3/21/2011 3:02 PM
Well the NZ Ironman is done and dusted for another year and despite terrible conditions I managed to put together a pretty good race.
I'd been checking the weather forecasts for most of the week so I wasn't terribly surprised or worried when I awoke at in morning to the sound of rain on the roof. After some breakfast I headed off to transition to get body marking done and do some final checks on the bike.
It was still raining by the time the race started at 6:45am and was a little dark so my choice of tinted goggles was not really the best for these conditions. The cannon sounded and i was off on my journey. I hadn't really put in the miles in training for the swim but I was still pretty confident I would be exiting the water in the lead group of swimmers. I exited the water in 52 minutes and forty seconds, a couple minutes slower than planned and well behind the leaders in 60th place overall.
Being my third time doing Ironman NZ I learnt from my mistakes at my first two attempts. Two important things were to pace myself well from the start and to take the hills easy on the bike leg, they are what kill you when you get to the run. Previous years I have always taken the hills too fast imagining I'm in the Tour de France. Sticking to my plan on the first hill I dropped to a low gear and took it easy. Ten or so athletes took off past me but I let them go hoping to catch them later in the day. Once over the hill and out of Taupo I began to up the pace a bit and began reeling in a few groups of riders and passing them. As I went past a couple of them jumped on my tail and we formed a small group of four which we rode together for the next 90 km or so.
As we approached the first turn around I was little surprised to see a group of about 20 cyclists coming the other way. I briefly thought of trying to catch them but quickly came to my senses and stuck to a pace I felt comfortable with. By 80km my legs were feeling great still but i was starting to feel uncomfortable as i needed to go to the toilet. My nutrition plan was based on a hot day and I hadn't altered it even though it was cold and wet. Without sweating as much as normal I was drinking way too much fluid. I was reluctant to stop as I'd lose the group I was with. Because of the rain which was still falling my speedo had stopped working as well and it would be difficult to pace myself alone. I decided to stick with the group and worry about it later.
Going up the hill out of Taupo on the second lap we caught the group of lead cyclists. Because we were heading into the wind I decided to sit at the back of the line and conserve some energy. By 120 KM I was really busting to go to the toilet, I couldn't bring myself to going while cycling so I made a dash off the front of the group. I quickly put some good distance into them and jumped off my bike and did my business. I got back on my bike was able to join the back of the line again without having to waste energy catching up again.
By the turn around at 135km I was still feeling great and the wind was now behind us. I moved to the front of the group and upped the pace expecting everyone to follow. After a few km I turned around to see only one rider still there. I kept up the pace and got back to transition in 13th place overall and 3rd age grouper. I had also sneaked under 5 hours with a 4:59:13 bike spilt. I was super happy with that effort and surprised as the last few weeks of training had not been great with cycling.
Into transition and i again performed one of my legendary slow transitions. I lost a couple of minutes but it was good to be out of the rain which was still pouring down. I was wearing my Garmin watch for pacing and began hitting my planned pace times for the for the first leg out to Five mile bay. At the turn around I was right on schedule although I had lost a few places. I tried to stay on pace for leg back to Taupo but by about 17 km I started falling off my pace times and turned at the halfway mark about 3 minutes slower than planned. I was definitely starting to feel the full effects of nearly 8 hours of racing and my legs were hurting pretty bad. For the second lap I resorted to the tried and true strategy of walking the aid stations and running in between. Although I was still struggling a bit I managed to keep this up for the last 21 km and crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 34 minutes, 21 minutes faster than last year.
All in all I was pretty happy with my day. Breaking the 5 hour barrier on the bike was pretty cool and although I wanted to run faster my 3:32 for the marathon was still 14 minutes faster than last year which was my biggest improvement. I now have 2 months until I race in Port Macquarie at Ironman Australia on May 1st. Not sure how much I can improve in that time but I'm looking forward to racing on a different course.