1st GBR at Ironman Gloria 70.3
The reason for venturing over to race at Ironman Turkey 70.3 was due to not being at a level of fitness, mentally or physically for my initial racing plans of Ironman UK 2017, there will be a follow up blog to cover the 2017 season which will cover fitness, preparation and results.
I was attracted to this race due to the positioning in the year, with this race being in November, it allowed me time to get some fitness together with some specific training towards the end of the UK racing season.
Ironman Turkey looked amazing on pictures and race promo videos, I was looking forward to racing in the sun and was hopeful of a non wetsuit swim which would fall to my advantage.
Gloria Ironman 70.3 Turkey Official Race Courses Video
I arrived in Turkey 2 days prior to race day, I was surprised by the temperature, which was hitting highs of 34 degrees, I had been on holiday in Turkey back in August and I experienced how much the temperature effects performance just by doing a few training runs, I did not consider that the temperature would remain as hot for this race in October.
One thing ironman does well is create a big race feel. Registration was at the sports arena which was also used as the finish and event expo.
Registration was done on the Friday with race day being on Sunday, I had been excited for competing at this race and after registration was complete, I had a lot of adrenaline to hold back over the next day, ready to use the energy in the race.
Leading into the race I unfortunately picked up a chesty cold which I was lucky enough to shift the week before the race, I balanced out my training to limit the stresses and help my body get healthy, I managed to get some key specific sessions ticked off in the 6 week leading into the race and was confident that I was in good enough shape to be competitive.
My finial specific session was done the weekend before race day, the session was plain and simple, I had been building the sessions up with longer intervals, the final session was there to see what kind of shape I was in and help me decide, race day bike power and run pace.
I went into this session having been ill for the previous 3 weeks, the session was 60 minutes at slightly above 70.3 target power, followed by 6 mile at 70.3 race pace, I achieved promising data from the session which gave me confidence leading into race week, the remaining time before leaving for the race was spent doing short and sharp intervals with good recoveries and generally just keeping the legs fresh.
As always, race day is an early wake up, I try to get breakfast 2.5 - 3 hours before race start, my breakfast was a bowl of porridge oats and then a banana around 60 minutes before the start, I also have an Argi+ sachet mixed with water, this is taken roughly 30 minutes before race start and aids the blood flow around the arteries which means a larger amount of oxygen is delivered to the muscles.
I take a caffeine gel 20 minutes before race start and anything after is in race race nutrition.
With my Shark Composites bike already racked the day before, I was able to get a taxi to the race start venue which was in a very nice hotel called the Gloria Serenity.
The period of getting to the race venue is always my most anxious time before a race, once I am there and transition is dealt with, I am in race mode, feeling calm, excited and motivated to get out there and perform to my best.
It got announced on race morning that the swim would be a non-wetsuit, this is what I was wanting and had purchased a Huub swim skin in preparation for this situation.
Swim Skin, I had used the Huub swim skin twice in the pool leading up to the race, I think it is important to not go into a race using equipment that Is new and my findings of using the swim skin was it did live up to the performance stats of it being approximately 4 seconds per 100m faster, there is zero buoyancy advantage to wearing a swim skin and therefore it doesn't give the benefits to a weaker swim like a wetsuit does.
The race start for the swim was a rolling format, this involves self seeding and as you can imagine it can become a battle for the front row, I was warmed up and ready for stage one of the race, which for me I felt it was important to get towards the front row of the swim start and do my best to hold strong at the front end of the swim.
The swim is a strength I have always carried in triathlon, this season has been different and instead of feeling strong, I have been battling shoulder problems for most of the year which has prevented the usual swim training, in this seasons races I have felt the swim has been a matter of getting through the discipline rather than being able to race it.
leading into this race I had picked the training up and was over the persistent niggles, unfortunately I had missed a good few weeks swimming due to illness and this lead me not knowing what condition I was in to attack the swim.
The swim was a beach start, a short run and then into the warm 26 degree water, the first buoy was positioned 400m directly out to sea, this meant it wasn't as congested once rounding the buoy and I was positioned nicely in the top 5. After 400m the pace of the front group started increasing fast, the group got strung out and I was left dropped off after the feet I was following in the choppy water, had let a gap grow.
The swim had an Australian exit at around 1000m, this involved a short run on the beach and then back into the water for the remainder of the swim.
I exited the water in 8th place overall and 2nd in my age group 35-39yr, the run to transition was long, it involved running through the hotel and then the run from the bag station to collect your bike and then to the mount line was just as long, but with the spectators cheering and the adrenaline flowing it was great to get onto the bike and move onto the second phase of this Ironman 70.3.
The bike course is on fully closed roads at Ironman Turkey, the roads are mostly smooth tarmac, I say mostly due to me coming into contact with one of the only potholes on the course.
Out of the water and onto the bike after the extremely long transition, I was positioned nicely towards the front end of the race, in 8th place overall and 2nd in my age group, i was feeling good on the bike and could see a group of 4 riders in the distance, I slowly pulled up towards the group which was riding illegally and drafting, I’m not sure what some athletes think of the drafting rules of a distance of 12m apart but it’s a rule that needs to be policed better by Ironman to stop the cheats out there.
As I was getting close to the group, I was making the decision to have a minute off the back and then go past hard to fend off any drafting or just keep at my current speed and cruise through on the outside, at this point I collided with a pothole which resulted in me loosing my bottle which had all my fuel for the ride in the form of gels.
I use an aero bottle on my bike down tube, I had 8 gels in the bottle which was topped up with water, by using the bottle it makes taking the gels easier and I find I can fuel more little and often to keep the fuel trickling in.
When the I lost the bottle, I made a quick decision to stop and collect it, this cost me around 45 seconds and a few places.
Having lost some places and dropping out of the top 10, I could know longer see the drafting group that I was about to progress by and up the rankings, I stayed calm and got going back at the paces I felt comfortable at.
The bike course had a looped section which involved a slight ascent 10 miles out and back along the other side of the road which was very fast, this looped section was tough going, a relatively strong head wind making it even more important to be dialled into a good aero position.
At half way on the looped section it was ideal for taking note of race position, I had made my way up to 4th place overall and leading my age group, I wasn’t far behind 2nd and 3rd but the race leader and eventual winner was roughly 3 minutes ahead on me, the frustrating thing was, I could see he had a lead motor bike riding at a short distance in front of him, it’s not necessarily the athletes fault, I have been in the situation with tv camera bikes and you can gain a massive advantage with the draft.
40k into the bike and I’d gone through in 58 minutes, including my stoppage, I felt good and knew I was riding competitively.
I was really enjoying racing and feeling good, I use a platform called Training Peaks to coach my athletes at TRI FIT Coaching, with this platform you can utilise a chart called the performances management chart (pmc), this chart takes in all the data from the sessions performed and the fatigue and fitness adaptions made, for me, this chart was showing that I was at my fittest of all season, this was certainly how I felt.
Towards the back end of the bike, I dropped a few places to some uber bikers and the drafters that clung to the wheel of the uber bikers, I even had someone latch onto my back wheel and it took a few verbals and hand gestures for him to even drop back with a look which said “what am I doing wrong” ha!
Coming towards the end of the bike, I was ready to get off, I was starting to feel uncomfortable due to being in the aero position for the whole ride, it’s not often you can replicate this back at home unless you do it on the turbo but even then it’s different, I also had some chafing under my arms, on my neck and the usual contact area's with the saddle, I have never experienced this racing so I can only put it down to the salt water and sweating.
I dismounted the bike in 10th place overall and excited onto the run in 9th.
My legs felt okay considering I had worked hard on the bike, my heart rate on the bike compared to my effort was reasonably fine, what I noticed instantly as I hit the run course was the intense heat and in return this resulted in my heart rate being elevated to 188bpm, this is 10 to 15 bpm above what I’d expect so my main focus was to relax the pace and get my heart rate down to a manageable beats per minute.
After a couple of miles and a bit of rhythm into my stride, my heart rate had settled to an average of 180bpm, this was still much higher than what it was back at home in my preparation sessions, the result of this was a pace of approximately 60 seconds slower than my initial target pace, I couldn’t do anything about this, I was working hard and my pace per mile was staying consistent, this was my goal for the remainder of the race, I could see other athletes walking and pulling up with muscle cramp, I had slipped a few paces but was feeling strong.
The run course was within the grounds of a luxurious golf course, the terrain was mixed, a bit of sand, some nicely cut grass, but mostly on the undulating path weaving around the undulating golf course from hole to hole.
The last 3 mile of the run was on the road section, taking you from the Gloria resort to the sports arena at where the finish of Ironman Turkey 70.3 was.
3 miles to go and I was overtaken by an athlete in my 35-39yr age group, I wasn’t sure what position I was in age group but I managed to keep the competitor within 200m, I was working hard, my heart rate was a limiter to how fast I was able to go, I saw the flood lights approaching of the arena and this triggered me to empty the tank, I started moving closer and closer to to the athlete in front, I made a decision to attack hard to take me past him, I kept going hard with 800m to go, not looking back until approaching the finishing funnel, I then realise that I had managed to get clear and there was no sprint finish needed.
I managed 4th in my age group and 15th overall
My target for the race was a podium age group position and top 10 overall.
I think my target was realistic and I feel a top 5 overall was achievable if I had acclimatised to the heat and been able to run at my target pace.
I was happy to finish the first British athlete.
Race Day Nutrition
I choose to consume most of my fuel on the bike, this was 8 gels and 4 bottles of electrolytes, the reason for this was to limit the chance of stomach distress on the run which would have been heightened with the temperatures.
I took one gel on the run at 3 miles, I took a water and a coke at each feed station which was every 1.5 mile, this seemed to work really well and at no point did I feel empty.
Learnt for Next Time
I was happy how my prep went for this race, I haven't been creating a large amount of training stress throughout this season, this meant I was able to have a short taper going into this race and be fresh standing on the start line. I could have put a few weeks of panic training together, which would have boosted my fitness but it would have also left me with to much fatigue to flush in time for the race.
There are two things I will do different in future races due to my experiences of Ironman Turkey:
Use a different way of carrying my energy gels, the option I will go for is either another aero type bottle on the down tube but much more substantial, or I will opt for a rear bottle cage mounted on the back of my seat, this will most likely be the option I go for as it is more versatile.
In an ideal world, I would have travelled out at least 7 to 10 days before the race to get used to the temperatures, this wasn't possible due to time off work. Plan B, I could have done my prep sessions and training in my training room, using my treadmill and turbo trainer, with the heat turned up to a temperature to imitate the conditions in Turkey.
I would like to thank my Mum for her support over there, she ended up running over 10 miles in 3 days herself.
The support of my sponsors at VCUK are always appreciated and you can find out more on the sponsors page in my website menu.
Ironman Turkey 70.3 Gallery