This race was the culmination of almost two years of work. My aim was to qualify for the Ironman world championship in Kona. I’ve qualified and raced there twice before, in 2012 and ‘13 but then I had back surgery in 2014 which took me out of the sport for over a year. I raced a couple of Ironman races in 2015 but wasn’t really fit enough to enjoy them and promised myself that if I did another I would be fit enough to race it.

You can check out the story of the day here in my race report 

Last year, 2016 we raced Ironman Mallorca (race report here and analysis here) and Ironman Fortaleza in Brazil (race report here and analysis and lessons here) both with the aim of chasing a Kona slot but that didn’t quite work out. So we reset and decided to go again in 2017 at Ironman Florida and that’s where we are now.

In order to qualify for Kona I’d need to finish in the top 4 of my age group in Ironman Florida not allowing for any slot roll down. Going on the last couple of years results that would mean having to place between 20-50th place overall out of over 3000 entrants.

Based off previous results in terms of overall race times I reckoned I’d need to do somewhere between 9 hours 20 to 9:40.

In my head I had calculated that I should swim somewhere between 1:03-1:06. I thought a 4:50-5 hour bike and a 3:20-3:30 marathon were well within the realms of possibility. Add in about 8-10 minutes of transitions and I thought that on my best day in perfect conditions I might go sub 9:30, maybe even hit 9:20. Even calculating that if did the slower times I thought I could do I should still come in around 9:40.

The numbers I was hitting in training all indicated that all three targets were possible and even likely. I’d swam faster in previous races but I didn’t think I was in quite as good shape as I was then. But I had done several full distance, straight through tt swims in training in about 1:05. Allowing for drafting and being rested and tapered on race day I thought a similar time in the race should feel relatively easy.

I had been riding really well for the last six to eight weeks, my average speed on the long rides and how comfortable I felt towards the end of the 150-180k bikes all indicated that I was probably in the best bike shape I’d been in in years. I have a bunch of just over 5 hour Ironman rides including Ironman Mallorca and Roth. Both of which are much hillier courses so to ride a 5 hour bike or below should be comfortable enough to be able to run well off.

So how did it all go?

Swim

  • Target 1:03-1:06
  • Actual 1:06:21

Just outside my slower target but I do think the swim came in a little bit long. That may well have been down to poor sighting on my part. If it was long I would guess it was only a couple of hundred meters at worst.

So I just barely missed my slower time target but where did that put me in terms of placing? Not so good… exiting the swim I was in 267th overall and 43rd in my age group. As usual with being a weak swimmer I had no idea where I was in the race but in terms of every other target I was happy. My time wasn’t a disaster, the swim had felt easy and I was fresh.

Bike

  • Target 4:50-5:05
  • Actual 4:50:16

This was by a long way the best Ironman bike I have ridden. I started off steady with the aim of trying to get into a legal pace line and working with riders on the bike. I settled into a group of five of us after about 30 minutes and we worked together legally up to about 130k at which point the other riders started to fade. Myself and one other guy pushed on at this stage and rode strongly through to the end. I reckon I made up a lot of places here. The ride was controlled and it’s the first time I’ve gotten to the end of an Ironman bike wishing it was 40k longer as I was catching riders right to the end.

Issues: I think I need to try something different as regards nutrition. I was getting slightly nauseous from all of the sugar towards the end. I’d practised with the food and drinks I used but even so I was a little bit sick of it by the end of the bike.

So after a good bike where was I placed?

I had moved up to 12th in the age group and 53rd overall.

Run

  • Target 3:20-3:30
  • Actual 3:47:27

You never really know how you’re going to go on an Ironman run but this one started really well. I felt good from the start and was ready to start hunting down places in the age group. I was running at the faster end of what I expected to be right from the start and was careful to back off so that I didn’t blow up. It was much hotter than the last time we raced here so I made sure to take ice and water at every aid station and try to manage my temperature as I’ve discovered that if I overheat I tend to blow up completely.

I ran reasonably well through to about 25k and at which point I started to cramp really badly. Calves, hamstrings, VMO’s. I managed the cramping by shortening my stride and adjusting my gait but I spent the next 17k in a partially cramped state. The quads were sore but not so much that I couldn’t have run harder without the cramping issue.

I just couldn’t go any quicker because the cramps would instantly start to worsen whenever I tried to speed up or stride out at all. I knew if I didn’t control them that it would be the end of the day for me.

They got so bad in the last 5k that I was really worried about what would happen when I crossed the finish line and stopped moving. I knew they would spasm the second I stopped.

Result

In the end I finished 10th in the age group having moved up as far as 6th during the run and before things went pear shaped. I finished just over 7 minutes off the last Kona slot (there was 4 slots but one wasn’t accepted and rolled down to 5th)

Eight minutes. At the end of an almost 10 hour day it came down to less than 8 minutes. I can certainly find that over the next few months. I’ve a list of things that I did slightly wrong on race day that would give me back time but the biggest gain would have to come from the run. I’ve run much faster than this several times in Ironman so I’ve no doubt that I can again.

I also don’t think it was just the heat that got to me in the end although it didn’t help. I think another 6 months of consistent good training will give me the gains in strength and fitness that I need.

I guess the biggest take away for me was that I’m back at the level I need to be to qualify. I was worried after last year that I might just not get back here at all. It’s such a relief, not to mention a big buzz to be racing an Ironman again that I’m delighted with the day even if the actual result wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

Chasing Kona eBook available

From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.

Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US.