Ocean Lava Half Ironman Distance Triathlon – Fishguard
The Ocean Lava Half Ironman Distance Triathlon in Fishguard was to be my only race this year and my first since May 2015. Not only that, it was my first ever race of this distance. At Half ironman distance it was more than four times the distance I usually race so it was all a bit of an unknown.
Preparation (Lack of)
I hadn’t really been training for it either. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still been cycling and running a bit here and there but only recreationally really, no proper training. No hill reps, no time trial efforts and no intervals, just getting out for a bike or a run. As for swimming, a shoulder injury meant that I hadn’t been in the pool since Christmas. In fact didn’t swim at all for 6 months and recently had only managed to start swimming again as part of nice easy swims in the sea.
The non-training also meant that I hadn’t been paying too much attention to other aspects that keep me in tip-top condition. My diet hadn’t been great (I was up around 71kg instead of 63kg) I hadn’t been to the gym nor had I done much in the way of stretching and general mobility.
All very good reasons to make sure that my first Half Ironman distance race was all about completing rather than competing.
A visit to St Davids
We were fortunate in being able to stay at a friends holiday cottage in St Davids (thanks Mike & Rachael). We also booked the Friday off work so that we could head down to the cottage after work on Thursday with Morgan and his friend James (son of the cottage owners). Dinner was eaten in a pub on the way there, but pudding waited until we got to the cottage. I then had Friday to relax, recce the course and get ready for the race.
Friday dawned wet and miserable though so rather than go out and recce the bike course early in the morning I sat in the cottage waiting for the others to get up. I wasn’t feeling great either, with a sore throat, bunged up nose and restricted breathing. Great, the beginnings of man-flu just before the race. After breakfast we wandered into St Davids for a look around the shops and the cathedral and for what turned out to be a Pokemon No-Go attempt.
The weather cleared up after lunch though so I headed out for a little 20 mile ride around the loop of the bike course. It was all very easy and seemed OK, I was of course taking it extremely easy with a race lined up for the next day.
We then headed to the beach at Whitesands where the boys played on the sands and in the surf. Anna and I just chilled on the beach. It was then time for ice-creams all round and then off to Fishguard to register for the event.
Registration was a simple affair. No freebies though despite the £129 event entry fee, not even a energy gel! Also, I had paid £15 for a ‘technical’ event T-shirt but they didn’t have that down on my records so I couldn’t get one. Since getting home I’ve checked my receipt and I definitely paid the £15 so have sent the organisers an email complete with the receipt to see if they’ll send me the T-shirt they owe me.
There wasn’t much to do at registration and expo wasn’t up to much either. I did buy a bento box to store some gels on my bike for the race but we were soon heading back to St Davids for a pizza and cheesecake dinner. I then packe my kit for the next day and chilled in the cottage before heading to bed.
I really should call it ‘Event Day’ not race day as I’ve been saying all along that this isn’t a race for me and I need to take it easy. The main thing was to finish in one piece so there weren’t any pre-race nerves. The man-flu hadn’t got any worse which was a good thing. So after breakfast and packing the car we headed off to Goodwick for the race.
I racked my bike not really worrying too much about where it was in transition, had a cursory check of the entry and exit points in transition and that was that.
I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that my bike was the only one that wasn’t a full on time trial bike with deep section rims. It did look a little out of place on the racking but at least I knew it would get me around. Although, saying that there had been a bit of last minute tinkering on Wednesday when my gears wouldn’t work and I discovered a badly frayed cable well and truly jammed in the lever. After much persuasion I finally got it out and managed to replace it with a spare that I luckily had sitting around.
Usually by this stage I would be hurrying off to the portaloo for visit number 3 or 4 but so far this hadn;t been the case so I forced myself to go just in case before putting my wetsuit on and heading to the race briefing and start line with Anna and Morgan in tow.
Half Ironman Distance Swim
Following the race briefing we were told the race would start in 5 minutes time. I then expected them to tell us to get into the water and give us a countdown so I just stood there with the others waiting. Next thing I know, the hooter has gone off and everyone is running past me to start the race. I wasn’t ready for that!! I glanced at my watch to start it but it had gone back to the clock screen so I stood there pressing a few buttons to get it into Triathlon mode, all the while people were streaming past me and diving into the water off on the swim. It was only a few seconds I’m sure but it seemed like ages before I got it going and joined them.
Now I was towards the back of the mass of swimmers. Oh well, I wasn’t racing and I had planned to take it really easy on the swim anyway so I just got on with it. According to Anna after the race there had been a 30 second warning but I clearly hadn’t heard that.
I plodded through the swim taking it super easy. Breathing every fourth stroke at times just to force myself not to go too hard. I made up ground through the mass of swimmers fairly quickly though and by the first buoy soon found myself in fairly clear water. From here we sawm back to the shore where those doing the Sprint Distance race headed into transition and those doing the Half-Ironman Distance ran along the prom and re-entered the water for a second, longer lap. I jogged easily along the prom, getting overtaken by two people and waved to Anna and Morgan who reminded me to ‘Take it Easy’.
Back in the water and it was once again a super-easy swim all on my own around the two buoys and back to T1.
I exited the 1.2 mile swim in a time of 32:23 which somehow had me in 6th place overall!
All I can say is that swimming super easy without doing any swim training for 6 months beforehand must be the way forward!
T1 was a relaxed affair in comparison to a Sprint Tri. Finding my bike was easy though – it was the only one without deep section rims! I decided to wear socks so once I had my wetsuit, swim hat and goggles off and into my box I sat on the floor and wrestled with socks and wet feet. I got them on OK though and I also put on sunglasses which I don’t usually bother with. It was then on with my helmet and a gentle jog out to the mount line where I jumped on my bike and headed off for the cycle. I got my feet into my shoes and headed off onto the 3 mile climb that starts the cycle course.
Half Ironman Distance Bike
This is where I really did take it easy and probably should have pushed a fair bit harder. However this was still my first ever race of this distance and with a 56 mile bike I had no idea how I’d cope with the final 13.1 mile run so kept reminding myself of this fact and made myself just pootle around the course.
The first 3 mile climb was fine, I settled in to a nice easy pace, overtaking several of the tail enders from the Sprint race but without really putting in any effort. Once onto the flat at the top of the hill though I started to get passed. The trouble was I was 6th out of the swim so with only 5 people ahead of me and hundreds behind me there were plenty of people who could pass me. I think they must have wondered what I was up to as I was just pootling along. I wouldn’t say people were streaming past me but I did let quite a few people go. They all seemed to be trying pretty hard though whereas I was barely breathing. If I had been wearing my Heart Rate Monitor I think I would have been keeping my heart rate at around 100-110bpm.
Obviously whenever we hit a hill on the undulating course I had to put in a touch more effort and then regained a few places. It was still very easy up to how I’d usually cycle but that was the plan as I always had the fact that I had to run a Half Marathon after the cycle. It still felt strange though taking things quite so easy in a race. Surely racing is all about going as hard as you can? Not so at this distance so I kept to the plan and continued to take it easy, easing up even more every now and then as I snacked on flapjack from my new bento box.
I could get quite used to having a bento box full of flapjacks on a bike ride. I think I like it! I didn’t stop at the feed station, just grabbed a bottle of water as I went by and then headed off along the coast road before looping back to St Davids where I grabbed a bit of banana and continued taking it easy all the way back to Fishguard. I did overtake a few people who had passed me earlier on the way back. Maybe they had gone out too hard? I was still taking it super easy though all the way back to T2 so felt good ready for the run. My final bike time as an extremely conservative 3:02:54
Not much happened in T2. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my running shoes and headed off on the run.
Half-Ironman Distance Run
The 4 lap run course is a bit of a beast! The first half takes you out along a gravelly track on a jetty which is completely flat so not too bad. I started off OK and my legs felt fine. I was dying for a wee though and had been since about mile 15 on the bike. After the jetty run the course heads uphill. Fairly steeply uphill as well. My hamstrings did feel a little sore here but once at the top of the first hill there were portaloos so I ducked into one to relieve myself. I’ve never done such a big wee, I thought I was going to fill the thing up and seemed to be standing there for ages. I don’t think it was a bad thing though. For a start I felt much more relaxed afterwards and my hamstrings felt better too as I tackled the next hills.
The organisers had painted a big “Sorry!” sign on the tarmac on the next steep bit and then a “Really Sorry!!!” sign a little further on where it kicked up steeply again. At the top of this we collected a wristband before heading through the streets of Fishguard and then steeply downhill back to the harbour. I think the downhill bits were worse than the uphill bits as these took a toll on your quads. There was at least another feed station here.
Back towards the transition area and there were plenty of spectators and lots of kids with out-stretched arms waiting for a High-5. I of course obliged, high-fiving them as I ran past and out onto lap 2. This lap felt OK and I was soon onto lap 3. I was beginning to tire a little and my pace slowed slightly, but at least this time the feed station had twiglets and haribo’s as I went past whereas before it only had water. I shoved a few in my face and continued on ready to start my fourth and final lap. At least I was now certain of finishing but continued to keep a steady pace just in case. I did pick it up a little on the final mile and overtook loads of people here which felt good and finally crossed the line with a run time of 1:47:44
My overall time was 5:25:18 which wasn’t too bad for my first ever Half Ironman Distance race. That put me 57th overall and 20th in my (over 40’s) age-group. Not a bad day out and a nicely organised race with lots of friendly marshalls around the course and plenty of spectators too. I probably took it far too easy on the bike, but maybe that paid dividends once I was on the run. It still feels odd taking things so easy whilst ‘racing’ though. It’s certainly not the same as the flat out effort and excitement of a Sprint distance race where every second counts. These longer distance events are a much more sedate, relaxed affair where the key is in the pacing. I don’t think it was quite so exciting for Anna and Morgan either. As usual they were an excellent support team, but 5 ½ hours is a long time to hang around for anything, especially when the only time the see me, all I’m doing is slowly jogging past them. They did obviously head off for a sneaky milkshake somewhere though as this photo was on my phone when I’d finished.
Aches and Pains
Despite taking it easy, the Half Ironman distance still took its toll and my legs were feeling a little stiff after the 2 hour drive home. We did stop off in Newport for some dinner but that didn’t really help my legs. They are still a little sore as I write this the day after, but a nice easy walk over to the beach this morning helped to loosen them off a little. I’m sure some more cake for elevenses will help too!