So this was it sessions end. All the training based fun was leading up to a fitting end to what has already been a big year of progress for me as an athlete. Between the fantastic coaching of Danny Moore; the camaraderie and support of the Turbo Studio Squad and the BRATs; and my focus on clean eating; I’ve had some big PBs and earned a spot at the 70.3 word champs. So as you can imagine I was keen to finish the year with a flourish. But this is Ironman, and only my 2nd crack at a distance where so much can go wrong on the day, so nothing was by any means guaranteed.
It’s strange but I’ve to a large extent gotten over race day nerves, even for an Ironman. I look forward to the challenge but I don’t feel the trepidation and uncertainty that seem to plague some folk before a big event. I’ve thought about this and the only thing I can think of is a degree of meticulous preparation; this applies to training of course, being confident about having a good crack at the event without blowing up is one thing. But an oft overlooked aspect is perhaps taking the stress out of gear prep and race day planning; for me I can’t overlook the value of having a plan on which I can execute. Of course you have to keep open the possibility of having to adapt the plan come race day, but decision fatigue is something I’d rather not waste my energy on during a race if I don’t have to.
The morning rolled around and gifted us with as perfect as conditions as we could hope for. Calm waters, minimal wind for the bike, (although some wind to mess up the pacing of those without power meters would have been good for me) and temperatures in the mid 20’s, (as opposed to the scorching numbers Busso is infamous for). The heat was a potential concern for me, (being a pale Englishman) despite doing some work on heat acclimatisation in the sauna and with some midday runs when the comparable mild Sydney sun was at its hottest.
I’m not going to walk through my nutrition plan step by step here, but what I will do is give you this link to my race plan and nutritional calculator spreadsheet. Because I’m nice like that 🙂 But suffice it to say I was pretty happy with how things went nutritionally overall; highlights being the beetroot juice loading, which I’m not sold on, (hey, even if it doesn’t work the worst you are doing is drinking vegetable juice… Which is no bad thing). Taking amino acids throughout the race to stave off muscle catabolism and the ‘slower to faster burning carbs as the race progresses’ protocol, (I.e. starting more with bars and ending on the coke).
I’ll tell you a secret, I bloody love mass starts! Waves are OK but nothing beats the rush of hitting go with 1,600 other people and feeling that adrenaline rush of the crowd all at once. Hell, even seeing it on TV gives me shivers down my spine. I also like knowing the guy I’m passing, or the guy passing me, started at the same time.
The swim itself didn’t feel particularly fast despite the great conditions. I cramped up a couple of times which cause me to lose the feet I was on and I also got a little bit of groin strain right out of the gate, a less that auspicious start. But despite that I got out of the water and the time I saw on my Garmin was a very respectable one for me; but better still was the fact that I saw my mate Evan just in front of me. Evan is a gun on the bike so coming out near him meant we might me able to work from each other on the bike, (not to be mistaken for drafting off each other… There is a special level of hell reserved for people who draft).
Hitting the road I used the protocol I’ve been working on… Which is slightly contrary to what you might here from other people, (I.e. go steady and build into it). No. Being a fairly poor swimmer in a mass start I go out hard to begin with. This, after a bit of effort more akin to 70.3 pace, puts me ahead of the swim specialists and crowds and let’s me get into my own rhythm. After about half a lap, Evan caught up with me and we automatically fall into a good pace right at my goal power. I thought being a flat course with multiple laps, Busso would be a draft fest but aside from a few pockets it really wasn’t as bad as expected.
For me the most important thing on the bike is to keep up with the nutrition schedule, you might not feel like taking that bite of bar every time but it’s all energy in the bank and your body will thank you come KM 30 of the run. The mix of Hammer Heed, Hammer bars, Master Amino Acid Pattern, Energy 28 and First Nutrition Pre Race, (quite a cocktail I know) worked well in training and didn’t let me down in the race either, I felt good and no GI distress at all.
3 loops of the bike helped me to pace well and the Busso course was more scenic than expected so the bike was over sooner than expected, (well time wise it was what I was hoping for, a sub 5… But you know what I mean). I’d managed to put a small bit of time on Evan in the final lap, but he’s a gun runner so keeping away wasn’t going to be easy!
I don’t know what it is but I always start the Ironman run feeling amazing and really have to hold myself back from going at too fast a pace in the first few KM’s, (knowing it would come back to bite me). The course is 4 loops and the local crowds are out in force, honestly one of the best group of spectators I’ve come across… WA crowds know how to party!
One of the things that really helped me keep a consistent pace was seeing Evan at each turnaround, never more than a minute behind. The gel flask with Hammer gels, Pre Race and Energy 28 worked well as fuel up until the last 10k where I got pretty tired of it and just for variety grabbed some watermelon from an aid station… It tasted amazing! Unlike the coke I then switched to, but I served a purpose, the simple sugar got through and helped me power home. Really happy with my sub 3:30 time, especially considering the tib post injury I’d been managing in the weeks leading up.
All up, loved the race and having someone as strong as Evan pushing me the whole way played no small part in me hitting a time I was happy with.
Will I be back for another swing? For sure. Put this race on your bucket list folks!