining?), until I followed her to a taxi van, which I subsequently couldn't get into. The driver, a friendly Kiwi, came around & lifted me in. A strong lady!

General Race Notes

1) Everything I expected could wrong, didn't. I didn't lose my goggles, I didn't have any nutrition issues, my calves didn't go, my hip held up, the achilles were ok, I didn't blister... Got some wicked chaffing though, right through both groins...
2) It was great to chat & encourage fellow competitors & receive kind words back.
3) The New Zealanders treated us so well, and I felt a real sense of a bond between Aussies & Kiwi's after the Christchurch tragedy.
4) A wise man once told me to play a long game. These words have stuck with me for 8 months, and kept coming back to me on race day. I have no doubt it helped get me to the start, and finish lines.
5) Memories can fail you, but I can barely remember a time during the day where it wasn't at least spitting. All I can remember is rain.
6) Had I known what the race day conditions were going to be, I would not have entered this race. It goes to show what power your mind has. Because I had no choice, I just dealt with it & as a result, received one of the biggest rewards I will ever get... along with one of the best memories.

The Aftermath

So that was the day. Long, challenging & rewarding. Back at the hotel, I gradually started to eat, but really didn't feel hungry until the following night. I put on 2kgs during race day, but by the next morning, I would have been lighter than my pre-race weight due to getting up 5 times in the night... I certainly had enough fluids on race day..!

Thanks to all who sms'd & emailed - it meant a lot to know that people back home were following my progress. I couldn't have finished, or started, without some great advice & support from friends, training partners & old triathlon colleagues. As well - some people from The Run Zone have helped along the way, and gave me great direction. Of course, Sam was the rock & the main source of inspiration. And on race day - what a trouper!!

I am still walking more like a tin man than an Ironman, and have probably had about 16 hours sleep in four nights, but who cares..??!

Finally, I must mention the people of Taupo - what spirit. 2,200 volunteers in a town of 22,000. Impressive.

I swore for 48 hours that I would never do another.

Yes, Sam, you are right. It's like child birth. I am forgetting the pain.

Bussleton 2012?

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Re: Ironman New Zealand, 2011

Post by Tinman » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:44 pm

NAB777 -

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. That's an awesome account of what happened. Everyone should read it and get excited about going after challenges - and feeling the rewards that participating with all one's heart can provide.

Kudos my friend!

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