Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ironman Barcelona - 9h03m on home turf

Best race mates singing in the rain , Guille & Toni!!!  Oleee!

This would be the 6th time I started here in Calella - actually each year since 2009, when I raced the first edition of the Half Distance. I train here a lot - I love the flat bike course, which can (and ended up being) fast on a calm day.

However - the day started really ugly. Big dark clouds lured over Calella and I could already see the flashes of lightning over the mountains while getting out of bed. Around an hour before the Pro-start, the clouds gave in like an overfilled water-balloon bursting, and poured a massive amount of water over us - big flashes over the ocean and it definitely looked like at least the swim would be cancelled. Waiting 30 minutes brought us good news - the thunder-gods was taking a rain-check (excuse the very lame pun) and hence, we could start.

Got in the first line of the swim and made it fine around in a bit more than 59 minutes - the water was a bit choppy, but not too bad. I guess there was a bit of current against us on the long stretch and the official measure says 3900m. My age-group wave started way behind in the backseat, so we had quite a bit of hurdles, blue hats, white hats, breast strokers to overcome, with around 2000 swimmers in front of us.

The heavy rain stopped, but the bike circuit was still wet and we had to slow down a lot in the many (40) roundabouts, but apart from that, the legs felt very good and I quickly found the right goal watts. I train a LOT on this circuit, so I know well how and how much. The sky cleared, the wind was not too bad and the sun started drying up the fast, clean tarmac - just tucking into a good position, pushing, feeling good.
Passing lots of bikes and turning in Montgat, I was close to 41 km per hour after the first 70km - the average power was still spot on, with a slight tailwind - so things were going down as expected. I feared that I would get caught up in one of the massive pelotons, which at times can at time get formed at this race. In all fairness, I can't see how you can completely avoid bikes getting too close in this race - but I would say that the folks that I was riding with, was keeping a fair distance. Pushing through to a 4h34m bike which is a personal best on this distance.

Out on the run, the legs feel pretty good too as expected. I kicked off with good cadence and had to hold back, as I was moving around 4:15 on the first 8-10 km. Slowed down and hit the target at 4:20 until 15 km. But from here, a mental struggle started. The old belly start to cramp a bit and I quickly found myself in a quite negative mental state - motivation was really low. I slowed down to a safer pace around 4:30 and kept a good intake going, but shortly after I succumbed to the first of many breaks of walking. Frankly legs were fine - but I was digging a mental hole for me myself, deeper and deeper for each step.

It would be easy to conclude that I pushed too hard on the bike, but riding at an intensity factor of only around 72% and VI of 1.04 would suggest, that I was on the safe side for a good run. But the tummy and and old head wanted something, so just tried to make it through around 4:45 or a bit slower to the end, running in around 3:25. All in all finishing with a PR at 9h03m30s and an 11th place iny AG. Overall times were very fast I'd say, we were lucky with the wind on the bike.

No Kona slots for 11th place. First they cut one slot in my AG (to 7 instead of 8) - then it rolled all the way down to 10th place, who finished 2 minutes in front of me. That'll teach me to consider if walking during an Ironman is clever ...  But hey - fair game! Missing Kona must be a first world problem, eh?

Thanks to all who cheered and support onsite and online!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ironman Frankfurt vs. Thomas Rohde: 2-0

So its been almost 10 months since last full distance race in Kona, Hawaii. During spring I have raced 2 half distances races with limited success, but the feelings and numbers leading into Ironman Frankfurt this year were actually better than ever. I raced in Frankfurt back in 2012 also - where the rain got the better of me and I can say that Frankfurt still owes me a perfect day. But this being my 12th Ironman race, I have sort of settled with at least one conclusion:  There are NO perfect days in Ironman, no tea-parties - you can be top-prepared and you can still get humbled. But hey - you learn and come out stronger.

Leading into this race, most conditions were very fine. I had trained very stable and steady and have good improvements to tighten up running, biking 10-12 watts harder than in 2013, coming fine back into swimming after Kona and race weight was on par.

After the last 2-3 longer running sessions (around 23-25k) I was a bit indecisive on my choice of race shoes for the run. For at least 2 years I have had smaller issues with Morton's Neuroma in both feet - a result of running with elastic shoe laces. Just 10-12 days out from race day, I ran with massive pains after running in my race shoes, either came home with the very light Asics DS Racer or the bit more padded Brooks PureCadence. Eventually I took some anti-inflammatorics the week up to the race, and decided to go with the Asics DS racer.

On race day things were calm. I started with the 300 best age groupers and had a fairly OK swim, but quite a few unexpected fights in the water. Felt the swim was long, maybe 4000-4100, so exiting in 1h02m was actually not that bad. Most good AGs had a longer swim time, maybe around 2-3 minutes longer.

The bike was great - I quickly founds my goal watts, settled well and kept going conservatively around 15 watts below optimal/hardest possible IM watts. I figured I could still do around 37 km/h which would give me a good time around 4h50m and then have good legs to run well and easy in maybe around 3h20m. The cut for Kona Qualification would be around 9h30m.. A bit more wind on the 2nd loop and I entered T2 in 4h53m, so if I could just run at 5:00 min/km Kona was absolutely still in scope - so far, so good.

As expected, my legs felt really fine at the start of the run, running steady around 4:30, but I immediately felt the pain in both feet. Took some ibuprofen almost straight after leaving T2, which initially calmed the pain, but still, each step was like stepping on small nails and it became more and more painful, but still bearable.
The heat was really on now, maybe around 34-35 degrees and the sun was blazing. I tried to find shadow, cool down with ice, water - still hydrating well, keeping up a fine pace.

At around km 15 I decided to walk trough the next aid station to get plenty fluids. Started to feel really dizzy and had to stop completely and hold on to a pole for some seconds to remain standing - that was NOT good. Drinking and go back to running OK, but really fast started fainting. I must admit this was a horrible dejavu from Kona and I kinda lost my motivation right there too - I was falling apart, now both feet  and my head was a mess.

I think I made it sort of running/walking/stopping to hydrate to around 25km where I was fairly confident that DNF was the only option left, - the bad memory of my only Ironman DNF in St. George in 2010 got me going - walking mostly, talking with other athletes, made quite a number of new friends walking/jogging/suffering. Passed good people cheering and cheered back. I turn off my GPS and just decided to make it to the f**king line - Kona was out of the question for this one. Eventually made it around in something like 10h16m. No complaints - tough day, everybody suffered on that run.

It was amazing to be with so many friends in Frankfurt.  Some cheered, some raced hard, some suffered, some became European Champions - but you all reminded me once again, how much I love to be part of this great sport and family. Thank you so much for a great time in Frankfurt!