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IRONMAN AUSTRALIA – RACE REPORT – Scott Connolly (M25-29 AG)

"Scott 1985" took on Port Mac for his 4th Ironman, it was a fairly calculated approach and shows that if you take care of all the little things then it's easier for the big picture to come together.

This was to be my 4th iron distance race (IM WA 2010, Challenge Cairns 2011, IM Frankfurt 2013). After doing IM Frankfurt in 2013 and missing out on a sub-10 hour race by 28 seconds I thought I may be able to do in IMOZ if everything went well on the day. I had approached this race a fair bit differently to what I had my previous races. This time I was going to keep it as “stress free” as possible – not worry about previous race results, not analyse data files of people’s races in the past and not try and calculate what my possible finish time would be. It will be what it will be. This approach is obviously simplistic in nature but quite difficult in a sport where we tend to fuss over the small stuff.

Training leading into the race had been solid. I did Canberra 70.3 in December 2013 and went 4:44 with a 1:28 run and held ~230 watts on the bike. I just kept chipping away at my training for 6 months leading into Port with my main focus of just trying to be consistent. A very vague outline of my training would look like:

Monday – long swim (AM), easy run (PM)

Tuesday – 90-120min bike

Wednesday – 90min run (swim earlier in the season)

Thursday – 90-120min bike

Friday – long swim (AM), easy run (PM)

Saturday – long ride or race simulation closer to race day

Sunday – long run

My coach and two-time Kona qualifier, Benny, has been coaching me for about 18 months now so is able to make things work perfectly around my work and personal schedule. This year (2014) I had two IMs planned, Australia and Western Australia in December.

My mate and I arrived in Port on the Friday before the race where I just completed my registration and unpacked the bike (so much easier driving to a race instead of flying!). That evening I headed down to the dinner and race briefing, a pretty standard lead in to race day.

Saturday we headed down to the swim start at about 6:30am and did a 30min swim followed by the obligatory post-training coffee. Headed back and got the bike as ready as it will ever be, had the transitions bags packed and went down to rack the bike as soon as it opened at 11am. I like to get rid of the bike and bags as early as possible as I tend to fuss over things for no apparent reason. Had Shorto take us through a “transition tour” which was kind of cool too. A quick 25min run to follow and everything is now done! After gorging food all day without going crazy (for a change) I stopped eating at about 7pm which was the last time I would eat “solid” food for about 24-hours as it turned out. Throughout the day the wind had really been picking up and it was obviously quite topical around town. The forecast was for the race was to be cold and windy with some pretty strong gusts! Great!

Race day

The mate I was with was volunteering and he had a 4:15am start down at transition and was registered to help in T1 take off athlete’s wetsuits. I got up shortly after he left and made the 2km drive down towards the start area. After popping my nutrition on my bike (infinit) and making sure my spares were safe and secure, I went off the toilet and did the compulsory pre-race stop over. Incidentally I was doing great for time so I slowly made my way over to the race start and popped on my wet suit and lined up in the 1:00-1:08 start area.

SWIM

This was to be a “rolling start” where 6 athletes take off every ~5-10 seconds. I personally loved this starting process!! I was in the water about 6-7min after the first AGers. It was the cleanest race start (not just IM) I had ever had after about 40-50 triathlons. Stress-free and dare I say enjoyable. My plan was simple, find feet and hang on throughout the swim. This was actually quite easy to do as it appeared there were always people to jump on to; it felt like one long swim pace line situation. No fighting, no kicks to the head, no elbows to the nose just swimming. In all honesty I probably relied too heavily on the people in front of me to navigate around the course as I was highly focused on staying on feet I somewhat neglected this element of the swim but oh well they seemed to be doing OK. I felt really good during the swim, breathing was good and muscle fatigue wasn’t an issue. The weir crossing was again something which was quite topical but the organisers and volunteers worked beautifully and it was a non-issue. In fact, I liked it. Got to change position, stretch the back out for 2 seconds and jump back in, it helped break the monotony of swimming especially for me, a pretty poor swimmer! I wasn’t measuring my swim time or overall race time and didn’t check when I came out so it wasn’t until after the race that I realised I swam a 1:04:20 – about 2min faster than what I had anticipated.

T1

First person I saw was my mate who was volunteering but he was busy so had another great volley come up and tear off the wettie (they didn’t hold back almost throwing me from the chair), handing me all my gear and off I went.

Thanks volunteers! Time: 3:02

BIKE

First thing I realised is that my HR was being picked up on the power meter which was more annoying than anything else. The power numbers coming out of town were quite high but I felt really good but I wasn’t going to be silly enough to ruin my race for feeling good in the first 20km of the bike leg. My plan for the ride was to ride a NP of ~200.

The bike course at Port, in my opinion, is quite challenging with the first ~6-8km out of town quite undulating with some decent small climbs, rollers to contend with, nothing too full on but constant. The road surface isn’t great either, probably the worst road surface out of the Aussie IMs. In saying that the first lap I didn’t pay too much attention to the road surface, it wasn’t until the second lap that you realised how much it sapped the energy with the constant vibration slowly but surely taking its toll. The wind during the back half of the first lap started to pick up coming back into town but was quite mellow in comparison to the second lap of the bike. After about 80-85 odd km on the bike it is time to head up Matthew Flinders Drive, which for those who don’t know it is a quite a steep bloody hill where spectators line the road. I think I’m an OK rider in an IM but geez I struggled getting up this thing, to the point I was near dreading it on the second lap!

I rolled around the first lap of the bike in about 2:40 and ~215 watts and was feeling quite good but I knew the wind had picked up quite a bit so the second lap was always going to be a slower. My goal for the second lap was to just ‘stay focused’ and keep aero for long periods. I’m not even sure where the wind was coming from most of the second lap but at times it was really quite strong and speed was definitely dropping with only a minor drop in my power. After about 120km I was really getting over this road surface bashing my legs up but I just kept saying “stay focused, stay positive” which is one element of the race I was really proud of, my focus, throughout. It’s a long day and very easy to lose focus especially during the long bike ride.

Coming back along the extended straight stretch of road it was just about getting back to town but I knew I had to go up that stupid Matthew Flinders Drive again plus the rollers back into Port so there was still some work to do before getting into T2. Mentally I was pretty good still just repeating my motto of “stay focused, stay positive”. Overall, I saw near zero drafting except the occasional idiot deliberately and blatantly drafting but otherwise by far the cleanest IM I have done!

Time was 5:27:03 at about 209 avg. watts (unsure of NP at the moment as I haven’t yet downloaded my race file). I was about 76-77kg on race day for those who enjoy their numbers.

Nutrition on the bike: I had bidon with about 425g of carbohydrate in it so the plan was to take in approximately 80g of carbohydrate each hour whilst on the bike. I actually got through it faster than I had planned so switched to coke for the final 45min without issue.

Into T2, pretty happy to jump off the bike but still feeling OK. Into see a volley (best vollies at this race without a doubt). One lathered me up with sun screen whilst the other got my gear out of the bag. Time 1:44

RUN

The run course at Port is 4 laps of 10.5km with one ‘hill’ each lap. It isn’t anything too serious but obviously gets much harder each lap and is probably 200m from the bottom until up and around the corner. My plan was to run at 145-150bpm for the first half of the marathon and let it drift up for the second half. Problem was my HR monitor was still not working so I wasn’t getting any HR numbers which was concerning as I had trained exclusively using HR for my runs. Thankfully I had done 4-5 race simulations leading into Port which were 30min run/3:10 bike ride at IM effort/25km run at IM effort so I had the run “effort” dialed in. So I just went with it and wasn’t too concerned, I just knew I shouldn’t do anything stupid. The first lap I went around at about 4:30-4:35 pace which I was pretty happy with but again I wasn’t watching my watch much at all during the run (quite unusual for me really). I was focusing purely on effort. I knew running along the break wall and out the back in the neighbourhood streets were going to slow me because the wind was quite strong at these points. I continued to just tick off the kms until it gets ‘mentally difficult’ at about 28km. From here, providing you haven’t blown yourself to bits on the bike and first 2/3 of the run it is more of a mental than physical battle, in my opinion. I had my coach, his wife and son as well as my mate on the course which was great for the added support which gave me something to look forward to twice each lap! My HR decided it would start working after the first couple of laps on the run but by then it was more important for me to just give it what I could. I started to slow during the final 12km but was still able to run 4:50-5:00/km for most km.
Time: 3:17:45

Nutrition on the run: 2 cups of coke, 1 cup water every 2nd aid station. Every other aid station was 1 cup of coke and 2 cups of water. Kept the walking duration to 20-30 seconds each aid station.

End result: 9:53:56 70th overall and 7th in 25-29 AG – as I wasn’t monitoring my time it wasn’t until about half an hour after I finished did I realised that I did my first sub-10 IM and was pretty stoked with that result!

Positives of the race performance:

• Staying relaxed and stress-free during the training leading into the race.

• Pre-race nutrition plan – eating normal up until the day before the race then increasing CHO intake.

• Drafting throughout the swim and conserving energy well.

• Staying focused during the bike and staying within my power targets.

• Nutrition throughout the race worked perfectly for me (I don’t do well with solids).

• Staying positive during the last 10-14km on the run and never reactively walking, always being proactive with my walk breaks during aid stations.

• Overall stoked with my race execution.

Negatives of the race performance:

• HR monitor issues – still not sure what the heck has happened.

• Probably going 10% too hard coming out of town on lap 1.

Outside of this I think I raced to my potential during this IM which is something I’m very happy about!

It is time for a few weeks easy training before getting back into it and building up for IMWA.

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