|Quelle Challenge Roth June 24th 2007
IRONMAN 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run
After completing my first Ironman in Austria in 2005 and experiencing nutrition problems and all the digestive issues that go with it, I again found myself on the start line contemplating another long day ahead.
I decided this time to go for one of the oldest races on the calendar and take on the Original Ironman Germany course in Roth, Bavaria. Known as the world’s largest ironman race and the best supported, it promised to have a good atmosphere.
After 6 months of hard training and having got through the mind games of a two week taper where you convince yourself the inactivity is seeing your speed and endurance seep away, race day finally arrived.
Cloudless, windless, sun shining perfection! Having learnt a lesson in Austria I took the pace easy in the swim, hardly using the legs and saving them for later in the day. Got on a nice slipstream for a good draught and generally just enjoyed it.
Exiting the swim and through transition in approx 2 mins flat. Heart rate soon racing at 168 (my threshold pace) but didn’t mind as I new it was only for a few minutes while I got settled onto the bike. Again a lesson learnt from Austria, I took it easy for the first 30 mins on the bike to let the heart rate settle into the 140’s where I fully intended to stay for the whole day. In my experience Ironman is basically a time trial and involves holding an aerobic pace in a 10 beat range all day. For me this means 140 – 150 beats so whether I’m going up hill, down hill or flat this is what I ride at. It makes for very fast splits if you get it right. The problem is with a two week taper in the legs and the adrenaline pumping it’s so easy to go off too quick! The bike course in Roth can only be described as blisteringly quick. Its silky smooth with roads cutting through forests and the 1350 metres of vertical height gain on the course is usually done through walls of people with music blaring out. The atmosphere is superb with Tour de France type crowds on the climbs.
On a nutritional note, I’d also decided to change my strategy after Austria and simplify things. A Powergel every 20 mins without fail, took care of the energy and then just plain water with the odd sodium tab took care of the hydration. No solids, no sports drinks, just these two substances worked for me. 112 miles flew by at an average of 21.6 mph and then onto the marathon. The race in an ironman starts somewhere near the end of the first half of the marathon. If you’ve cooked it prior you can be reduced to a shuffle, walk or worse a DNF. The pacing is the hard bit to get right as you want to go as fast as you can, but push too hard and there can be consequences that see you lose hours later in the day.
The first 4km of the run was a painful attempt to get running freely. Eventually the only thing that hurt was my arms aching and a burning right sole but at least the legs were good! Again I focussed on 20 min intervals between gels. The run becomes a mental battle to stay positive and keep things in perspective so that you can keep a good pace up. In the first half I didn’t let myself entertain thoughts of tiredness but eventually they come. I went through a bad patch around 16 miles for a while where the pace slowed, but with 6 mile to go the rhythm came back and the finish line eventually came. This time instead of surviving ironman I felt like I had raced it.
The mental challenge of keeping the pace up when your mind just wants you to stop makes it very rewarding to complete. The complexity of the three disciplines and squeezing as much free speed out of each adds to the interest from a training perspective.
Looking back through the heart rate data I averaged 146 beats all day with very few spikes. I pretty much got it right this time.
Position 313th from 2450 starters.
Swim 1:06:18, t1 02:55, Bike 5:10:49, t2 03:42, Run 3:48:51
Overall time; 10 hours 12 mins 36 secs
The winner was professional Chris McCormack, probably the worlds best long distance athlete who blasted around in 7 hours 54 mins and 23 secs with an incredible bike split of 4 hrs 16 mins (26mph!) and an even more incredible marathon of 2 hrs 45 mins.
If anyone wants information about racing and training for Ironman I’ll happily chat about what little I’ve learnt.