One year on from my first half-ironman, the butterflies in the stomach have mostly flown away, replaced by expectations. Last year I was just hoping to finish in one piece, and I came in at 6:22hr.
This year, I had set myself a target time of <6 hrs. Just to be clear, for those unfamiliar with finishing times for half-Ironman triathlons, this isn’t a time that even remotely challenges podium winners. In fact, they are almost done with their run by the time I set off on my run leg. (This year’s winner finished in 3:54hr!)
Compared to Putrajaya where everyone seemed to have been funneled into a mass orgy in the water, there was a relatively wide berth for swimmers. But sighting became an issue without any tall buoys used as turn markers at the far ends of the course. I ended up trying to swim behind whichever feet I could find. Also, found myself being pushed into the ropes more than I liked, and getting back out into open water was a bit of a pain. Ended up with a 37+ min swim, which was about 1:30min quicker than last year, and there was no Roka speedsuit this year.
Long run in to T1. I had the shoes already clipped in, so it felt like I hardly had anything to do apart from getting the helmet and sunnies on before getting the bike out.
I felt my inner knee/lower thighs starting to burn quite early in the ride, and that wasn’t something I was expecting. About 5km out, I knew something was wrong. I was sitting more upright than normal. I looked down at my seat and saw that the marking I had made to indicate the right seat post height could not be seen.
My seat post had sunk. 😦
This means that you’re riding in a position that doesn’t allow for you to use all the muscles you’re supposed to be employing. Knowing that Coach Mike would be out on the bike course, I was hoping he would have an Allen key with him. Still, it wasn’t too bad as I managed to push 33-35 on some stretches, and even started wondering if I should bother with the seat adjustment. But I told myself that even if I managed to push hard now, this less-than-ideal position would mean sapping strength from my legs, and I would be suffering (even more) on the run.
Turns out Coach Mike didn’t have the tools with him anyway, so I pushed on.The last 20km on the bike was as painful as I remembered last year with the crosswinds, and the low seat certainly didn’t help. A slightly modified course meant that at least we had a tailwind on the last 6km, which was a nice morale booster. Finished in 2:57hr, just over 10 min quicker than last year. I’d like to think I would have gone quicker without my seat fiasco! After the race, I found that the seat post had gone down by an inch.
LESSON: bring the damn tools!
This was a big downer last year -Going out and seeing most bikes still racked in T1, but coming back in T2 and seeing most bikes back already. This year, not so many were back. by the time I came in. 😉 Not much else to say after I decided to go with a semi-new pair of shoes and run sock-less.
The first 5km was relatively ok, coming in under 30 min. But each km gradually got tougher, and I was eventually overtaken by my team mate Filippo. Happy for him, but it pretty much confirmed my pace was slipping. I was losing hope that I would crack the 6hr target, but I didn’t bother to do the math. Just wanted to finish as close to the 2 hour mark as possible for the run and hope for the best. Coach Mike shouted at me not to think about everything else earlier on, and focus on what’s ahead. VERY USEFUL ADVICE. Just tried to keep my eye on Filippo and the size of the gap when he U-turned. The 10-15km mark was relatively uneventful, and I was actually waiting to be caught by my other team mates at some point but it didn’t happen.
Later I realised how much they had to deal with (Regis with a badly stubbed and swollen toe and Philippe with severe food poisoning) and still finished their race! I tried to step up the pace somewhere after 15km, but the gear just didn’t seem to click. Once I got to about 4km to go, the strength started to come back. Not sure if it was because I consciously tried to take less stuff at the aid stations in the last few km? I found I could kick harder and eventually overtook Filippo, who had slowed down. Got over the line, looked down at the watch. Run: 2:10hr (17 min quicker than last year)
Total time: 5:52hr. Mission accomplished.
Special thanks to Coaches Scott and Mike for all the advice and coaching, and all the members of the TriEdge family for the encouragement! As they say here in Singapore, “Semangat“. 😉 Go google it, you know you want to!
(All images here by Michael Lyons and Gladys Kwok)