IM Staffs 70.3

A trip I do regularly back to the shire, my home town. So doing a triathlon, an IM branded triathlon at that, is a bit surreal. My first go at it. I travelled up on Friday after school pick up. Arrived at about 2000. Saturday morning I went out for a social ride with my brother and a mate. Was nice and I felt good. Running off the bike felt weird and it was so easy to go too fast. I had some porridge and then loaded the car for a day of admin. I met another mate at T2 and registration and we explored the sale. He also pointed out that my primary school has penis gates! I put my run bag in transition and then headed off to T1.

The questions on the FB group show that people just don’t read the event guide or watch the race video. This was highlighted by overhearing some amusing comments, the best was:

“Oh shit! It is a long way isn’t it?!” This was heard in T2.
They did not have IM bags with them They hadn’t registered. Oops.

I had lunch with my brother before a windy family BBQ. Then off to bed.

I slept through my first alarm at 0400 or just silenced it without knowing. I woke on my own at 0420 and before my safety alarm. Coffee, beetroot shot, porridge and banana before getting in the car at 0450. I got to the car park before 0500 and was on track. I stowed my phone and caught the bus to the start. There was panic on some people’s faces as the bus went the wrong way first of all then back towards Stafford. I think the driver had put the address in and the Sat Nav had recommended the motorway and/or tolls so they had to back track. Then there was the double loop of a round about in cannock. Oh and saying “I hope we fit” before going under a low bridge. Confidence inspiring!

I put my bottle on the bike swapped a few things between bags but other than that I didn’t faff. Tyres had ‘in date’ air in them (why do people let air out to pump up agin?). So I joined a portable-potty queue. People were very slow. It took 30-40 min to finally get to do my business. I dumped my street wear back just in time for the national anthem and then the Ironman anthem – AC/DC, Thunderstruck.

We lined up somewhere between 35-40 min which I was hoping I could do. We were set off in threes, running off a mexifloat pontoon. The water was 16 degrees and not too cold but cold enough to increase my breathing above my physical exertion. I was focused on staying calm and not worried about speed, I was out of the melee – I have no issues with being in the maelstrom but knew I need to acclimatise. It took 6 minutes for my pace to settle down and even out. Just after I settled I saw lots of kayaks and a rhib ahead of me – I was only just outside the swim line by now so couldn’t work out what was happening then I heard the staff telling people to keep clear and knew that someone was getting medical treatment. There were always incidents with mass starts so there is no immediately safe answer but allowing people to get used to the temperature would help. Exiting the water, as soon as I put my foot down I got cramp on the right of my calf. Very odd but is still noticeable today. 51:37 Bottom 25%
Positive: Time wasn’t wildly out.
Negative: Reaction to water entry. Wetsuit is dogshit for a brick swimmer like me.

T1 had a decent run but I was in a bit of a tizzy trying to get my breathing and feel in control. I struggled with my wetsuit but got it off before reaching the changing area. Mounting was a little slow and I didn’t feel fresh. 6:05
Positive: Limited faffing.
Negative: Busy and slow mounting area.

It took me 20km/40 minutes to settle into the bike. I had some trapped gas and with my generous lubrication I wasn’t sure if I’d made a big mistake! So I checked myself over quickly in a loo and safely cleared the backlog which was probably about 3 minutes lost. Somehow I found a rhythm, maybe my body had warmed up and started attacking the deficit I’d created by being slow in the first hour. The prevailing wind was from the west, the prevailing swim and bike course was to the west, it was hard work and probably worth 10 minutes looking at some people’s times from last year for the same power. It’s. an undulating course, IM say 850m climb. The final hour and long climb was a joy – I felt great and was watching to see how much lead my mate had on me. As I got to the aid station and the traffic flow separated I knew I had less than 5km/10 minutes to make up but didn’t know how much. My plan had been to use my 600ml bottle wit Beta SiS (80g carbs) to this aid station at about 40 miles/2hrs and then refill. Supplemented by Beta SiS gel bars and a Beta gel. I couldn’t eat half the second Beta bar and couldn’t get the lid off the water bottle at the aid station so necked about 300ml of gatorade and setting off. I knew I was dehydrating but felt happy enough I could solve the problem on the run. Downhill and back towards town I was hammering it. In town people were very slow and I overtook a lot. I spotted my cheer squad approaching T2 and they were shocked and by the way they said “Go on!” I knew that my mate must have been close. As I approached the dismount line I saw him getting off – 13 minutes regained! I knew he’d see my bike slot empty and be elated… 3:10:51 mid pack.
Positive: Second half – strong. Problem solving and ‘feel’.
Negatives: Swim to bike transition. Kit.

T2 was fun. Knowing the race was on. I parked my bike and jogged behind my mate picking my moment to unleash the ‘Junkyard Dog’. We had a little chat but were smooth and quick. I had already put socks on in T1 so it was simply helmet off, shoes off, shoes on, number to front go. I think I did a bit more faffing that that though!!! 2:47
Positive: Speed.
Negatives: Wasn’t faster.

Running is my strength and it showed. I was up to speed quickly, a bit too fast but I wanted to get to the first aid station to start recovering. I remember looking at the aid pre-race thinking there was so much and I wouldn’t need it all. It was starting to get warm and given how little I had had on the bike I walked the first aid station taking multiple cups and throwing some over my head. I think I salvaged the race. Like the bike the run is hilly including a 10% climb up to Stafford castle. Twice. (238m on Strava). A looped course with lots of chances for family and friends to see you. Or for me to see them before they saw me! I stayed on or above target pace the whole way but knew I couldn’t relax needing 5 min/km to go sub 6. The race was on. I banked a fair bit of time allowing me to walk the 10% climbs. It was well supporting in the centre and I really enjoyed the big event race feel. It wasn’t easy but I kept the HR in the zone and came in under 1:45 for the run and sub 6 overall, very pleased. 1:44:10 Top 25%
Positive: Delighted with run off the bike. Nutrition didn’t fall over.
Negative: Initial pace was too high – fine for a half but will hurt for IM.

5:55:28 total time and first sub 6.

Today/recovery: I feel okay. My calf is tight on the outside where I tried to put my foot down in too deep water. My quads feel like they have done a hilly tempo long run (which they have). I am a little dehydrated but also elated.

I know participation numbers are down across all events and sports (even Parkrun) for many reasons so if you’re wondering whether to have a go again I can tell you it feels so good to enjoy the process of an event however big or small, toe the line and cross the line. There are loads of events out there so if you feel motivated to have a go next year have a look.

Looking ahead to IMUK. The swim was probably my worst possible scenario – windy, fresh, with issues. My strength and pace near the end was good so I’m confident I can keep it up. I’m going to say 1:45. The IMUK bike course is hard and hilly but I was strong on the bike against the wind so a 6:30-7:00 is realistic. I would hope 1:45 converts to no more than 4:30 especially as I’ll be run walking from the start. Sub 13 seems like an obvious goal. Three weeks of training to go.

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