Are you ready for it?
How fast you gonna go?
Are you going to win?
The favourite three questions regarding Ironman New Zealand, and if you want my honest answer, it’s that I have absolutely no idea.
Until this week training had been going amazingly, but I have had to take a week off with flu, I’m quite heavy and I haven’t done a single race since worlds…
Either way I’ll throw you a few magic numbers to help you make a judgement.
Triathlon isn’t much different to many sports in that training scores indicate form and can be used as race predictors. The only difference is there’s three disciplines, and a LOT of exterior variables that can go wrong. 140.6 miles is a long way to nail the ‘perfect race’.
Almost all of my training is published on strava, I’m not one of the hidden athletes trying to hide scores and come out of the blue. Keeping finely tuned coaches training programmes sealed away from the outside world. So the data geeks among you will already know everything I’m about to tell you.
Predicting form is usually easy enough. Anyone that trains around you, sees your scores, knows your form, will be able to judge fairly accurately how you’re going to do. Race times are usually the best indicator.
GB just had their rowing trials this weekend, and the more curious coaches & athletes will have been able to predict the leaderboard correctly for 90% of the field. Sure, there’s always going to be athletes that have a bad day, make mistakes, and athletes that excel, step up to the plate and deliver the unexpected.
And as Chris Berry himself said ‘Jack is a master at under promising, yet over delivering.’
Forever an underdog.
So what is an ironman? For the less clued up among you, it’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon, 26.2 miles of running. Back to back, no breaks. We hope.
If you want that in new money, it’s 3.8km, 180km, 42.2km.
So what am I going to do it in?
Isn’t that the million dollar question.
Now we’re into the last 3 weeks, there’s isn’t a lot I can do to improve my race. A few tweaks here and there, a bit of zip into the legs. But otherwise I’m already set.
However there’s a LOT, that could hinder it.
In the next 3 weeks alone, before I even get to race day I have to avoid injury, illness (again), excess weight, adjust to the 13 hour time zone and make it through China!
Just to get to the start line.
Then I have to execute all three disciplines to the right intensity, manage my efforts, nutrition, not get a mechanical fault on the bike and not get any time penalties or disqualifications.
Wouldn’t be the first time!
And all without a single race to test myself since world champs back in October. So really your guess is a good as mine.
If I was to pull all of that off.
And string a solid race together.
My legs could deliver.
If I didn’t train a single day in the next 2 weeks, I’d still be fitter than when I did my sub 10 at Europeans, a day on which I had flu.
So the perfect race sees a 9:15 finish time.
Really fast…. but does it?
Yeah ok I’ve had flu, and yeah ok I’m heavy. So maybe I’ll lose 30 minutes tops to the race I’ve had in my head this winter.
But I’m looking for a steady 1:10 swim. Having worked on my swim through the winter, I know I’m capable of more but I’d just like to stay reserved and get to my bike in one piece.
A 4:45 bike split, a new New Zealand 20-24 record is the target. This is approximately 24mph (38kph). Just over 1mph faster than my 12 hour time trial speed, and the same speed I did a year ago in Poznan. Still being slightly heavy mixed with the fact I haven’t raced recently, this will be testing.
But not impossible.
Then onto the run. A 3:15 is the target, a speed I’ve been comfortably running for the past few weeks. 4:40/km, 7:30/mi, ice been churning out 3/4 of a marathon at a comfortable 4:30/km, around 7:15.
Poznans 4:02 after 3 weeks back to running was slightly embarrassing and leaves much to be desired this year.
If it’s a warm day the extra weight will really work against me on the run. Currently weighing in around 3/4kg over my summer race weight, a figure I’m not too concerned about as it’s dropping weekly and there are plenty more races to come this year.
So add on the 5 minutes of transition and there’s your 9:15.
But with Ironman UK being my main targeted race for the season, possibly two world championships and the challenge Championship, New Zealand could end up being my 5th biggest race of the year.
So recovering from flu, on the other side of the world, in the middle of british winter. It’s unlikely that I will have an amazing race, and it is rather unlikely that I’ll win my age group.
But does that mean I’m slow? Or off the pace this year?
Of course not, I still have 4 months to piece myself together ahead of the various world championships and Ironman UK.
So if it does all fall to pieces. So what? 125 hours a month training are going to come round and catch up with me at some point I’m sure.
And when they do, it’ll be something quite special!