Thursday, 14 July 2016

Victory at Ironman 70.3 UK Exmoor!

I took a late decision to race Ironman UK 70.3 in Wimbleball and very pleased that I did! The week following Staffordshire 70.3, I felt good and so had a fairly hard week. Then a week of low volume in the lead up to Wimbleball left me feeling ready to race.

I much preferred the setup here compared to Staffordshire as it was a rolling start based up predicted upon swim time, so essentially this meant that anyone challenging for the top spots would likely to be starting within 20s of each other.

I put myself fairly close to the front of the pen, which was a bit punchy given that my swim is relatively slow compared to my run and bike. I thought I might be able to find some feet to drag me to a quicker swim, but in fact it meant that, for the first third of the swim, I was actually moving backwards through the field. Towards the end of the swim I found a group much more suited to my pace and came out in about 28:30 (and I would guess about 30th).

On to the bike, and I can honestly say it must rate as one of the toughest bike courses I've ever done. Basically 56 miles of up or down. Straight on the bike I hit it hard and by 6 miles I had moved past my fellow Freespeeder, Tom Higgins, and into third. What then happened was pretty much the bike played out: I was overtaken on the descents, and clawed back the ground on the hills. At about 30 miles, Brian Fogarty came through, followed shortly after by Clive Kennedy-Burn, and both looking very strong. In my mind I thought that as long as I came into T2 within 2-3 minutes of them, there was a chance of catching them in the run. On the second lap, aerobically I felt strong, however my legs found it tough particularly on the short sharp climbs. Bike done without any issue and I came in 3rd, about 3 minutes off the lead. Now to get my head down on the run....
At 11.5 miles on the run (Photo: Huw Fairclough)
The run course is a mix of trail, gravel road and minimal tarmac, and continues the trend of being very undulating. My legs were in bits after the bike but I could see the other 2 competitors ahead and knew that I could dig in and reel them in relatively quickly. By 4 miles I had taken the lead and then it was just a case of keeping things steady and not risking blowing up. I ran very controlled and kept it a consistent 5:50/mile (aside from the hills which I allowed myself to slow up for). The finish line atmosphere was incredible, high-5s, crossing the tape, spraying champagne, just a fantastic experience!

I now feel as though I've cracked my strategy for 70.3's and have come to the conclusion that it's probably my favourite distance to 'race' (as you can genuinely 'race', as opposed to 'hold on' in an Ironman). I take minimal fuel on, in fact today I had 2 gels and a bottle of squash for the whole race, and I find that works for me.

In the days following the race, I came on with De Quervain Syndrome, which sounds rather nasty, but essentially is an inflammation and tendonitis in my wrist. So painful that I actually took myself to hospital for it. I can only assume was from a lot of breaking and climbing on the hood and now, 2.5 weeks on, it is finally just about subsided.

My next Ironman 70.3 is Dublin in August where I'll be up against Clive Kennedy Burn again, and in the meantime I will start to include some longer rides and runs in the buildup to Kona.

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