Well this season has flown by hasn’t it, the main goal for the season here already... Qualify in my Age Group for a Vegas World 70.3 Championships slot in 2013 at my first attempt in Galway IM 70.3.
Was I aiming too high? I’m just over 2 years (Aug’10) since my first triathlon and I started to take training seriously from there. This year I’ve stepped things up a notch further and been fortunate enough to gain a slot in the Base 2 Race Coaching Group – with Eanna McGrath guiding a group of us towards a couple of common goals.
Racking bike in transition and I notice some bloke had the cheek to turn up with the same bike as mine here too... A nice Juicy Red Specialized Shiv Tri and he was only in for the relay! What a Joker!! He came down with Coach as well I don’t know where he picks them up... I went to shake his hand and he signed his autograph on my palm - who does he think he is?? Went by the name of Mr Noble I think, I’m sure I recognise him from somewhere... he’s probably a follower of my twitter or something... He hung around for lunch too with some mad Vodafone lady... Don’t get me started on Anne... (I’m only watching the F1 here as I type... but it’s ok I know the winner don’t I Anne...??!) – all good as it was Jenson!
Disclaimer - anyone who knows Gavin Noble knows I'm exaggerating for the sake of a story... The man's a gent and it was a pleasure to meet him.
Anyway, back to more this race report...
I arrived at swim start with about 15 mins to start – usually earlier but no panic and a short allocated warm up swim until just beforehand so got wetsuit on and packed up white bag for transition.
Down into water for warm up to start line. I kept to the left of the gang in order to try get a direct line to the first large buoy. Speaking of which, I was in the large wave of 18-34 males. If you imagine my AG 30-34 was over 200 so figured there was near 350 or so in this wave - this comes to fruition very shortly...
The horn goes and we’re off. Immediate bashing and even though I’m at the front there’s always a bit of it. Feel a few digs as usual nothing major and get sighting, I do notice after 100m or so that there seems to be a group out towards the right – there was a smaller buoy to the right of the main buoy that some pro’s seemed to head towards but in my head it was clear to the big buoy first. I lost feet as a result and had a choice of join them or stick on line in my sighting anyway. I stayed my own course and swam mostly on my own as a result. A group came together at the turn buoys and as we headed back towards last buoy the chop picked up and it was a bit slower for the last few hundred metres. I sighted regularly and didn’t think there was too many ahead, so thought I swam reasonably well.
Out of the water, onto beach and begin the long run from there into transition – all carpeted thankfully which was impressive and seemed to help the feet compared to normal. I looked down at my Garmin as I crossed the first swim timing mat and to my surprise nothing... It had been knocked off in all the fighting! I’ve, sorry, I had, the quick release strap and 310XT on as I’ve used since last year. Never had a problem, and as I see from my strap it’s not the quick release that got knocked loose, it’s the actual base of the mount that got smashed and broken... So Galway Bay has a 310xt somewhere down there for any divers interested! Obviously this is all just an excuse for me to upgrade to the 910xt which I’ve had my eye on but didn’t quite have the need for... until now... I’m sure I’ll get a good deal... ahem!
I passed Peter Kern who said good swim Fazz, then rounded turn closer to transition and passed Eanna who shouted great swim also so I thought grand, can’t be too many ahead and I looked across to see if many were exiting with bikes – not many.
When I saw the results I was a bit dismayed at the 34 minute swim! I swam 32 in Groomsport and felt I had a better swim in Galway. You never can tell distance but placings in AG/Overall can help gauge along with comparing to other swimmers from other races. In that respect, I didn’t do too bad so hard to tell.
Note I’m not sure how much of the long run is included in the swim time split. Times don’t matter really – other than for marking against others for improvements in the future!
Swim – 34:25 – 70/949, 16th in AG
A long run as I mentioned, wetsuit down to waist, into tent and straight to my bag. Over to seat and wetsuit off as rehearsed, took helmet and arm warmers out and put wetsuit back into bag. Off into the bike section then as I try to put on arm warmers at same time. Not the easiest and I stop briefly by bike to finish the job before heading out. Arm warmers probably weren’t needed but I wanted to be safe just in case – saw the bad episodes from 2011 so didn’t want to fall a similar fate.
T1 – 4:37 – 8th in AG
Out past mount line, run a little bit and then leg over into shoe and I’m off. Pass a couple here in the first couple km towards the university, then its sighting one ahead at a time and slowly closing. I take my first powerbar here and all goes to plan. Slowly reeling people in one by one and try to take note of age group number/letter as I pass. I’m not counting here but around 15 or so passed before things start to thin out and no one ahead for a while. I take this as a good sign as I’m biking strong but within myself, getting nutrition down and really just a little disappointed there’s not more wind!
I’ve no bike computer due to 310 being lost, and I’m thinking coach will love this, the whole race on feel! I’m a bit of a numbers geek to an extent and know going in to a race what I’m after – be it overall swim time, overall bike time and average km/hour time and same again on run. So whilst this is not ideal, I put it aside and don’t think about it and just get on with the work and effort by feel. Through the aid stations and towns and the support really was excellent. Bells, air horns and all at 8am in the morning on closed roads. Superb stuff I was loving it.
In terms of effort, I was moderating it and keeping consistent, no surges, solid pace and still reeling in people one by one. Around the 35km mark I pass a Male Pro and think wow, that’s early. I had hopes of closing a couple if poss but certainly not that early, perhaps he had problems. I head onto the final section towards Maams Cross the turnaround point and a bit rougher roads, and few rolling sections. It’s here I come up against 2 guys ahead, it looks as though a guy in blue is drafting the guy in front for a while, and then he moves out and passes the other who then starts sucking his wheel! I’m around 40m behind and staring at it thinking the cheating bastard. They are doing good pace and I’m only slightly closing. Still 30m behind when a motorbike official comes past me and see’s the messing ahead. He backs off the bike and follows the 2 for 30-60 seconds, I’m thinking he better do him, sure enough he pulls up behind and issues a card. Good. I can’t remember if it was a stop and go or penalty and am wondering are they about to stop in front of me but both carry on. The drafter seems disheartened and his pace drops a little, guilty conscience eh! I make a slight surge and close and pass him taking note he was in my age group too! The cheek. Pass him and then his buddy in blue shortly after.
Around here the male pro’s start to fly by against me, I’m counting to try get an idea of where I am, 2 are out in front with a good gap – Terenzo Bozzone and Jan Van Berkel, not sure the others and then I spot Bryan McCrystal in what seems a good placing. Not sure about the new style helmet BMC, but it sure didn’t affect your bike split eh! At a guess I thought they were around 15 mins ahead of me – less the 5 min head start I gave them... No Garmin though, no distance and just guessing really. I keep the head down and hit the turn around about 7-8 mins later. As I’m turning around I note Mr Blue is right beside me and almost actually overtakes me in the process. How are you so close Mr Blue?? 10 meter gap? Not good. So I make a slight push from the turn around and I’m in the lead still, pass Eimear Mullan about 5k after turn around and take a glimpse behind to see Mr Blue is barely 4 metres back catching my draft. 2 options here, get annoyed and start to surge to try lose him, or continue my pace and ignore him. I take the latter, hoping he fades and backs out of draft. I’m not too bothered as it’s possible he was only close to me that once. So I’m sticking to my plan, taking nutrition and hydration on board and trying to keep on pace.
No one ahead for the remainder of the bike ride. With about 7-8k to go I see Coach on the side of the road, he shouts 10 metres and I realise I’ve still got Mr Blue behind me... Mr Blue then passes me with 5k to go and I allow him the 10 metres gap and match his pace. He tried to break away a couple times but I’m wise and stick on pace. We come into t2 together and he brakes a little early allowing me to close up. We hop off the bikes together and I lose a shoe in the process of running along with bike and pedals can be subject to move etc. I actually carry the bike most of the remainder in case other shoe falls off. I see Peter Kern to the side and ask him can someone get my shoe please, I wasn’t going back for it...!
Bike – 2:24:43 – 23/949 – 2nd in AG
Into T2, rack bike, up to corner of transition and run down lane into tent. Mr Blue has the cheek to look at me and say “my friend”... Into t2 and I’m ahead of him, get my bag and on with runners in no time. Speaking of no time, there is no time for socks either so I grab my 3 gels and head out ahead of Mr Blue.
T2 – 2:25 – 2nd in AG
So out onto the run, pass Peter Kern again and he’s holding up a Black bike shoe! “this one?” Nope! Mine’s white I say whilst running on ahead. I pack 2 gels into my back pockets and pass wifey and some Pulse Support Crew. Wifey has been warned by coach – tell him to go easy the first km!! Yes that’s my plan and that’s what I’m doing! I’ve no idea of pace but I’m telling you I started the run easy deliberately. Ironmanlive splits tell a different story, but who knows where the timing mats were really in fairness so never can trust them exactly. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
In fact, I’m going easy still into second km and Mr Blue comes past me. I swear he tapped me on the arse as he did. Is that a Spanish/Portugese thing? I’ve 2 choices here... respond and match him or let him off and hope he dies later – as I did in Groomsport... I figure he hasn’t come all this way to Galway without his running shoes on so I respond a little by increasing pace, but not matching his and I let him get a bit of a gap. I take my first gel before the aid station and there’s a double back section where I see Mr Blue has a 20metre gap on me. “Water”, “thanks”, “Coke” “thanks” and on we go into the slight headwind section. Coke really is a life saver on the run. Maybe it’s a mental thing, maybe it’s the fast sugar hit but it’s good anyway and I repeat that order for the next few aid stations! There’s not many on the course and no one is catching me, and I’m not really closing on any either. Mr Blue has pulled off into the distance and he’s got his running legs on and there’s not much I can do but hope to see him fade near end. We hit the second lap and pass the Pulse support crew, they were fantastic and much appreciated guys and gals! A few more bodies on the route now and I’m passing and staying what feels on pace. I’ve no idea of time, am pretty sure I’m in the top 3-4 of age group though and keep pushing. I see Liamo Williams – fellow B2R athlete up ahead as I’m half way through the 2nd lap and think right let’s close him down and pick out another target. Well, Liamo is well able to run I can tell you and it takes me a full lap to pass him! I swear he increased his pace when he saw me at the double back section before aid station! We pass Kevin Thornton on this lap also who looks like he’s struggling – later turns out he pulled out shortly after with a chest infection. The man had the 7th fastest swim including the Pro’s! I’m not jealous at all...
After this I then pass the wifey who I realise is wearing a Red “Follow Fazz” t-shirt. Hilarious! Where did she pull them out of?!? No pressure now! J
So I pass Liamo on my last lap as I make a push to max out. Coach is there shouting as well and I’m starting to suffer. I’ve got my 3 armbands though and hit the carpet section for the last time. Bank off to the left this lap and the turn into the finish gantry. Finish with a sprint here as you don’t know what’s going on, I wanted to max out and if I lost a place or 2 from high fiving some strangers I’d not be impressed with myself. I cross the line and look up to see 4th in Age Group... Ok, that should be enough. I collapse on all fours briefly to catch my breath back and up for my finisher’s medal and get stopped by some guy for an interview. No idea who or where he said he was from, but the usual great race, am I happy – yes but that depends on getting the Vegas slot!, enjoyed the course and support every step and glad the weather held out for a cracker of a race.
Run – 1:26:56 – 21st – 4th in AG
Overall – 4:33:08 = 22nd Overall, 4th in 30-34 Age Group and wins the last automatic Vegas Slot.
A short wait for results at 5pm and my name is highlighted in yellow indicating yes, I’m in, Automatic World 70.3 Qualification. I’m delighted, my main goal for the season achieved and I’m quick up to the registration counter to collect my Vegas Chip.
Even better news is Liamo Williams won his Age Group and so did Jennifer Duffy so they both qualified and took their slots also. We had another athlete racing who had a few issues on the run and narrowly missed out on a slot – by 40 seconds! He’ll be joining us very soon I suspect though!
So, taking stock of IM Galway 70.3 and I’m bought into the IM Racing. Yes it’s more expensive than other half ironman’s, but there is a very good standard of marshalling, transition security, organisation, carpeted transition, closed roads, finish shoot, hype, atmosphere, support that really helps the event go smoothly.
We’ve all done some superb Irish races and will continue to as we are very lucky to have some fantastic races on the Irish calendar, but I will admit I enjoyed Galway 70.3 a lot and not just because of the result. I can see the side of the fence being it’s over priced, but I’m on the other side appreciating the extra benefits and such that comes with these events along with the world qualification slots.
The support was unreal, the crowd and atmosphere fantastic and the volunteers the same.
It was great that we got the weather on the day to help this event, and also that some top Pro’s turned up and finished with a sprint finish – epic photo’s of that one!
For now, I’m a happy man, have my World 70.3’s ticket sealed for next year and main goal achieved for 2012. I’ve still got a couple of races left – probably 1 sprint, 1 olympic and then Miami 70.3 so I’m hoping to learn some more and show some more improvements.