5 September 2017 0 Comments

Lessons From Bolton

I’ve had some time to reflect on my performance at Ironman UK in Bolton in July. At the time I was a bit disappointed with my performance as I was 25 minutes slower than the previous year. To put this into some kind of context, by race day I had done close to 3 times the amount of swimming than I had the previous year, 15% more cycling, but almost half as much running. In total, I’d done about 10% more training for the same race than I had at the same time last year.

The big problem was obviously the run. Injury badly impacted my running through the spring and although I was starting to recover by June, I did very few long runs. It also meant that I missed out on several big bike/run brick sessions which I think are key to Ironman success. So, despite the increased swim and bike training, the run was always going to be a struggle.

Disappointingly, despite all the extra swimming, my swim was 4 minutes slower than the previous year – poor technique is the culprit. However, I came out of the water noticeably fresher so gained most of the lost time in transition. The bike was the biggest disappointment. My biking had been strong through the spring. I’d been setting lots of Strava personal bests on the hills and had done quite a few tough circuits of Bowland, so to be 4 minutes slower than 2016 in similar conditions was not what I had hoped. And the disappointment I felt at the end of the bike carried forward into the run. Despite starting reasonably well, the wheels fell off after about 12km into the marathon and it became a struggle thereafter.

Picture courtesy of David Airey

Besides the lack of stamina on the run I think there are two principle reasons for why I was slower. The first was freshness, or rather, lack of. I find that with the volume of training that I do, extensive tapering is unnecessary, but for various reasons I had a really tough work week before the race including a trip to London on one day, and another day which involved ten hours of driving. As soon as I started the bike element I didn’t feel strong or fast and I put that down to lack of freshness.

The second reason was mental. I knew the run was going to be tough so when I started to struggle, instead of saying to myself, “I expected this, dig in.” I gave up and allowed loads of negative thoughts to flood my mind. “Why am I doing this?” “I could just stop.” I obviously didn’t and kept going. In fact when I started the last lap I started to put more of an effort in and found I was still able to run really quite comfortably. It turned out that my marathon was less than 20 minutes slower than 2016 so even if I wasn’t capable of beating my previous year’s run I’m sure that with a positive mental attitude I would have been much closer. If I had thought my race through a little better I could have come up with a strategy to deal with the expected slowdown and pushed through to a better time.

So three lessons:

  1. Being well rested for race day is critical to a good performance.
  2. Rehearsing scenarios to build mental toughness during tough training sessions can help you through those tough moments in the race.
  3. Extra biking and swimming does not replace tough bike/run brick training sessions.

On to the next one!




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