A quick Recap
I am addicted to triathlon and I love to race! Especially in middle distance triathlons (a.k.a half Ironman). My first long distance race was Ironman Bolton in the UK in 2012 where I set a national record for being the youngest Gibraltarian to complete an Ironman. The following year I represented Great Britain at the ETU European Long Distance Championships in Vichy, France in 2013 where I finished 6th in my age-group. The last long distance triathlon I took part in was the 2014 ITU World Long Distance Championships where I finished 7th in my age-group.
Since 2014, I had it in my mind that I would attempt another Ironman but never really pinned down on a race. After having moved to California in late 2015, I was exploring race venues that were local to me. But I was open to other race venues too and was therefore contemplating between Boulder and Santa Rosa. Since I had never been to Boulder, I thought I would race there and get to visit a new city! I knew that Boulder was at a high altitude but I took it as an additional challenge!
It’s About The Journey; Not The Destination
I began ramping up my training around December 2016 which allowed enough time to build endurance, strength and speed. This year in particular, I paid more attention to my recovery. I ensured I ate the right types of food at the right time and emphasized on getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Ok, this Tiramisu Crepe may not be the perfect example of “eating the right type of food” but hey, we all deserve a cheat meal every once in a while right??!! 😉
In previous years I rattled through my training without much consideration for recovery. I learnt that training with a tired body only leads to an increased risk of injury and burn out!
I had a solid winter of training. My first race was the Surf City Half Marathon in Feb 2017 in which I had a spectacular result! You can read the full race report here but to summarize, I smashed my 5km, 10km, 10mile and half marathon PB’s all in one race! I don’t know where it came from but I was definitely feeling very strong that morning! Similarly, I took part in the Wings For Life World Run (click here for race report) which also went exceptionally well.
I couldn’t have asked for a better season of training and the results from the events described above reflected the changes I had made to my training schedule. Moreover, I had taken the time to analyze and calculate my nutritional needs for Ironman Boulder and practiced my pacing and nutrition strategy in my training. I did 2 long bike/run brick sessions in the lead up to the race.
The first session was 112km bike followed by a 26km run. I did this in April as my first test and I’m happy I did it because I had to go back to the drawing board to figure out my nutrition. The bike ride was strong and so was the first 15km of the run. But the last 10km of the run I was struggling to keep my pace and it was a slippery slope for the last 5km of the run. But it’s ok! That’s why we need to practice in training right?!?!
With some lessons learnt and some adjustments to my nutrition strategy, I did a longer bike/run brick session 3 weeks before Ironman Boulder. This time I biked 140km and ran 26km. It was a long day in lycra but I had an awesome session! I nailed the pacing and nutrition and finished the run wanting to run more!
I was very confident that I would be able to execute at Ironman Boulder if I stuck to my plan. I knew I had done everything in my capacity to best prepare for the race. I had several months of solid training under my belt and had practiced my pacing and nutrition. Sounds easy right? But not quite…
The Big Day!
I got off to a great start with the swim with a 1hr 2min split. That is two minutes faster than my previous best in 2013! I liked how the swim waves were set off based on expected finishing time rather than age-group. Basically, the swim waves grouped athletes of similar ability which avoids the traditional “washing machine experience” that normally happens when the swim waves are based on age-group (due to the varying swim abilities of the athletes in the age group).
With a strong start in the swim, I set off on the three lap bike course. It was tough with plenty of hills and rollers but the race director was kind enough to throw in a few very fast flat sections! I took the first lap a bit harder than I intended probably due to the adrenaline and excitement of having a solid start with the swim. My aim was to ride at a power between 150-155 watts. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of power, it enables athletes to instantaneously monitor their input when training or racing. Therefore by keeping within your power zone, you will have expended the right amount of energy which would then theoretically leave you with legs fresh enough to run a marathon.
On my first lap, I averaged 158 watts. Although it’s only a few watts higher, it can lead to great consequences in long distance triathlons. I saw it, I felt it, and I took the corrective action. I therefore took the last two laps a little easier to conserve energy for the run, which is my forte. The second lap I averaged 145 watts and the third lap I averaged 150 watts.
I also received a 5 minute penalty for “littering”. At one of the aid stations, I threw my water bottle a few meters outside the “trash zone”. There were plenty of empty bottles where I threw mine and thought it wouldn’t be an issue… But the referee showed me a blue card and I had to serve the penalty 😡
The run started off superbly as I was feeling strong and hitting my intended pace. I was ensuring I stayed hydrated and fueling as planned. The two loop run course was made up of loads of small rollers and the crowd was awesome! After completing the first lap, I slowed down a bit as I was beginning to feel the fatigue. But I knew that if I continued to jog, I would get to the finish line in good time. At mile 18 I walked through the aid station to take some water when all of a sudden I began losing my balance. A volunteer advised to see the medical tent as the medics could provide me with some glucose and salt. I followed the advice and began walking over to see the medics when I collapsed on the grass. I struggled to get back up and the medics had to escort me into the shade and sit me down. At this point I knew that I was in trouble. The medic provided me with some salt water but out of nowhere I began vomiting. The medic advised for me to not continue. I was adamant that I would walk the remaining 8 miles to get to the finish line. At this point I didn’t care about my finishing time or my finishing position. I just wanted to finish. The medic advised against it and I knew that he was right. I had to prioritize my health over the race.
So I was taken back to the start line and that was it for me 😔
I’m disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed by the result. It doesn’t do any justice to the amount of training I have put in over the winter. I practiced my pacing, nutrition and my results from earlier this year showed that I was in good shape for Ironman Boulder.
I’ve been through an emotional roller coaster ride but as they say; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
I’ll definitely be back to redeem myself and show what I’m truly capable of achieving.
Watch this space!
Oh I forgot to mention, I got a chance to meet two amazing triathletes at the expo! Do you know who they are?
I want to take the opportunity to thank my girlfriend Sibylle for pushing me to do my early morning swims and late evening runs when I would at times feel lazy after a long day in the office. Getting to the start line in his shape wouldn’t have been possible without her!