The build up to the race was - as many of you know – not quite as planned. The last 3.5 weeks of training had been hampered slightly and I hadn’t swum since the accident, so I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get through the swim. If the shoulder became too painful during the swim, I wouldn’t have any hesitations about withdrawing from the race. I was prepared to swim at an easy effort and accept a slow swim split, but I was determined to give it a go.
I’m generally very relaxed in the lead up to races, but perhaps I was a little too relaxed… the night before I had garlic bread, pepperoni pizza and ice cream with chocolate brownie for desert! I ended up having a very good sleep, getting a continuous 5 hours before waking at 3:45am.
I arrived in transition at 5:30am with plenty of time before my 7:00am wave start. We found out later on that the start would be delayed, though we weren’t told why. We were eventually ushered towards the lake around 30 minutes after the scheduled start. The water was 14 degrees, but having spent so much time swimming in cold water in France over the last few months, it didn’t seem too bad. I took a few warm up strokes and the shoulder didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped. Still, I was going to stick to the plan and see how things would go. For the clockwise swim I started to the far left to avoid the masses and give myself as much space as possible.
Suiting up in the new ZeroD oSuit
Once we started I had clear water and was swimming very conservatively. Having started so far left, I ended up taking a very wide berth around the turn buoys, which definitely cost me some time. After around 500m the shoulder started to feel a bit better, but I wasn’t prepared to push the pace. The swim seemed to go by quite quickly (probably a result of it being slightly short) and I was very surprised to see around 28:30 on the watch upon exiting the water. Game on.
T1 at Wimbleball is well known for the steep 400m climb up a grass (or in this case, mud) track towards the transition area. I was conscious of making the most of the transitions and ripped the wetsuit off in record time and was out on the bike very quickly.
Unfortunately as my power meter wasn’t working, for the first time in 4 years I was racing without power data. We were really lucky with the weather on the day and my decision to wear arm warmers was a good one. I tried to take advantage of the flat sections and stick to the plan of not going too hard on the hills. For this race I’d chosen to ride the Smart ENVE System clinchers, opting for the 60mm front and 95mm rear wheel, which was an ideal choice.
In the three years since I was last here, I’d forgotten how steep some of the climbs are, and even with a 39-26 small gear I was grinding my way up the climbs. I’d initially hoped for a 2:45 bike split and if it went well, perhaps even a few minutes quicker. It wasn’t until I hit the halfway point in 1:27 that I realised that target was out of reach. However, I’d paced the first lap very conservatively and was confident that I’d be able to keep the effort steady for the second lap. The second lap went by as quickly as the first and my final bike split was 2:52:48.
Going through T2 it didn’t look like there were many (if any) bags around mine missing, so I knew I was towards the front of my age-group. I had my Dad, Aunt and Uncle spotting for me and I found out that I had a 4 minute deficit to the age-group leader.
Striding out of T2
Like the bike course, the 3 loop run is characterised by hills. There’s approximately a 0.35 mile out-and-back over the damn which is flat, but other than that it’s either up or down. Thanks to the wet weather over the preceding days, there were a few spots on the course that were quite muddy which required taking care not to slip. I made good time on the downhills, which really beat up the quads. I wore the Compressport FORQUADS which really helped reduce the muscle vibration on such a hilly and challenging course.
Hurting on the hills
Towards the end of the first lap the gap was down to under 2 minutes, and half way through the second lap I moved into first place in the age-group. I held the effort throughout the middle of the run and it wasn’t until the final 4 miles that my pace slowed slightly by approximately 10 seconds/mile. I enjoyed the final few hundred metres with some high fives and a hug for the family that had come to support. The end result was a run PB of 1:25:04 and finish time of 4:51:53, 1st in the M18-24 age-group and 21st overall, qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
I must say a big thank you to all my sponsors: Cable & Wireless, Click Fragrance, Eden Island Marina, Hunt Deltel, Vijay and Extreme Endurance; as well as those who have recently come on board: ENVE, Compressport and ZeroD. The double World Champs is officially on – Las Vegas on 9th September and Kona on 13th October.