Race Reports

Lakesman 2017

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Two members of Mid Sussex Tri Club ventured up to Keswick in the Lake District over the weekend of 17th and 18th June to compete in the Lakesman full distance triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a bike leg of 112 miles and a 26.2 mile run.  With the start and finish lines and transition based on the shores of Derwent Water, some stunning, if somewhat hilly, scenery was guaranteed to competitors.

In its second year, the race has a small but friendly atmosphere but with all the organisation and logistics of big brand races.  The race organisers were clearly hoping for better weather than the torrential rain of the inaugural race but probably weren't expecting the temperature to be in the mid to high 30s for the duration of the race!

With 2 hours 20 minutes permitted for the swim and a hard cut off of 10 hours 30 minutes after race start to commence the run, Clair Hunt was aiming to use the swim leg to buy herself time for the bike.  Her strategy was therefore one of getting close to the melee on the start line and being as competitive as possible.  Matthew Critchley, as the weaker swimmer, however had a different strategy; namely to stay out of trouble on the swim and pick off places on an opportunistic basis.

The strategy appeared to pay off for Matthew emerging from the water in a time of 01:43:10 just 3 minutes 43 seconds ahead of his team mate.  This put them in 247th and 260th places respectively overall.

Even with the benign conditions and a water temperature of 18-19 degrees C, one hour 45 minutes is a long time to be immersed and there always remains a risk of hypothermia.  Unfortunately for Clair the effects of exposure had taken its toll and the race marshals directed Clair to the medical tent for treatment and with that her race was over.

Matthew's strength was always going to be the bike leg and by the midway point had pulled back to 141st place.  Strong winds along the Cumbrian coast and extreme temperatures slowed the field over the second half of the course.   Matthew had dropped back slightly to 165th overall coming into transition for the second time in a total elapsed time of 08:08:16, exactly 02:00:04 behind the race leader.

Consistent pacing would always be critical to ensuring a strong finish to the race, particularly given the prevailing conditions.  With 5 laps of a 5.25 mile circuit, Matthew was able to maintain a consistent pace with lap times within a couple of minutes of each other to finish the marathon in 149th place recording a time of 05:12:30.  This gave an overall time of 13:29:36, finishing in 174th overall and 04:13:55 behind race winner Joe Duckworth.  The first lady, Nicola King from the Arragon's Triathlon Club, finished in a time of 11:20:44 putting her in 34th place overall.

It was both Clair's and Matthew's first attempt at this distance having both successfully competed at a number of middle distance and half Ironman races.  There clearly remains unfinished business at Lakesman for the pair of them, albeit for different reasons.  Clair has vowed to use this opportunity to learn and come back stronger next year and Matthew is keen to try again but next time, with luck, in more temperate conditions and see what time he can post.

Jim Graham’s Ironman Kona 2016 Race Report

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In Brief

Mid Sussex Triathlon Club member, Jim Graham, was fortunate enough to get a legacy slot for the 2016 Ironman World Championship in Kona on 8th October 2016. The 11:26 finish time ranked in the top half of age group. This was a very pleasing result despite being 1:41 slower than PB.

Kona is THE Iconic Triathlon Venue and you don't need to be racing in the main event in order to participate or enjoy the experience. Kona is a lovely super-friendly town with lots of preliminary events, banquets, tourism and partying. Being a volunteer marshal for the main race is really rewarding. The whole town is a giant expo for race week and there are loads of free hats, shirts, gels, lubricants, cycle-bottles etc. There are numerous pros and former world champions to spot, listen to and chat with.

WTC (World Triathlon Corporation) have this race week as their annual celebration so everything is lavish and grand (despite there being a relatively small select group of main event racers compared to mega-races like Roth or Frankfurt).

In Depth

Background

Inevitably, long distance triathlon would have arisen eventually in one or several places in the world. The fact that Hawaii was the location that established the specific iron race distances is probably fundamental to the current huge appeal of triathlon. This course and the pros who have excelled here have become legendary.

Imagine being in a sauna for up to 17hours doing continual multi-sport. That is what the Ironman World Championship is like. However, Kailua-Kona in Hawaii is a beautiful tropical paradise with very hospitable friendly locals, so the race is an absolute pleasure despite the challenging conditions.

It is a humbling experience. Many elite athletes in their prime (with Ironman podium finishes elsewhere in the world) suffer at Kona and fail to finish or get beaten by 70 year olds. By the way, some of those 70 year olds are super-human and can beat all of our PB's.

Getting a slot

Currently about a quarter of a million triathletes compete each year in qualifying races to try to get one of a couple of thousand places to the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii on the second Saturday each October. Some events seem a bit easier than others for qualifying but you always need to finish in the top 1-2% of age group. 

Annually, there are about 100 legacy slots distributed amongst those who have completed more than a dozen official Ironman full-distance races. There are a handful of executive and charity places available in order to raise money for good causes (one charity is currently asking for a thirty-five thousand pound bond/pledge from the athlete who takes the single slot that they have for 2017).

There are a handful of slots for disabled athletes and for the US military.

There are about 100 professional slots, but obviously those are impossible for normal human beings to get. This year there were only 9 UK professionals good enough to reach this standard and 2 of these failed to finish.

Pre-race Training

Getting a Kona slot is a bit overwhelming, because of the thought of competing with the world's best. Even if you have your best race ever, you will still most likely rank low in age group and finish considerably slower than PB.

I decided to do a series of races to get me in shape and to bundle all this into a challenge to honour my father-in-law who has Alzheimer's disease. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/James-Graham19

Training was was all about doing this series of races then avoiding injury in order to get to the Kona start-line intact.

3/4/16 Paris Marathon in 2:59

17/4/16 Brighton Marathon in 2:51 (PB)

24/4/16 London Marathon in 2:55

21/5/16 Lanzarote Ironman 140.7 in 13:56 (bike broke)

11/9/16 Weymouth Ironman 70.3 in 5:38

18/9/16 Wales ironman 140.7 in 11:27

Pre-race week

Kona exceeded all expectations. As soon as you get off the plane it is clear that Hawaiians take great pride in being kind, patient and hospitable. Literally an island paradise and also the Ironman event does live up to the hype. 

My wife, Helen, probably had a better week than me because there was so much great stuff to do and no worries for her about saving energy for the the big race.

  • Ho'ala swim race 38k
  • PATH 10k run race
  • Underpants Run 1.5miles
  • Traditional feasts x2
  • Heroes of Hawaii banquet
  • All World Athlete Breakfast with Dave Scott and Mark Allen
  • Parade of Nations
  • Welcome banquet
  • Black Sands Beach Turtle watching
  • Daily swimming, cycling and running
  • Active volcano lava tour
  • Coffee plantation tour

Race Morning

The bike racks and transition on the pier were immaculate. Every inch carpeted and nothing out of place. Not too cramped for space. This was one was clearly going to be different from other races. Terrific kind attention from the army of volunteers and marshals. The excitement and expectation was palpable.

Sensational sunrise as we did the final bike check then waded into the water for the start. Seen it on TV, dvd's and on youtube many times. Unreal.

The mass start at Dig-Me Beach and the cannon going off. Wonderful. Felt like "home", despite being almost as different from a UK triathlon start as it is possible to be. No particular stress or worries about that swim in that lovely clear warm tropical calm water. Nothing to prove on the swim but slight anxiety that any number of bike issues could spoil this (possibly once in a lifetime) experience.

Swim

Sensibly, I seeded myself with the slowest 10% (far to the left of the pier). Beautiful warm clear waters with lots of fish. I had gazed at the sea-life and sighted the tropical landscape every morning for the last week but on race day it was the same pair of feet to look at for most of the 1:27 swim. A massive non-neoprene swim PB for me but one of the slowest swims of the day in this elite field (2100th out of 2316).

It was all serene until the final half mile when the top female age-groupers (who had set off 15 mins later than the men) bombed past and over me.

Cycle

No problem finding my bike bag or bike in T1 as the bulk of my age group were long gone.

There are some slightly tricky sections at mile 2 and mile 4.5, so I took it easy and settled down. This cycle must not be ruined by a stupid accident. 

The plan was to drink 1500ml per hour (yes, 1500ml!) and not get in an accident or get a drafting penalty. It seemed almost impossible to drink that much but experts say it is needed at Kona. The heat, high winds and humidity readily cause dehydration plus salt depletion. Feed stations every 7 miles were needed in order to get enough to drink and to constantly drench body in water. One bottle-cage was just for water to drench body in between feed stations.

There appeared to be double the usual number of draft-buster motorbike marshals and the penalty tents were always full.

A rushed 4 minute T1 caused insufficient suncream application, so the subsequent fear of sunburn encouraged quicker pedalling.

The gusts of wind in the northern half of the bike course were extreme and it was good to not have deep rims (Zipp 303 front and 808 rear did the job nicely).

Paced it nicely using heart rate monitor and overtook lots of people in the last 30 miles. The 5:55 cycle was pleasing and the DIY bike constructed from eBay second-hand parts and duct-tape performed perfectly.

Run

It was a massive relief to start the run and feel confident that this most important of all races would now be completed.

Extreme overheating potential was mitigated by feed stations every mile issuing fluids, sponges, gels and ice. It was good having the drink bottle carried in the tri-suit back pocket to provide extra drinks in between each feed station. Lots of ice was stuffed under tri-suit and hat but it mostly melted within 10 minutes. Lots of supporters on the course had hoses to cool us. Those who overheated had to slow down but fortunately, I kept a good pace even in the infamous hot microclimate of the 4-mile "energy lab section".

It was great feeling strong during the hot airless ascent out of the "energy lab" (just before mile 20) and thereafter gradually increasing pace to overtake many athletes until completing the run in 3:53. The final half-mile mile was an ecstatic sprint ending in a mad dash to the finisher's arch. Too pumped-up with emotion to slow-down and pose for pictures. Stuff of dreams.

Post-Race

Helen was a volunteer marshall for the finish-line and I literally ran into her arms, which was a very special moment to complete a wonderful event.

Next day was spent chilling out, packing the bikes and attending the Champions Banquet Awards Ceremony. Being placed 101st out of 203 starters in the 50-54 male age group was almost unbelievable. How could I have beaten that many athletes at this race when for 8 years of trying (16 previous Ironman races) those guys had been beating me and grabbing all the podium places? I would have been content to beat just one of them in order to prove that my participation in the World Championship was justified.

Volcano

Big Island Hawaii is literally still growing, with huge quantities of red-hot lava being deposited on land and at sea every day. A couple of days after the big race we found ourselves jogging for miles in the lava fields to get access to the latest up-close viewing places. At sunset the bubbling lava glows spectacularly and it looks like the end of the world and the beginning of the world simultaneously. 

Reflection and Thanks

This is the race report that I have dreamt about writing since first doing a local sprint triathlon in 2008. Some people apparently have sufficient ability to get a Kona slot at will. For most of us it is nearly impossible and that makes this achievement sweeter. My journey has been blessed with plenty of help and support from family and friends. 

Mid Sussex Triathlon Club is full of so many inspirational people who provide lots of positive energy and all of our successes should be considered a team effort. It was fantastic for me to share this experience with my most important person (Helen). 

The next time someone from our club gets a Kona slot, we should rent out a decent sized house for race week and have a large club gathering as that would be awesome. The flights would be the main expense, then we could survive on the free hand-outs of isotonic drinks and energy bars/gels. Expenses could be off-set by selling all the accumulated free hats and tee-shirts on eBay when we get home.

Race Summary

Swim

01:27:49 (Division Rank: 185)

Bike

05:55:52 (Division Rank: 150)

Run

03:53:34 (Division Rank: 101)

Transition Details

T1: Swim-to-bike 00:04:35

T2: Bike-to-run 00:04:52

Finish Time

11:26:42

Overall Rank 1,316 out of 2,316

Division Rank (age 50-54) 101 out of 203

 

IM Barcelona 2015 race report

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3 places and 12 minutes from securing Kona slot

 

Pre-Race

Jeff Woodall of MSTC announced he was doing IM Barcelona 2015.

I loved doing this race in 2014, so it didn't take much to persuade me to take up a late entry for 2015, via Nirvana Travel.

Classic over-training by doing a full-distance 100% effort 3 weeks earlier at Challenge Weymouth, followed by an 80% effort at Gauntlet middle-distance 1 week prior to Barcelona.

 

Race Day

Perfect conditions with calm sea and 20 degrees air temperature with no rain and little wind or sunshine.

Swim:

Rolling-start to swim made a stress-free experience and easy to find correctly paced swimmers to draft off. Exited the water in 1:18 (2 minutes slower than PB but 4 minutes quicker than 2014). Bodes well for a good race. Wanting to shave 8 minutes off last year's finish time in order to get a sub-10 result.

Cycle:

Was approximately half-way in field of 2,400 at start of cycle. Therefore, over a thousand riders to overtake over the coming 112-miles. Got 12 seconds to overtake each one in order to avoid a drafting penalty. Decided to give it 100% and try for a first ever sub-5 hour ironman cycle. Not thinking about the run. Didn't want to stop for loo or fuel, so only drank 3 litres that I was carrying (15 gels, 3 salt tablets and 4 sachets of isotonic dissolved in the drinks system).

Plan worked well and completed cycle in 4:49, with only 2 or 3 cyclists overtaking me during that time. 19 minutes quicker than 2014!

Run:

Started with a stitch and indigestion so didn't take a gel for the first 40 minutes. Happy with the cycle and not too bothered about doing a great run. Started to feel good after first hour, so focused on trying to get that sub-10 finish. Got the maths wrong by a 15 minute margin and sprinted frantically for the last 2-miles in order to squeeze in under 10-hours. In fact managed 3:32, which was just 2 minutes slower than 2014.

 

Post-Race

Felt fantastic and scoffed a big meal including 3 beers. Usually feel rubbish after ironman, so this was a pleasant surprise. Couldn't believe the 9:45 finish time. Not surprised that 6 male 50-54's had finished quicker than me, because there are some insanely fast middle aged blokes out there who beat many of the pros.

Met up with Jeff and his family. Jeff swam 4 minutes quicker than me and would have matched me on the cycle if he hadn't got a horrid puncture. Jeff had completed a terrific sub-12 for his first ever ironman.

Massive thanks to friends and family who supported us. Brilliant comments on facebook and it was heart-warming that some people had been followed our progress on the live-tracker then posted updates on facebook. It really helps to have positive thoughts about that sort of thing whilst racing.

 

SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 129

SPLIT NAME

DISTANCE

SPLIT TIME

RACE TIME

Total

3.9 km

01:18:38

01:18:38

PACE

DIVISION RANK

GENDER RANK

OVERALL RANK

02:02/100m

129

1318

1426

 

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 20

SPLIT NAME

DISTANCE

SPLIT TIME

RACE TIME

Total

180.2 km

04:49:40

06:12:26

PACE

DIVISION RANK

GENDER RANK

OVERALL RANK

37.34 kph

20

386

398

 

RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 7

SPLIT NAME

DISTANCE

SPLIT TIME

RACE TIME

Total

42.2 km

03:32:03

09:45:39

PACE

DIVISION RANK

GENDER RANK

OVERALL RANK

05:01/km

7

233

243

Originally from: IronMan Barcelona 2015 Results 

Ironman Florida 2014 - 7:43 minutes from Kona

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Pre-Race

A year ago I punched the air with delight having managed to register on-line for this race, which sells out in under 60 seconds. A flat fast PB course in the lovely location of Panama City Beach on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Heat-acclimatization training was done in Mid Sussex (with lots of warm layers on) plus IM Barcelona, Disney World Orlando and Apalachicola (Florida) Marathon. It was roasting hot for 2 weeks in Florida prior to the race and sea temperature was 78 Fahrenheit  (above 76 is too hot for wet-suit racing). On race day we had an angry sea with rip-tides, 40mph winds and air temperature 10 degrees Celsius.

Swim

We all froze on the beach before dawn, especially those who got wet doing a swim warm-up. At dawn the decision was made to cancel the swim. Even we poor swimmers were a bit disappointed, because we wanted to do a proper triathlon. The sea had been too nasty even for the safety kayaks to be deployed.

Cycle

Spent a couple of hours trying to keep warm until it was my time to start cycling. There were nearly 3,000 of us setting off one every couple of seconds. I had a cycling jacket and a couple of space-blankets but some people had just a tri-suit.

The gusty wind played havoc with the deep wheel rims and I had to resist the impulse to stop for a bike check. It was like riding with loose skewers or headset, quite apart from getting buffeted sideways and having to react to avoid collisions. Fortunately, the course is separated from traffic and American roads are very wide.

Nice single loop course, mostly on flat good surface roads. A few undulating bits and one section on cracked tarmac that was rather bumpy.

Cycled well for 4 hours, managing to avoid drafting penalties and keep a decent pace. You have to surge past packs of riders and raise the heart rate temporarily, even though that's bad for burning energy reserves. If you stay with the pack you may get a penalty and faster riders will keep overtaking and force you further back. After that, I eased off a little (maybe lost form from a fortnight's lack of cycling or maybe just hurting too much from relentlessly battling the wind and keeping the aero-position for so long). Completed cycle in 5:22, though it was unclear if that was good or bad given the conditions and the rolling start.

Run

Excellent enthusiastic support on a good flat 2-lap course with varied views and lots of shade. No need for the ice that was provided as it remained chilly throughout, despite the sunshine. A real boost having Helen and our two sons on the course to cheer me on. So grateful. Worth around 10 minutes off the finish time I reckon.

1:42 for 13 miles then completed strongly for total run time of 3:26.

Post-Race

Felt great finishing with a sprint. Kissed Helen and got medal. Given a results card stating I was 3rd in age-group. A few minutes later, my position was down-graded to 5th due to the rolling start and a couple of finishers coming in having started after me. Not bad considering 241 in 50-54 age-group.

Attended Hawaii World Championship Kona Slot Allocation Ceremony, but there were only 3 slots for 50-54 and the top 3 all decided to take those places. I missed out by 7 minutes 43 seconds.

My AWA (all world athlete) ranking improved from 10th to 5th on the basis of this Florida result. Shame they don't presently use the AWA rankings to determine who gets Kona slots. AWA ranking is calculated from points scored in the 3 best performances for each athlete each year.

36 mins off AG win at Ironman Barcelona 2014

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Background

This was the inaugural "Ironman Barcelona" with a massive field of 2,600 athletes. In previous years this race was branded "Challenge Barcelona" and had half the number of athletes. Evidence of the Ironman/Challenge turf-war that is underway.

A pleasant wet-suit sea swim with a dry start from the beach. The bike course is fast, flat and hot with an all-closed-road cycle on good surfaces. The run is also fast, flat and hot but offers some shade along tree lined beach-front promenades.

The start is in waves with 3 mins between age groups, which allows a bigger field with less congestion on cycle as less athletes exit the water simultaneously.

Venue

The race venue is the lovely beach resort of Calella, which is 80 minutes drive from Barcelona. A bit like hosting an Ironman in Brighton and calling it Ironman London. Catalonia is terrific with great climate. Autumn poolside breakfasts and outdoor suppers in the numerous restaurants.

Hassle-free registration, briefing and racking with everything within a 1km radius. Lots of good value hotels nearby. I used "Hotel Mediterrani Express" costing 111euros in total for 3 nights, which seemed insanely cheap to me for what was superb accommodation within 300 metres of start and within 800 metres of Transition. Nice quiet room and a good pre-race sleep.

Roasting hot in the days prior to the race with heavy thunderstorms forecast for the race itself.

Pre-Race

Lots of texts and face-book messages from well-wishers. Massively appreciated. Thanks everyone.

Heavy rain with thunder and lightning on race morning. Got soaked inflating tyres in Transition and the disc was too wet for the valve patch to stick on, but faithful duct-tape came to the rescue as usual.

Put wet-suit on in the dark because the generators kept failing (probably flooded) then trudged over to swim-start through muddy puddles.

Did a warm up swim and was ready to begin when announcement blared out that there was a problem and more news would follow in 2 minutes. Being a poor swimmer, I was almost hoping for a cancelled swim due to electrical storm risks. However, I quite fancied the wave-start swim and the water was rather nice. Announcement then declared the race would continue as planned with just a 30 minute delay.

We were all starting to get cold by the time our wave marched to the start-line. Limbering-up started in earnest and the Frenchman in front of me suddenly did some elaborate clenched-fist arm movements, landing a direct hit on my chin. Maybe I should change from triathlon to boxing, because I coped with that punch quite well and regained consciousness in time to sprint into the surf.

Race

A nice swim with the added interest of getting swum-over every 3 minutes by the aggressive elite swimmers from each of the wave-starts that followed ours.

Wasted some moments in T1, putting on a rain-jacket for the cycle. Further rain was predicted and I thought the jacket may reduce road-rash if I came off (like I did at Bolton a few weeks earlier). Sun came out and I roasted in my jacket but I was not prepared to waste more time removing the jacket. Got lots of comments along the lines of "are you warm enough Englander?...ha…ha…ha". Blasting past at an average speed of 22mph for 5 hours was the only answer I needed to give.

It was a nice cycle on 90% flat surface. The slight inclines and descents were very welcome, because its rather painful being on the aerobars constantly.

Delighted to enter T2 without mechanical problems or punctures. Started the run with just 6:37 on the clock, which was uncharted territory but something I had fantasised about. Sub-10 hours seemed off the menu but my PB of 10:57 (Challenge Roth 2012) and even Lawrence Wintergold's club record of 10:37 (Outlaw 2010) seemed within range. Small matter of needing to avoid bonking on the run like usual.

First mile was the slowest at 8:28, whilst the sun-cream was applied. Managed sub-8 mins for mile 2 to approx mile 18, then started to slow down as usual. Took a salt tablet every 10k and paid attention to fueling/hydrating. Pace never dropped off badly and by mile 23, I was confident of hanging-on.

Practically sprinted the last 800 metres and felt terrific (stored that memory to dip into next time the going gets tough). Tears of joy finishing in 10:07 with a 3:30 marathon. Actually thought I may have made the podium.

Post-Race

Felt great and scoffed lots of free food plus a free beer. Collected my stuff and texted my lovely wife, Helen, who informed me I was just 36 mins slower than the age-group winner but I was placed 13th. The top 3 had all finished in practically the same time, which must have been a bit of a scuffle.

The top guys had taken 15-20 mins off me on the swim and maybe the same amount of time on the cycle. However, my run was second fastest with just one guy in my age group being just one minute quicker.

I don't see me becoming a good swimmer any time soon, but I reckon I could risk pushing harder on the cycle now that confidence in my run has increased.

Florida Marathon in 3 weeks then Ironman Florida the following week. Bring it on!