Ironman France 2009

An early start

I had decided to drive to the race rather than staying in a hotel in Nice. So it was a 3:15am wake up, 4 rice cake biscuits with honey and off to Nice. I arrive at transition just after 5am but had to queue for about 30 minutes to get in. With transition closing at 6am and the race starting at 6:30 I didn’t have long to prepare. I joined a queue of 4 people for a toilet but the person at the front spent 20 minutes in there! I eventually got out of the toilet at 5:55 giving me only 5 minutes to get everything sorted with my bike. Another queue to get onto the beach and I only had 5 minutes until the start.

I have a heart condition called “Bigeminy Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC), triggered by swimming. Basically, for the first 5 minutes of any swim session my heart effectively skips every other beat. It’s not dangerous but does mean I’m working on 50% capacity. After 5 minutes everything goes back to normal. For this reason it is especially important for me to get a good swim warm-up to get the PVC over with before the race starts. Due to all the queuing I didn’t get one...

The swim

After the usual pre-race nerves and adrenaline made worse by the helicopter hovering above and the electric atmosphere on the beach the gun sounded. I’m not a strong swimmer and with 2500 other competitors starting together it can be a rough start. I decided to head way out to the left to get some clear water, even if it meant me going a bit further. As usual the PVCs caused me a slow start but I soon got going and had clear water. At the first turn the course turned almost 90 degrees right but the field didn’t turn enough and headed very wide to the second turn. I was stuck out to the left and was forced about 100 meter s wide of the second turn. I estimate this added at least 300 meters onto my swim. Heading back to the beach the low sun was blinding and not only could I not see which direction to head but also couldn’t see the other competitors around me. After many collisions and a rather zigzag route I exited the first swim lap of 2.4 km in 00:56:20 at 2:20/100m pace). It turns out that the swim buoys had been positioned wrong and this first lap was significantly too long. The second shorter lap was much of the same but I was slowing due to tiredness and very painful rubbing of my wetsuit on the back of my neck. 1.4 km in 00:29:06 at 2:01/100m pace. With the wide line and badly positioned buoys, I estimate my swim was approximately 4.2km (400 meters too long).

Total swim 01:25:26 (2:14/100m) position 2121 (336 M30)

Transition 1

I made a bit of a mess of taking off my wetsuit and took longer than I should have putting my watch and helmet on. The run from the beach and then the long run through the bike park make it a very long transition area.

Total transition 00:05:58

The bike

Right from the start I felt like I was 95% of what I should have been. It’s hard to explain, but it just felt like I was missing that little extra you need for a great race. Despite this I was flying past everyone (one of the advantages of being a weak swimmer and strong biker). My average power output for the first hour was 270 watts with peaks at over 350 watts which suggests I was going well and if anything too hard. Everything was going very much to plan on the bike; a Powerbar Gel every 20 minutes and a salt tablet every 30 minutes, all washed down with plenty of water. It was hot and the sun was strong but nothing I wasn’t used to (or so I thought). By the top of the final major climb at 120km I had passed approximately 1170 of my competitors (and from memory, only 3 or 4 people passed me). With 60km of mostly downhill ahead it was time to relax as much as possible before the run. This is where things started to go wrong...

Being tall, I’ve never been great at descending, and expected to lose some time and places during the very fast and dangerous descents.  After about 10km of descending I started to feel sick and light headed and then my hands started tingling. My hands and arms then started to go numb and the dizziness and sickness became worse. At speeds of well over 50 km/h I was starting to black out and had no choice but to stop for a moment to try to recover. As soon as I stopped I was violently sick and collapsed at the side of the road. I sat there and watched as all those people I had worked so hard to pass went flying back past me. It felt like about 20 minutes that I was sitting there but looking at my GPS data it was in fact 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, 197 riders re-passed me.

I soon realised I would have a long wait for anyone to pick me up so I decided to get back on the bike and roll back down to Nice. It was pretty much downhill all the way so it wouldn't take much effort. On the advice of a teammate who passed me on the way doen, I took a big drink of coke at the next feed station and by the time I hit the last flat section I had enough energy to pedal the last few miles back.

Bike 06:00:24

Transition 2

I had dicided to pull out when I got back to transition but when I was handed my running shoes I decided to just put them on and walk for a while.

Total transition 00:05:22

The run

I felt better than expected and kept drinking coke at every opportunity. I managed to get running and just kept slogging away. The miles kept going by and I just kept moving to the end.

I made one big mistake in the run. It was hot as expected and I went for the cold showers that had been set up along the course. Running through these was great in terms of cooling me down but my shoes soon filled with water. Wet shoes = big blister problems. Towards the end the blisters were the main factor slowing me down, although the usual stomach cramps (made worse by the coke) were also a big problem.

I finished the marathon in 04:04:04 to give me a total race time of 11:41:14. My worst Ironman time, but considering how bad I felt during the bike, possibly the most rewarding to finish.

Run 04:04:04

Overall 11:41:14 position 863 (163 M30)

The morning after...

The feet were definitely sore from the blisters and my back and shoulders were sore from the sunburn, but otherwise I felt fine. Amazingly my legs didn’t feel tired at all; I guess I didn’t push them as hard as I normally would have done due to all the other problems. Should be a quick recovery and then back into training again.

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RT @UKuncut: Cameron in Pakistan: "rich people there arn't paying much tax, that's not fair" http://bit.ly/f4BKUC #ukuncut
05/04/2011 12:44:10
#ff here's one for all the #triathlon fans out there. #thriathlete @todd_leckie who we hope will be competing at London 2012 #olympics
25/03/2011 09:45:29
Can't wait for my new specialized stumpjumper HT mountain bike to arrive next week.
20/10/2010 16:06:48
A new Challenge race in the UK mid September next year! Would it be too much to do this and IMUK next year? http://www.challengehenley.com/
21/09/2010 19:18:53
Thinking about main race targets for next year. How does this sound?... London marathon, Ironman UK and South Downs Way 100 mile (run).
16/08/2010 19:33:36

Hey, check out Mat's
personal best times...

5 km 00:17:49
5 miles 00:28:54
10 km 00:36:58
10 miles 01:03:28
half marathon 01:20:37
30 km 02:04:01
marathon 02:59:55
54 miles 08:50:55 (L2B)
100 km 11:35:53
100 miles 20:42:36
145 miles 42:06:00 (GUCR)
24 hours 181.1 km (track)

Olympic Tri 02:18:34
Half Ironman 05:04:21
Ironman Tri 10:49:39