After six months of getting myself physically ready and probably the same mentally, I have successfully completed the Ironman 70.3 Dublin in a time of 5 hours and 22 minutes, well above my expectations. It has been a long slog, however the day couldn’t have gone better.
It was an early start the day before the race, with bike to be racked in transition, register for the race and place all the relevant bags in transition. The registration was a smooth process, probably made easier the fact I was there at 9am just as the registration tent had opened. In registration pack I also received my transition bags for my run, cycle and post race clothing. The run and cycle bags had to be left in the transition tented area, in specific drop off points against your race number, the day before the race. I had simplified by packing my transition kit in separate bags before I left home, meaning all I needed to do was double check I had everything and swap my kit in to the 70.3 specific bags.
After bike was racked and transition bags were dropped, managed by 10am, I was able to take part in the short practise swim. This was only a 400 metre swim however it was great to experience the water temperature and entry point for the following morning. After that, it was time to relax. The organisation on the Saturday was fantastic meaning there was no stress, the only thing I didn’t leave in transition was water bottles as I was able to leave these on the bike the following morning.
Once everything was in transition there was nothing to do bar have something to eat in a local cafe as I wanted to ensure during the day I ate little and often, I didn’t want to try and consume a massive carb load during dinner time and feel it still in my stomach the following morning. I had read a number of blogs and articles which recommended gradual increase in calories and intake the couple of days previously rather than a ‘splurge’ the night before. After an omelette and some eggs it was back to the hotel for feet up, tv and some relaxation. Thats sounds easy but it wasn’t, I had to persuade myself constantly not to go to the pool, I knew I wouldn’t just go and swim a couple of lengths, I would probably swim for 30 minutes, exercise that wasn’t needed a day before the big race.
After a dinner of pasta and bread, the light was turned off at 10pm with an alarm call of 4:55 to get breakfast and leave the hotel for 6am as I was in the water at 7am.
The morning arrived and after a swift breakfast I was in the car on the way to the start line. I stopped in to transition to put my water bottles on to the bike, filled one with water and the other with two electrolyte tablets, and check the tyre pressure. Once that was done it was head to the start line.
I started in the wave after the professional athletes and the one thing that jumped out, it wasn’t a free for all like many olympic triathlons I have taken part in, it was a civilised start. People almost accepted that taking their time in to the water wasn’t going to make a massive difference to their finish time over the next 70.3 miles. The fact I had been for the practise swim the day before was incredibly helpful, I knew the water temperature so there was no shock. I quickly settled in to the 1.2 mile swim and being able to breath on both sides made a massive difference as I was able to sight based upon people on either side of me. I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself in the swim, typically a 1.2 mile swim would take about 40-43 minutes in the pool and I based my time on that. I mentally prepared myself for swimming for at least 40 minutes. As I navigated my way round the buoys I managed to avoid any free for alls that you typically get in open watering swimming when moving round buoys. The swim involved three turns, with the first turn after about 2/3 of the distance. On the last turn before heading towards shore and the exit, I looked at my watch and realised I had only been swimming for 32 minutes, pulling myself out of the water in 35 minutes. I was over the moon that the swim had gone so smoothly, I didn’t feel pressure in any shape of form or get stuck weaving through a bunch of swimmers.
I didn’t rush myself to transition, this was going to be a long day and it was a case of conserve energy when possible. Transition bags were in a tented area, with you bag on a peg against your number. I had debated a number of things in my cycle bag but had settled on a number of essentials and possible items depending upon weather and how I felt. Essentials of helmet, cycle shoes and cycling glasses went in immediately. I also packed a small towel to dry my feet; cycle gloves as I thought they would be helpful for comfort on a long cycle; a pair of socks as I thought given the long cycle and run especially I didn’t want bare feet rubbing against shoes; castelli gabba short sleeve cycle jersey which on reflection was a brilliant idea as it kept me warm and dry when the rain came in for a while and during the head wind at the start of the cycle, especially when you are just out of the water from the swim, I didn’t fancy a cycle just in my tri-suit; for nutrition three SIS gels, SIS energy bar and a Soreen banana bread; and finally my Castelli nano flex arm warmers which I didn’t take with me and left in my transition bag. I took the wetsuit, goggles and swim gap off, put the fresh clothes and other kit on and placed my bag back on my numbered peg.
Next the bike, a 56 mile cycle on relatively flat roads through Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Maynooth. From speaking to people who took part in 2015 and reading blogs, the course would have two steep hills around the half way point, this was something that was in my mind starting off. This was also the first course and race that I started with my new aero Prime wheels from Chain Reactions. This would be the main test on how beneficial the investment was, and potential risk if it didn’t pay off. The weather started off perfect for the cycle with a slight headwind, but nothing that was going to cause any problems, if anything it was comforting to know it may be on my back on the way back in to Dublin. My average speed for the first 10 miles was 19.5mph (31kmph in new money), however I was aware from the course elevation map the first 10 miles were very flat. I was also anxious about going off too quickly and ‘bonking’ at half way. I made a point of taking on a gel almostly immediately on the bike to ensure I replaced the energy used for the swim, baring in the mind my swim time was very fast. After an hour I my average speed was still over 19mph and I felt good, cycling up one short steep climb lasting only about a quarter of a mile but passing a number of cyclists on full tri-bikes. There were plenty of fuel stops on the cycle ride with helpers handing out bottled water and food, meaning I didn’t even have to get off the bike. After 1hr 30minutes I needed the toilet and took the opportunity to get off the bike and take a quick toilet break, this was even helpful in stretching out the back. When I got back on the bike my average speed had dropped to 18.9mph but only due to the stop. The rain started to come in after 30 miles, however the conditions were still perfect, the rain was a cooling effect and the Castelli gabba jersey was keeping me dry. Before I realised it 2 hours had passed and I was well over half way, the aero wheels were paying for themselves as my ability to keep my speed high without feeling the need to push or overwork my legs.
My mind started thinking back to the elevation map and if it was correct I was now all gradually downhill or flat to the run transition at Phoenix Park. I continued on putting in about 70% energy, with my average speed starting to climb again part 19mph, when I entered Phoenix park my average was above 19.5mph and I felt fresh. I was determined not to start thinking about finish times, even though running was my strongest discipline, I still had to run 13.1 miles, it was still a half marathon and I was not going to jump ahead of myself!
Transition from the bike to the run went seamless, it was extremely straight forward. I racked my bike against my number and then made my way to the tented area to pick up my transition bag. The run transition bag was extremely light, it only included my running shoes and a clean pair of socks which I didn’t use. I simply placed in to the bag my cycle jersey, I would run in my tri-suit, cycle shoes, cycle gloves and helmet. Once I had put them in the bag, put my running shoes on, placed the transition bag back on the numbered hook and off I went. Transition was a little over 4 minutes and I joining the running course, a flat course consisting of three laps of Phoenix Park.
The run started off well, I was determined not to go off at my typical olympic triathlon pace, especially as in an olympic distance I only have to run 6 miles and am running sub 7 minute miles. My first four miles I ‘bounced’ along determined to slow myself down averaging pace between 7:10 and 7:40 minute miles. The first lap went as well as expected and seeing my folks at the end of the first lap gave me a extra push. At mile 7 I could start to feel the day starting to catch up with me to a point. To stay positive I knew I was only six miles from the end and I had run 6 miles over 100 times in the previous two years, 6 miles was an easy run! However at 8 miles I felt a slight stomach cramp and visited the portaloo thinking I may need the toilet, however a false alarm! After the toilet stop my pace picked up again and I avoid gels on the run as I didn’t want to risk upsetting my stomach given I had a couple of cramps, but looking back that may have been due to being hungry, slight dehydration or just simply needing some food.
As I finished the second lap I passed the finishing line and knew one more lap and I was done. This was the point I allowed myself to look at my overall time and start to think about a possible finishing time. I knew a sub 5hr 30 min was within my grasp but I still wasn’t getting excited. My experience knew how hitting the wall with only 3 to 4 miles to run can affect your pace, I still remembered London marathon two years pervious where a personal best was within grasp, smashing a previous personal best, but after hitting the wall at mile 23, a visit to St Johns Ambulance at the end was required.
With 2 miles to go I felt a twinge in my right ankle and no longer had that disappeared I felt my left ankle, I simply put it down to the body feeling the force of the day.
At 5hours 22mins I cross the line, and I must admit it was better than finishing any marathon, I had completed an Ironman 70.3, something I could have only wished for in my wildest dreams. This was tougher and more intense than any marathon I had ran previously but I had finished it in a time better than I could have expected. Overall I finished 451 out of over 2,000 people.
Overall my official times:
- Swim 36 mins 3 seconds
- Transition swim to bike 7 mins 10 seconds
- Cycle 2hrs 53 mins 6 seconds
- Transition cycle to run 5 mins 30 seconds
- Run 5hrs 22 mins 43 seconds
- Overall 5hrs 22mins 43 seconds