Roll on July 9th
That was the thought process in the months leading up to Ironman Frankfurt. I felt ready and was shooting out some great training sessions as well as some long training hours, effort and coin on route to what I though would be a big PB.
One thing that seems to be common across those involved in long course triathlon is the dreaded taper illness. In 2016 I was victim and ended up ill pre-Austria making me jump into Ironman Barcelona to validate my years efforts, which I did with a PB. However, I was hoping I would be able to avoid such issues this year but for those following me on twitter (@marktallonphd) a week out I ended up with a bacterial chest and throat infection – so out came the anti-biotics. It was a case of fingers crossed that I would be ready for race day!
What a week…So a week out I picked up the illness and pretty much did nothing training wise other than try to recover for race day. Then day of flying out I was told my grandmother died – so some icing for the shit cake I was dealing with. There was also a load of work stuff to deal with for both wife, and myself but maybe go into that in another blog.
As you guys know you invest not only significant time but also cash into preparing for an Ironman. Physio, bike kit, nutrition, coaching, flights, hotel, entrance fees all add up to £1000’s of cash. So many of us go against what we know is right i.e. to pull out. I would never advise an athlete to race when ill other than head cold but once on the chest and green chunks there are some real health dangers to racing like that – so I must be a bit of a nob as still raced.
48hours out and I decided I would race and I needed to get my head into the right space. Before I get into the story of the race the goal was sub hr swim, 4hr 45min bike and a 3.10run – all on the cards based off my training leading up.
For those who don’t know the swim start and T1 are across the city from T2 for Ironman Frankfurt. So the day before the race you need to grab your bike to get checked in by taking your bike onto a bus with the other 3116 registered athletes. The bus journey was about 40mins and as you can see by the pick the queues are pretty big and at over 30oC you’re sweating your nuts off for about 30mins before getting on-board. I have to say the operation is slick and there are lots of busses so don’t stress about getting to racking in the 1st bus to go.
What I would say is for those of you who are staying near the city and my not get an opportunity to try out the swim is to bring some swim kit so after racking your bike you can get on the swim course. Again getting back into Frankfurt is hassle free as lots of busses on for the return journey.
One of my previous issues during Ironman was getting my ass out of bed in the Morning in enough time to make sure I was not rushing to race start and could get a warm-up in. This time set my clock early so we where out of the door 4.35am to get the bus (yes you can bring family) to Swim start (T1 opens at 5am). I got there in good time to check over the bike and load food and drink for the day and managed to get into the water for a good 10min warm-up. The lake is stunning, very flat and easy to see the markers, so I stuck my self into the sub hour group.
Swim [1hr 46seconds]
Prior to the start of the swim I felt pretty good. I was still coughing but didn’t feel to bad and had completed the antibiotics the day before the race and had a good sleep. Got into the swim which is a wave start and there seemed to be lots of space. In hindsight I wish I had been a bit more aggressive but was not sure how I would feel. In the end was an OK swim and felt pretty comfortable post swim.
The transition was a long run up to the bikes and changing area. I had already scoped it out pre race so I knew what was to come. I had no issues during transition and out on the bike in ok time (T1 = 6min 46seconds).
Bike [4hr 57min 18seconds]
The bike was short this year by a supposed 3km (My Garmin says 6k). Like all Ironman the bike is a make or brake for the rest of the event and I was looking forwards to it after some great rides in training. After the 1st 10k my power was down about 20watts from target effort and this was the concern – what impact of the illness. However, I had decided whatever happens I would finish the race and work as hard as was comfortable. Despite not being able to hold a higher power I enjoyed the bike. There was very few out on the course and that would mean I only saw one instance of drafting – so a real honest course – just how Ironman should be.
A few tips for those of you that might be interested in doing Frankfurt. There are a few places with cobbles and these are real boneshakers. I used 28c wheels for the race and 90psi to try to absorb some of the shakes but lost my chain over one of the sections. So key for the cobbles is to keep spinning the legs as your go over them as any slack in the chain when not pedalling can make the chain more likely to jump off.
Over the second half of the course I dropped another 6 watts but on the plus side did get in all my nutrition / fluid on the day, which was a concern as antibiotics can ruin gut function. This was key as mid bike the temp was already heating up to a toasty 32oC. I had done 10 days pre race heat acclimatisation work and got to say it worked a treat as even with a TT helmet on I did not feel fried.
Coming off the bike I was ready to get a quick transition and had feet out of the shoes ready to hand my bike to waiting staff. Once off the bike I ran to my bag (which I had market with black permanent marker to ensure it stood out from the other bags). On arriving at my race number the bag was gone from the hook (Yep fucked off is an understatement). I called a member of staff over to help out but they where as useful as a chocolate fireguard – after some running around I found it about 5 meters away under another rack. Clearly someone must have picked up the wrong bag realised it and dumped it (Thanks). Panic over but maybe 1-2mins lost resulting in a 4min transition when you could do this in 2mins.
Run [3hr 57min 21seconds]
Out onto the run a felt OK (As good as you can feel post bike leg) and tried to set off at pre planned 4.20/4.25 min.km pace. After 5km this felt tough and the cough was back in full effect so I slowed it down trying to hold around 4.45min/km. Despite averaging this up until 24/25km into the run the cough was constant and the next thing I was laid on the floor then being carried of to the med tent. After about 15mins in the med tent I was allowed to go (I had blacked out due to low blood pressure from the coughing).
By the time I got running I had lost about 20mins (Stuck the run splits at the end of the blog for those interested). However, after dropping out at Austria in 2016 I promised I would never quit another Ironman, so on I went and pushed as much as I could holding around 5min/km pace over the rest of the course. I guess without the stop I would have been around the 3.30marathon time, which would have been all things considered and OK race and a PB.
Despite the failure in making my goal race effort, I learnt a massive amount about myself over this race.
- 1st – I now know what I need to do to acclimatise for a hot race, which has been an issue for me in the past.
- 2nd – Even when I am not in best form and have a disaster out on the course I can still push close to a sub 10hr Ironman.
- 3rd – The experiences of hard races over the past few years and the failures have strengthen my mind so when the wheels come of I can find the motivation to carry on.
So despite not getting the race nor the outcome of the race I wanted I felt proud of the effort I had put in. After a few days reflection I have signed up to a race I did back in 2014 – ‘Ironman Florida’.
Writing this Race Blog is a bit delayed and it’s now 2 weeks post Frankfurt and still not 100% over the cough. So far I have only done a few easy sessions to keep the legs spinning. However, I have really needed the break with so much going on in personal life and being training solid for the last 7months have taken their toll.
I have loved the break both physically and mentally but I am ready to get back to it from 1st week of August and will use the next week as a run in pre training proper. So another 12 weeks of graft are ahead for me and I feel mentally recharged and ready to attack. Best of luck to all of you for the rest of the season and remember avoid the doubters as there are no limits other than those inside your mind! #believe
Best in training, Mark