This was Matt’s “A” race of the season
In 2014 the only races I had done were a 5km in February and Cotswold Classic triathlon in August. I really had not raced much this year but felt relaxed about that. I had enjoyed training and done several long swim sets and 100 mile rides in preparation for Tenby. Run wise much less so, although in the last few weeks I had done a 13, 15 and 18 mile long run so was relatively confident as these had all gone well and were a good pace, that the run would be ok.
I had again transferred my entry from IMUK to Wales this time as I had been struggling with injury earlier in the year so was lucky that friends had space in their cottage as accommodation appeared difficult to come by at Tenby.
I was committed on the Friday morning to be a part of the Tour of Britain (riding with Jess) to escort 50 school children who had been selected to lead out the riders at the race start in Bath. This meant Thursday night was spent packing Tri kit as well as getting Union Jack fancy dress ready for the morning parade. We would ride to Bath get the race started, ride home, grab some food then drive out to Tenby. Registration closed at 5pm so this was the first cut off to meet. You could register on the Saturday but my bike should be racked between 11:00-12:00 and I fancied the practice swim and driving the bike course as I hadn’t seen it in addition to attending the briefing plus it would be more relaxing to get all this stuff done the night before. Race on.
I arrived in Tenby at 16:30 and managed to find a car parking space (and that is no mean feat) and got registered. I am an ‘All World Athlete’ nowadays apparently which meant I queued in line for my number, once at the front of the line got told ‘oh you are lucky you have a star against your name’ go over to that queue and then queued again to get the same as everyone else so I am not sure that this so called privileged thing rings true!! It seems a bit of a nonsense to me but there you go.
I was happy first mission complete. Had a quick look at the expo where yet again Jess came out with 4 new purchases to my none and off to find our cottage. Tenby if you haven’t been is beautiful and our cottage was gorgeous just a short stroll from the beach in Manorbier overlooking the sea and fields about 4 miles from the race start I was impressed.
Got up Saturday morning and went for the practice swim and I’m glad I did. I got changed into my new Snugg wetsuit (which feels so nice by the way having been tailor made) but the water seemed choppy and so salty, this was my first sea swim since Kona last year and what a difference. It was a shortened course so you couldn’t really practice sighting too much but you learnt about the waves and salt. I didn’t think it was too bad temperature wise, the sun was out and it felt like a relaxing way to begin race weekend. It was interesting though looking at the 1km climb back out to T1 where you would rack trainers on race morning, change into them and head up the first hill of the day. I headed back to the car to get the bike and racked it looking all around transition. I didn’t like the fact there was no carpet to run on and this was painful come race day.
Once the bike was racked I went back to the cottage and grabbed a friends Garmin which Jess would follow as my able assistant (coach 2 as Gra calls it) to go and check out the bike course. This would be a 75 mile drive as the course is comprised of a nice out and back 40 miles which is fairly flat followed by 2 x 35 mile hilly loops so we would only have to drive one of these. Fortunately the arrow signs were going up as we drove because signal kept dropping out to the Garmin. All weekend this place had very little 3G/Wi-fi etc. so this wasn’t really a great surprise.
The course was hilly, very scenic but hilly with steep twisty descents under tree canopy no straight descents and I’m not a great fan of twisty descents on the TT bike. I know I do well going up hill but much less so descending, I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses however but I’m so glad I checked it out, I’d always recommend this it definitely helps come race day.
Once that was out of the way we got back to the cottage for some rest, food and to get ready for race day…
This was the latest I had ever got up for an ironman race 04:45 to leave at 05:45. We were being dropped off at transition which was fabulous no stressing about car parking, keys etc. this is the best way to get to the race start and one I haven’t experienced before. I was competing with a friend and training buddy doing this as his first IM so he was nervous but I knew he would do well. We went our separate ways in T1 thought we’d meet up again after bikes had been checked and toilets used but I didn’t see him again until 90 miles of the bike course had been completed.
That was it, time to head for the swim start. I got down there and could have gone in for a splash with 15 minutes to go but I didn’t fancy it so I stood on the beach with most other competitors swaying the arms and looking at the waves and turn buoys. I was quite near the front and looking at the waves was a touch fearful of an impending bashing from them and the other 2000 or so competitors.
Everyone assembled then suddenly we were off. I was obviously in my own little world as I heard no shout/cannon/klaxon etc. just people started to run for it. The pace of the start seemed quite slow to me, everyone was wading in through the waves but around me it was as if people didn’t want to start swimming until they absolutely had to. I guess it was ‘putting off the inevitable’.
Once everyone got in it was a swim in effectively a shallow triangular shape out to the left for about 500m round a buoy, then the longest section back parallel with the beach maybe 1000-1100m then around a 2nd buoy and finally in towards the beach between 2 buoys out for the Australian exit and do it all over again. The sea was choppy and seemed to get progressively worse as the swim went on pushing you further inwards as you went. That said there was minimal jostling from other competitors I think everyone gave each other space. It was surprising that these buoys are huge yet often I couldn’t see them due to the waves coming up as I lifted my head to sight.
Someone partially undid my wetsuit on the first lap of the swim and it felt cold, I hoped it was just opened and not ripped or something. The cord is probably too long so I will get this shortened so it doesn’t happen again. Once out on the Aussie exit I was running and fiddling with it and a kind hearted competitor shouted it was unzipped and did it up for me which made lap 2 feel fantastic, much nicer I really enjoyed this lap and have never had so much space to myself in a race swim-maybe I was far off course, I wasn’t I don’t believe but it was actually enjoyable and gave me opportunity to think about T0.5 (as I have seen the 1km run called) and T1.
Once the swim was done it was a run out on the beach up the windy concrete path which hurt my feet until I got to my purple bag (Scott your colour!). I couldn’t find my bag for a while which was really annoying as people were running back and forth. Finally I found my shoes and off I went up the path, through town and into T1 proper, the race for me starts here. Out onto the bike I felt good and it was a pretty quick road out to Angle where you turn around and come back. It was nice to get some food and liquid on board. I was passing people more quickly than normal. I felt I had a slow swim but I was thinking am I going too hard here? I don’t race to power but knew the average speed I thought I should be able to manage based on previous results so simply rode building up a surplus for later in the day when the hills would kick in and reduce this down.
This was one of the worst bits of the day seeing the average speed reduce from 23 mph after about 40 miles to 19.3 mph average at the end of the ride but I felt strong all day on the bike and enjoyed it but knowing the route really helped as some descents immediately hit steep inclines. I cannot discuss the bike leg without mentioning Heartbreak Hill at Saundersfoot – wow what a reception! Jess and the gang were there but this hill was incredible the noise and excitement as the crowd narrowed the road down. I knew I shouldn’t put a spurt on but simply could not prevent it-I’m sure the noise carried you up-that or being chased by 2 chaps dressed as devils. Once past the crowds it got harder but I certainly suffered less than most up the following gradual climb.
The crowds were everywhere along the bike course and really getting behind and enjoying the race. I actually found myself getting annoyed at having to thank and acknowledge so many people on a few occasions though I still managed what felt like a poor thumbs up gesture. As the bike leg ended and I headed into town I could see runners on the course. I thought I had a slower day than I wanted on the bike looking at the Garmin and this looked to be the case as I saw the runners. I thought I had best get a solid start to the run if I want to get near the Kona slots.
I got into T2 and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of bikes here. I couldn’t count them up but it was certainly fewer than I was expecting to see – I may have a chance of a Kona return if I can put a good run down. Anyhow after the sore feet again of running barefoot across the transition area I got the run shoes on and headed out of town. I passed a few people early on the run which felt good but there didn’t seem to be too many people ahead within sight. The run course is a 4 lap affair with each measuring approximately 10km. You run downhill for a short time out of town then steeply uphill before a drag up the main road for a couple of kms. Then it’s the first of several cone ‘dead turns’ to negotiate. You start to run back then turn sharp left before heading up another hill to another dead turn but this time there is an aid station and the incredible coloured hairbands that you would do almost anything for at this stage. Once you collect this it’s back downhill to town before meandering along the cobbled streets more up and downs and dead turns but a few more supporters. I liked the fact that once you overtook people you could see whether they were gaining or you were distancing yourself from them as you turn around the cones. I knew I didn’t want to get passed on the run as this could risk losing a Kona slot as its often very close so I made sure I didn’t let up. My pace stayed pretty consistent although it was slower than I had hoped. After 4 laps are completed it’s a case of turning left instead of right in town and heading towards the finish. I had the finish chute all to myself and don’t think I have high fived so many people in a short space of time.
I didn’t see Jess but apparently high fived some guy directly in front of her which wasn’t particularly well received as she had been there a while.
Once finished I felt good and there weren’t many people around so it’s the time you think have I or haven’t I made it? It was only when Jess arrived as I was getting a massage that I was told by her 22nd place overall and 5th in my age group – Kona time!!
You never know at this stage as you still have to get up the following morning and go to the ceremony, pay your £550, make sure you haven’t been DQ’d etc. but I knew I hadn’t received any cards so was delighted with the result.
My splits were 1:09, 5:46, 3:17 for an overall time of 10:24 including the lengthy transitions.
I now have a whole year to plan for Kona and to achieve an improved performance on last year, hopefully with further help from you guys at Synergie Coaching…
Coach Note – great to see that Matt will be doing the underpants run in 2015…