That was a different kettle of fish altogether really wasn't it!
First half ironman raced yesterday and it was a hard hard race.
Headed up to Groomsport on the Saturday and got a practice swim in.
Coach Eanna from Base 2 Race had made the trip also along with fellow B2R Coached Athlete Jennifer Duffy. We did some sighting and couple in and outs on the beach to familiarise for the race which was a 2 lap affair starting from the beach out to 3 buoys and back in over timing mat and around again.
We had a drive around the bike course and looked nice - mainly rolling and a couple of junctions but decent overall. Shame to have a couple of traffic lights that we had to obey but what can you do on an open road bike course.
We then had a look at half the run course which was primarily trail and twists and rough surface. Nothing that you don't find in Wicklow training sessions so went in knowing it would be a hard race but one I was prepared for.
Grabbed some grub in Pier 36 - owned by a triathlete also and busy place with nice food - recommended.
Back to check in to B & B then in Holywood which was about 20 mins away so grand.
Up at race morning and first down for breakfast. I met with Matt Molloy and his Dad as I was leaving - both very nice men and good to talk to.
Matt was hands down favourite for this race in my opinion but we all had to try challenge him anyway!
So into transition, set up on numbered rack and set off on warm up run to look at second part of run course - again trail surface with more beach before doubling back on road for a few km.
Met up with Eoin McManus here who had the same idea but we both soon realised we underestimated the route a little.
Ended up being over 5.5km but we got back with 30 mins to spare and knew the course fully so grand.
Race start then after a short swim warm up and we were all called out of the water to the beach start.
First mistake - I had encountered a couple rocks going into the water - so came out more to the left where it was clear but the faster line was on the right of the beach.
I should have ran over but didn't and certainly missed the front bunch so not the best start.
It was a long day ahead though so no need to panic.
Swam very much within my limits here I'd say.
I got a few drafts that were perhaps a little slow than I was capable of and didn't really push the swim.
This being my first half I was conscious to pace it but do think I can push the swim more for next time. I got my hand caught in the net at 2 buoy's as well just to add to the amateur hour! Bridged back up to the same feet each time though which said it all so I'll be pushing harder next time.
Swim - 30:40 - 29/166
So out of the water some 6 mins down on Matt Molloy with some chasing to do.
Goggles up, wetsuit down to waist as I ran into transition.
Had to pull the legs of wetsuit off as usual but seemed to do this quick enough and was out in no time.
My best T1 time ranking yet!
T1 - 1:27 - 3/166 (exc relays!)
Out onto the bike - did a standard mount and had feet in shoes for the short climb onto main road.
Strapped in then and set about the work.
Now this is where it get's interesting. Normally my bike is out hard and sustain to the end.
With this being 93.5km, a long day at the office and needing a half marathon in the legs at the end the plan was easy first lap, try negative split for second and then match for 3rd lap.
So I set out easy, passed maybe 5-10 bikes before coming up to what can only be described as pelotons! Groups of 4-6 with no care and cruising behind each other!
I stayed well back, and actually more by cause as had cars in between me which couldn't get past the group. I took this opportunity to get my nutriition in early.
First up was a Powerbar maybe 15 mins from start of bike. Had 3/4's of this and couldn't get god damn wrapper down so stuffed it in back pocket for later.
Maybe 20 mins later as I was in traffic of cars again behind group of bikes I started into my 2nd nutrition which was a Kinetica Cola Gel. mmmm. Delicious!
So that's around 60g of carbs and combined this with my Hi 5 in the Shiv's Bladder to make around 100g for the first hour. Sorted. Felt good and no issues.
Passed the groups heading up the drags as I made a couple pushes so as not to lose anymore time.
Considered pointing at wheels saying ah lads but figured no point and preferred to push to avoid any latching on to mine!
It's here I go over an almighty bump that wasn't clear on the road. Despite it looking like a good surface there were a lot of divots and hidden bumps for bikes. I hit a hard one and my saddle actually dips down so it's angled down. I try to adjust but can't be done. Very strange and just one of those things. It's not affecting my position much and not causing an issue so on we go.
Now as I'm nearing end of first lap there's a right hand turn that turns into Groomsport village where we started.
I read the course map, I knew the route, it clearly stated Turn Right into Groomsport at end of each lap, past the Village for commencement of each lap or take another turn right again down into transition if finishing at end of 3rd lap.
I have it here in front of me and it says complete lap in centre of village with straight on for next lap or turn right into car park/transition if 3rd lap.
Did I miss a change of bike course at race briefing in transition? I don't think so.
Does the online bike course printed say 2007 Bike Course - yes and this is the only one still available right now on the Half Ireman website.
Am I expected to know the course is different - was it different last year as well? Should I have reacted faster seeing spectators and aid station ahead and assumed course print out wrong and I was to go straight also?
So as I said, at end of first lap I'm turning right into Groomsport, look ahead at an aid station if I had gone straight thinking is that for the full ironman course or what?
Friendly spectators were shouting at me, I said is it straight then and apparently so.
So that's all too late, I've made my right so onto brakes and u turn and back out to junction, car stops on other side to let me out thankfully and I'm back on my way.
Time lost estimated 30-40 seconds. I repass the ironman athlete over the hill and set on.
This aid station had timing mats set up so clearly was the planned route.
Be nice to highlight this in the Bike Course online which folk print out and go through in their heads. It obviously wasn't a last minute change and I didn't hear any mention at all during race briefing other than be careful at the staggered junctions and stop at red lights or be DQ'd and motorbike marshals would have video camera's for drafting violations etc. Drafting was a 5 min penalty under middle distance rules - See, I was listening to Race Briefing so a bit annoyed at this simple mistake from them in my opinion.
It was a 4.5 hour race though so didn't let it get to me, continued on and left at next roundabout to head down the dual carriageways and on again.
I pass Peter Kern on the left here who shouts 5th place (I think) so I had made up some decent ground.
So I try to up the pace a bit now on second lap, however the wind has picked up substantially and we face a strong headwind for most of that lap. It didn't turn to a tailwind either on way back unfortunately.
Back to nutrition, I had my 3rd energy shot courtesy of Powerbar Ride Shots - cola flavour thanks.
These provide more carbs than a normal gel and I like them so managed to open the pack and stuff a bunch into the gob! I also stuffed remaining pack into my other back pocket now for later.
I continued drinking as planned - had high 5 in both bladder and bottle and was fine with these.
Around to end of lap and straight on this time... clock my split and it's pretty much bang on the exact same as first lap. Ok so good pacing so far, wind had affected that lap and I knew it would have been faster otherwise.
Onto Lap 3 and pass Peter Kern again, this time it's 4th place and 2nd and 3rd just ahead I think. Matt Molloy is 8 mins ahead is the split! Ouch he's taken 2 mins on my bike for a very nice lead.
Eanna is out on course and also giving me splits.
I like to get feedback and know what's happening if at all possible.
I pass 2nd and 3rd on the last lap and try to make a push to get a gap. I don't look back but feel I've made enough effort to have a little gap into T2.
I take a fruit punch kinetica gel - one of the new super dooper ones with more carbs than normal.
Man does it taste disgusting! Almost has an alcoholic twinge off it and really not nice at all!
Back to a couple cola bottles and bottle of hi 5 to wash that away thanks!
My bottle is nearly empty now and I'm around 5-10k from finish so all has gone to plan.
I feel strong, very much a controlled bike split which I could have pushed harder but conscious of the run.
I will say that due to taking in energy and food etc, you naturally ease off a little when opening packs and consuming gels etc. This for me breaks up the bike split and almost provides recovery etc.
This makes me wonder if I gave away too much time, particularly on the first lap as I stayed well back from groups and got caught in traffic of cars.
I'll learn this with experience, but think perhaps a small bit of extra effort on bike whilst staying controlled may be the way to go.
Near end of 3rd lap now and I get passed by Rory Maguire and Conan Gibney.
They obviously made a little push and I must not have got enough of a gap so I paced off them into T2.
The 3 of us arrived into T2 at the same time to be told we were 8 mins down on Matt Molloy and let's see if any of these guys are runnners!
Bike - 2:33:26 - 3/166
So into Transition 2, bike racked, helmet off, shoes on grab gels (3) and off I go.
I made this pretty fast and again had another great transition split.
T2 - :48 - 2/166 (ex Relays)
Now, the race starts!
I exit ahead of Rory and Conan, and head out putting my gels into back pockets and running with 3rd gel in hand.
Rory closes on me within first km and we're running out hard.
First km in 3:46 with a slight incline, Rory is trying to edge away and I'm trying to hold with him.
Left into Caravan park and onto gravel, around park and onto trail.
Rory is maybe 20-30 yards ahead and I'm pacing him as close as possible.
We run across beach and around transition - 2nd km in 4:09 and 3rd km in 3:51.
4th km in around transition and we get time splits - we've clawed back 4mins on Matt Molloy in the first 4km. Eek!
Onto second part of run which is more challenging, more trail, more beach and just tougher all round.
Rory edges a little up to 50 yards on me as we approach an aid station before the loop back.
I notice Rory slow here and seemed to cramp. I was aware he had issues recently in Challenge Roth and so had hopes of something similar (Sorry Rory!). I approached aid station and slowed the pace to get a cup of coke and high 5 here. I had called for water and considered the high 5 over the head but said that may not be best! Drank the 2/tried to nom some gulps as much as possible :-)
Set after Rory now and he had pulled back to 50-60yards on me god damn it.
Kept pushing and had a chance to look down at 4th place. I had a slight gap of maybe 1minute so that helped and I tried to keep pushing.
Around to lap 2 now and Rory is getting away from me comfortably, I'm suffering but keeping up the cadence and taking gels every 25 minutes and feel in good shape.
I get another split passing transition and another 2 mins has been shaved off Matt Molloy.
Through the hard section to aid station and I look up to see Matt just being caught by Rory - they are approx 2-3 mins ahead of me roughly.
I get through aid station and see that 4th place is closing on me also!
Ok, let's push now last 5km, anything could happen ahead or behind so I stay in the zone.
Try to push it up, and manage to increase pace for remaining 5km but not by enough.
With 1.5-2km to go I get passed by Peter Savage, he asks me am I on 1st or 2nd lap! 2nd how about you! same, is Matt ahead he asks? Yes and Rory.
He cruises past me and I try to push more to go with him.
Not enough but I keep pushing to the end.
Across the finish line 30 seconds after him and the 4 of us are flat on our backs panned out.
Run - 1:28:39 - 7/166 (exc relay)
Total - 4:33:33 - 4th Place Overall
A hard hard run for a long day in the office.
I'll be honest, 4th place is one of the worst places to finish surely!!
It's more the way it came about though, getting passed in the last 2km was just vicious.
Peter ran 1:30 faster than me so obviously paced it well and fair play to him.
One relief was the race went well, my first half ironman and I felt I got nutrition right.
Without a doubt the main lesson is I went out too hard on the run.
I didn't really know what pace to expect on that course and it was tough but rewarding all the same.
I did bag 2nd in my Age Group which I'm told will get me a medal at the TI awards due to it being National Championships so happy with this also.
So back for showers and into pub upstairs for prize giving and food.
The food was sausage rolls, chicken goujons and sandwiches.
I took my fill and started to feel better. The shower definitely helped also.
Prize giving started and just the top 3 in male, female and full ironman announced.
I had hoped for an Age Group prize also as I believe this is part of TI's National Series rules but nothing was mentioned by the organisers.
Big Congrats to B2R Athlete Jennifer Duffy on winning the Female National Middle Distance Championships and having a great race altogether. She nailed it. Well deserved.
Also to Aoife Lynch from Pulse on her 2nd place - and congratulated Jen on a fantastic race.
That's one of the things I love about triathlon - everyone is so down to earth and has no airs or graces about them. We all do this for the love of the sport and everyone goes through the suffering no matter what time or speed is put down.
On that note I must say great racing to Rory Maguire, Matt Molloy and Peter Savage. It was great being amongst you guys for a little bit of the race anyway and hopefully we'll do battle again in the future - with different results clearly!
I remember crossing the finish line in 4th and seeing the 3 lads collapsed on their backs on the grass. What did I do? The exact same. Great racing guys and nice to meet you.
No photo's taken of the top 3 at the prize giving which also seemed a bit of a boo boo by organiser's.
So I come away with mixed feelings towards Groomsport.
- Nice place
- Nice course - hard run by any standards but hey same for everyone.
- Race went smoothly and transition/aid stations seemed organised etc.
- Police were at staggered junction to guide us safely through
- Race Medal for all finishers
- Nice hoodie in goodie bag
- Having to stop at red lights/no marshal to see us through
- No photo's at prize giving
- No Age Group prizes
- No cash prizes even for the winners (stated on their site). Seems a bit harsh in my opinion considering their income of around €17k from the half alone.
For a National Championships Race I think these areas should be improved.
So the above are just my opinion based on my experience.
I do think that TI are recognizing these issues in other races also based on the athlete feedback recently completed and also the Athlete Consultation meeting on this week.
So roll on Galway 70.3 in 2 weeks. Very much looking forward to it and now have some experience to relate to for the distance.
I'll be mostly recovering before going for broke for an Age Group slot for Vegas World Champs next season.