Sunday, 21 June 2015

Luxembourg 70.3 - All went to plan, bring on Zell am See!

At the beginning of the year, I had a fairly simple race schedule: concentrate on running for the first 4 months with the aim to race the London Marathon, then concentrate on triathlon with the aim to race the Ironman 70.3 championships in Zel am See. Obviously you need races to build up to your main races, and I won't deny that I've probably 'over-raced' a touch this year, but in order to qualify for the 70.3 champs, it's necessary to qualify at an earlier Ironman 70.3 event; so I chose Luxembourg.

The last time I'd done an Ironman event was almost 5 years ago where, as a relative novice to the sport, I completed the Nice Ironman. Roll on 2015 and I'm in Remich (Luxembourg), registering for the Half Ironman. My lead up to the race has been 'interesting'. Work, a house move and racing most weekends has meant I've not really had much more than 7 hours sleep a night for about 3 weeks, but I made sure than I arrived in Luxembourg in plenty of time to at least prepare well for race itself. Luckily, there was a very convenient campsite located just across the river from the start, so I pitched the tent and made that my base for the weekend.

The day before race day, I did a short recce of the bike course, cycling the flat part of the course to make sure the bike was working fine. I also donned a pointy hat for the first time....yes, I am now looking for every marginal gain I can get, and all was good. I collected my number, had the race briefing, went to the pre-race pastafest and had a couple of beers (too close to Belgium to resist) and went to bed to clock up another 10 hours sleep.

Race day came and my start time was at the slightly inconvenient time of 1:45pm. What to do for food? I opted for a bowl of Shreddies and a banana, and then a Clif bar an hour before the start. There was a danger that I was potentially leaving myself slightly 'under-fuelled', but I'd rather race light, and besides I'd had a decent meal the night before.

I have never seen a bike quite like this before!
So I racked my bike and headed down to the startline. After watching a number of the earlier waves, it was time for the 200 odd competitors in the M30-34 category to take to the water. As always, when the hooter went, there was the usual carnage as everyone jostles for position. I kept calm and found an empty bit of river to swim down. As the field spread out, I found myself gradually working through the pack and it took me a little by surprise when I saw clear water ahead of me. I felt good, any race pressure vanished and I was really quite enjoying it. There'd obviously been a few stronger swimmers who'd gone way off the front, but a 4th place in the swim was far more than I'd expected.

Swim start
Transition was fine. With such large events, there's always a fair amount of extra logistics the organisers throw in. But I'd walked through the motions of transition so many times in my head that I knew exactly what I needed to do, and hence it all went very smoothly.

The bike course started with a pancake flat section along the River Mosel. This was the part I had reccied and I knew it was a good place to get as aero as possible and put some decent paced miles in. I was over taken by a couple of other guys from my wave (one, Roman Paramonov went on to win the category, and the other I 're-overtook' at about 45 miles in). The race then began to climb and undulate for the next 25 miles through small villages and countryside around Remich. We even had a short trip into France before rejoining the River Mosel and making one last effort for home. In retrospect, I felt I could have pushed it harder on the bike; I did loose concentration at times and that could have added 20 seconds here and there, but I'm now in a better position to put some proper bike miles in training.

When I came into transition, I noticed a couple of other bikes there in my category, so I had some work to do! With a little too much overconfidence, I went out at 5:20 min/mile pace. Realistically I was never going to sustain this,  but kept it up as long as possible. I could see Roman Paramonov running well about 3 minutes ahead and realised that catching him was possibly a stretch too far. I still dug in and watched my pace gradually slow as my energy was running out and I was becoming more dehydrated, but I thought that if I took on any food or water I was bound to get a stitch. I don't know whether I've ever welcomed a finish line so much, and I crossed it in 4:04:01 for 10th overall and 2nd in my age category. Job done!-that's enough to get me to Zell am See.

Since joining Team Freespeed, I've been helped out by a number of different sponsors. So a huge thank you to Skechers for all your support and trainers, Blue Seventy for the wetsuit, Clif for providing all sorts of nutrition, Lyzene for lots of bike bits and pieces for keeping the bike running well, and Virgin Active for allowing me to swim, gym, and for all those watt bike sessions.

Believe me - I am feeling shattered at this point
Prize giving the following day