Ironman Frankfurt Race Report – 3rd July 2016
I can be a stubborn so and so at times – so straight after the post-Ironman blues last year where the conditions absolutely blew me to bits, I didn’t think twice about going back the following year, just to get it out of my system. I didn’t want my lasting memory of Ironman Frankfurt to have been a constant state of my body suffering from early during the bike to the finish line.
So roll on 12 months and the week leading up to Ironman Frankfurt 2016 had arrived. Training I cannot say was perfect – but all for the right sort of reasons!! Our beautiful 2nd son being born on March 5th 2016. So in between the early morning feeds, nappy changes plus running my own business, I tried to fit what training I could, where I could!
I knew I had no-where enough swim sessions under the belt. I probably could count on both my hands how many times I had gotten to the pool over the previous 3 months – plus 3 open water sessions… really not anywhere close to the amount needed. But hey – I knew it wouldn’t be a good swim so I didn’t sweat it too much. I usually just want to get through the swim and then start enjoying the race as much as possible. Being an average swimmer (at best!) nothing is going to change overnight or without some drastic 1-to-1 training that I may take advantage of some off-season if I really want to change and better my technique (maybe this winter!)
Running also was steady at best – probably got my best steady mileage and consistency in the final 4 weeks leading up to the race. Wasn’t probably enough overall but enough to get by.
Cycling would have been the only of the three disciplines I was really comfortable with. It was the handiest session I could grab quickly when I got the time to train. I’d done a fair bit of turbo and power work – as well as pretty much hitting all my big rides at the weekend – the final couple of months being pretty consistent and my power numbers looking good.
So one week out of course the usual happens – I pick up some sort of chest bug that left me coughing like a 60 a day smoker and cold like symptoms. A pretty much ‘rest only’ taper then was on the cards and I took it – trading in my last week’s ‘staying loose’ sessions for sleep and rest. If this had of been any other type of distance (sprint/olympic/ even a local half) there would have been a high likelihood I would not have started the race. I don’t say that lightly. I felt like absolute crap 24hrs before the race. I knew there was not a thing I could do only rest and let the body try to get as better as it could. The day before the race my resting heart rate was still elevated, I was running hot and cold, energy levels were still pretty low and I was hacking up lumps of green stuff from the lungs when I coughed (sorry for the graphic description!) but that’s how it was….
Alarm goes off at 3.30am – I managed to get about 4hrs sleep and felt relatively ok. I think the excitement of race day and adrenalin got me from the bed to the race venue. On the shuttle bus to the swim start I couldn’t work out whether it was me with a high temperature, the bus heating turned on or just nerves that was leading to me sweating so much! – but regardless I set my mind on getting my bike, nutrition and gear in check for the race start.
I had learnt from last year about trying to get setup with people crowded around me in the transition area – so first thing I did was lifted my bike from the rack rails and moved away over to the external security fence with plenty of room and no-one bumping elbows. This gave me room and helped me relax, as well as just getting out of the usual buzz of energy along the bike racks and people stepping over you and on you!
Wheels pumped to the right pressure, nutrition mounted, bottles filled and a final check over. All looked good on the bike. Another thing I learnt from last year was about planning the hills, how hard to climb them, knowing how long they lasted etc – so I had the main mileage markers written on my hand. This would definitely help. For instance alot of the talk is about a cobblestone climb up through a town – it has a fantastic atmosphere for sure, real Tour de France stuff with people crowding the crowd and screaming you on, but it’s short and steep and not too difficult – it’s the big draggy climbs a few miles before and a few miles after the cobblestone one that very little is mentioned about! This surprised me last year! Not this year, planned to pace them well and know when to expect them!
SWIM – 2.4 miles
It was announced the day before it would be a wetsuit swim for us age-groupers. That at least was one less thing to worry about. It was no surprise though. Weather had been normal enough in Frankfurt, nothing like the freak heat wave of 2015. This was also the first time I had participated in a rolling start – Ironman seems to be moving this way for alot of its races and I have to say I think it’s a good idea. The idea behind it is that you place yourself in the time zone of your estimated swim time – then all the faster swimmers go before you, slower ones behind you (as long as everyone has been relatively honest about their capability) – your race time ONLY starts as you cross the start line as you enter the water. So it doesn’t matter if the guys in front of you start 10-15mins before hand, you race your own race.
I was expecting a slowish swim – I had said that if I got under a 1hr 20 I would take it with both hands, due to the lack of swim training I had done. Unfortunately I was even worse than that, clocking a 1.30 :/ ah ho – wasn’t going to let it bother me. I did have a bit of trouble in the first 30mins with breathing – my throat kept catching and making me cough into the water – my HR also seemed to be running very high on the start line (which I put down to nerves/excitement but looking at my HR on the bike I was definitely well over 10 beats higher than normal) – however got into just a steady groove – tired quite a bit by the 3km marker – understandable once again given the I wasn’t exactly swim-fit.
So got out of the swim – just being thankful that it’s over and done with and started getting head right for the bike.
Nothing to report – long run up beach, tried not to go into the red running uphill on sand, wetsuit off, shoes and helmet on – lets go.
BIKE – 112 miles
This was the part I was looking forward to the most – I had a clear plan to work to – and power range I wanted to keep my average power within and had nailed it a couple of times in training so was confident about my pacing and nutrition strategy.
First thing that surprised me was how blustery and windy it actually was on the bike – it was a coolish morning, very cloudy and it did gave rain for the afternoon – but forecasts had given wind to be about 3-4mph. It was alot more than that. At times was definitely fighting through the wind a bit, feeling the catch on the deep section front wheel as moved into exposed areas and generally just hating that feeling of fighing the wind. As I said, I had the hill mile markers marked on my hand, so had planned to ride them sensibly, no red zoning, no burning matches, and keeping my power within range.
All went to plan pretty much – thankfully nothing bad to report – the only thing that concerned me was seeing my heart rate number on the Garmin sitting constantly in the 160-165 bpm range (normally I’d be riding an average of 150bpm for this distance and effort) – but legs felt fine, coughing was only occurring occasionally as long as I didn’t go into red zone (stayed well out of it) and so didn’t give it much more though, assuming it would level out or come down. It actually didn’t – my average ended up being 161bpm for the ride.
Because my swim was so shite and I was so far back after it, I passed absolutely hundreds on the roads with what seemed only a handful that came past me.
More than a few times I happened upon groups of 8-10 riding all up in a bunch, taking the piss with their drafting, and with a draft buster sitting watching them on a motorbike slightly back and taking note of their numbers. Definitely enjoyed watching them getting their blue cards to serve in the upcoming penalty tents. I think with the wind picking up, more and more were settling in behind others as they got tired. I kept to my plan and kept passing them keeping my power as even as possible and within range.
All was going well – then about 20miles from the end the heavens opened and torrential rain came down. Not just your typical Irish weather rain. This was serious sheets of rain leaving small running rivers across the smooth German roads. I was already trying to be careful with my handling and being on the aero bars in those conditions, but once I seen a rider slightly up the road from me, pretty much have the bike go from under him on the wet road, I definitely backed off slightly and made sure I got back into T2 in one piece.
I entered Frankfurt city with my fastest Ironman bike split of 5hrs 16mins and an average speed of 21.2mph and pretty content with how I had paced my speed, effort and nutrition. Now just the small matter of running the marathon…
Entered T2 soaked and shivering – the rain had started to ease but my feet felt like complete blocks of ice. Quick dry of feet, socks and shoes on. Nutrition belt on with my own gels that I’m used to in it and I was ready to get going. Compare this to last year was like night and day. Last year I could hardly lift myself off the bench to get out onto the run. I could hardly breath, I had no energy, the sun was relentless. It was a long marathon last year I can tell you. This year I felt pretty ok and at least I was a bit cooler :)
RUN – 26.2 miles
Started out on the run – clear plan of hitting a gel every 3miles. The run consists of 4laps of 10.5km roughly – so they are BIG laps. Got through the first lap feeling actually pretty good, thinking to myself, ‘well this is alright’ – halfway through the second lap at about the 10mile mark,… well the head just started to veer slightly into some dark places.
Don’t get me wrong – my legs felt pretty damn good – could feel a couple of blisters forming due to running over the cobblestone sections – but other than that, all felt grand. I can’t explain why or what – but the mind just kept saying slow down, slow down until I sort of agreed with myself to start walking the aid stations and get more liquids into me. I also around this pointed started to crave sugars and so started on the cola and red bull pretty early (I think from memory in Austria I didn’t need cola/red bull until the final quarter of the marathon) – so not sure if this had something to do with how I was feeling.
So rest of lap 2 and much of lap 3 were pretty difficult. It was a constant mind battle just to keep moving. Can’t explain it as I say – I don’t know whether it was just not enough long runs – nutrition not fully correct or what – just to say it was pretty difficult and first time I’d experience this particular feeling. Mentally it was much easier as I entered into the last lap, knowing this was the last time around this lap and at the end of it was the finish line (you passed the entrance of the finish line each lap which is pretty difficult!) I kept pushing myself to keep running the majority of the last lap which I did, maybe just walking through 2 of the aid stations to get liquids into me. But kept moving well enough.
Finally – and I remember it clearly this year – the cut off to the finish line came up in front of me – you swing to the right and enter into the last 200 yards of just a buzz of crowd noise as you come up the finish line. Damn it was a good feeling. I enjoyed it so much. Last year I cannot remember finishing the race and ended up in the medical tent. This year was alot different.
So overall finish time was 11hrs 17mins and 32secs. Ok it’s still a fair way off my PB of Austria 3 years ago (10hrs 35mins) – but I knew I wasn’t in contention of bettering that time this year. I just wanted a decent race, decent execution of race plan and to enjoy the buzz of an Ironman race again. I ticked pretty much all those boxes. All in all I was happy with the result considering our new baby in the house as well as our 2 year old toddler running about!, bit of sickness leading up to the race and missed sessions etc. All part of normal life – not excuses – gone are the days you have full time to yourself to do whatever you wish! Just have to work on the work-life-train balance :) It will be an enjoyable experience.
Post race I was coughing like a man possessed in the athletes area – couldn’t get a breath – it was only when I finished the race that it got really bad. Don’t think the race helped the old lungs – still am coughing hard as I type this two days after but don’t feel too bad overall – hopefully a week’s rest will do me well. Just enjoying being back home and trying to get normal feeling back into the pretty bruised sore legs!
So 5th Iron distance race done and my 2nd fastest time. Happy enough for sure all things considered.
What next? Ah will see… I’m sure something will come up.