It was that time of year again to race my build up race, going into my Ironman. I tend to try to fit a half distance race in at around 4 weeks before the Ironman. This allows me to 'race' it and make an assessment on pace for the full Ironman yet still allows me to get full recovery and a maintenance block before the taper period.
I've done this race 3 times before with a personal best in 2010 0f 4:44 and a personal worst of a DNF last year in what was probably the worst conditions I have ever raced in, being pulled from the race at halfway in the bike leg due to hypothermia ! I had sworn never to race in the UK again, but needs must.
The weather on Saturday led me to think that it may be a repeat of last year, as I watched the Charity Swim that is run on Saturday. Swimmers were being battered by white caps on the lake Llyn Tegid and some were returning to shore within minutes. Wales had had over an inch of rain and the lake had risen 2ft and transition and part of the run course were under water!
I returned to my campsite, did my usual race prep etc and cooked my usual plain pasta and tomato sauce followed by rice pudding and took an early night and began praying for better weather in the morning.
I woke at 5am with the sunlight burning through the mist and on taking a peek outside it was wonderful blue skies, with a forecast of it to remain that way until 2pm and a high of 16c. I was also looking at and a flat calm Llyn Tegid and a drop in water level. Brilliant, it was going to be a good day I had decided.
On reaching the race HQ I noticed the run course and transition area had emerged from the lake, another positive. After more race prep and chatting with Run and Ride Performance Team mate Adam Coates it was soon time to enter the water. It was cold at 13c but I'd expected that and had worn a rash vest under my wetsuit which I would leave under my trisuit for the whole of the race. The swim was uneventful due to perfect conditions and I know where to place myself these days and got on with a strong swim leg (for me) coming out of the water in 37mins for 2k, I was happy with that as I'm not the best swimmer to say the least.
Entering T1 I realised my feet and hands were numb with cold, so I took the time to put socks and shoes on in transition, to save fumbling about on the bike trying to get lifeless feet into shoes on the bike (which I later found out had led to team mate Adam taking a tumble on the tarmac, ouch !), I also put an extra short sleeve Team race jersey over my trisuit and rash vest for more comfort and stashed a windproof in my back pocket. After last year I was taking NO chances, the weather can change so dramatically in the Welsh hills and it's so open and unforgiving.
The bike leg felt good, I kept fuelling on a sip Accelerade every 10mins or so until I was settled and then started fuelling for the run an Accel gels every 45mins as well. I've been training with a power meter this year (courtesy of Paul Anderson) and have learned my perceived effort on hills needs to be kept steady to get the best out of the run leg, which has now become my secret weapon and best discipline. The road conditions are good and very little traffic once out in the countryside. There are some decent category 4 climbs on the route with an overall ascent of 3800ft and I found the use of the little chainring on quite a few occasions, but still managed to churn out a 2:32hr split for 50.5 mile averaging 20.2mph.
Into T2 and I was nicely warmed up and shed the short sleeve race jersey, quickly changed over my shoes, flipped a sun visor on, grabbed a couple of Accel gels and I was on my way, to a very hilly 20k run. I was surprisingly into my stride much quicker than usual, mainly due to the power limiting I've been practicing on the bike training. Unfortunately I hadn't been able to empty my bladder on the bike , so I had to take a convenience stop early in the run, but comfort is everything at this point. The run takes you undulating around the south of the lake and then a good 2miles of climbing up to the turn around point, I was racing at my limit on the way out with my heart rate high, but knowing that I could ease off on the HR on the downhill return and take on some more calories whilst not working too hard, which is where I find the GI issues start (feeding on the run). I was picking up runners thick and fast on the return leg as I was increasing my pace not slowing with fatigue as many do at the end of the run. I managed a strong final mile and came home in 1:29hr a PB for a 20k tri leg. I finished 43rd overall and 7th in Age group with a time of 4:44. Which was equal to my 2010 time but the strength in my run was much better, so I'm pleased overall with the performance.
Thanks to the sponsors Run and Ride for providing probably the best trisuit I've ever raced in made from Revolutional fabric with a very comfy insert and some great race support from Pacific Health Labs Nutrition.