Ironman Florida 2017: Take 2

It has been sometime since my last write up but it’s been a really tough few months…

 

End of September I was involved in a bike accident where some idiot decided it was ok to reverse around a blind bend at the bottom of a hill with no signs or warnings he was doing so. I was out for a 4-hour ride and was the one who was his victim…

The result of the crash was double compression fracture of my spine (something I didn’t fund out until 3 weeks after the crash) as well as all the usual niceness of whiplash and bruising. I guess it was on the cards given the arseholes on the road and never been involved in a ‘real’ accident;  but when you’re building for an Ironman, accidents are a true disaster. In addition to that as a stress I have just moved to the other end of the UK and unfortunately for the family I was as much use as a chocolate fireguard in helping move.

 

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

 

Needless to say I have been and continue to have lots of issues with my back and neck, which has not fully healed so next stop, will be a MRI. In the interim I have been trying to get back into some training (approved by the orthopaedic consultant) after almost no training for 3-4 weeks post-crash. As I write this part of the blog I am 4 weeks out from Florida and have been trying to regain some lost form and have put in a few good rides and painful runs and swims (I have issues taking a deep breath due to injuries).

I have 4 weeks and ideally squeeze in 2 big days over the next pre-taper 2 weeks. Tomorrow and the following weekend will be big days and got to say am nervous as anything over 90mins (and any swim) has been leading to sleepless nights due to back and neck pains. However, as we all know once you have signed up for an Ironman the lure is difficult for reasons of costs (flights, entry already all paid for) and in my case I wanted to make the season worth it as had not beat my IM best despite spending a big winter and early summer getting in very good shape pre-taper for my main race at IM Frankfurt. I know I’m not the only one who feels the pressure to validate a season of hard training but maybe not the best idea.

Sometimes I feel the whole thing is madness as if the event was low cost and in UK I would have dropped out, as health is more important. I would never advise my athletes to do what I am doing in continuing to train when I should be 100% focused on recovery and getting my injuries resolved. So with making that decisions let’s turn back to Ironman Florida.

 

FLORIDA – Turn that frown upside down

In 2014 on a road bike, on the early stages of my Ironman journey and on the heels of a major storm I completed IM Florida. Back then there was no swim (a first I think is 14 years of the events history) due to the very bad weather. The race from recall was OK as it was pretty flat and not too hot, and despite a few punctures I enjoyed the ride and the marathon.

Flat and fast is what I love and given this time I will be a stronger biker (my race pace was my FTP back in 2014) I hope to at least crank out a better bike than my 5hr 53min bike from 2014…

 

RACE READY? SORT OF…

In the run up to IM Florida I had my issues as above. However, in the 4 weeks prior to IM I managed to get in some good sessions although only 1 bike lasting 4hr 30mins I was ready to at a minimum get around the course.

In the run up to the race felt pretty calm and had a great shortened taper thanks to Dr Garry at SportsTest and made it through without any sign of a cold which has always been an issue. I was checked in and all prepped for race morning no problem. Come race morning I was up at 4.50am food in and then off to drop transition bags and make sure bike was in one piece and fully loaded and race ready.

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

 

Check in was fine and made it down into the swim start and slotted into the sub 1-hr group. Swim was always going to be a bit choppy and it’s a strange old swim as the level of the water remains shallow for a good 100-150m from entry so you have a few meters where you can dolphin and the rest your wading out. The 1st lab was fine and I was a little cautious on my effort as swimming had been causing the most issues in my back (t4/t5) where the fractures had happened from the crash. Although I had done bike to run brick work during training I had done no swim bike and was just hoping all would be OK. After getting in for lap 2 the orange markers had significantly shifted.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

I don’t know if they had become untethered but a lot of people had began to swim out very wide away from the direct line to 1st turning buoy (was red). I asked a few others who where also lost wondering what was going on but no one knew so I decided just to head for the red buoy and if the wrong line the refs in the water would tell me. It was the right choice but the dicking abut burnt some time but as long as I got out and the back was in one piece it would be a thumbs up.

Swim [1hr 05mins].

 

TRANSITIONS

I don’t often talk about transitions but Florida is 100% on the ball – yes it’s a long transition from beach to change to bike and you cannot have your shoes on the bike but the staff are all over ready to make sure your get to your bike. In my situation I was very near the transition exit making finding the bike easy and when you get to the change tent the volunteers are waiting for you with your bike change bag. No mean feat with 3000 athletes. Similar, getting of the bike you had over your bike as you cross the line and the volunteers rack and also hand you your run bag making for a super smooth transition. Other IM events could learn a lot from Florida.

 

BIKE – TIME TO GET REAL. 

Following the weather it was forecast to peak at about 3 hours into the bike at 80of but very little wind so real feel of 90oF. For me I was not concerned but I knew if would be a factor on the run, so hydration pre and post swim as well as on the bike would be key. Got to say I felt good on the bike on the lead out and perhaps a bit to over eager with exceeding my race watts by 10-15watts. That would be fine in a cool European event but given the heat in Florida I wanted to ease off to make sure I was leaving some in the tank for the run. I also had done only one long bike in 12 weeks leading up to the race so what was in the legs I didn’t know.

Figure 3: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

Figure 4: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

After the 1st hour I had settled in and from where I was after the 1st hour I didn’t see any drafting, which is what Florida has had a reputation for. I don’t know if this was due to increased marshalling or some change in the way age groups are now approaching races but it was useful and allowed me just to think about my own performance without to much surging etc.

Out on the course my mind was on 2 things .1 holding aero position and 2. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I try to get in at least 1000mls an hour although I know I will sweat more than this. I have been up to 1200mls/hr previously but just not had enough time to get in the sessions to adapt. However, as long as I can hold my aero position I can get away with lower watts for a better return in speed (note: my CDA for Florida was 0.223 m^2).

Over the last 30Mins I was beginning to feel the ride become a bit more of an effort than the ease the rest of the race so held back another 5watts, hoping it would leave me with some legs for the run.

Bike time [4hrs 53mins]

 

INTO THE FIRE…

Dam, Dam hot…That’s the summary for the Florida run. I jumped of the bike out of transition and have to say felt ok and tried to settle into a 4.40-4.45mi/kg pace of running and until about 14/15k (See Figure x.x) I was bang just under a 4.35average (to get me under a 3.15 marathon and circa 9hr 20Min IM based on the days swim/bike– p.s. that would have given me second or 3rd in age group and kona slot) then the heat (or maybe just the lack of training) started to kick in….

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

 

The rest of the run was ok high and lows but manageable but could not hold the speed and hard to keep body temp down despite lots of ice at aid stations and remaining hydrated. I had not done anywhere near enough the acclimatisation work I had done for Frankfurt and I could feel that on the day. Frankfurt’s peak heat was higher than Florida but I felt easier at Frankfurt heat wise so something I can cope with but need to do the right preparation.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot...even from the start.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot…even from the start.

So the run became a case of grinding it out but with no real walks of shame only walking the aid stations after about 15k I was pretty happy to make it through, given the last few months of not even knowing if I would make the start line.

So come the end of the run there was the lovely finish shoot and unlike in 2014 I finished in the sunlight and was great to see the family and my Mam who had come over for her 70th birthday. Despite nipping under the 4Hr mark for the run I was well away from the 3hr 27min run I did in 2014, which if I could have put together on the day would have given me my goal of a Kona slot. But these things are here to tease but a sign for me that I have it in me.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Post analysis I improved from 2014 but a poor run and lack of training let me down on the day and although I didn’t aim for Kona on this race but a finish holding together my run from 2014 would have got me to the island. There have been improvements since 2014 results but the only number that really matter are 1-4 i.e. the finishing slots guaranteed to get you to Kona and that’s got to be the goal again for 2018.

  • 16th Age group (Up from 52 in 2014)
  • 96th Overall (Up from 275 in 2014)

Overall IM Florida 2017 [10hr 6min]

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

 

SUMMARY – A Year to forget or remember!

I have had a great year of training but a crap year for results. I am sure everyone has them but you always are looking for validation of your efforts but you have to look to your long-term goals, evaluate and fix what maybe broken in your strategy. You will always get those looking to the failure in a result or you not achieving x but every season and indeed every race brings new insight. The application of that insight to you micro, macro cycles in training, your diet and recovery are all key.

The pro’s for this year for me is I have finally understood how to acclimatise for the heat that’s to Frankfurt. 3 weeks having a mix of steam/sauna and hot baths post training do the job. I am never going to be an optimal athlete in the heat as I carry too much muscle and simple thermodynamics come into play here. However, managing and still performing to ‘my’ best ability in hot conditions is key to a good performance if not the fastest race.

I also believe a shortened taper works best for me. I felt so much better going into Florida than any other IM, so despite the lack of long bikes I think I had a good race.

Negatives of the year have been my 1st real bike crash and I am writing this second part of my blog a week post IM Florida and another night of poor sleep due to continued back pain. I am in for my MRI and hopefully the issue is just muscular and I just need time post the fractures. I will keep up with the physio and osteopath sessions and the latter are a massive help.

Although the race times for various reasons of health have not been fantastic I have learned this season and become stronger on my bike. It’s the start of the off-season and I’ve had a week of very little post Florida so I guess its time to get back on it. It’s been a busy work year from the day job and setting up some other projects but some very exciting stuff in the pipeline for 2018.

“Wishing you guys a very happy xmas and all the best for your winter training!”

 

 

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