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Monday, 19 September 2011

Challenge Henley (Ironman Distance) race report

This is my fourth Ironman distance event and they don't get any easier......

This year was all about the opening of the new shop, so I did not cycle nearly much nor did I go any European sportives that I love to do
But after everyone came back glowing from the Marmotte and the etapes I started to get itchy feet....
I needed to do something in 2011 to give me at least some focus

So I entered Challenge Henley in July and gave myself 11 weeks to get ready
The bike would be fine, but my first run was 10 weeks ago
It was 4 miles and I was so sore afterwards that I could not run again for a week
I began to realize there is a reason coaches set 24 week training plans !

Including the race itself I have only swam 5 times in the year since my last Ironman - its simply not enough....

The Race Itself

I found this a VERY tough day out
I have decided I prefer European events - firstly the weather is better, and secondly because of the distance etc I am 'committed'
All through the bike leg I was thinking about stopping and getting in the car to drive home !

6 weeks ago I crashed whilst cycling and damaged my shoulder - a Level 2 separation of the AC joint
Which meant no swimming till the event and a very dodgy swim action on the day !

I was faffing around at the start and eventually jumped into the water as the gun went off
There went my chance of a good draft!
I ended up doing 76 mins, which was 10-15 mins slower than previous times

Schoolboy error 1 was not putting warm kit on in Transition
Just went out on my soaking Tri suit and was freezing. My fingers were blue, and teeth were chattering
I later heard some guys pulled out with hypothermia!

I could not take any food or drinks through the first 2 feedstation as my hands were like clubs and had totally lost any feeling in my fingers
My head simply was not in it - I decided if I got a puncture I would not attempt to fix it and simply retire (its fate right??)
That way I would simply have had a mechanical, and would not have 'quit'

Once I had done a full lap I knew what was coming next and treated it like a job (look at power numbers, avoid stones, avoid potholes, over-take riders on the right and repeat....)

Fortunately it warmed up and morale improved

Bike itself was fine, if a bit samey (which we all knew about as it was 3 laps)
I live in Kent so am used to bad road surfaces but must admit I yearn for the smooth roads of Roth again....

Ended up doing 5hrs 15 on the bike
I have in my head that breaking 5 hrs is 'good' but this is not the course to be doing that on (or you need to be alot stronger than I am)

My mates were cheering for me at the end of the bike which put a massive smile on my face and was raring for the run

Schoolboy error 2
As I was starting my first lap a pro was starting his second
It felt easy so I ran with him until we got to the hill past the dirt track
When I looked at my watch I saw we had been doing 6.40min/miles
A little bit quick for me !

Even on the second lap I felt very good - it was the best I had felt all year and was convinced this tapering idea worked!
By lap 3 the wheels were starting to fall off
My hip flexors were like piano wire and my stride length must have halved.....
Small hills (including tiny bridge on the footpath) were like French cols
The second half of the run on the gravel/grass section was pretty but not exactly a quick surface

4 lap felt like a death march (I did 45 mins on lap one and 57 mins on my last lap)
Must run longer in training - 90-120 min runs simply will not cut it!!!!

Felt exhausted at the finish - lent across the railing and had a little cry to myself
Took me 10.05 - and it was a hard 10 hrs
Not one part of this course was easy for me and was racked with personal doubt throughout
But I finished it

At the finish line I was told I had finished 2nd in my Age Group and 24th overall (and 8th Amateur)
If I had known that during the bike and especially the run I would have tried to smile a bit more !

A big thanks to Ben Hallam for his work on getting my position to reflect the need to put less strain on my shoulder
We ended up raising the bars and widening the pads - and it was not sore at all
And thanks to Matt the Mechanic for his endless tinkering with my bike - it rode like a dream

Lastly thanks for all the support from you all - on the night before the event my phone was full of text messages of support
It meant the world to me

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