Ironman 70.3 World Championships – My Race Review
So as promised….here is my review of the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, Australia. For those that don’t know, the event itself is a 1.2 mile swim in the sea, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run, this is where the 70.3 comes from as that is the total mileage to be covered.
Just to set the scene
Since around August 2015 there have been 80 qualifying races across the world over the same distance in which approximately 200000 athletes have competed for 3000 places. So excluding the pro athletes, every one there had to qualify and be in the top 1.5% of all competitors, and that takes nothing away from everyone else who has taken part as to get to the start line and actually take on this challenge requires a huge amount of dedication and commitment to what is a lifestyle rather than just a sport/hobby.
When I reverse 3 years almost to the weekend….I was taking on my second ever 1/2 ironman race in Luxembourg (8th Sept 2013), just 3 months after doing my first ever race on Exmoor, UK. Since then the addiction has increased and being ever so slightly competitive I set my eyes on getting to a world championships one day. Along the way I have toyed with going back to play rugby, because I miss the team camaraderie…but triathlon is a very friendly sport and there is a mutual respect amongst the ironman competitors that I find reassuring and encouraging.
So…. fast forward two years to September 2015 and a race in Denmark. One of my mates, Paul wanted to do a race abroad… and of course I obliged with my addiction to travel, any excuse to do another event and have another challenge. Long story short…that is where I qualified which would ultimately take us to Australia for the race on September 4th 2016.
Part of this whole journey is exactly that…. it’s not just about the race, its about sharing the experience with friends and family, which is in part why I write race reviews as well for those who can’t be there. So the opportunity to share this with Jo, my two sisters, dad and his partner, my mother and father in law and Dan and Nicky who also competed was great. We set off a 9 days before the race to get us there with a bit of time to adjust to the time zone change and the weather conditions. Good job we did, as there were a few problems with the bikes when we got here, which we did get sorted thanks to the help of the Giant Sunshine Coast store. With all of the preparation pretty much done in terms of the physical, it was a good opportunity for us to do a bit of sight seeing around the beautiful area we stayed in. Trips to Moreton Island (photo), Whale watching, Fraser Island, Lone Pine Koala sanctuary and Noosa helped to take the mind off the race and also made the week enjoyable for everyone else.
On the Friday before the race we registered and there was a parade of nations in which the 3000 athletes were invited to walk with their fellow countrymen and women through the streets. When you register at an ironman event, that’s when it starts to feel “real”…..you get your race numbers and stickers. I also managed to meet up a with an old school friend, Lana, whom I haven’t seen for 15 years who now lives in NZ. That was super cool.
The Saturday before the race, I did a short 15 minute swim, 20 minute bike and a 10 minute jog before tea…. but it was mainly about getting the final bits of preparation done, taking the bike to the transition area (saying a mini good bye to it, or as Jo would say give it a kiss, I am sure that she thinks that’s what I do to it when I go into the garage at home) and also the bags with your kit in for both bike and run legs…once the day of the race comes, you cannot touch these bags….so it is important not to forget your trainers!
The rest of the day was just chilling with the feet up watching rugby on TV and reading a local newspaper article on the event. We cooked up a feast and then got breakfast ready for the big day!
Before the race an incredible atmosphere… its pretty dark and there are 3000 athletes walking around the streets with wetsuits and bicycle pumps… people talking to each other in whichever language they can best… as the sun rose over the Pacific Ocean and the pro’s began their race at 6:15am…… it starts to get serious…luckily I don’t get too nervous and just tend to start thinking about where I will position myself relative to the other athletes in my wave.
The Swim – we got called out to make the short 100m swim to the start line, a couple minutes of treading water and the horn went ….we were off…. I just wanted to find space and get into a rhythm. I did manage to get right on the inside of the anticlockwise swim.
Normally the field spreads out but because everyone was of a similar standard this didn’t happen in this race. It was busy all the way through… I got to the first major left hand turn and remembered thinking to myself “enjoy this…this is the world championships, you might not get this opportunity again”…. I felt good but to be honest I would not have minded coming out near the back of this field.
As it happened I didn’t, although I didn’t have a perfect swim it was a performance that I knew I had in me all season and luckily I pulled it out in the this event. I stood up to make the run to my bike and saw 28:41 on the watch…..very happy! I hadn’t pushed too hard and felt confident running up the sandy beach to transition.
Through transition I managed to tear a large hole in my wetsuit in my haste….as quickly as possible on to the bike…..possibly my favourite part of triathlon these days….. the start of the course was mainly flat and I was getting my head into my plan for nutrition, power output and strategy that my coach and I had agreed on. All was going well until about 20 mins in and then my pedals that measure my power output went out of sync……fear not though I had a second page on my bike computer with my average speed, time and distance on it so I could see that at least. Not ideal but I knew I wanted to do 2 hours 28 mins for the 56 miles…… At the half waypoint on the bike my average speed was 24.5mph, which I was happy with and it didn’t feel too hard…
Once off the motorway which was a closed road as they do for all Ironman events, it was then into the hilly section of the course…more undulating and rolling compared to the steep up and down type hills that we are used to at home…… the road surface was a little rough….don’t get me wrong not a pot hole in sight unlike Devon which is awesome to practice your bike handling / self preservation skills on…… at around mile 40 all going ok, big hill done felt fine, then my aero bar ( bit your arm rests on) decided to slip and come lose. I thought….there’s no way I want to stop and tighten it and lose time so I just kept making little adjustments by pulling it towards me to keep it in place. There will always be problems in races, and they rarely seem to be the same ones, so its all good practice!
Into the final stage of the bike, a headwind had built up and the temperature was rising, it was a little tough but I just wanted to keep as close to my target as I could, head down and smash it to the end was the only option. I did ease for the last ½ mile just to spin the legs a little and get them ready for the run. Coming down that stretch was immense, the streets were packed with 1000’s spectators and many athletes in earlier waves were on their run…I was feeling good, knowing I had achieved two thirds of my target setting 2 PB’s (Swim and Bike) so far in the race.
On to the run…. another really long transition from bike to run…. almost 1/4 of a mile. Getting the bike into transition is always a relief for every triathlete as at that point you can run, jog, walk and crawl your way to the line if necessary. My first 3 miles, my coach and I had decided that I would just use it to get into a rhythm and see how my body felt….I have to say it felt really good…..first 3 miles all under 7 minutes……then it got tough….it got hotter and then a head wind and a hill took its toll a little. No excuses though….I got slower and it was a painful final 5 miles to be honest…..my time was about 8 minutes slower than I would have hoped which is disappointing but it was one hell of an experience to be surrounded by 3000 of the world’s best Ironman 70.3 athletes. That run down the red finisher carpet is something I will never forget and I have to say I want more of that level of competition. A time of 4:47:05 is a time I am happy with…. and after a couple of days of reflection….I am mentally ready to attack my next goals in triathlon and Ironman.
Would I do anything differently…Nope…. No regrets…just a very weird desire to try and take things to the next level. I had actually thought before the race that I couldn’t wait not to ride a bike, run or swim for a bit…but very weirdly I am almost already thinking about how I might get myself back to the World Championships again…….
I look back at the way I have prepared for this event, alongside coupling this training with running two businesses, doing my masters and other courses and undertaking a massive project (to be revealed in the next 3 months) and I couldn’t have given it any more! Nearly every minute of my waking day was accounted for particularly in the last 2 months. Training camps in Tenerife in January and Mallorca in April gave me good bases for the season.
I can’t thank everyone on this blog, but I do want to make a special mention to a few people.
To my mum, who was the first one to be invited to come and be part of the race day support crew but doesn’t like flying. She decided to take on the role of looking after Dealer (my dog/son) and keep things organised at home. Thanks for your unwavering support and helping me day in day out, no matter what time I call or text on a Sunday morning, when I get an idea or need something!
To the support crew on the day…..Jo, Dad, Karen, Di, Graham, Lizzie and Torie…..its great to hear you on the course cheering us on and your presence at the race was special!
To Mike Goodman……without Mike this trip wouldn’t have happened. He keeps the ball rolling with our ever growing PT business and alongside James Daniel and Danny Groves keeps the Blast Fitness Camps Family moving forwards as well. All 3 of these guys are great friends, but also very professional people whom I trust whole-heartedly with my clients.
To Danny Groves and Vanessa for keeping my body in one piece throughout the year. I have been very lucky this year in that I have only had minor niggles which never escalated further and it’s down to these two that that happened!
Last but not least to everyone who sent a good luck message through whatever means…..it’s very humbling when people reach out , some whom I haven’t seen for a long time…..telling me they are inspired ….personally I don’t find myself inspiring (that would be weird) but I am really pleased that people get inspired and even more pleased when they take action and get moving towards their own goals.
So what is next…a question I have had asked and one I have asked my self….
2-3 weeks of rest… well from swim, bike and run at least. Then I have decided to employ a world famous gymnastics coach to help me improve my mobility and strength training to help regain some of the connective and muscle tissue strength you do lose as a result of swim, bike, run. This I hope will serve me well and also help me learn different ways to help others get better results. Training for me never stops…..not that you need to be going flat out or training every day….but it is a massive part of feeling alive and in control of other stresses in my life….after an event like this its always good to enjoy the moment, but use the momentum created to send you off on the next path.
That’s it for this one…..I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of how I ended up in Australia.
I also made this short video and photo montage of the days activities….
Keep Moving Forwards,
Owner of Functionally Aware Fitness Personal Training
Voted Cornwall’s Best Fitness Instructor 2016
Voted The UK’s Most Innovative Fitness Entrepreneur 2012
International Best Selling Author of The Fad Free Fitness Formula
Author of The Hot to Trot Cook Book and The Equestrian Athlete Plan
Email: Info@fa-fitness.co.uk / Phone: 07841 136302