Monday, 26 September 2016

Rough swim, rolling ride & relentless run

Race Report
ITU Long Distance World Championships - Oklahoma (September 20/6/16)

It may have been short of iron distance but conditions at the ITU Long Distance World Champs - Oklahoma, certainly called for an iron effort.

This was my 'A' race for the year after qualifying @ Frankfurt & Kona last year. The 03 race distances differ from Ironman with a longer swim, shorter bike and shorter run - it actually sits nicely between Half & Full Iron. It was my first opportunity to see how the LCHF way of eating has affected my endurance capability.

Despite knee surgery in February, training has gone pretty much to plan this season and I arrived in Oklahoma fit and raring to race.

I had increased my carbs in the 2 days leading up to the race (not a hard task in the US) and had a relatively light race morning breakfast. Transition set up was routine and the '3 dump' plan was dutifully executed. The race officials left it to the last hour to announce that wetsuits would be forbidden in the swim.
Coiled springs!

1:26:28 (13th in AG)
The swim start started with us standing waste deep in the water. I went out as hard as I could and found plenty of free space. Good start, I thought. Now to say the water was choppy really doesn't explain the conditions. The Waves were constant and both breathing and sighting was extremely difficult. The water was only about 3 feet deep in a couple of places and your hands would occasionally scrape the lake bed. Everyone walked over the shallow sections. I cut both my hands and feet in the process. One saving grace was that standing gave us the opportunity to get our bearings in order to swim to the next buoy. A water polo swim technique had to be employed in order to maximise sighting potential, this was tough on the neck & shoulders and made the legs sink, killing swim momentum and tiring the lower limbs. The buoy placements were such that swimmers who strayed just a meter or so, faced head on collisions with swimmers coming the other way. I was lucky enough to avoid the head butting but is was bloody close.

A conservatively paced non-wetsuit 4K swim should have taken about 65 mins. My swim split measured 4.25K and took 86 mins. It was clear that the end buoys had drifted and it transpired that several safety kayakers were pulled out of the lake as the conditions were too difficult for them. The 2 hour plus swim cut off was extended by 30 mins but there still a large number of athletes who didn't complete the swim.

One last point (I think I've painted the picture by now). The first pro was out of the water in 57 mins (10 mins slower than their typical pace).

I survived!

1:14 (not too shabby)

3:25:29 (4th in AG)

 The bike route was a one loop out and back with 2 small loops at the end of the 'out' section. Very fast going north, very slow going south. It was best described as rolling with sketchy road surface and the heat of the day made for a tough ride. Water at the aid stations was in cheap flimsy 750ml bottles, that didn't fit the bottle cages and the crap nozzles allowed half of the water to drip on my legs, soaking my feet.

The lack of fluids was a real issue and cause for concern in the high temperatures. I experienced repeated vomiting on the bike but thankfully was able to re-swallow the fluids (yuk).

I managed to overtake great number of riders and wasn't once overtaken myself. 

The 76 mile ride seemed a lot longer and I was pleased to hop off the bike with an average speed equivalent to a 5hr IM bike split.

4:00 (inc. big wee and debate with official)
After my porta potty pit stop, I was confronted with an official who stated that "she was told" that I unclipped my helmet before entering T2. Complete crap and pretty much impossible. In fact I mistakenly had my helmet still on as I ran to the loo, and doubled back to the bike once I realised, only then removing the helmet to place it in the bike.

2:25:18 (3rd in AG)
The 30K 3 lap run snaked alongside the  concrete lakeside path and offered no shade from the sun
My plan was to run Lap 1 @ 7:30 min miles, relax things a tad for the 2nd lap and then pick things up at the end of the last lap.

This was pretty much achieved, lap 1 - 7:40, lap 2 - 7:39, lap 3 - 7:26.

My feet blistered in mile 1, mainly due to my soggy feet. Keeping cool was difficult until the ice turned up mid way through the run. I progressed well through the field and was only overtaken by some pro's. 

My legs felt great, in fact the only limiter was the foot pain - really need to sort this running shoe puzzle!

I took my mind off the foot pain and livened up the run by a touch of pro spotting, GB cheering and as much high 5ing as possible. Really pleased to have paced well enough to negative split the last 5K. I was breathless after crossing the line but felt great a minute later.

Had a nice chat with 9th place Female Pro, Brit Catherine Jameson, who finished 40s before me. Great insight into the life of a neo-pro.

I met up with fellow GB Age Grouper and Okie cohort  Lloyd, who I assumed had had a cracking race. He had actually been very ill (carried over from sickness suffered at IM Weymouth a couple of weeks previous). Lloyd was the lucky recipient of 3 bags of IV saline and was on the mend. He really did leave it all out there on the bike course!

On the whole, the race proved to be an awesome experience and I had to negotiate a number of curve balls which in retrospect was where my achievements satisfying. Many suffered out on the course, I suspect the DNF rate was high.

So the stats:-
Finish time:- 7 hours, 22 mins, 27 seconds
Overall position:- 39th
Excluding pro's:- 10th
M45 Age group:- 3rd (Bronze)
1st British Male - I guess the fast guys are saving themselves for Kona in 2 weeks...

The good
Great prep (physical & mental)
Overcame the frankly ridiculous swim conditions - everyone (inc. pro's) suffered out there!
Torq gels were awesome
Salt supplements possibly worked (didn't cramp!)
Run pacing was spot on
Held back bike power - didn't get carried away

The bad
GB kit not really up to long course
USA supply crap bottles = wet feet & hydration problems
Gotta pee on the bike (should I practice?)
New shoes - Hoka time?

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