Something a bit different this weekend. Bit of a hangover from my triathlon days, I had entered this Half Iron distance race (1.1m swim/56m bike/13.1m run) with the intention of doing it as my main race for the year, before having decided to just concentrate just on cycling.
So halfway towards the event, I managed to change it to the relay category, and invite two of my friends along for the other legs. I had this as one of my main aims for the year still as I really enjoyed the bike leg from previous years, and being a flat TT course on good roads I knew I could put in a reasonable time. I had done a 2:36 last year when I was doing the individual which was enough for a top 10% bike split, so not having to run, and riding in more aero gear with more watts I thought I could be on for a good time. If I came through, then providing our swimmer and runner came in with their expected times the predicted 4:30 overall could put us in contention for a podium based on previous years times. Good motivation!
In training on open roads I’d already managed a 2:26 with no aero gear in good conditions, doing 265w. I’d figured I could probably add another 5w to that for race conditions so was roughly targeting 270w.
The day rolled round sooner than expected as did the 4am alarm call. I woke up feeling pretty grim after spending the night in a boiling hot hotel room. The diet of dominos pizza did nothing for my race morning hydration levels as I felt completely dried out. So I began sinking plenty of water, while I got ready. Skin suit and number pinned on and I was ready to head out with Matt our runner.
Got to the venue nice and early and eventually got parked so I could begin setting my bike up. I had spent the last few days preparing and gluing new tubs, but had a last minute change of heart given the weather. It was raining reasonably hard, and was getting windier as the morning wore on. Quickly I tried to change back to training wheels, which involved a brake pad swap, as I’m much more comfortable on 25mm GP4000s clinchers in the wet, and the wind. Rolled down towards transition with Matt, to meet Jason, our swimmer. By now transition was filling up fast, we were located right at the front, with the relay teams being given the top 32 numbers.
At this point, after trying to put on my TT helmet I found the strap had broken, which meant it was useless! Luckily I bought my Evade with me, so dashed back to the car (15min walk) to pick it up. I was getting nervous by this point as Jason was in the water and had started before I was back in transition. Disaster averted I eventually got back and got my shoes and overshoes on and was ready with time for another toilet stop to spare. Jason was expecting around a 30min swim, but had rolled his ankle in a mountain biking fall recently so anything near that time would be pretty impressive.
The first swimmer was out in a hugely impressive 23mins, and was one of our competing relay teams, the High 5 relay team. More and more swimmers started coming in after this, several other relay teams and individuals. Jase eventually made it in with a 32 min swim. Good going.
I made sure I was ready as he jogged into transition and grabbed the timing chip from his ankle, helmet on and out towards the bike mount line. Almost managed to screw this up jumping on too early, before getting back off, and on again at the appropriate place. Too keen!
Sprinted out of T1 and down alongside the rowing lake with accompanying tailwind. I was excited and my watts were way too high. I was doing about 30mph downwind, at about 280w shouting at other riders to stay left as I passed on the right. We turned back at the end of the rowing lake into the wind, and I was doing 290w but only going 22mph. Out onto the course, and I settled into a better rhythm with good RPE for the watts.
As I had in training I decided the best way I could think to pace was to split the course into 30 minute segments, and target average watts for each segment. Quickly the first 30mins passed and I had average 272w, I steadied the ship after initially seeing over 290w on the screen at time, to try and save myself for later in the race. By this point most of the course was crosswind or tailwind so I was going well at 25.1mph average.
The second 30min segment passed without incident and I was more under control by this point averaging 271w, closer to the original 270w target. Again things were either down or cross wind, so speeed was good at 24.6mph and I was feeling strong still. It was around now that I had something I’d never really experienced in a triathlon before, I’d finished overtaking people by and large. There was one guy in view who I was slowly reeling in, but aside from that I was on my own which was a slightly odd feeling in a race like this.
The third 30mins came and went, and after helping myself to a gel I was starting to feel more confident, I didn’t really have any indication of where I was in the race, but figured I must have been getting near the front due to the lack of people around. By this point excitement was getting the better of me and the watts began to creep up, averaging 276w. I was still taking it steady round some of the sharper turns, but maintained good progress getting out of the saddle to get back up to speed again.
The rest of my race strategy was to pace the fourth 30min segment at target, then use whatever I had in the tank to just do what I could in the remainder, which I figured could be anywhere up to 25mins long. By this point I was still alone and as course turned into the wind, things slowed right down with the wind and rain driving hard into my face which became pretty horrendous. I’d averaged 280w for the 30mins but the speed was down at 23.7mph, for the first time the legs felt fatigued. As the last segment of my strategy began I had a burst of motivation, and I felt I was within touching distance of my target time, I still felt ok, and so I just let myself pedal as hard as I thought I could manage. There were some really tough headwind/rain sections now as I worked myself back to transition.
With 4 miles to go my stomach began to get that empty feeling and I was worried I was going to blow on a particularly tough long headwind section, thankfully this was followed by a nice steady downhill sheltered section where I think I was able to recover slightly. The last two miles as anyone who has done the race can attest are poorly surfaced to say the least, large speedbumps followed by a gravel road, more speedbumps down a slight hill, then out onto the watersports centre perimeter road. Eventually I got through to this and by this point was giving it everything doing around 330w back to transition, made the final turn down to the lake (I’m told quite a few people came off here! 😐 ) and jumped off the bike having averaged 285w for the last 21mins at 23.1mph.
Tried to run as fast as I could through transition to our runner Matt. Racked the bike and passed the timing chip over before sitting on the wet floor trying to catch my breath, I was absolutely smashed.
Overall happy with a bike split of 2:21 in those conditions, averaging 277w in total, 3rd fastest overall bike split and fastest in the relay race. It felt great to set out with a good plan and to for the most part execute as planned. We must have started the bike split well down in the standings, but I was 5th bike in, and had set up Matt for the run nicely, with him starting in 3rd, and Team High 5 second, with the first place Team TFN miles ahead and out of reach.
I got dressed into some warm clothes and headed out onto the course with Jase to cheer Matt on. We stood watching at about the 10km point, as we did the Team High 5 runner came past in 2nd with Matt around 100m back, and clearly closing in. We cheered him on, as he looked strong, the chase for 2nd was clearly on. Jase and I then moved over to the other side of the course and waited for Matt at 16km, unsure of where he’d be placed, and whether he’d manage to overtake High 5, or whether in his first half marathon, he’d struggle. We didn’t have to wait too long before Matt emerged from the far side of the course ahead of the High 5 team, and in second place.
We cheered him on and tried to boost him to the finish, before moving over to the finish line itself in wait. Again didn’t have to wait too long before Matt sprinted down the chute, the 8th person over the line and in 2nd place for the relay teams.
We were all pretty chuffed with a great result in really trying conditions. We waited around for the podium presentation and picked up a trophy each which was pretty cool, before packing up and heading home.
A good fun event, with a great result. Felt a bit unfair at points doing one event each rather than all three, but was still a race at the end of the day, and a good opportunity to try a long TT, which aside from triathlon, I’d not really done all out on the bike before. Really enjoyed it, and may spur me to enter a couple of 50m TTs in the future. 2 hours for a 50 mile TT seems like a good target!
Strava link: https://app.strava.com/activities/315782133
Avg Speed: 24.1mph