This was my 1st race of the season after a long build. I had planned the usual half marathons to get me into the racing spirit but over the past 12 months have been having lower back pain resulting in sciatica and weakness when running. Only 3 days before 70.3 Warsaw did I find out following an MRI I have 3 bulging disks and 1 herniated discs. The result is compression of the spinal cord and then pain and weakness etc. This has been going on since early 2023 and a reason I had very poor string of half marathons.

The take home was I could swim and bike and do some of my runs but at lower intensity to not kick off the pain and spasms that need codeine and muscle relaxants to resolve (and a lot of them). Even so my bike and swim was in good fettle so as I turned 50 the day before the race and I had also work in Poland (day job) I made the trip.


Warsaw – Getting about!

Warsaw was an easy trip from the airport in a hire car and took about 20 minutes to the Westin Hotel (race hotel). However, I would say not the best venue unless your with someone to help with the driving etc as the race start and T1 was some 40mins drive from T2 and the race finish. A better option would have been to stay near T2 and more in Old town. If you have won the lottery you could stay in the Bristol Hotel which was about £500-600 a night ;-)).

T1 – Well away from the city and old town and quite a long transition but well set out.

I arrived on Friday evening and race check in for bike etc was all to be done on the Saturday. Check in was at Multimedia Fountain Park (about 5-10mins walk from Old town) and you needed the usual race entry and also a race licence (so BTA for you guys in the UK). After check in I dropped in the bag for T2 (MKS Polonia Warszawa training pitch) which was about 5mins walk from registration and the expo at a local park. This was also where the bike would be left for post-race for collection (Don’t go until 4pm or you will not get in).

Getting to T1 (Port of Nieporet, Zegrynskie lake) was not too bad in the Car but I know quite a few jumped on trains but the gap between when the trains ran was quite big so if you are going on the train suggest brining the wetsuit and having a swim whilst there as you can do practices swims on the Saturday.

Once the bike and bag was dropped it was time for me to do some work and then up early for the Sunday morning fun.

Race day

There were 2 races going on the 5015 and the 70.3. The order on the day is relays, 5015, Pro athletes then AG’s. Of relevance is the PRO athletes starting at 9.30am and the AG at 9.35am. I left the hotel at 7am as T2 did not open until 7.30 for the 70.3 athletes. I would give this advice if driving – Leave maybe 6.45am as although roads were supposed to be closed at 9am they were closing them earlier. Also, none of the guys blocking the road spoke English so unless you are Polish you’re screwed. We got to the final block about 1mile from T2 (we used the Waze APP for directions) and we just ignored the barrier and drive round and all was good.

I got to the bike and front tyre was soft so pumped it up and after 5min chat to a guy just before I left felt the tyre and it was soft again. So swapped out the tyre for a new one just in case. Pumped it up and came back 20mins later and it was still inflated.

Had plenty of time so about 40mins pre-race did a run warm up and stretching and then about 30mins before got swim gear on and did a nice swim in the lake. Was lots of space to find some water and calm any nerves. Then got into the queue for the swim (had to push through to get towards 1st 10 rows) and had about 5mins spare just to orient with the swim.

The Swim

The start was wave start in groups of 6ish, so no mass start. The water was shallow to about 40-50mtrs out. Don’t try to swim it, walking or easy run through the water was fastest until you hit a gravel/stoney bottom then start swimming with buoys always on your right.

The swim out was pretty choppy as the wind blows towards shaw (at least on my day and from what I heard the same the year before). The plus was you get a push home. Swim was pretty uneventful other than losing the swim cap after some rouge arm hit my head but I felt fine and could just think about stoke, sighting and what was to come in transition.

Time: 31mins.18secs

The Bike & T2

I took a bit of change here and did not clip the shoes into the pedals the reason being I had new shoes (aero reasons) but they where a bit tight and I was worried I could not get feet into the shoes when on the bike under race conditions. The ground was grass and short transition so did not expect to lose much time. T2 was ok but the bag section as always was totally to many bags on the rack so digging under bags to find mine pisses me off – just buy longer racks.

Onto the bike and felt good ready to go. 5mins in and had a slow flat jumped off and managed a PR on a tyre change despite one of my CO2 cartridges not working, but second one was good to go. The only downside was no more CO2 cartridge – so fingers crossed no more flats over event. I was lucky I didn’t have any more issues the whole race.

The bike is pretty flat and with OK swim by 30mins in it was pretty honest race. Very little drafting going on but would say there were some sections where I found a train and you needed to push a big block of power of 10mins to pass and drop. They were not super-fast but my advice was only to try to pass such groups where it’s a tail wind as sections of the course there was a fair headwind. Suggesting pushing only with tailwind is because most just spin along at that time and it’s easier to get past such a groups than when there is a headwind.

Flat course for me are about 2 things – 1. Ride smart not hard and 2. Learn to be aero. So by this on flat single lap courses you normally get a section of headwind and section or sections of tailwinds. Headwinds you will need to work to hold high average pace and then vice versa on tailwind. Into the headwind you need to keep very tight shape to cut through and often the big guys even suffer in strong headwinds.

Other than that was pretty uneventful other than yes getting feet out of whose was and effort so need lighter socks for next race (I put socks on in T1) and break the shoes in.

Bike: 2hr 11mins (Note – I think I probably restarted the Garmin about 1k after flat repair so my view is the course is 2k short so that maybe about 3mins to add on for a full 90k). 


Onto the Run

Felt ok off the bike and found the bike bag with no issues as had spent the time the day before landmarking bike and bag. Got to the bag rack and was a bit of a mess pulled out 2 bags both not mine and had emptied one, so had to repack and put back not to fuck someone else’s race. Lost me maybe a min but was then off and out.

It was very warm and that was a shocker as I was expecting a race of say 20-22oc but was over 25-27oc on the day and for the 1st hr of the run no cloud cover. The course was for sure slow (maybe the cobbles or the slightly long course) as most pros other than top 2 where pretty close to 1.20min halfs telling you something was going on.

The course was a mixture of flat road and cobbles and this year was now 4 rather than 3 laps. The pro is mentally for me it’s better to break down the race. The negative is by the last 2 laps there is people everywhere; so your spending a lot of energy avoiding people. I had an ok 1st lap but felt hot so throughout. I would try to run myself into the race by holding 4.05-4.10 pace and then pick it up. However, I just faded every lap and after 1st lap I walked 2 aid station per lap to keep me cool. I estimate it was burning circa 30sec to 1min per lap for the 6 aid station walks. I was tough going and may the lack of training on the running caught up with me but I think I also maybe just one of those days where given the temp I should have hovered maybe up to another ltr on the bike.

Take home run was a 1:35min which is pretty shit for me but taking out the walks average pace was a 4.20/k pace or 1.31min half (according to the Garmin). So, a few lessons here to amend for next race but that’s what 1st race of the season is for right. All in all I was at least 5mins of target pace).

Run: 1hr 35Min 

Awards and reflections

Despite the shit run and slack transition, I bagged a 3rd so at least some consolation. Transitions as always can be tightened up from 1st race of the season and typically I shave about 2mins by end of season. The winner of the AG was Petr Vabroušek an ex pro athlete with national Ironman record holder with over 100 Ironman’s under the belt and a nice guy, so those are the breaks. Even on my best day I would have been lucky to beat him but second for sure should have been in the bag.

My thoughts on course if a great day for me without mistakes maybe a 4.10-4.15 but that’s due to short bike, so I think it’s a 4.15-4.20 so similar to IM Poznan but a more difficult run because of the 4 laps and athletes everywhere (race was full).


So, what’s next ?

Next race is likely European Champs in Tallin (August) then IM Worlds in New Zealand in December. There can be no messing about at these races as everyone will be on the ‘A’ game so better bet on top form. I know the course and swim in Tallinn –  its fast and I like it.

Hope your all having a great season and good luck for the rest of 2024.