Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ironman Florida build up and race report 2009

11.30am, 3rd November and the Aer Lingus steward announced it was time to board the plane. This was the flight which was going to take me to the USA and my final race of 2009, IM Florida. Instantly, I felt a slight pang of nervousness, no going back now, not that I would. I have been building for this race for the past 16 weeks, and now within 4 days it would become a reality.

This report is going to be slightly different to previous reports as I’m going to update it as I go along when I get some free time. I hope to record an accurate and honest viewpoint of how I feel for the next 5 days.

We are curently about 30mins into the flight to Orlando. We upgraded to the business class seats for comfort and it was worth it. The seats are huge and there is plenty of room, no stress here. Everything I do from here until Saturday will be done while thinking of the race in m mind. Its how I work. If I take something on it tends to consume me. It freaks Paul a bit but its just my personality. I tend to be like this in work also. I’m an organised person so when racing it tends to slip over. I think it’s a good trait to have. Paul would probably disagree and say I go OTT or have OCD.

Anyway, the flight is going to be 9.15hrs so the plan for me will be to relax as much as possible, watch a movie, sleep, read, hydrate, eat well and add to this report.

Gareth and Derrick and on the same flight so the full representation for Ireland at IM Florida 2009 are all from Wicklow…….

What are my views on the race coming up…… well I have a few concerns….. nothing major but as I said before, its all in the planning. I’m nervous about the start, not the swim length, that’ll be fine, its the other 2853 people around me I’m nervous about. It’s a mass start and differs from Lanzarote in that there will be a lot more people entering the water at the same time and therefore a lot more thrashing about. My plan will be to move over to the right and wait probably 30 seconds after the start gun to enter. The main aim is to have a comfortable swim. Whether I go 1.10 or 1.20, its irrelevant. I would like to exit the water calm and relaxed and focussed for the bike. I saw some of the photos of the transition and it looks long. I’m expecting T1 to take 6-9 mins.

I’m going to wear a tri top and pair of Assos uno shorts, comfort being the priority. I’ve also decided to wear my road bike shoes and not the tri shoes. Bella Bayliss has likened the bike to 5 hrs on a turbo. From that statement I gather it will be tough out there. I’ve thought about this a lot and spoke to various people about the approach I should take. The information has been everything from go easy and save it for the run to go balls out and hope to survive on the run…… I have probably completed 10 cycles greater than 160k in preparation for this race and have tried various options to see what works for me. My conclusion is that I need to conserve on the bike and hold a gear just under what I could push. I have found that I run better of that scenario. Also, I recently did a 180km on the N11, back and forth, back and forth in 5.30hr and then did a 6km run. I found the run tough, primarily due to the constant peddling on the bike. While there may be no hills in Florida, there is no respite on the legs either. This could cause issues in the latter section of the run. I hope to complete the bike in 5.30 – 5.45 and get off feeling somewhat fresh for the run.

T2, I reckon will be also 6-9 mins. I will be putting on compression socks, nike, and wearing my old favourite Zoot running shots. I may change the tri top. Adam has kindly loaned me an old tri top he used to wear. If I wear it, I hope nobody gets a shot of me in it….. as it sort of resembles a bra top….. similar to the one Andy used to wear back the early WTC days, but I’ve tried this on and it is mega comfortable.

The run is where I have been putting a lot of my training time. For the past 6-8 weeks I have been running up to 65km per week, with a long run anywhere from 29 – 36km every Sunday. I think I’m runnning well and I so want to have a good run on Saturday. I missed a sub 4 hr marathon in IM Lanzarote by 9 mins and I really want to get it this time. Based on my Sunday runs its possible. I will just really need to dig deep and focus during the latter half when the body is screaming out to stop. My aim for the run is 3.55hr

Based on the above times I’ve given above, the range for my finishing time could be anywhere between 10.47hr – 11.30. Then again, all that could go out the window with a puncture, upset stomach, tired legs etc etc etc. I’ve prepared well and those times are within me if my race plan goes to schedule. I hope it does.

Time to clock off now and watch a movie and dinner.

Movie was good, dinner was wooful, cutbacks I reckon!!!

5 hrs into the flight now and all going well, many many trips to the toilet, yes I’m staying hydrated. The seats are great but its an old plane and not as plush as I was expecting. The movie system is archaic and even with my Bose speakers its hissing like crazy. Its doesn’t make for comfortable watching.

Gareth stopped by for a chat, good to hear another perspective and what his plan is, pretty much the same as us ‘go out conservative on the bike’.

Fast forward to land. 2 hrs it took us to get out of the airport. We hired the car from Hertz and it took another 20mins to get to their offices. After a brief wrong direction we got on the right road and drove north. We stopped in Gainesville for the night. Hotel was as dodgy as hell but hey all part of the experience.

It only took 4 hours to get there on the Wednesday morning and the hotel was right at transition, and an added bonus, a sea view of the gulf of Mexico, fantastic views. Although we had a swim, bike and run to do we couldn’t help ourself and headed down to register, excitement was building. Registration was quick and aided by all the over 50’s in Panama city….. Straight after we hit the Ironman shop for some retial therapy, my second favourite pastime. The choice was huge, so much better than the expo at Lanzarote. We made a few purchases and decided to head back get the bikes together and bike the run route and then do a 30 min run. The run is roughly like a lolipop and flat as a pancake. Without even trying we were hitting 40kph comfortably. Without knowing it we passed Garrett and Derrick, they shouted at us but we never heard a thing. Back to the hotel and out for a run. It felt good, held a sub 5 min pace, 10min stretch and we chilled for the evening.

The next few days we were very relaxed and took it easy, stayed out of the sun, read , listened to music, visitied the expo again and again and plenty of early nights. We also drove about 30km of the bike to check it out. Although very flat it was really exposed and wind could be an issue.

Friday the 6th, day before the race and we were up at 6.30 and completed our last 3 sessions by 8.30, had breakfast and took it handy. We racked our bikes about 1.30pm and dropped our T1 and T2 bags into position.

As odd as it sounds we had pizza for dinner…. Very early about 2pm and then just snacked for the remainder of the evening. Paul snoozed for the afternoon, I measured the salt content in all the food I was planning on consuming to ensure I had an approx of 400mg/hr. I supplemented with salt tabs for what was missing. I packed 6 salt capsules for the bike and 6 for the run. I also had calculated my calorie intake for the full bike and run. This was to work out at 450 calories per hour on the bike and 5 gels in the run, I had practiced 5 gels on all my 30km runs and knew I could tolerate them. We were in bed by 8.30pm. I had no problem sleeping and the alarm went off at 4 am.

Race Morning:

Up at 4am for breakfast, 3 x energy bars, chocolate milk and a banana. Down to T1 with the gear bags, pump up tyres, final check of bike, nutrition, got body marked and they also put our age on our leg, must be for when you are racing people down so you know if an age grouper is in sight, didn’t think I would be worrying about that too much!! and back to the room. The 4 of us got ready in our room and joked a bit, although you could see the nerves with all of us using the loo every few mins. We had to be down at the start line at 6.30, and be corralled so I didn't get a warm-up swim in. There was soo many swimmers. I positioned to the right about 60% across and bang on time the race began. Crash, bang whack, wallop, that was it for the next 20 mins and at every buoy you turned. I swam the first 10 mins with my head out of the water........The swim was crazy, I went so wide on both laps to avoid the war zone but still ended up with a kick in the face, and lost count of those who swam over me and the number of smacks to the head. The sea was choppy and I really had to work hard in sections to keep momentum. If you slowed someone swam over you, simple as that. Still I was happy with my time and saw Garrett just ahead of me and bumped into him in T1. I exited in 1.11hr, feeling fresh, just like I planned.

Transition was well organised and quicker than I anticipated. Had the obligatory pee and I was away. The bike was so fast to begin with. Everything you read about IM says go easy in the first 90km and then pick it up. Well I was cruising at 38km/hr for the first 30km, then we hit the wind. There was nowhere to hide, although there were many peletons.... I passed so many people on the bike for them to whizz past me in a peleton, 5 mins later. It was so annoying, blatant drafting. Their IM is tainted!! I focussed well for the bike although the last 50km were very boring. I just wanted the bike over. I wanted to run. I ate and drank regularly and took in more than 6 gels during the bike. I stopped 4 times on the bike, 3 loo breaks and once for the special needs bag. You were not allowed to pee on the side of the road so every aid station has 2 porta loos. In total I reckon 8 mins of stoppages, not too bad really. On the last section coming home there was no other cyclist around me and I thought I had gone the wrong way..... Then I saw T2, what a relief. bike time 5.20hr, not bad at all and still feeling fresh.

T2 was so quick, someone collected my bike and handed me my T2 bag. My 4 min time even included a loo trip and getting suncream..... and yes I stll pee a lot during race,s but that was to be my last one. I wasn't stopping on the run. I was ready to run and was feeling good.

When I started running my legs felt great. First 6 miles were in 50mins ish. It was a route through a lot of back streets and across roads into a park and back, twice. I planned to stay as close to 50 - 53min 10kms as possible and mentally broke the course up into sections. At the half way stage I said to myself, this is when it really starts to hurt but it didn't, I felt fantastic, I increased the pace slightly on the second lap. There was a lot of athletes walking and running slower so I passed quite a few, (great for your confidence). I had run 36km in training non-stop so I knew I could do the 42km without walking. I ran through all the aid stations, spilt coke and water everywhere, had 5 gels and 3 salt tabs on the run. For the last 2 miles I picked up the pace and ran it in, just using wet sponges to cool down.

The last km was just the most amazing experience. The crowd support was fantastic, really getting behind you and all the aid stations were fancy dress, M.A.S.H, 70\'s etc. Its a little twisty running in the last segment but my pace naturally picked up and everyone is screaming at you. The finishing chute was about 80 meters in length, thronged with people and the announcer Mike Reilly, called my name and said 'Dominic O'Hanlon from Wicklow, Ireland, You are an Ironman". Deadly buzz......... I was on top of the world. I checked my run time 3.41hr. I was stunned, 20mins quicker than anticipated. It felt amazing.

As soon as you cross the line there is a helper to guide you to a seat and get you water, chicken broth etc. First you get your IM medal, T-shit and hat, then official photo. I was very weak at the end. I left it all on the course. There was nothing left.

It was such a self satisfying day. I felt and still do feel amazing and like I have stepped it up with my run. It has really made me determined to work even harder to improve more.

Looking back at my predictions I think and feel I went about the race as I planned. I was just fitter than I though I was. Everything in this race went right for me. I was very lucky. I also believe that nutrition and mental focus play a massive part in IM racing. I practiced religiously with my nutrition and ran a lot on my own during training to made me focus for long periods of time. It worked. It is a strategy I will use from now on.

When I checked the finishers sheet I was gob smacked, I came 241st overall and in the top 10%. I believe just over 2500 started. What a Result!!!!! Now for a break, Orlando here I come.