Ironman Texas 2017 – Ian Farrell
A quick catch up of the previous month’s training prior to race day.
I upped Swimming and running a little bit, added in a bit of threshold run work and maintained my Strength and Conditioning program throughout.
Swimming was going well, biking was strong with a 20km PB on power and time at the Pulse 20k TT in the last couple weeks and running was stronger than ever – recent long run of 32km at 4:10/km and neg split with last 5km all sub 4min pace.
So all signs were I was in the form and fitness of my life with strong and pb performances across the board.
The run being my normal weakness I had done a lot of bricks off long bikes, dialled in salt tablets and all was strong. Comfortable running of 4:15/km off long bikes and all signs were good.
So just the taper magic then.
I flew out to Texas the Saturday before the weekend of the race. This was to allow any heat acclimatisation and adjust for time zones. Also in case of any bike/luggage disasters to have a few days in the bank in case required – luckily all arrived soundly amazingly enough despite a short 2 hour layover at Chicago on route.
I had taken 2 days off training that week as my main taper week – the day of flight and also previous Monday.
I can honestly say in that week, despite fatigued I felt ready to race.
So I figured ok, let’s keep the body ticking with some short but near race pace efforts in each discipline and try shake off any fatigue whilst ensuring body is still ticking over.
All done, I may not have slept the best that week but by and large no issues.
I took no day off in race week. Perhaps an error but I had 2 previously and wanted to keep the body ticking away. Previously I’ve felt great in weeks 1 or 2 of a training block under load so was kinda trying to do similar without the fatigue present.
I steered clear of the American treats, held back on the below par breakfast buffet and race weight of 65kg was banked and I was ready to knock a PB out of the park.
On arrival I had a car hired so I could get to local pools etc in the week leading in. First up was a google search to a place that can only be described as a Country Club style resort. 2 x indoor pools, 2 x outdoor pools, jacuzzi etc, massive gym space, basketball court, tennis courts, boxing, studios, the works. The sauna had a huge flat screen for crying out loud. See everything is bigger in USA.
Now that place was $40 for the day pass which was steep but very swanky. Next google place came up with an indoor 50m pool for all of $6! It only opened in the mornings strangely and was quite cool water which was nice. I also trained with a local tri/swim club called the Magnolia Masters in an outdoor 25yd lap pool. Great group training session and Matt Hanson (winner) and Harry Wiltshire were both there so a mix of pro’s and amateurs. I actually got talking to both of these guys at a pizza place afterwards for a social get together and both very nice guys.
The Ironman Athlete Village was nice, I had felt a slight strain on my calf after a build run on Wednesday so I had a massage followed by a test of the Normatec Recovery Boots and also I found a Cryotherapy place nearby with an offer of $25 for a treatment so gave that a shot there also.
Can’t say legs felt much better from the boots strangely despite many a recommendation. The Cryo was nice and refreshing though and also came with a 20min stint in Normatecs as part of recovery so I can say I ticked all boxes in the lead up.
Calf felt grand on race morning so it was out of my mind and onwards – I did pack some calf compression guards which I never use in my T2 bag with the thoughts that I’ll know off the bike if I’m in trouble and lob them on if so.
Race morning was the usual box ticker. Walk the 1mile to Transition, pump tyres, add shoes, draft box of puncture repairs and nutrition and away we go on the 1 mile walk to swim start.
It was finally here. I positioned myself near the front of Age Group start and Pro’s were off 15mins before us. Lake temperature was 78 degree’s so wetsuit optional. I opted out as I was chasing a Kona slot and AG placing and wetsuits illegal to those.
The swim wasn’t too bad at the start, but had the usual boxing and goggles off 3 times in the first 3rd alone. Not too bad thereafter. I seemed to be going through surges of swimming well followed by easing a bit. I think this is primarily related to my sinky legs and fact I need to kick a lot more, especially in a non wetsuit swim.
I got a few good drafts, and hadn’t lost any ground in the opening 3rd so felt good. I did notice myself losing ground in the middle 3rd before holding my own in the last 3rd. Mental note – swim fitness needs improving, kick, body position, the usual.
Swim – 1:10 – 3,860m – not my best showing at all. I had expected a 60-65min non wetsuit swim. to be 5mins behind already wasn’t super but it was a long day out.
T1 – 2:35 – I flew it, had no swimskin to remove so it was grab bag, helmet on and straight out. I took back 30-60seconds on the top 10 or so in my AG here so hey a little bit back.
Bike – now then, my favourite and on a course that had PB all over it. A few twists and turns before joining a 4 lane motorway and doing 2 out and back loops. The motorways in the states have flyovers and so it had a number of short punchy climbs and descents but hey, let’s not pretend, it was fast and flat for the most part.
Out of t2, shoes on, round corner, shift up to big ring, chain off… shift back shift back, no joy, Stop, off bike, fix it fast and away I go.
Why did this happen? Was fine all week? I even had the Ceramic Speed guys do their complimentary drivetrain check and fit a fast chain. Anyway, on we go.
Round a corner, go to clear visor and it comes off in my hand! What the! Managed to reassemble on the fly so off we go head down.
Now with a 1:10 swim I’m out of position. I’m a strong biker and pretty much just making my way through athletes and groups. I knew the course forecast was for a headwind the last 30miles on bike depending on time of arrival to last turnaround. I stick to my numbers and effort, I wasn’t overcooking myself on a long day and just stayed within zones.
My target was 225-230w give or take and around 130-140bpm. Or more hopefully 40kph average. Best Bike Split had this as possible depending on how much the wind picked up.
As I hit the motorway I passed someone and at the last minute saw what looked like a girl face down on the deck to the right. She didn’t appear to be moving much so a quick thought of stop and try help or get to nearest help fast. I chose the latter, not knowing how much I could help from the roadside. I came across spectators about 20secs later and slowed and screamed at them for Help, First Aid, Girl unconscious back there and they said yes ambulance on route. I passed the ambulance heading up a few seconds later so thankfully all was fine – turns out girl fell on own messing with nutrition but was ok. She DNF’d but was fine thankfully.
Back to the race, I’m making good time, taking salt tablets and nutrition, enjoying the race and hitting 40+kph for slightly below target watts.
Not worried about watts or hr so much when the pace is still strong so just keep making progress and ensuring nutrition kept up.
As I near around the 30mile mark I see Starky coming against me all on his tod. The man is out on his own with a big lead and killing it as ever. 2nd place is Antony Costes, a French Pro I met in Thanyapura last year and a strong swimmer and biker. He’s on his own also before the Pro groups pass by. Seem to be riding legally and a lot of them together.
Down to the end of the motorway and there’s not too many ahead of me. I’m riding quite well all be it a little below planned but figure better to save some for last lap in case that wind picks up.
On the way back up of lap 1, as I’m cresting an overpass I shift down to the small ring on front derailleur as it was a short but steep ish climb. The chain comes off for a 2nd time and won’t move.
Off the bike, loosen rear derailleur and try replace but the chain is stuck in that magical place between inner crank, frame and heck even seems to be close to rear brake. It won’t move at all and my hands are now cut and bleeding from the yanking. By a stroke of luck a mobile mechanic passes by in his truck and says am I all right. My chain is stuck so he says I can help you. I’ve no idea if this is in the rules or not and say are you sure you’re allowed and he proceeds to help. It still takes us another 45-60 seconds to free it with us both and thank god it finally came loose.
Off we go, I figure I’ve lost 2.5-3mins in the stop and all things considered could have been a lot worse. Head down and start to repass a lot of those that I had overtaken in lap 1.
Soon after my power meter stops working for no reason and returns after 15-20mins of blanks. Strange one but made no difference. I was not having a good bike day and didn’t need the numbers to tell me same!
Not much more excitement on the bike, I focus on head down and aero wherever possible and my hr and power is down but still making progress. I know I’m a way off my planned times but that happens and on the way back up the motorway the forecasted wind arrived in force. Speed dropped massively and I concentrated on aero to minimise any losses. Down from 38-39kph to 30kph or so and struggling. I should add each of the overpasses and rest of bike were done firmly in the big chainring for fear of another mechanical. Not the fastest and the rear started hopping around gears strangely. Possibly with the tension on climbs or just generally not set up correctly.
Bike – 176.5km – 4:45 (4:42 moving time) https://www.strava.com/activities/953765341#comments
A mere 197w although this includes the 10km of zero’s so probably around the 205-210w at a guess.
It turns out this was a strong split in my AG, 5th fastest I think despite issues but was way lower than I had planned or am capable of. It would have been 3rd fastest but for the mechanicals.
T2 – man I felt rubbish running off the bike. Not a good sign! However calves were intact so no need for those ridiculous calf guards.
I leave T2 and figure I’m around 10th-15th in my AG, maybe better. A long way off my podium hopes but I had been running strong lately and wanted to produce a good run to finish.
I held it back the first 2km at 4:30/km pace and felt good.
I then passed Pro Antony Costes who was shuffling and in a bad place. I asked did he need salts but got the wave on so carried onwards. At the end of lap 1 I also passed another pro struggling – I also recall Matt Hanson saying it was really down to whoever could run the 3rd lap fastest would win. So I consciously try hold back knowing the worst is yet to come.
I complete lap 1 of 3 in around 4:35/km avg and whilst I’m not feeling great, I have passed 6 people and making progress. I set mini targets of catching those ahead and try to just focus on making progress. It honestly takes everything to get through lap 2 without quitting. My pace drops massively to 5min/km’s. I get passed by athletes. I can’t pick up my effort. I’m nowhere in my AG and I’m suffering. I shuffle on hoping it’s a bad patch but sure enough I’m down to 5:10-5:20’km and not in great shape.
On a positive side I’m on top of my salts, not cramping and if anything have my pockets stuffed too much with emergency Hot Shot (thanks Paul Ogle), backup Clif Shots and far too many salt tablets in case I lose one pack.
However I’m running slow. Lap 2 is completed and avg pace down to 4:50’km and rising.
Last lap – just get through it. I’ve mentally noted to myself that I don’t want a rolldown Kona Slot. I also don’t think I want a slot for coming 8th in AG, even if on a bad day. Why? Well I’ve not improved my Ironman run. And as some of you well know, there’s not a lot worse in racing than an ironman marathon if you are suffering and feeling rubbish. Are they all like that? Are the guys running sub 3 or sub 3:10 feeling as bad or worse? I hope to answer this question for myself some day!
Run 41.5km – 3:28 – https://www.strava.com/activities/953765276
Across the finish line in 9:31, 17th in my Age Group and 86th overall of around 2,500 entrants, but prob less starters.
So that’s my 3rd ironman done. First in 9:45 with a 3:30 run, second in 9:19 with a 3:30 run and 3rd in 9:31 with a 3:30 run.
So I’m consistent, even if I had what I consider a bad day but the Ironman Marathon remains a puzzle to me.
I left it all out there. It wasn’t my best performance but it took a lot to not walk or quit the marathon. I have serious respect for those out there for longer days. It must take huge mental strength to keep going for 14 or 16 hours in some cases.
Times are all relative and I understand 9:31 is still a reasonably fast ironman. However I believe I am capable of faster and better and will seek to achieve more.
Perhaps this is the motivation to train harder, better, smarter and come back faster than ever…
So what’s next?
Well, I know I’m in physically better shape and stronger shape than I have been before. My training has been going very well and so I will recover, ease back in and enjoy trying to show some of that in my next couple races. Currently entered is Carlow Sprint (dependant on recovery) and Athy Double Olympic.
After these I will then see if my running has improved and Texas was just a bad day, or if I need to refocus and try a new/different approach.
It’s a hard one to train the ironman marathon. I had done long bricks containing 4-5 hour bikes with up to 3 hours (broken) at race pace and followed into up to 90mins at fast running pace without issue. Any more than this could have taken too much out of me. I had done long runs at easy, medium and fast paces finishing with a 32km at 4:10/km pace and feeling great. I haven’t run that fast for that long ever before but unfortunately Texas didn’t show any improvement.
I have done more strength and conditioning than ever, have had a focussed personal training weekly class and have honestly felt in stronger shape than ever before.
Quite possibly it’s just taper issues but I’d like to think I’d have to have shown a bit of improvement at least. That’s what the next couple races will determine either way hopefully and more relevantly Athy Double Olympic to see if I run well of that.
A short experience on the Course of Ironman Texas and comparison to Challenge Roth.
I entered both of the above chasing fast times and also the races appealed to my timing etc.
Both are 2 of the faster full distance races but very different experiences.
Swim – Roth is faster. It’s a canal up and down with very minimal sighting, easier drafting and no real current. It’s also likely wetsuit legal which helps a lot.
Transitions – Roth is faster. Shorter running areas.
Bike – Texas is faster, but with the wind we were hit with not by a lot. My splits were actually near identical and I biked stronger in Roth. Roth has quite a few climbs and rolling sections but both have perfect road surfaces. Texas definitely has potential to be faster again if no wind as the Pro’s escaped most of it and seen by their splits.
Run – Texas is a nicer run route. 3 x laps of a lake with not many painful parts. Roth is on a nicer surface being packed gravel for some, but has some painfully long sections and overpasses to cover.
Distances – I actually clocked near identical distances for both races. Both bike and run courses are short and I gather the same for Austria apparently. Although I think Roth has changed run routes this year so distance to be confirmed.
Weather – Texas humidity is harder for sure. It was a cool day for Texas at mid 20’s but still humid. There’s no doubting wind can make any bike a lot more painful to endure be it training or racing!
I enjoyed both races, but perhaps the Texas course more so as it has potential to be faster.
My 2017 ironman goals remain unticked.
Fortunately there are many ironman races to try tempt me in the back half of this year, but only if I feel my running is improved enough as to podium in my AG requires sub 3:10 ironman marathons or thereabouts. It’s not fast running is it. 4:30/km. It’s strong running.
A big shout out and thank you to those messages of support and following along. They all definitely helped me to finish that marathon!