Reflection on a Long Day

(2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.4 mile run)

Well it’s 10-days later, my recovery is done and it’s time to reflect on the Longest Day Ironman-distance triathlon. First of all the event was a perfect intro to long distance racing, well organised, low key, and a small field. Congratulations to Martin Dodds, Paul and the rest of the Black Country Triathletes triathlon club, not just for the 2006 race, but for all the Longest Days before it.

Kris had a good summary of my approach “don’t do the training, sign-up and shift gears at the last minute, show up and hope you don’t die!” – I didn’t think it was quite that bad, but admittedly I hadn’t done almost any long work since late May before the Disney 70.3 Half-Ironman, and then two weeks before when everyone else was tapering, I put in my longest swim of the year, a decent 50-mile bike ride and a 10-mile run.

My plan for the race was to take the swim easy, “gun” the bike and just hang on for the run. Things didn’t quite work out that way, I made a single novice-ironman error which almost put my whole race at risk. More on this later.

The day started as planned, having racked the day before and handed in bike, and run kit bags, I just dressed in Speedo’s and tracksuit and got on the bus to the swim start at Chasewater Reservoir. After pumping my tyres, putting two full bottle in the Profile seat cage, putting the bike in an easy gear, mounting my shoes, resetting the bike computer, I was ready. While putting on my wetsuit we had a quick TriTalk team picture and before I knew it, 6.00am start time.

The only think I’d left off my pre-race checklist was bands to keep my shoes in position. I managed with one broken band left over from a prior race. I also forgot to tape some Ibruprofin to the bike.

START

As the race theme Insomnia by Faithless faded, we were all in the reservoir ready to go, I lined up at the rear on the left side, hoping to take it easy and not get mauled at the start. We were off, foolishly I seemed to swim right into the thick of a small pack, and for the 2nd time ever in a race and for the 2nd race in a row I got hit on the side of the head taking off my goggles and swim hat. Quick recovery, stuffed the swim hat down the front of the wetsuit and it was off for the first lap.

SWIM

On reflection I perhaps took the first lap of the swim too easy, many of the TriTalkers reckoned the swim was long, but at 39:14 even allowing for stopping to put my goggles back on, and for a slightly long lap, that was too slow. No problems sighting the course was easy to follow and not too complicated. My second lap came in at 34:55 and even then I wasn’t pushing it. Swim time: 1:14:09 just under my 1:15 prediction.

T1

I’d read enough to know that the key to an Ironman finish was not to rush the transitions, to get organised, not to forget anything, because if you did it would play mind games with you on the long bike and run.

In T1 it was pretty straight forward, grab bag, run to corner of tent, take the Garmin 305 out of the bag, switch on a put it outside the tent; off with the wetsuit, speedo’s on with the HRM strap(shut have put this on before the swim!), on with the bib shorts, cycling top, grab my googles, put everything in the bag, remove Polar S410 in the bag, tie it off grab the Garmin put it on my wrist and out to the bike. Time for T1 6:06

For the first time ever, I grabbed my bike and almost started running before putting on my helmet. A quick correction and I was off. The 2.4-mile swim had slowed me down, you can see me in this video barely breaking into a jog out of transition, my running mount went ok and I got both shoes on before leaving the reservoir road.

BIKE

As is common place these days, the early part of the course had a few yellow mesh blobs from Profile Aero bottles, come on people, get with the programme and read the instructions, unroll the mesh completely before putting it in your bottle and it won’t jump out at the first real bump. Out on the bike things went well, Number-59 and I(159) exchanged places a few times, but I soon left him behind.

The first 25-miles went exactly according to plan, averaging 22MPH, I’m confused about what happened next.  I felt like I was cycling in treacle, according to the Garmin my heart rate dropped from the low-150’s to the mid-130’s. After the race I was convinced that a slow puncture had effected me from mile-25 to mile-54’ish. But it looked like I just didn’t have it.

At the turn on lap-1 I stopped and made a foolish decision that rather than fixing the slow puncture, I’d just gas it with a CO2 cartridge and push on, that was my rookie mistake. In a sprint or an Olympic distance race that would have been the smart thing to do. However, with more than 70-miles to go the rear tyre was bound to go down again and so it did. Around mile-70 I stopped for 8-minutes to remove my rear wheel, remove the tube, insert the new tube and it the rush to inflate the tyre, wasted part of the 2nd CO2 cartridge.

Still back on the road I was confident I’d be OK as I’d put a 3rd C02 Cartridge, spare tube and puncture repairs in the Bike special needs that was coming up at mile-85. At the feed station I took my time to stretch out and was able to use a track-pump to inflate my tyre fully and then it was off. Just as I was about to leave LFWM and Kevin of Tri London were coming in, I was determined to beat both of these back. I tussled with Kev for a while, he’d had a rear spoke go and had to remove his rear brake, he was also having knee problems and said he’d drop out at the end of the bike.

With all his problems, Kev still beat me back into T2, which summed up my day, a poor bike in 6:51:32, average speed 16.8MPH, and the Garmin made the bike course distance just 109-miles. (I’ll check the bike computer when I get back to NY!) – So much for the 5:30 prediction. I’d put this down to both the slow puncture, but if I’m honest looking at the output from the Garmin, my lack of training. Sigh.

Food consumption on the bike had been 4-Cliff bars, two Gels, assorted Banana quarters; for drinks I had 750ml two bottles of Ultima Replenisher ready mixed; two 500ml bottles of water; two more 500ml bottles of Ultima Replenisher mixed at one of the bike stops.

T2

Caught up with Kev. He was definitely pulling out as he didn’t want to do any more damage to his knee. More concerning was that although he had a hotel room, he was going to drive back to London. I spent at least a few mins encouraging him to consider at least sleeping for a few hours before going back.

I was asked in T2 if I’d pee’d on the bike, I hadn’t. They started spraying me with cold water, personally I think this was really unhelpful. Out of the bib-shorts, on with tri-shorts, clean off feet, talc and on with socks, shoes; stuff in bag, took 2x Ibuprofen and I was ready to go. However, first off it was a stop in the porta-potty(aka the portalet). While I was sitting in there contemplating how the bike had gone so badly, I glanced at the Garmin and realised I was possibly in trouble, had I left enough time for the run?

Time in T2 11:02

RUN

Overall I was pleased with the run. Having never ever run more than 13.1 miles, a full marathon had always been a race too far for me. I really didn’t know what to expect, I actually managed pretty well on the outward 5k of the first loop, however when I got to the aid station just before the turnaround I came to a complete stop. This was a mistake. After eating various things and drinking, I just didn’t feel like running and set about walking… it was a long way.

I started to run just before the turnaround at the start, after all no one wanted to walk through the crowd part of the course. I got a massive cheer from the TriTalk massive, stopped and took two more Ibuprofen, a few wine gums, some water and set off… once again I faded before long. And so it was to be for the last two laps, walk the out bit and run the return and into T2. One more hiccup, just as I came to the end of lap-3 the Garmin 305 double beeped and turned itself off.

How useless, you can’t use it for swimming, not at least without going through hoops to protect it, and the claimed battery life of 10-hours, is real. It lasted about 13-hours in realty, but that excludes the swim. Shan’t bother using it for races in future, even for Half Ironman distance probably isn’t worth the lost T1 time while putting it on.

When I got to the turnaround on the final run loop it was pretty obvious I was going to be last. Not something that overall I’m that proud of. Despite the number of people that dropped out, or missed earlier cut-offs. Katie who was volunteering at the aid station at the turnaround wanted me to take a heat blanket, no way. I had less than 40-mins to do the last 3.1-miles, if I took the blanket, my race would be over. Rather than let me go she grabbed her bike and kept with me for the rest of the race. Nice, thank you.

I must admit to being seriously worried about not making the cut-off, however the last two miles or so came easily as the adrenalin cut in to avoid the cut-off, plus I really hoped there would still be some TTers there at the finish to cheer me in. As I rounded the corner for the last time one of the race volunteers said something to the effect that “there is only one big guy called Mark Cathcart behind you..” – but that is me…

As I went down to the finish they’d formed a  “love chute” which I just had the energy to duck under and I have to admit having to choking back a few tears as I ran up the ramp and crossed the line. Job done, very long day.

Run time: 6:58:45

 RECOVERY

 After the race I got a very welcome, free, massage. It was really well done too. My major pains came from blisters on the soles of both feet. I expect that this was a combination of having just not done the training and thus not hardened my feet up; the wrong socks; a combination of both.

 The rear of my left leg, behind the knee was very painful. This manifested itself as really, very, very tight ligaments or tendons that are sinewy and run either side of the knee on the rear of the leg. They didn’t hurt bent but straight were unbearable. They remained pretty painful for 7-days and now have completely eased. Other than that, pretty normal.

 I’ve pretty much taken 7-days off training and done little more than eat. The day after the race I had to drive to Leeds to see Ella and Rich and spent the evening packing up my bike. On the Tuesday I had a very busy schedule of speaking engagements at the annual IBM IT Specialists conference, this year being held at Nottingham University, East Midlands Conference Centre. Wednesday it was back to St Albans to see Ollie and return his tent then fly back to NYC. Thursday a day in the office; Friday drive to West Virginia to white water raft on the New River.

 I was out on the bike this morning and managed an 18.5MPH 20-miles, with sprints of 24-27MPH. So have decided on a last minute entry for the Top Gun Sprint triathlon this Saturday, just to double check everything still working. Then it’s back to the treadmill that is life/work/training.

 RESULTS

Starters:  152

Finishers: 121

Position:  Last competitor to make the cut-off in the last ever Longest Day triathlon. It was a privilege

Swim:      (39:14/34:55) 1:14:09

T1:        6:06

Bike:      6:51:32 16.8MPH

T2:        11:02

Run:       6:58:45

Total:     15:21:44

GOOD

  • Overall event organisation
  • The camaraderie – not just the TT folks, small town event
  • The bike feed stations, brilliant job… especially Dre
  • Support from the TT Crowd, especially Duncan, Hanna, LFWM and the others out on the run course
  • Doug (the person in the crowd) that swapped my dead Garmin 305 for a working watch
  • Massage after race(excellent…)
  • The two guys out on the run who helped me put the blister plasters on while I was cramping up
  • Putting a spare tube, c02 cartridge, puncture repairs in bike special needs

BAD

  • Deciding to ride on a slow rear flat
  • Camping the night before the race
  • No real food, soup or other after the race
  • Blisters on both soles during run
  • No official splits
  • Garmin 305 battery life
Race swimstart (turn volume up loud!)
Official Results
Video clip of me leaving T2
Race pictures
Do you mind if I add you as a friend? I'd love to read your training blog from time to time.