I approached this race with a nice base build up over autumn and then my usual 10 week block, which I find works best for me as I am usually totally over ironman training by the end of the 10 weeks.
The only issue with this race was the fact that it is a Sept race, meaning I would have train heavily over winter which ended up being a nightmare, having a very solid 6 weeks of cool rainy weather. I spent lots of my bike sessions on the trainer due to the weather and I can recall many of my long runs in the pissing rain, wind and generally miserable!
Being 2 weeks out from Kona there was also the chance that this could be a good opportunity to grab a Kona slot. Once we arrived and looked at the race fields and size it appeared as though there was a lot of people there also targeting as an A race to grab a Kona slot, so it with this and the difficult conditions it wasn’t a soft race to get a slot!
I probably don’t train as much as the very serious insects chasing Kona dreams as I have a reasonably pressured job and a young family in which I coach them in various sports, so I just keep it consistent all year round as best I can fit it in.
Below is a table showing my training volumes for the final 10 weeks, if anyone is interested. My routine is general ride Tue/Thur AM, run Wed/Fri AM, long ride and run over the w/ends. I take Mondays off altogether for recovery and I generally swim Tue/Thur PM and try and get a third swim in on Fri or on the w/ends.
I know there are a lot of coaches out there banging on about how you need to swim 4-5 times per week but in my world of life, job, family, etc something has to give. I make sure I hit all of my bike and run sessions and make sure that I can ride a strong 180km and I generally catch the swimmers and people who don’t train long enough on the bike.
I always do at least 3 x 200km rides in the final 6 weeks of my prep so that I can ride out the 180 strongly.
Two weeks out from the race I did some testing to confirm my target numbers which were;
Swim – Usually swim 59 – 60min in a wetsuit so probably around 1:05 – 1:10.
Bike – My training had indicated that I was around 195 -200W, and most of my long rides were comfortable enough at this power. Final FTP test here; http://tpks.ws/emj9
Run – My testing and long runs had indicated that a pace around 4:20-4:30m/km, which was comfortable, and have previously run 3:19 and I was in better shape this time.
My weaker discipline like most triathletes, but not something that I fear or am concerned about as I grew up swimming, I just don't swim that fast, or train enough for it.
My aim was to swim 1:05 and the rolling start was going to help me to relax into the race, without that shit fight of a mass start. Generally across everyone I spoke to the feeling for the rolling start is positive and mostly everyone feels it makes their race less stressful and better for the AG field.
What an easy and great swim course this was! It was straight out 1850m around two buoys and then straight back! There was basically a lane rope with flags every 50m on your right the whole way so no real need to sight, only a few occasional glances.
There were reports of stingers and jellyfish in the water but those in front must have cleared the path because I didn't feel any for the whole swim. This was a bonus as I was a little worried of having my race affected by this.
I turned to head home and a quick glance at the garmin said 33min so I knew I was close to on track and just relaxed into the swim back to shore. Pretty uneventful really, I just found my space and focused on efficient body position, stroke and rolled along back preparing for the bike.
I exited the water in 1:04:50, which was bang on my prediction and target and the tent was pretty quiet so I figured I was we'll placed. Roxii had sorted me out with a Dare2tri speed skin for trial and review, which I found great and I reckon it definitely helped my time, plus I had no rub marks or sore spots, it was a great suit!
The course in Langkawi is a solid honest bike course which rewards those who’ve done training, don’t mind some hills and most importantly are able to control things and pace it properly.
There are a few hills after about 3k’s, which straight after the swim are pretty taxing but after that you can settle into your rhythm for 40km until the monkey zone.
Feeling happy after the swim I tempered my efforts through the first hills where my plan was cap my power at 300w so I didn’t overcook things and this seemed to work OK.
The first thing I noticed was, damn it was hot already, and people are going to suffer out here today! So I just kept in mind to ride the first lap for the second lap if that makes sense. I knew the carnage would start after 120km and just to bid my time.
Just prior to the monkey zone there is an out and back section, which was a good place to sight the lead groups and get a time check from them. I saw the lead AG group along here which included the only guy I knew was a danger in my AG and Jurgan Zac, they were 6 mins up from me and we were only 50km into the ride, which gave me confidence.
My only concern was they had a nice group rolling and I would have to work mainly solo to bridge across to them; all while my competitors were sharing the load in the group. I just had to find some guys going past me to jump on with and use them to help me.
Into the monkey zone and some young guy dropped me like a school bag on the first hill, and needless to say, he picked up the red bull bike prim! The hills in this section suited me nicely so I just got down to business and worked through there watching my power up the hills.
On the 30km run back into town a large bunch passed me, which was a worry because most of the TO’s were Malay’s, who are very friendly and softly spoken. At the complex we were staying at the security guards were from Nepal and I was told this is because the Malay’s are too soft and friendly to show enough authority.
This presented a challenge because these guys were drafting like a cycling bunch and I was paranoid about getting busted so sat at the back with a gap. A couple of TO’s came up and just blew a whistle and shook their finger, which resulted in nothing.
Sitting back of this bunch I was pushing too far above my power so I just worried about my own thing and let them go, hoping that they would get done.
Then it got more absurd when two guys caught me working together also, and once again a few whistles and shaking of fingers resulted in nothing! I was able to hold these guys at around 10m though so I thought I’ll just sit here and see how things go for a while. After about 15km a small truck goes passed and these two guys jump in the draft zone behind the truck and start flying off down the road at about 50-60k/hr!! Made more frustrating by the fact that I knew one of them was in my AG!
Thankfully a TO came passed me and I pointed to these guys yelling WTF, and he busted one of them, but let one off. Unperturbed they dropped of the truck and after the TO left they continued on their team time trial, only for an aussie TO to appear and bust the other bloke. They then got the shits and having to ride solo their pace slowed so I dropped them and moved on.
I made the turn around in 2:35 which was spot on my target time as I predicted that it would be a 5:10-5:15 course for me, my only concern was all the shit that went on with the bunches I had surged a bit too much.
I approached the second lap with a view to the impending run in the heat, and tried to ride it right on my power and keep it even.
I like to do a couple of 200km rides in preparation so I finish off the bike well and by the 120km mark I was starting to bring in the guys who were feeling the pinch.
At the turn around I saw the lead AG guys had all split up and my main rival was now 3:30 up on me and showing signs of distress, this is right where I wanted to be and things were going right to plan.
I was amazed at the carnage on the road from the athletes still on their first lap, walking up hills, stopped at aid stations as the heat and course were starting to take effect. I elected for a road helmet rather than a time trial helmet to help stay cool, and I think that this was a very wise choice, I was able to get plenty of cold water onto my head to help cool down at each aid station.
Aid stations were like a beautiful oasis and I found them to be well stocked and the drinks often nice and cold, so swapping out all your bottles and cooling down was a must at each station. This was made difficult at one station, where some local in a car, cut in on me and drove his car along the aid station so his passenger could put their hand out and get a drink!
Stuck on the outside of him, away from the aid station I was giving him a mouthful as I was telling him to get out of the way. So I had to stop to go around him to grab my replacements as there was no way you could skip a station.
The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, just head down, maintain my power and reel in the guys who were popping.
I jumped off the bike in 5:12, which once again was bang on target and prediction, however I had no idea where I was in my AG, I guessed possibly third or fourth. My daughter gave me a shout out that I was 3rd off the bike, and I knew that I had passed a guy in transition meant that I was second, right where I wanted to be.
Bike file for those interested in picking it to pieces!
Up until this point the race had gone exactly to plan and I was ticking off the schedule perfectly, my only concern was that it was so hot on the bike that I couldn’t eat very much; I just didn’t feel like it.
On the bike I was using UCAN with a little polyjoule added as my main nutrition, along with SIS gels and some sports drink from the aid stations.
I did have some Em’s power cookies however they were difficult to eat due to the heat.
In training and testing my pace was aiming at 4:30 min/k’s, which would have given me around a 3:20 marathon. However once I ran out of transition it was apparent that today wasn’t going to be a day for fast running and I had to add around 30-40 sec per km to my pace.
The run was a 4 lap course and I headed off between two of the pro men and just ahead of the 2nd placed pro woman so I thought that I would use them to help me push along and gauge my pace.
By now it was the hottest part of the day and it was getting damn hot and after 12km’s the wheels started to fall off. Heading out onto my second lap of the run I was in all sorts of strife, the temp was through the roof and I had started to bonk due to not eating enough. I had completed the first lap in 51 mins, which again was on track, however I was really starting to feel it. As you can see below, the ‘feels like’ temp for the afternoon was 48 degrees, and I could feel every bit of it right now!
At this point I went past my family and they gave me a good cheer but I was not in a good place, after passing them I was thinking to myself, how the hell am I going to finish this, I was cooked!
I looked at my Garmin and it was at 12.1km so I thought to myself, ‘OK lets keep running to 13km and you can have a walk’. Then after an eternity, I was struggling to hold a jog, so I looked at again and it was now on 12.4km! Shit, I need to walk now, so I just cracked and walked for 100m.
A German guy then got stuck into me saying “come on if you can walk you can run!” to which I had no fight in me for a comeback.
At this stage I knew that I was probably second in my AG, and I’m thinking to myself, I’m going to go from 2nd to 102nd in my AG here pretty quickly if I don’t pull it together. After looking at the results and splits post-race I have now worked out that I was most likely first in my AG having passed the first guy on the first lap.
So at this stage I thought that I needed to work out how I was going to get through this and what was going on. It is moments like these where you can’t really train yourself for, your mind is all over the place, and your body is screaming at you to stop and lie down, but this is where you need some clear thinking.
I realized that the lack of nutrition was now biting me and I was bonking, so I focused on getting to the next aid station, which was about 1km away, and eating up. And then surviving the next 45 mins or so until the temp started to drop.
I got the aid station and used the water tub to drench myself with cold water and get my body temp down, then I had some banana, watermelon, coke, sports drink and water.
Now I was treating it as aid station to aid station to get my nutrition in and try and get back into the race. At this point the pro guys I was with headed off up the road and the second placed woman came past me at a rate of knots, where I tried to respond, but had no chance.
The next aid station was at the stadium, which was a lonely miserable place. The run course must have been 1km short on each lap so they placed a looped section in the carpark of the stadium, which was horrible. At any one time there were probably 100-150 athletes running around the loops, and not a single word was spoken, only the shuffling of feet like a death march.
After repeating the cycle of eating and cooling down as best as I could on the next couple of aid stations, I managed to get things back in control again and able to maintain a reasonable effort, albeit pretty slow. However this second lap had put a big dent in my plans but by this stage everyone was in some form of damage control and survival.
About 2k’s into my bad patch the guy who won my AG passed me and we ran together, discussing how hot and difficult things were.
We both agreed that the racing was now over and it was just a battle to survive and get to the finish, unfortunately he was in slightly better shape than me at the time and I dropped off the pace.
Run splits per lap: -
Lap 2 62:55
Lap 3 58:34
Lap 4 57:58
Heading out for my third lap, the real blazing heat had dipped slightly and things become more bearable and I began to feel a little more confidant that I was still near the front and on for that Kona slot.
I settled into a nice pace just on the limit what I could manage and thought to myself that I just need to keep pushing along focusing on the process and let the results take care of themselves.
The fourth lap was actually quite enjoyable as the sun had dropped lower in the sky and I was ticking along nicely with no real issues, just pushing it as much yet keep below that threshold where the legs and feet cramp up.
A surreal experience for someone from a Christian country was on the last lap running along near a Mosque it was call to prayer time and this was ringing out through the speakers. Then along next to the fields and local homes, this all made it a great experience, which was exactly what I was after.
About 5km to go I was thinking that I was hopefully still around 3rd place and on for a Kona slot because I figured that there was going to be 4 slots in my AG, so I just had to finish it off and get to the finish.
Then with 3km to go these 2 Japanese guys in my AG went flying past me, getting worried about this I lifted things to go with them, dreading the thought of a sprint finish! But after about 400m I had no chance if running with them, so I had to swallow a bitter pill and let them go, which had me concerned that my Kona slot was running off up the road and there was not much I could do about it.
Coming down the finish chute after passing it 3 times truly was wonderful, by now I was spent and just wanted to stop. I didn’t have that exhilaration or joy you normally have at the finish of an Ironman, I was just glad it was all over and I could lie down out of the heat!
My final run time was 3:57, which was pretty slow for me, but looking at the results, only around 38-40 people were able to run under 4hrs, out of 1200 odd!
Run file; http://tpks.ws/o4df
After lying down on the grass for 30 min while my family cheered other athlete’s home I was ready to walk back to our villa and find out how I went as we still didn’t know due to no mobile phone.
So the final wash-up was;
Swim – 1:04:50
Bike – 5:12
Run – 3:57
Total – 10:22
5th in the M40-44 age group, and a restless night sleep hoping that I would be on for that Kona slot at the roll down the next day!
Then at the roll down there were 5 slots for my age group so I was in! This was a pretty emotional moment as there has been years of work go into this dream, I started tri’s around 1991, have watched Kona so many times and dreamed of racing on the big island!
Ed: Congratulations and well done Nath and good luck for the next 12 months of training and preparation. Id also like o thank Dare2Tri for supporting us and giving Nath the opportunity to test out and then race in their swim skin.