Saturday, 23 May 2015

Immortal Triathlon - Keeping it Together

The Immortal half iron triathlon is a race I avoided from writing about last year, Although it was likely the race that shaped my season the most. It was a race that saw me leading all the way until 19km into the run then having a total melt down in the final kilometres to eventually finish 4th. Although extremely disappointed at the time it gave me the opportunity to look at my training and make the changes that ultimately lead to what was otherwise a very successful race year.

For 2015 things were a bit different. Going into the race and I was talking things down, having not been very consistent in training until the final month before the race I was unsure whether I had the fitness to race a hard half iron distance event well and with last year's race in the back of my mind I had no clue what to expect.

The Lake At Stourhead

Race week wasn't a full in taper with some solid sessions going in but was backed off a bit to give me half a chance of racing well and by Saturday morning I was feeling pretty good and relaxed. Saturday was spent with the family in the day doing a bit of shopping and enjoying lunch together followed by heading to Stourhead to register and watch the sprint race on the saturday evening. A fellow Bustinskin athlete Andy, who I have been coaching for this year was competing and had a great race storming to a solid 6th place overall and it was great to watch him and everyone else race before heading off to try and get some sleep.

Sunday mornings alarm went off at 4.30 and it was straight down to business with breakfast and a coffee before waking the kids and getting us all into the car. A few songs from the Jungle Book on the drive to the race and we arrived in good time and good spirits! I set up transition and put on my new Zone 3 Vanquish wetsuit before heading down to the lake for the briefing and start. Just as Lisa was zipping my wetsuit up she pointed out I had forgotten my timing chip, drama number 1! It was too close to the start to run back to find it now but I notified the timing guys and there was nothing left to do but get in the water and hope things sorted themselves out.

A quick swim warm up in the cool lake to flush the wetsuit through and we were called back to the start line to get going, I was feeling fairly relaxed at this point and even managed to wish some friends good luck before the count down was on.  Straight off the start and starting from the front row it was clear water and a straight drag to the first buoy. I didn't seem to have much pop off the line but hit a solid pace and soon noticed there were 2 or 3 swimmers starting to move away off the front. Round the first buoy and I was sitting just behind the front 2 who were about 20 metres ahead. I felt good and was working hard but was comfortable with it and by the end of the first lap had managed to latch onto the feet of the swimmer in second who slowly dragged me back towards the guy who was leading.  By the end of the second lap the three of us had pretty much come together and exited one after each other.  Dragged out the lake by the awesome volunteers and the only flat part of the race was now done! The run to T1 is long and uphill all the way, I had opted to go bare foot and set off up the hill towards my bike. I Unzipped my wetsuit and got my arms out very smoothly and as I rounded the corner there was lisa holding out my timing chip. Into T1 and the bottom half of my Zone 3 suit flew off in Impressive style. Timing chip on slowly followed by socks and race belt and finally helmet I had not been smooth through transition and after entering 2nd was exiting 5th.

Exiting the swim and starting the long run to transition
The run to the mount line was over some bumpy grass and within only a few metres my rear bottle ejected itself from my cage, drama number 2 and not a good start.  I stopped to gather it and mounted my bike. Only seconds down the road and my front bottle this time thought it would get in on the action and had a go at escaping. After stopping to collect that one I was hoping this wasn't going to be the theme of the day.  Settling into my aero position and power I felt alright and quickly rode my way back into second place before the first time down the fast descent at the begging of the lap. As the speed increased both bottle simultaneously made a bid for freedom. Screeching to a halt i parked my bike on the verge and ran back up the hill to get them back again only to see the two guys I just passed flying the other way. I got one bottle back but the lid had blown off the other one and the contents gone.

I kept as calm as I could and decided that I just needed to settle back into my planned power and ride my race managing the situation as best as possible. The time was flying by and I got myself back into second but with no sight of the lead.  On the longer climb around the back of the lap I caught my first glimpse of the lead but wasn't making much ground on him. I stopped for a bottle at the aid station and by the end of the first lap had just about closed in on the lead.  Just before the descent again on lap 2 I took first place and aimed to keep holding my power target. Towards the bottom of the descent doing a descent speed I had a quick look over my shoulder to see of second was still close only for the wind to catch under the visor of my new helmet and send it flying off behind me drama number 3. I let it go and just put my head down and just focused on staying calm and riding my race.  The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful I stuck to my power plan, took my gels and was heading back to T2 feeling much better than 12 months previously although missing a visor and promising myself I would buy the best bottle cages out there.

Running into T2 first is great fun and a good crowd was starting to gather on the hill with the atmosphere building. A much smoother transition this time round and it was run time. My feet were freezing from the bike and felt like I was running on planks of wood but I settled in quickly, stuffed some more gels in my pocket and put my garmin on. The three lap run course consists of initially running 3 or so km gradually uphill before descending steeply down through the woods and onto some nice paths before coming out on the road again by the lake and climbing the steep hill back to transition/next lap/finish line.

Completing one of the run Laps
Lap 1 passed uneventfully, I felt pretty good and was surprised at my running pace, going up the hill at the end of the lap and passing the family going onto lap 2 I was feeling strong and my feet had just about defrosted. Quick drink at the aid station and onto lap 2, up the long hill a few seconds a km slower than lap 1 but still holding a solid pace for me and I was able to let loose on the descent a bit better, arms flying everywhere down the steep path but enjoying the trail running greatly and with people now out on lap 1 there was always someone to chase down. Out by the lake again and up the hill at the end of the lap and that time it definitely stung a little more but I knew there was only 1 lap left to run or a little over 30 mins and I would be done. 

I was slower again by a few seconds a km up the long hill but took my final gel at the top and set off down through the woods. The gel didn't sit well though and was causing some serious stitch type pain in my side, for a short while I thought it was going to get the better of me but I knew I just had to get down to the lake and onto the hill where the crowds were and I would be home.  Once at the bottom I tried to have a look behind me to see if anyone was there but it was hard to work out which lap runners behind me were on.  The final time up the hill from the lake and this time heading to the finish was pretty painful but it soon faded as I hit the finish chute and crossed the line having held everyone off for the whole run and held onto 1st with a much improved performance from 12 months prior.
Crossing the Line
I saw lisa and the kids and watched the other Bustinskin guys finish their races and then enjoyed prize giving and presentation. Some awesome prizes on offer including one for fastest bike split, something that more events should do but I'm certainly a bit biased about this! Putting on the helmet was good fun and soon enough it was time to pack up and head for home. Leaving the beautiful Stourhead estate very satisfied with my performance and excited about the year to come.  A good few lessons learnt this race and proving that although things didn't go smoothly I can keep my head together,  not do anything stupid and focus on executing the best race possible in the circumstances I'm in.

Rocking the Helmet
Thank you to everyone who cheered and supported me on the day and to the race organisers and volunteers for a great event, a massive thank you to Lisa and the kids who after 8 months since my last race were up and going far to early in the morning and supported the loudest all day and finally to the people who are backing me this year Zone 3 wetsuits, Amphibia sports gear and Bustinskin Events you guys all rock, I can confidently say that I will be back in 2016.