Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stage 4 The Gila Monster Road Race 71.8 miles

The Gila Monster Road race was basically the first stage in reverse but instead of starting at Fort Bayard where we finished Stage 1 we started down town and cycled out past Fort Bayard before doing the 4th category climb out toward Mimbres. Unlike the first stage we stayed together out onto NM 35 and up toward the continental divide.

I placed myself in the middle of the pack and apart from one hairy moment where I switched off for a second during the neutral roll out of town the race was uneventful. We had a couple of little breaks off the front but they never seemed to get too far away.

As we made our way toward the continental divide we caught up with the women's pro race and they were neutralized while we rolled passed them. As we approached the continental divide we went through the feed zone and I grabbed a bottle off Wendy. At the top of the feed zone it was clear that guys at the front were going to use the feed station as an opportunity to force a break. I had been warned about this from a local rider who had done the race before but I still ended up working hard to catch back up with the front of the pack and I am sure a number of riders were dropped.

It turned out not to matter as the women pro caught us back up and we were neutralized for a long time while they allowed a gap to open up. Anyone who had been dropped caught back up and at one stage the peleton all agreed to stop and take a pee break which was a nice relief. Not far from the base of the Sapillo climb the referee gave us a green and the race was back on.

The Sapillo descent was scary but the Sapillo ascent was going to be a killer. The gradient went from a manageable 4% at the bottom to a leg searing 17% by the top. Unsurprisingly the group exploded and we all fell in to our own personal hell as we tried to make it up the climb after 4 days of racing. On this side of the mountain we were really exposed and I poured water over my neck to try and cool down. I had decided that I was going to ride at my own pace and not try to hold to anyone during the climb.

There is not much to say about the climb other than I knew it was going to be hard and it was. I did pass a couple of the pro women and when the road levelled out I was surprised how strong I felt. After the hell of the climb the fast descent through the Gila forest was a blessed relief and I really enjoyed ticking off the miles toward the finish.
The Finish Line

This relief was short live because the last 2 miles to the finish were again up hill. Although I could put some power down on the descents any uphill gradient really, really hurt. I saw the 1 mile to go sign and then the 1km to go. Just after I had registered the fact that I only had a 1000m to go a car horn sounded and the Men Pro lead out car overtook. Here I was with only several hundred metres to go and I was possibly about to be overtaken by Lance Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer. I half entertained the idea of slowing down to try and get in the same camera shot as the winner but in the ended decided to keep going at what was by then a very slow crawl toward the line.

Kristin Armstrong wins the women's stage and GC

I must have looked like a drooling mess to the loads of spectators all ready to cheer Armstrong across the line. While they waited for the celebrities they were forced to watch the painful sight of this Cat 4/5 rider suffering slowly over the line. For me it felt great to be passing under the big SRAM finish arch with all those fans cheering and a couple of minutes after I got off my bike the winner passed me followed immediately by Armstrong. This was very surreal. I had just finished a major (for me) road race only minutes in front of the most famous and successful cyclist in modern times. I only hope that I can get hold of some video footage to prove the fact.

Me limping across the line

...followed by Lance......

...followed by Levi....

Wendy and I hung around to watch the prize giving and I managed to get Levi's autograph on my Tour of the Gila jersey which already had Kristin Armstrong's and Floyd Landis's autographs. Taking stock of my body I felt pretty good. I was not as drained as I was at the end of Ironman but I am not sure that I could have cycled another foot uphill. I thought I had finished in the top 25 or so but it turned out that I had finished 40th on the stage. Still this was only 12 minutes behind the leader and several minutes in front of Lance :-). Just like stage 1 the times were again a lot faster than last year and that includes being held up for 10 minutes by the Pro Women repassing us.

and the crowds go wild

In the GC I moved up yet another place to finish 34th overall, just under 25 minutes off the leader. Although I had managed top 15 finishes in the 3 other road races I had done those races had smaller fields and ended in much shorter bunch sprints. It was clear that the caliber of the other riders was much higher than anything I had experienced before at the Cat 4/5 level. So overall I am very pleased with the results. The whole experience was raised to a much higher level for me by the last minute arrival of Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner. The presence of Armstrong gives me a story that I will dine out on for the rest of my life and I look forward to asking Ben when he is older whether he remembers when his dad raced with Lance Armstrong in New Mexico.

Unfortunately we were already checked out of the hotel so no ice bath today but I did have a craving for McDonald's and I had my first big mac in over 2 years. As always I have to say a big thanks to Wendy and Ben for helping me out so much with the race and acting as my support crew. It was hard work doing so much travel and Wendy had to keep Ben entertained as well as driving all over New Mexico.

Stage 3 Silver City Down Town Criterium 16.2 miles

When trying to prepare for this race I entered 3 local races back in VA. 2 were shortish road races but the third was a Criterium in Richmond. The Crit was probably the scariest thing I have ever done. The high speed corners with some riders failing to hold their line resulted in several touching wheels and a couple of people being forced off the road. There must have been 4 or 5 big crashes during that first Crit so I was a little apprehensive about the Crit stage of the Tour of the Gila.

The Crit took place in the centre of town. The Cat 4/5 men went off at 0815 and we had to do 15 laps of the course which was a little over 1 mile long. The course was fairly traditional with four 90 degree left hand turns. The start finish straight was wide and fast with a big fast sweeping corner at the starting end (lined with a tyre wall) and a fairly narrow turn at the other end. The back side of the Crit had a short steep climb and then a rapid descent into a fast left and then the even faster left back onto the starting straight and hopefully not into the tyre wall.

I cycled from the hotel down to the start line and en route I tried to get in a number of hill repeats in order to warm up properly. During those hill repeats I could really start to feel the effects of Stages 1 and 2 in my legs. It is important to warm up well for Crits (and Time Trials) as they start off so quickly and if you are cold you can easily get left behind before you have a chance to warm up. Before the start of the race I watched the 3/4 women finish their race and chatted with another 4/5 man who had never done a Crit before.

I was feeling reasonably happy as I lined up until I heard the referees asking that anyone who had not signed in sign in. I had completely failed to appreciate that I needed to sign anything. I knew the Pros signed in but I didn’t realise I had to. I have never signed in for a race before but I guess that a stage race is different. I rushed over to sign next to my number and then before I knew it the gun was going off. There was no get set and the gun took everyone by surprise as 70 guys struggled to clip in and get going.

The race started off fast, as expected, but nothing that I couldn’t hold onto. I found out from Wendy that a number of riders did get dropped in those first couple of laps. I knew I wasn’t fast enough to win any of the sprints so I tried to keep myself in the top 20 or so hoping to avoid any big crashes at the back. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no crashes (at least that I was aware of) there were of course a couple of close calls but the race was generally pretty clean. The two sections that I found the most nerve racking/exciting were the crest of the hill on the back straight where I was putting a lot of power into the pedals and as the back of the bike was unweighted the back wheel would squirrel a bit and then the very fast left hander on the finish straight where this giant tyre wall was trying to suck you in.

Before too long we were on the last lap and the pace went crazy. I sprinted hard and managed to finish 24th. Although generally I was not too tired the last sprint had left me feeling a little sick for a couple of minutes. We crossed the line at 38:13 which meant that we had averaged about 25.5 mph. The Pros were not due to start until after 3pm so we had plenty of time to go back to the hotel take an ice bath, change and come back to watch their race.

Back on our corridor at the hotel it looked like team Ouch were in their team brief and outside were 7 very shiny very new Kuota bikes lined up against the wall.

Floyd Landis on the way to line up

First corner

Lance working hard

The Pros race was pretty impressive to watch. Although they had to do 40 laps they still averaged 27 mph. Lance did a lot of work during the race trying keep Levi in the lead. Apparently Levi's tyre came off with only a couple of laps to go and he had to get on Chris Horner’s bike to finish but I didn’t get to see any of that drama. A crash toward the end of their race upset all the organised lead outs and the race was won by a relative unknown, Van Uden, from Land Rover – Orbea, he looked pretty pleased with himself.

Van Urden takes the win

That night we celebrated Ben's first birthday and he made short work of his cake.

Although I finished with the pack I still moved up the GC one place to 35th and I was 0:14:22 off the leader. 3 Stages down and only one to go but the last stage was the infamous Gila Monster.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stage 2 Tyrone Individual Time Trial 16.15 miles

This was a tough time trial with the altitude, climbing and false flats but I knew it was an opportunity to claw back a little time on some of the other riders, after all TTs are triathletes bread and butter.

One of the coolest things of the day was the fact that Lance and Levi were doing exactly the same stage as me. In fact their start times were less than 2 hours from mine. Lance was 10:45 and I was 12:39 and yes in a TT the slower riders normally go first. As the race leader Levi was only a few minutes after Lance and just like yesterday's stage there were very few spectators and the whole event was very low key despite the participation of the two the best cyclists in the world.

When it was my turn the people that had come to support Lance had gone but I still had a guy counting down to my start time and someone holding my bike steady which was a first for me. I came out of the gate charging and within about a mile I caught the guy who had started 30 seconds ahead of me. Before the turn around at just over 8 miles I had passed another 3 riders. On the way back I was really starting to feel the burn but I knew this was my event so I kept pushing and passed another 2 riders and if I had had another 200m I would have passed one more guy.

I really enjoyed the time trial and finished in 0:43:35 which was the 16th fastest time and it moved me 3 places up the General Classification (GC) to 36th, 0:14:18 off the leader. I also managed to finish within 10 minutes of Lance who finished in 0:34:22. Levi set an amazing course record at 0:32:29. Back to the hotel for the usual ice bath, to eat a whole bunch of calories and to try and get some rest.

Tour of the Gila Race Report


Since Ironman UK I have eased back on my training but have tried to keep up a reasonable level of fitness. My wife has started to catch the bug and has completed 2 marathons and her first triathlon. I have resurrected this blog for one last post as I wanted to do a race report for the 2009 Tour of the Gila (again like all my race reports it is very long).

Last year while training for Ironman I found I really enjoyed the bike riding, especially the faster group rides with local roadies. I also found that after a few weeks I was able to stay with the A group at most group rides. This all led to a desire to compete in a road race and having really enjoyed watching the Tour de France for several years I really fancied the challenge of competing in a stage race. Last year I was registered for a couple of rides but for one reason or another I was unable to actually race and most of the 2 day stage races on the calendar were not open to me as a Cat 5 rider. With only a short time to go before leaving the States I was determined to try and get in a big road race.

Trawling through I found the Tour of the Gila, a 5 day stage race for the Pros and a 4 day stage race for Cat 4/5s. The only problems were that:

1. It is in New Mexico (hardly local).
2. It is one tough course with plenty of climbing.
3. It is all done at elevation ranging from 5000 to 8000 ft.

Despite my reservations I soon decided that the potentially once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in a 4 day stage race outweighed any worries I had and I signed up. In order to train for the race I replaced some of my running sessions with bike workouts. I hoped to get in some hill rides at Skyline Drive but unfortunately I only managed to achieve trainer workouts with a bunch of phonebooks propping up the front wheel. Before I knew it Wendy, Ben and I were driving through the desert of New Mexico heading for Silver City. The race was Thu 30 Apr through to the 03 May but I managed to arrange a meeting in Tucson at the beginning of the week which meant that we could fly in the weekend before the race and I could preride the course and try and do a bit of acclimatization.

When we arrived in the host town of Silver City NM we found a very quiet little sleepy hollow. I picked up my bikes from the LBS, where I had had them shipped, and while I was there I overheard half a conversation about a local news story that someone famous was possibly coming to town. I didn’t think anything more of it at the time and went out to ride part of Stage 1. I was pleased to find that the altitude was not hitting me too hard. I did have a very slight headache and found oxygen a little bit harder to come by but I was still able to pedal away. The scenery was amazing but the climbing was relentless and the descents were by far the most technical I had ever seen and in places really scary. When we got back to the hotel I found out that the local news story was that Lance Armstrong and his team Astana mates had decided to make the Tour of the Gila his come back race in preparation for the Giro d’Italia. Needless to say this was very exciting and had the whole town buzzing.

Sunday I rode what would be stage 4 of the race, known as the Gila Monster. This involved the category 2 climb from Sapillo Creek to Pinos Altos which was a real bitch. That evening I again checked the news and it turned out that the cycling governing body, the UCI, had heard about Armstrong’s plans and had invoked a rare rule that banned international teams from competing at national class events. Oh well it was exciting while it lasted but I guess the ‘Lance Effect’ would not come to bare on this race. Monday morning I rode the Time Trial course (Stage 2) which again was far from flat with a cat 4 climb on the way out and a cat 3 climb on the way back. The first 4.5 miles of the TT were all uphill.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in Tucson before heading back to Silver City NM on Wednesday to register for the race. While we were in Tucson I ended up in TriSports.Com getting some supplies. Chatting to the manager he told me that he had heard that Lance was back in the race. Checking online it turned out to be true. Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner where all going to race but to get around the rules they had to do it as individuals and would be forming up as Team Mellow Johny’s (Lance’s bike store in Texas).

Stage 1 Fort Bayard Inner Loop Road Race 64.2 Miles

I lined up with the other 70 or so riders for the start of our first Stage. Looking around me I noticed that the group looked pretty serious. There were some very fit looking guys and a lot of nice bikes. The Pros were starting back in town and had to do another 15 miles on top of us. We started out at a reasonable pace but after about 10 minutes of climbing things suddenly turned nasty. The pace picked up significantly and before long the group started to split. I just about managed to hold onto the lead group but I was right at the back and my heart rate was already red lining. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got dropped and within a few minutes the elastic snapped and I was falling off the back of the group.

Here I was 15 minutes into a four day stage race and I was being dropped. I managed to keep going and before I got to the summit I could see some other riders who had been dropped. I decided to keep going at a steady pace and try and catch more riders on the butt clenching Sapillo descent. The plan worked and with a bit of a hair raising descent I found myself with about 5 other riders. I was still knackered and just held on at the back of the group trying to get my breath back. We had about 15 miles of steady ascent to go to the Continental Divide at 6720 ft and then 20 miles down hill before the final kick in the teeth, a 9 mile cat 3 climb back to 6800 ft. Before long I got my breath back and was able to start taking turns at the front. I was back in my triathlon comfort zone of high zone 2 low zone 3 heart rate. We started to pick up other riders who had been dropped from the lead group and before long we were in a group of about 20. About 14 of us organised into an effective pace line with about 6 guys loafing on the back. We really rattled along and before the start of the last climb we had the lead group in sight.

When we hit the last climb the same thing happened again. I made the initial split but was soon dropped again. I had a about 8 miles of solo climbing to go. This was a bit of a lonely time but I guess the Ironman racing helped as I didn’t feel too dispirited. After a while grinding out my own pace I started to feel stronger again and before long I caught the next two guys who jumped on my back wheel. When we go to the flats I felt really strong and pulled the two riders the last 5 miles to the finish. Rather disappointingly the guy I had just pulled for several miles decided he needed to sprint for the line and finished ahead of me putting me in 39th place overall.

Me getting dropped on the last climb

I felt pretty good. I finished the stage in 3:07:42. A lot of guys were saying how fast the stage had been and when I checked last years results I saw that the winning time for Stage 1 had been 3:12:00 so we had clearly been shifting. My Garmin told me that we had averaged 21.1 mph and with 4220ft of climbing that was not too shabby. About 30 minutes after we finished the Pros came in in a mass sprint.

Pro's mass sprint

After a giving a quick interview Lance and Levi jumped on their bikes and cycled the 5 miles or so back to their rental house. I am fairly certain that it is rare that you will find someone as famous as Armstrong cycling along the road like this, shooting the breeze and without a police escort.

I went back to the hotel reasonably happy with how things had gone and got myself an ice bath which I would come to hate by the end of the week. Tomorrow was the Time Trial and in theory this event would suit me better.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ironman UK Race Report

Its been 11 days since Ironman UK and about time I posted a race report. If anyone is still reading this blog I thought I would right this race report and a then a report on our trip to the Hawaii to watch the World Champs before calling it a day.

We arrived in the UK a week before the race and spent time with family before heading down to a cottage near the race site the Thursday before the race. Although the weather was nice the morning we landed it was a short lived phenomenon and for almost the entire week it rained and rained and then rained some more. Much of the country was flooded and rain was accompanied by high winds and low temperatures.

By the time I picked up my race packet I was really beginning to worry about the weather for race day. It had been almost 7 weeks since Lake Placid but I still had not fully dried out and memories of the rain that day were still very vivid.

The Saturday before the race we were joined in the cottage by friends and family and had a very pleasant meal which really took my mind off the race itself. Unlike Lake Placid after I had picked up my race packet I had not returned to the race venue. I had taken the opportunity to do a loop of the bike course and my initial impression was although the course was a bit hilly and the road surface a little rough it was still a fairly nice course - I later came to change my mind.

Race morning we were up early as usual. The race was scheduled to start at 6am which is an hour earlier than most of the North American races. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not raining race morning and although it was not warm it was not too cold either. Wendy, Ben and I arrived at the race site at about 4.30am with the rest of my support crew arriving a little later. For this race I had quite a large fan base consisting of my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my mother and brother-in-law and a close friend of the family.

At about 5.40am I left Wendy and Ben and I had to muster in the transition area from where the organisers were going to shepherd us to the race start. At about 5:45am the organisers started making PA announcements that there were cars on the course which needed moving before the race would start. I also got the impression that it was too dark to start the swim and it was something like 6:20 before we were corralled toward the race start. I had lined up with everyone else but the way it worked out I was very much toward the back of the line as we made our way to the edge of the lake. From the edge of the lake it is another 500m swim to the actual race start.

The Marshall's started to tell us to hurry up as the race was about to start. This was pretty annoying, there was no way of forcing my way to the front and I was worried that I would not make it to the start line before the gun. I also wondered why the race was scheduled for 6.00am as it seemed to me that it was always likely to be too dark at that time in the morning. As it worked out I did just about make it to the start line in time but many others didn't. The 500m swim before the start did give me a great opportunity to warm up and get over the initial cold shock. I think the water temp was about 60 deg and that actually turned out to be ideal for me.

Swim 1:09:00 (341/1295)

As I said I was a little bit anxious that I wouldn't make the swim start but I did manage to the get to the start line and lined up toward the right of the line 1 or 2 swimmers back from the front. The course was a 2 loop swim following a centre line of buoys. The lake did dog leg left which meant that you could cut the corner on the way out but needed to 'bend' round the buoys on the way back.

The start was not quite as busy as Lake Placid but in order to get between the first buoy and the edge of the lake there was a bit of a bottle neck and I had to fight for the first few minutes. After that the race stretched out and I the only other pushing and shoving was at the turnaround buoys.

The lake itself was a bit muddy and visibility wasn't great but as I said the water temperature was just right for me and I had a pretty comfortable swim (I did wear 2 swim caps). When I looked at my watch at the half way point it was something like 32min so I was pretty pleased (I failed to appreciate it wasn't quite half way as I still had to swim back to the edge of the lake where we first got in).

The second loop was much the same as the first. I did get a couple of very short drafts and from the taps on my toes someone must have been drafting off me. I did feel noticeably less tired across the arms and shoulder than at Lake Placid and the long swims had certainly paid off.

I got to the edge of the lake and looked at my watch which read 1:08 so I was very pleased with my swim. There was a great crowd at the edge of the lake and I got out feeling pretty good. Sub 1:10 for me is a massive improvement on my half ironman swims which took me over 40 mins and my Oly swims which used to take me about 30 mins. It was also within my A race goal pace.

T1 (Timings were available but are no longer listed)

T1 went pretty well for me. There were no seats available and not as many helpers as Lake Placid but there was plenty of room. I decided to throw on a pair of arm warmers as there was still a chill in the air.

Bike 5:45:40 (72/1295)

The bike course was a 3 loop course. After leaving transition there was short ride to the looped course which involved a steepish climb. The first part of the course headed due south from Sherborne to almost Dorchester. This stretch was mainly gentle rollers but it did have one very distinct climb half way toward Dorchester. It is worth noting that the road surface on this leg was really rough and actually got pretty annoying by the end of the race.

The course then took a 90 degree turn to the left and there was a very long climb which took you up to the top of the local hill. This section was very exposed and I did have a couple of exciting moments as the wind moved me and my bike (zipp 606 wheelset) a few feet across the road. I would strongly advise against disc wheels if the wind is strong.

After the climbing there was a very fast short descent and then the course made its way through some narrow country roads before the last section back toward Sherborne which consisted of some horrible rollers and was all into a strong head wind. This was by far the worst part of the course for me.

The first loop went reasonably well. I had a slightly different nutrition plan. At Lake Placid there was a very well organised special needs bag drop for both the bike and the run. This allowed me to put 3 fresh bottles in my special needs bag which contained Gatorade along with Carb supplement. At Ironman UK the special needs was ad hoc at best. It was up to you to supply the bag and there was absolutely no guarantee that you would get your stuff back. You would also have to stop the bike and sift through the melee to find your own stuff.

To get around this I made up one bottle which I filled with Gatorade and loads of carb supplement. It tasted like treacle (s@#t) but my plan was to pour some of this mixture into my aero bottle and water it down with the stuff available from the aid stations. At the first aid station I was after Gatorade but was given water. Be aware that the bottles handed out were not transparent and all had Gatorade written down the side but half of them were just water.

After the first aid station I made sure I was getting Gatorade and my nutrition plan seemed to work. I supplemented my drinks with a little power bar and some banana.

The second lap of the course was very lonely and probably due to the bearings going in my rear wheel my bike was making a lot of noise. Despite the wind and the noises coming from my bike I was still averaging 20mph and was pretty happy. By the 3rd lap and mile 70 I started to tire. At IM USA I didn't really tire until the last 10 miles but this time my legs were heavy with another 40 miles to go and a hell of a lot of climbing.

I did end up talking to myself. I was tired and the wind was relentless. The only thing that made it more bearable was that by now I was lapping some of the slower riders and continued to pass some of my fellow 3rd lappers who were also clearly suffering. The last 8 miles before I turned off the loop back toward the start were some of the hardest riding miles of my life and I saw plenty of weaker riders weaving all over the climbs and one or two people reverting to getting off and pushing their bikes.

I was very happy to get back to transition at Sherborne Castle. I did go slightly quicker than IM USA but to be honest it was a much harder ride which I think I can put down to the wind. It is also fair to say that a 2 loop course is psychologically easier to swallow than a 3 loop course. Arm warmers and toe warmers turned out to be exactly the right amount of extra kit for me and one small mercy was that my core temperature remained about perfect. It did threaten to rain a few times but never actually happened.


No problems. Pretty quick and easy. Transition was very quiet and I took the time to wipe my feet and apply sportslick.

Run 04:25:55 (497/1295)

I left transition feeling pretty good. Holden had really worked on my bike to run transition and I found as I left transition that my legs were feeling really good. Unlike IM USA where I left transition and was immediately forced into stopping and stretching this time I was firing on all cylinders.

As you can see from the clip I was smiling and the clock was only at 7:02. If I could hold a 3:30 marathon I was on for a 10:30 Ironman which would have been great.

The run course took you around the castle grounds and an out and back on a dirt track which then turned into a very very muddy pot hole ridden path which followed the castle walls before kicking you out into Sherborne town. The course then weaved through the town before heading back to the castle. You were given a wrist band as you passed transition and had to do 3 loops before you could veer off to the finish line.

The first loop went pretty well. I really wish that they would publish chip times for the various laps as the first one should have been around the 8 min mile pace or better. The town was quiet the first time I passed through it but the dirt tracks really sucked. As I said at the start it had rained all week and the paths were in an awful state. I did twist my ankle in one of the potholes but fortunately not badly enough to affect my run. I saw one guy who had clearly taken a fall and was deciding whether or not he could continue.

The second loop was not quite such a success. I was watching the clock and I started to notice that my pace was slowing. By the time I got to about mile 13 everything started to go 'Pete Tong' and my pace really ground to a halt. I started to get aches and pains all over my legs. My knee caps hurt, my hips hurt, my groin hurt, my calfs hurt, my ankles hurt and to add to my misery I developed a massive blister on my right foot (which didn't happen at IM USA even though I wore the same trainers and socks??). In fact I would say that every injury I had ever suffered in the last 30 years came back to the surface.

I saw my friends and family but I was unable to raise much of a smile. The crowd in the centre of town were great and my race number 118 was the same as the British directory enquiries number which carries the tag line 118 118 "got your number" and features two actors dressed as 1980's runners complete with sweatband and afro hair. If I hadn't of felt like total crap I am sure that the cries of "got your number" from the crowd would have remained funny but to be honest by the third lap my sense of humour was at an all time low.

As I hobbled round the course I did the sums and realised that a sub 11 hour finish had gone by the wayside but a sub 11:30 finish was achievable. I managed to drag my sorry ass back to the castle and I finished in 11:27:07; 191st place overall.

If I am honest this race was not as well organised as Ironman Lake Placid and the course, especially the dirt tracks on the run leg, was pretty awful. The road closures were also a little ineffective and I had to deal with a few cars during the ride. I ordered a medium T-shirt and although I finished 191st there were no mediums available and I didn't get a cap although the announcements had said that they were being handed to the first 250 finishers. The lack of an effective special needs station is a big factor and I also missed the wetsuit strippers. Those in the US who were tracking me on line reported that the on-line timings were not accurate and were eventually taken down before the end of the race. I would be interested in seeing my transition splits and the splits of the individual loops but I am not sure if they will become available.

On the plus side the volunteers were very pleasant and the finishers post race curry and beer went a very very long way to making up for the hardship of the day. A nice cold larger and a spicy hot curry are almost the perfect pairing at the end of an Ironman. Curry is the most popular food in the UK and I am not sure everyone appreciated the food. I did hear one US female athlete asking the caterers if there was anything less spicy to eat. I am also glad that my family and friends got to see me in an Ironman.

It was a massive relief to finish. I have posted a clip of me finishing and my glance back at the clock sums up how I felt. I know if I kept racing Ironman I could go faster still. My race revolves around my inability to hold my marathon together but I am glad to say that I do not retain any desire to try and keep improving my Ironman time.

I am a long way from qualifying for the World Champs but I am glad that I had such a great opportunity to give it a shot. In only 10 months of training Holden and Cadence have managed to take my 6+ hour half ironman personal best and turn it into a sub 11:30 ironman. I have also had the opportunity to meet some great people, not least my fellow Cadence Kona Challenge finalists, and my fellow Grand Finalist, Mary Lou.

I am a two time Ironman and have a great story to tell Ben when he gets older. In the meantime I can now bore people with tales of Ironman USA and UK and can enjoy watching the World Champs with a beer rather than a bottle of sports drink.

We rounded out our 'sporty' trip by watching a stage of the Tour of Britain. I feel sorry for the US riders who must have found the weather during the week a real shock, we were all certainly glad to get back to the warmth of Virginia.

Thanks for all the support.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Ironman UK

I am still deep in the English country side and I do not have a phone signal, let alone access to the internet. I am currently on my brother-in-laws laptop but will post a proper race report when I get back to the states next week.

In a nutshell I completed my second (and final) Ironman but I really paid my dues this time. While I finished Ironman Lake Placid feeling relatively comfortable this one really, really hurt.

Swim went well, although I nearly didn't make it to swim start before the gun. I knocked a few minutes off Lake Placid with a finish time of 1:09 (1:08 on my watch).

Bike was a real slog. The weather in the UK has been terrible all week, by Sunday it was dry but the strong winds persisted. There were sections of the bike course that were very exposed and the top part of the figure of eight course was straight into a 20+ mph wind the whole time. I will go into a lot more detail in the race report but it was a tough, tough bike leg and I finished in 5:45.

Run. I left transition with 7 hours on my watch so all I needed was a 4 hr marathon to go sub 11 hrs and a 3.5 hr marathon would give me that elusive 10:30 finish. The run was 3 laps of a 9 mile course. First lap went well and I think I was well on the way to my 3.30 marathon but then at about the 14 mile point the wheels fell off my wagon and my legs started to shut down. I had to dig deeper than I have had to dig for a long time in order just to finish and it was a huge relief to finish, let alone finish sub 11:30.

Bottom line it was not a fun course and it was a real hardship to get through it. I am glad that it is over but I also like the fact that I have a bagged Ironman UK and Ironman USA, it makes a nice set.

Thanks to Mary Lou for the comment and to the Team Z guys who followed my progress from afar. I can't wait to get back the warmth of the Virginia and recoup.

Pictures and Race Report to follow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

have your cake and eat it

I know I have been quiet for awhile but to be honest I have not had a lot to report. Life has fallen back into the same familiar routine that I was following before IMLP. Get up go to work (sometimes train at lunch), come home, train, eat, go to bed, repeat. The weekends are a long ride Saturday and a triathlon brick on a Sunday.

At least I am not alone in my training. I have mentioned Chris from time to time in my blog and his reward for finishing first in his age group (60-64) and setting a new course record at Lake Placid is to continue to give up all his free time in preparation for the World Championships in Hawaii. Most of the team are now able to kick back and focus on shorter course racing for the rest of the season whereas Chris and I are still looking for opportunities to go riding for hours and hours on end.

It works out well for us as I am slightly quicker on the bike he can sit in my draft and still get in a good zone 2 workout and I get the benefit of having someone older and emenintly more sensible making sure that I actually turn up for the long workouts.

Generally things are going pretty well as I approach the last couple of weeks before Ironman UK. Last week I was able to exercise for the first time without any pain and I think I can finally assume that I have recovered from my bike accident. I also got to pick up my new ride last week, a week later than expected but worth the wait.

Here she is in all her glory. The saddle is a loaner from Conte's as the BH importer did not send the Scratch TR saddle I ordered and I am waiting for them to put that right. I took her out last Saturday for what was supposed to be a long ride but unfortunately I didn't have a great ride and had to cut it a bit short. It was however my birthday and Chris surprised me with a birthday cake so we ended up substituting another 1.5 hours on the bike for cake.

To clear up any confusion I have not signed for the Pro Cycling Team AG2R the kit came free with the bike

Sunday was the first day that I finally got to do the full Tri brick, i.e. swim bike run and it felt pretty good. I am hoping that a few of these will really help me when it comes to race day and that all important bike to run transition.

I did finally put the BH through her paces last night when for the last hour of my 2.5 hour ride, Chris and I linked up with the A group at the weekly Conte's ride (every Tuesday at 6.30pm). There were an impressive number of riders there covering the full gambit of abilities and experience. You may remember that I was tagging along on the Wakefield A Group ride but I haven't done that ride for a couple of months and it was a shock to the system last night to be dragged kicking and screaming from my comfort zone.

The last thing you want on one of these group rides is to be dropped so you move heaven and earth to stay on the pace. This particular ride was very hilly and the first few steep climbs really took their toll. My heart rate maxed out and stayed there for quite a long time, it was hot and I started to develop a headache and if I had kept going I was going to start cramping badly. People were getting dropped but I just, by the skin of my teeth, held on to the top of the hill with the leaders and then managed to recover enough to make the next brutal climb. As with most of these group rides even the leaders are suffering and after the initial onslaught the pace on the hills slowed significantly.

In the end I was pleased with the ride but I was disappointed that one of the guys in the ride was also riding a BH G4. He turned out to be a nice bloke but I guess even if there are only a few dealers in the US if you go back to the store where you bought the bike you run the risk of bumping into someone on the same machine - bubble certainly not burst but maybe a little bit deflated.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My finishers video clip

This video clip cost me $15 and to be honest it is terrible.

The only good thing about it is that it features one of my friends, Sebastian, in his Team Z kit in the general montage footage (45 sec, far right hand side, green top, red visor and sunglasses??).

The actual video of me crossing the line is awful and you cannot see my face. My body language makes me look as if I couldn't give a damn when actually there is a huge grin on my face - honestly.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Do you really 'need' a new bike?

I'm back. I didn't know whether or not to keep this blog alive but, as you can see from the new count down timer, I have made a decision to race Ironman UK and I think it is only fitting that I keep this blog going until that race is over.

Why race Ironman UK?

The Cadence Kona Challenge is effectively over and Triathlete magazine stopped following the challenge this month. Unfortunately in the process of ending the coverage of the challenge they printed a very large picture of me in which I look as if I am doped up to the eyeballs. Holden and Cadence are going to keep coaching me through Ironman UK but looking at historic finishing times there is not a hope in hell of qualifying for Kona. Ironman UK attracts some uber-athletes, probably because there are so few M-Dot Ironman races in Europe, in comparison to North America. Last year the winner of my age group did it in 08:56!!! only 20 minutes slower than the overall winner. However, I have paid for the race, I cannot get my money back and I cannot live with the idea of just letting that money, and a place in a sold out race, go to waste.

Secondly I want to know whether I can finish the Ironman distance with a decent run. If I can hold together a half decent run I can drastically improve on my Lake Placid time and at the moment it is impossible for me to gauge how much my crash affected my race.

Finally I would love for my family and friends to be able to watch the Ironman spectacle and it looks as if quite a few of them will be able to make it to watch me race at Sherborne in September. I hope too that Wendy will not be stuck under a tent looking after Ben and may actually be able to see something of me racing.

Life as an Ironman;

The week after Lake Placid was total rest and it was heaven. I ate copious amounts of food enjoyed some nice wine, steaks and icecream. The Saturday and Sunday after the race I didn’t get out of bed until midday, enjoying breakfast in bed, with a paper, and while watching the last two stages of the Tour de France on TV – life really does not get much better.
Life after Ironman

The week after was still very much recovery and I did a short swim every other day but nothing else. This week I am supposed to return to some more demanding training. The problem I am having is that I am still bothered by my injured groin. Holden is keen to make sure that I am 100% fit before we build up for Ironman UK and wanted 3 days where I didn’t feel any discomfort before he started me running again. So far that hasn’t happened and I haven’t been for a training run now for something like 5 weeks (not including a little run during the Ironman). I am frustrated to say the least and after some discomfort during Sunday’s recovery ride the run scheduled for today has been pushed back until Saturday.

Outside of training life is good. I have spent more time with Wendy and Ben and tried to get outside to enjoy the hot weather rather than do battle with it whilst training. Ben is busy growing (very tall) and working on his ability to roll over. He can get about half way and then grunts for 60 seconds before giving up and crying until we either assist him roll or pick him up.

The title of this post comes from a question posed to me by my wife and I must admit it is a bit of a tricky one to answer. For the last couple of years I have harboured a desire to treat myself to a carbon framed bike. My recent participation in group rides with local road racers has not only drastically increased my strength on the bike but has also served to rekindle my love affair with my old road bike (an aluminium framed Orbea) which had been lying, neglected and dusty in the garage. Although I love my old Orbea we are approaching the 7 year itch point and I secretly longed for a younger, prettier and lighter model.

After Ironman I noticed a 2007 Cervelo R3 on sale in my local bike shop (LBS). This is a great bike and is light and relatively sexy. It is pretty in a girl next door sort of way but is not going to stand out from the crowd and in my eyes will never warrant a modeling contract. Still I knew it was a great deal and would serve as a very good carbon framed bike and in any event it was much better than my current bike.

I went back to my LBS to look at buying it to find out it had been sold. I like to think of this as fate because as I looked around the store I came across the BH bikes. BH are Spanish and have been making bikes for a 100 years. They are very popular in Europe and are currently the team bike for AG2R but there are very few dealers in the US. Their top of the range bike is the G4 and my LBS, Conte’s, had one in a small frame which I took for a test ride. This bike ticked all the boxes for me and after doing some research I knew I had found the dream bike I was after (I just needed a larger frame).

It has the supermodel looks but just as importantly it has a supermodel ‘weight problem’ with the frame weighing a ridiculously anorexic 860 grams. It has classic European styling and a bold white, blue and black paint job and is all hand built. Like any supermodel it is not cheap but thanks to Conte’s we were able to play around with the components (mainly the wheels) to reach a great deal. This really is a relative term but with current exchange rates believe me it is a lot cheaper to buy a bike in the US than the UK. I have also worked out that if I water down Ben's milk by using 50% less formula in his bottles and change him every 6-8 hours rather than 2-3 hours I should soon be able to pay off the bike in next to no time.

The icing on the cake for me was that they were even able to get me the Prologo Scratch TR saddle (white) which is very hard to get hold of at the moment but maintains that Pro Tour look. I am very excited and Wendy has even been kind enough to buy me a set of Time RXS pedals for my birthday. It is now just a case of waiting for the bike to arrive. A nice touch is that BH were running a promotion during the Tour de France whereby you got an AG2R jersey and shorts with every bike and it is always useful to have an extra set of cycling clothes.

Bottom line is that no one ‘needs’ a new bike but it sure is fun when you get one.

Before I sign off I wanted to share a couple of things with you. Firstly my fellow Cadence Kona Challenge Grand Finalist, Mary Lou, has written a truly fantastic race report which must have taken her longer than the race itself. It is a funny, entertaining and extremely revealing race report and I commend it to everyone to read if you have the time. To go to her blog click here.

The other thing I wanted to share with you was sent out by one of my Team Z teammates. Triathlon is full of inspirational people and I am constantly surprised when I see disabled athletes and their amazing feats but I have to say that this guy really does stand out. Please click here to see the story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

T+2 Ironman USA Lake Placid Race Report

I hope you are sitting comfortably as this is an Ironman Race Report and for anyone who has seen how long my sprint reports are you know this is going to be very, very long.

I will start where I left off with my T-1 post. The night before the race I was feeling pretty calm but to keep my mind occupied and off the race I went to bed early, at about 8pm, and watched a DVD on my laptop. At about 9:30pm I started to feel sleepy so shut the computer down and tried to get to sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes I started to think about the race. The more I tried to stop thinking about it the more I did. It took me a long time to fall asleep and probably fell asleep about 11pm.

14 hours of this :-)

I awoke to my alarm clock at 3:30am and felt a little bit tired. After a breakfast of "Ironman Oatmeal", very similar to regular oatmeal but just a little bit more expensive, we met up with Mary Lou and drove a few minutes down the road to one of the park and ride pickups. We were straight onto a bus and dropped just up the road from the Olympic Oval at about 5:20am. There were lots of body markers and I was quickly written on before I made my way to my bike and transition bags. All that was left to do at this stage was pump up my tyres, put nutrition on my bike, and in my transition bags, and drop off my special needs bags a mile up the road.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner - Mmmmm tasty

With my pre race jobs accomplished I joined the queue for the porta potty and tried to make sure I was not carrying any excess weight on the course. Before I knew it I was in my wetsuit and making my way to the swim start. There were so many athletes that it took a while to work my way to the corral that shepherded you through the entry gate and over the timing mat.

Swim 1:12:00 (Division place 140/238; Overall Place 991/2345; 1:54 per 100m)

I had read several race reports and was not looking forward to getting battered in the swim. I couldn't decide where to put myself. Many people want to keep left and follow the buoy cable that marks the course but this means that the buoy line is a battlefield. Others go way right of the course in order to avoid the melee. I decided to put myself somewhere in the middle of the two and few bodies back from the front. As I waited for the canon I couldn't help but be impressed by the scene. The banks of mirror lake where packed with spectators all screaming their support and there was a helicopter hovering over the water filming the action, it was a very impressive sight.

Time went quickly and before long the canon sounded and we were off. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not get immediately run over and actually had a reasonable amount of room. I think many of the slower swimmers had kept way back to avoid the scrum and the faster guys were sprinting to get away from the crush. I found a rhythm and started to settle into the 2.4 mile swim.

As I was telling myself how nice it was to have some room I started to get jostled. About a 1/3rd of the way out on the first loop swimmers were coming together and I started to get battered as people tried to migrate toward the buoy line. After a few minutes I stuck my head up and decided that this was not going to get any better unless I did something and repositioned myself toward the right hand edge of the group. I again settled down until we came to the turn around when everyone came together again. A bit more fighting and I was on the way back toward the start line. Every so often I would manage to get on someones heels and draft for a little bit. The first loop was pretty uneventful, I did feel a bit tired in my upper body and can't say that I was looking forward to the second lap, fully aware as I was that this was the farthest I had ever swum.

I got out of the water and looked at my watch which read 34 minutes and change so I was on track for my sub 1:10 hour swim. I ran across the beach and could hear the crowds cheering, it was then straight back into the water where I had to talk myself into getting my arms going again. A lot of people talk about the water flow created by so many swimmers swimming in the same direction but the only time I noticed it was when I got back into the water and went around the corner of the pontoon which was used by the race starter. There was such a strong flow that I was literally whipped around the corner and back out onto the second loop. Unfortunately this sensation was very short lived and I was back under my own steam.

The second loop I settled down into a steady swim, similar to how I would swim in the pool during training. I was very relaxed and started to breath every third stroke rather than every second stroke as I had on the first lap. The entire loop was pretty uneventful. My arms were a little tired but overall I felt good. I did notice as I started the second loop that it had started to rain and I assumed we were having one of the passing showers that had been predicted and hoped that it would not leave the bike course too wet.

I tried to keep my pace up as I tired and a couple of times I was able to again get on the heels of stronger swimmers for a few hundred yards. Making the turn around for the second time was a big morale booster and little by little the shore got closer. I was out of the water and looked at my watch "1:12". I was still on track for my A Race Goal of as close to 10 hours as possible. In my dream race this would break down to 1:10 swim, 5:30 bike and 3:20 run and then take a few minutes off the bike and run to allow for transition. My B Race Goal was very generous and that was to finish before the cut off at 17 hours. Two very different goal times but to be honest the only two things that mattered to me were to qualify for the World Champs and if I couldn't I needed to make sure that I became an Ironman.

T1 5:38

There was quite a long run from the swim to the transition area and the shower that I had noticed during the swim was still going and there were streams of water running down the road. There was a 10 foot wide fenced off coral that marshaled the athletes through the crowds from the lake to the oval. There was a 3 foot wide carpet to save your feet but I decided that I wanted to run so I left the carpet and started to overtake people as I ran on the tarmac. I grabbed my swim to bike transition bag and found that people were already getting changed outside of the tent.

I only needed to put on my helmet, bike shoes and race number so I too decided to change outside of the tent. I had some arm warmers and a cycling vest inside my bag but made a quick decision that the rain would probably stop soon and it shouldn't be too cold at this time of year so I left them where they were. As I went through the tent it was like a Turkish steam bath. There was no light and masses of steam rising from the hundreds of wet athletes crowded into the tent. I couldn't see a thing and I was very glad to have changed outside. As I ran to get my bike I noticed how muddy the grass had become and how dark the skies were, oh well so much for a nice day but the day was still young and there was plenty of time for the weather to improve.

Bike 5:49:22 (Division place 71/238; Overall Place 392/2345; 19.2mph)

The bike is my strongest event but I figured that for any hope of qualifying I would need to do a sub 5:30 ride which equates to an average speed of 21 mph, over 112 miles and in the Adirondack Mountains, please note they are not called the Adirondack Hills. I knew this was going to be a monumental task but I had made a conscious effort to keep focusing on how I was going to achieve the task rather than how impossible it may appear, in order to help me get through the last nine months of build up.

So feeling pretty good I left the oval and we were immediately faced with a very steep downhill that ended in a 90 degree turn. It was raining so hard that you had to ride your brakes all the way down the hill or you risked crashing within a stone's throw of the bike start (I heard that one of the pros did crash out of the race here).

Some of the amazing supporters who braved the weather

I successfully negotiated the turn and started to head toward the edge of town. Before 2 minutes had passed I heard a bang and realised that my rear wheel had a blow out. I had new tyres on the bike and had ridden the tyres and tubes for 2 decent rides so I have no idea why I suddenly had a tyre burst, there really is no obvious explanation. There I was perhaps 3 minutes into my ride, still only a couple of miles into a 112 bike leg having to change the tyre. The rain was pouring down and I had to take my helmet off to see. I was surprised how calm I felt but with deep wheels, valve extenders and terrible conditions it still took me 5 minutes to change the tyre. I also had to stop a couple of times after I changed it as it sounded as if wheel was rubbing, so all in all I probably lost about 8 minutes or so.

I stuffed my tyre levers and the burst tyre in my pockets and set off again. The course started with a 10 mile climb that took us from 1777ft to about 2220ft. This first climb I started to catch back up with some of the riders who passed me while I changed my flat and allowed my heart rate to get up into the 160s while I climbed. At the end of the climb out of Lake Placid we came upon perhaps the most memorable part of the course which was the descent into Keene. We descended 1200 feet in 4 miles which is a very steep descent. I topped out at 47.4mph and I was flying passed some of the other riders. I must admit I was a little bit apprehensive during the descent, no that is far too reserved, I was scared. The road was soaking wet, the wind was blowing and I had just had a blow out a few miles back and a bike crash 2 weeks ago. I looked at the metal railings marking the edge of the road and tried not to think what would happen if I hit them at over 47 miles an hour.

After the descent there was a level stretch that took us to the next town of Jay and it was at this stage that I lost both tyre levers out of my pocket, if I flatted again I was going to struggle. At Jay we turned hard left and there was another big climb before a six mile plus out and back from Wilmington and then the last 12 miles back to Lake Placid which ended in a series of short sharp climbs. Despite the relentless rain which just got heavier and heavier I was feeling pretty good. I finished the first loop a little slower than the 2:45 or better split I wanted but put a lot of that down to the flat.

At special needs the volunteer helped me swap out my water bottles and I ate a banana and grabbed a flapjack for later. Going through town was great but as I went back around the outside of the oval there were streams of water pouring across the road making things very trecherous. My nutrition plan was to drink 3 bottles of Gatorade endurance per lap with a couple of scoops of carb supplement in each bottle. I would supplement the fluid with gel, or other food, as I felt necessary and this seemed to work OK for me. The only slight problem was that with it being so cold it was easy to avoid drinking as you didn't feel thirsty.

As I set out on the second loop I still felt good but by now the rain was getting pretty tiresome. Just before the descent into Keene I thought I saw a green Team Z jersey off in the distance but it would be another 15 miles or so before I would catch up with Sebastian from my Tri Team. On the climb out of Jay I caught up with Elizabeth, another Cadence Kona Challenger who went on to have a great run and secure herself a slot at Kona.

The out and back from Wilmington went well again but by now I was starting to feel stiff in my lower back and neck and I had some cramp twinges in my leg. After Wilmington comes the long climb back to Lake Placid which has a number of steep hills to contend with and ends with Papa Bear which was lined with spectators. By now my back and neck hurt and my legs were getting very heavy with some cramp in my right hamstring. Luckily I was able to get out of my saddle and just about power over the climbs and it was hear that I passed my other Team Z teammate Chris Wren who was well on track to securing his slot at Kona in the 60-64 age group.

T2 3:59

Back at the Olympic oval I handed off my bike and grabbed my run gear bag. This time I did go into the tent as it was a lot, lot quieter and I was able to sit down. I didn't rush and took the time to dry my feet and apply some grease to the bottom of my feet before I put on my socks. I put on my newly purchased Ironman run cap and headed out of the door. Just before I left the tent I was overtaken by Chris who had obviously had a very quick transition and we headed out together.

Run 4:43:06 (Division place 143/238; Overall Place 1081/2345; 10:49min/mile)

Within a few hundred yards I started to cramp in my right leg and had to stop and stretch. I also took the time to stop and take a salt tablet. At this stage I was passed by Sebastian who must have finished the end of his bike ride strongly and was now putting in a good run. I wanted to stay with the two of them but I soon realised that I just didn't have the legs for it. After a couple of miles I knew I would not be able to hold a quick enough pace to get anywhere near my A Goal and with surprisingly little difficulty I made the decision to back of completely and run/walk the marathon.

It was an amazingly liberating feeling and came with two distinct benefits. Firstly I managed to keep any discomfort in my groin down to the bare minimum and even though there was a little bit of new swelling in the area after the race I feel surprisingly well. Secondly I had the opportunity to chat with some of my teammates and interact with some of the amazing volunteers who manned the aid stations. I saw Chris and Sebastian after the various turnarounds and they were both going well. Chris had a great race and won his age group with ease and earned himself a very much deserved slot in Kona. I also saw a couple of other Cadence athletes and of course Mary Lou who despite being nervous about the race had put in a great swim and bike and was now well on her way to becoming an Ironman. A couple of times on the run Dianna came springing up alongside me and gave me some welcome encouragement. Dianna is a Cadence Coach and apart from being an endurance event junkie and very gifted triathlete she is also the lady who looked after my wave at the Cadence Kona Challenge selection weekend way back in November last year - seeing her gave the whole Cadence experience a nice twist as I had not seen her since the selection weekend. Also out on the course was Lisa another Cadence coach who was officiating and gave me a lovely huge cheer as she went past. It was a great atmosphere and despite the rain I really started to enjoy (when I use terms like this I mean them in the context of doing an Ironman - everything is of course relative, this is not the same sort of enjoyment as say sitting in a hot tub) the whole experience.

Just before the half way point I came back into town and the crowds were amazing. I went past the Team Z tent but Wendy was not there as she was changing Ben. I carried on to the special needs bags where I changed into dry socks and although it only lasted 30 seconds I had dry feet for the first time all day and it felt great. I headed back into town and Wendy and Ben were back. I gave them both a kiss and assured Wendy that I was feeling fine and headed back out for my second loop of the run. The second loop was very similar to the first it was wet and long and I continued to run/walk it. At one stage I used a porta potty but it was on the side of the road and at such an angle that I was worried that it would topple over and I could not think of a worse way to end your race. I did do some quick arithmetic and decided that I should finish in under 12 hours without doing anything too drastic.

Ben wrapped up against the elements

When I ran I actually ran pretty smoothly and with good form but after a few hundred yards it would start to hurt and I would walk again. This went on for another couple of hours and then I was on my way back up the very steep hill back into town. I knew that I only had a mile or so to go and then I would be an Ironman. I started to smile to myself and prepare myself for the finish. Luckily the run back into the oval is down hill and I carried the momentum into the oval where the crowds were fantastic. As I approached the line the guy in front was showboating and doing a speed skating impression. I slowed down to let him finish and then it was my turn to cross the line and for the first time ever at a race I couldn't resist the urge to put my hands in the air.

My M Dot Tattoo (don't worry Mum its fake)

Before I go into my conclusion I wanted to just do some quick thank yous:

  • Thanks to Cadence for organising the Kona Challenge without which I would not now be an Ironman.

  • Thanks to all the sponsors of the Challenge. I have nothing but praise for the all the Cyfac, Zipp, Sidi, LAS and Zoot equipment and the Enervit nutrition (N.B. The LAS low visibility visor works really well but you like to think about putting wipers on your helmets).

  • Thanks to Triathlon Magazine for covering the story and a big thanks to NA Sports for allowing me a slot to race (thanks Heather for sorting out registration and thanks to the guy that helped Mary Lou and me get registered when we arrived).

  • Thank you to anyone that has taken the time to read or comment on my blog as it has really helped me stay focused knowing that people are reading this stuff.

  • Thank you to the two young lads who had been tasked to hand out wet sponges. The idea of taking a wet sponge having been rained on constantly for 7 or more hours was very funny but yet you were both so earnest.

  • Thank you to the army of volunteers at Lake Placid. You were all, without exception, wonderful people and your help and infectious enthusiasm on race day was invaluable.

  • Thanks to the crowds who braved horrendous weather to support the athletes and perhaps the loudest support came from the legion of Team Z supporters that had made the long haul to Lake Placid just to cheer us on - very generous.

  • Thanks to the Team Z cameramen who exposed themselves and their expensive equipment so that we could have some memories of the day.

  • Thanks to Dianna and Lisa and the guys in rediculously small cutoff jeans shorts whose encouragement was very much appreciated and thanks to Tara for giving me a shout out on the run (she went on to finish an amazing 28th in her age group).

  • Thank you to Mary Lou for the pleasure of her company before and after the race and for the very thoughtful gifts you gave us.

  • Thanks to Holden whose coaching has been exemplary and whose positive and relaxed demenour is ideal when it comes to placating and dealing with over anxious A type personality triathletes.

  • Thank you to family, friends and colleagues who have offered such kind messages of support.

  • Thanks to Wendy who spent an entire day huddled under a tent trying to look after a two and a half month old baby just so that I could indulge my own selfish quest to become an Ironman.

  • Thank you to my son, Ben, whose extremely easy going nature (don't know where he gets it from) made it possible for Wendy to spend the entire day under a tent while I indulged my own selfish quest etc.

  • If I have missed anyone I apoligise.

Overall 11:54:03 (Division place 110/238; Overall Place 692/2345)
I don't know where to start. I am very sattisfied with the result. I achieved my B Goal, I am an Ironman and I always will be. Despite walking a lot of the Marathon I finished sub 12 hours and before the Cadence Kona Challenge this would have been a dream time for me. I had an opportunity to do something that not many people get to do and thanks to some great conditioning by my coach I managed to do it in relative comfort and could enjoy (as far as that is possible) the run portion and soak up the atmosphere. When I look back to my first half ironman, Black Bear last year, the result seems even more amazing. I ran the entire half marathon at Black Bear but the whole thing took me over 6 hours whereas at Ironman USA I went under 12 hours with a lot of walking.

However, I did not make my A Goal. I was a long way off qualifying. Even if I had run the entire marathon I do not think I would have finished too much under 11 hours and the last!!!! qualifying slot in my age group went to a guy who finished in 9:57. Could I do it one day, maybe, but then you get into the vicous circle of "well if I hadn't flatted I could have gone sub ......", "If the weather was more ... I could have ....", If I hadn't of crashed maybe I could have ....." etc., etc., etc.

Being entirely objective my swim was only 2 mins off the 1:10 I had allowed myself, My bike leg would have been about 5:40 if I hadn't of flatted and I took just under 10 minutes in transition therefore for a 10 hour finish I needed a 3 hour marathon. I honestly believe I have the base fitness to run around a 3:20 marathon but 1. After the ride I didn't have the legs for it and 2. I always seem to struggle getting into the run despite a number of brick workouts. It may be that I am leaving way too much on the bike course to ever run a decent time but then if your A goal is to try and go 10 hours, or close to 10 as possible, you cannot afford to go 6 hours on the bike unless you are a world class runner.

Did my injury affect my time? The pain in my groin is getting steadily worse after the race and it feels like I have been punched where the centre of the bruising was so I am glad that I did take it so easy on the run. However, I was not in pain at the start of the run so I cannot blame my inability to run fast on the injury. Wendy did point out that 8 days before the race I couldn't walk properly and I must admit that at 2 days before the race I sneezed and felt so much discomfort that I started to doubt my ability to finish. So although I couldn't have qualified even if I hadn't of crashed I am very thankful that I was still able to finish the race.

What next? I did not enjoy the Ironman. I did not get the same sense of fun and enjoyment that I do at shorter Olympic distance races. It is a sufferfest from start to finish. It is survival of the fittest, it is conditioning, it is mind over matter but it is not fun. It is however a phenominally rewarding experience. If you know, or can imagine, the enormous sense of achievment in completing a marathon you can multiply that sensation for completing each of the other two disciplines and then multiply that feeling by a factor of 10. Crossing the line hearing the words "[insert your name here] you are an Ironman" is a high that would be very difficult to recreate.

But once you have experienced that high would another Ironman be as rewarding? I was adamant that I would not keep doing Ironman races and I am still stunned by some of the people who keep putting themselves through it. To see some of the brave individuals who are bent over double, trying not to collapse or fall over, so that they can make it to the finish line in the cold and the dark before the cutoff, whilst wearing a t-shirt which declares they have done this s@#t before and know what to expect is bind boggling. That being said I now find myself in a quandry. I have paid for, and I am registered for, Ironman Uk. I cannot get a refund. I know I don't stand a hope in hell of qualifying as the times there are even tougher than Ironman USA but I am still considering it. I do know what to expect and it would give me another opportunity to see whether I can put in a decent run. It would also give me an opportunity to get family and friends to experience the day and more importantly Wendy might actually see me race rather than been stuck trying to protect Ben from the weather. Perhaps the biggest factor is that I can do it without dedicating another 9 months of my life to Ironman training as the race is only a month and a bit away. That being said I know that I will never experience the same sensations as when I first heard the words "James Pearson you are an Ironman".