Ironman World Championship 2011 Report

The alarm was set for 3:50am, but I needn’t have bothered as I woke a few minutes earlier.  Within minutes of waking I started the breakfast routine, which comprised of a recovery shake, an energy bar and a plain bagel (and

Extreme Endurance

), totalling 800 calories.  This is a predominantly carbohydrate based breakfast, with 30 grams of protein and a few grams of fat to help with the feeling of satiation.     

At 5am I made the 5 minute walk to the pier for body marking and to set up my bike in transition.  This was a quick process as it only involved pumping the tyres and putting my shoes, drink bottle and Garmin on the bike.  Once that was done, I walked back to the condo and had 45 minutes to relax.  Time went by fast and before I knew it was 6:30am and I was knocking back an energy gel and walking down the steps to the swim start.  At 6:45am I got in the water and made my way to the start line, positioning myself centrally in the second row from the front.  I was excited but focussed and confident of improving on last year’s 64 minute swim.

The cannon fired and over 1800 of us were off.  Unsurprisingly, the first few minutes were hectic, but I soon found myself with enough space to focus on my stroke and follow feet.  The first half went by smoothly, although I felt that my effort level was quite high.  At the turn around point I decided to try and lower the effort a little and concentrate on finding a good draft.  I found feet, but they weren’t going as fast as I wanted.  With some constant sighting I realised I was towards the front of a group and there was a gap to another group of swimmers.  I put in a strong effort and bridged the gap, leaving the others behind.  This was the first time I’ve swum tactically in a race and really felt like a swimmer.  I was feeling great and pushed the pace in the final 500m and exited the water in a new PB of 60:14 in 9th place in my age-group.  I was very much in the race.

I was fairly swift through T1 and soon on the bike.  I had to concentrate on not exceeding my target watts in the first 10 miles of the ride, which is difficult when all others start out like a bat out of hell.  I had my nutrition plan of 280 cals/hr on the bike dialled and I just needed to focus on staying out of the draft zone.  I found the majority of athletes to ride according to the rules, with very few people looking to take advantage.  This was good to see.  Time was ticking along nicely and everything was going to plan.  At every aid station I’d pick up either energy drink or water and pour water over myself to stay cool.  

 (Photo credit to TriathlonShots.com)

Approaching the climb to Hawi at the half way point of the ride the conditions were tougher, with strong winds hindering our progress.  Once we turned around the conditions were in our favour and we were flying down the highway at 40+ mph.  The turnaround point was where I planned to make my move and up the pace.  Until that point, I’d stayed just below my target watts and I felt very comfortable.  From mile 65 onwards, I wasn’t passed by a single rider.  That speaks volumes to my pacing on the day, executing the plan perfectly.  I finished the ride stronger than I started, although I did wonder if that would come back to bite me on the run.  The 4:54:31 bike split was another personal best, 11 minutes faster than last year’s split.  Average power was 199w (202w normalised) which translates to 3.2w/kg.  

Through T2 the volunteers were excellent, giving me cold towels and applying sunscreen on my shoulders as requested.  I soon had the runners on and was making my way up Palani Road.  In all my previous 5 Ironman races I’ve faltered on the second half of the run.  Today was my chance to rectify that, and I had a plan to do so.  The plan was to run the first half no faster than my goal average pace (7:30/mile) and to walk through each aid station (roughly every mile) in order to allow my heart rate to drop and to stay cool.  Walking the aid stations also gave me the chance to make sure I got in enough fluids throughout the run.  For the first 10 miles I was concentrating on holding an even pace and saying relaxed.  I had the words of a friend running through my mind, ‘Any chump can run well on Ali’i Drive’.  

I went through 8 miles in 59:20 and was annoyed that I’d run 40 seconds faster than planned, which shows how much I was committed to stick to the plan.  Climbing Palani I kept the effort constant, but of course the pace dropped.  Once we crested the hill I walked the aid station and was gearing myself up for the lonely 16 miles along the Queen-K Highway.  It was at this point that I started feeling a little impatient, wanting to get to the Energy Lab (the turnaround point) as soon as possible.  I managed to keep my pace up and ticked off the miles.  I went through 13 miles in 1:37:30, which translates to going through the halfway point of the run in 1:38:15, 45 seconds slower than target pace.  I hoped this wasn’t going to become another case of a fading run split.

I was surprised by how soon we reached the turn to the Energy Lab, which meant we were close to the 18 mile mark.  As we climbed out of the Lab towards the highway I caught the second place athlete in my age-group.  We ran the next 5 miles together, although we were constantly swapping places.  I’d walk the aid stations and he’d pass me, then I’d re-pass him, until the next aid station where he’d re-pass me.  At 24 miles we approached the final hill on the course and I made the effort to break away.  I was running for home and going strong.  I made up a number of places in the final miles as others were slowing.  As I made my way down Ali’I Drive I knew I had second place in my age-group sewn up and I soaked up the atmosphere at the finish.  The finish time was 9:18:15, which placed me 108th overall.  It’s difficult to describe the emotions I felt crossing the line, but the finishers photo tells it all.

My final run split was a PB of 3:18:32, slightly slower than my goal pace, but I executed the run almost perfectly and came very close to an even split (1:38:15 for the first half and 1:40:17 for the second half).  

I approached this race with huge respect for the course, conditions and my competitors. In retrospect I could have been more aggressive, but ultimately, this was the most enjoyable race yet.  To PB in all disciplines on the biggest stage is more than any athlete can ask for.  The build-up was about sacrifice and commitment in training, and on the day it was about executing the plan, keeping my ego in check and being patient.  I don’t mind admitting that the reward of an age-group podium and coveted

umeke

bowl makes me extremely proud.  

Alhough I'm self coached and set my own training programme, I'd like to thank UK based coach Russ Cox for his guidance throughout the past year and for posting a brief analysis of the race