For this year, my A race was another step up in distance, this time to half-Ironman/70.3/middle distance racing. So what better place to do it than the Ironman-branded event that is right on my doorstep, Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh.
I signed up for the race as a way of trying to get my “mojo” back for triathlon. Over the summer of 2017, a house move, city move and a few other bits and pieces had disrupted my training, so having a target to train for was going to help me back into the swing of things. Of course, it didn’t turn out like that and I was left panic-training my way to the start line from about 6 weeks prior to race day.
At Ironman races, it’s mandatory to rack your bike and drop your bike and run kit the day before, as well as attend the race briefing. This makes sense at it’s an early start anyway with racing beginning at 7am. The split transitions being about a 30 minute drive apart also add to the logic of getting everything sorted the day before. Thankfully, I had my parents in tow to help with the logistics of race-day and pre-race-day, and to make sure the race was well-documented with photos!
The race village was in Holyrood Park and had areas for registration, race briefing, the merch tent and T2. So that was a good one-stop shop to head to, register, and listen carefully to the race briefing for any last minute tips on how to race a 70.3. Then pack the red (run) bag and check my route through T2. All very easy and a great, productive start.
Then it’s back to the car to drive the 30mins to T1, rack my bike and blue bag and check out the swim course. We had this figured out as we’d driven, but quite a few folk had cycled out to rack their bikes, and then realised there was no shuttle bus to take them back to the city centre and T2. I took pity on a nice Irish chap and gave him a lift back to the race village – triathletes are nice people and in any case, it’s nice to be nice, right. I figured that good karma would help me in the race!
One other thing this day of logistics managed to give me was some rather good sunburn on my arms. As I’d been in and out of cars, tents and buildings all day, I didn’t think my sun exposure would be too great. Wrong! Cue a lot of aloe vera aftersun for the rest of the evening. Luckily, I’d already dropped suncream in both my blue and red bag for the following day.
Early start for race day. We’d bought a car park pass for my parents to drive back from the swim start, so at least we didn’t need to work out the shuttle bus system. Then there was just time for a last minute check of my transition stuff and to place my bottles on the bike before heading to swim start – no drama whatsoever.
Swim – 1.2 miles, 0:43:42
The swim was a rolling start, with 4 athletes heading into the water every few seconds. Your race only starts when you hit the timing mat, so in effect, everyone is racing their own time trial. This gave a steady stream of feet to follow, although it seems everyone went quite wide of the first buoy and gave ourselves a little extra to swim.
The long straight after the first turn seemed to be going on forever, but you just have to carry on and push through. That’s my basic philosophy for all swimming! After that it, all the straights were shorter, so turns came up faster and I seemed to be making progress.
Just before the final turn at the red buoy, I was fighting the urge to be sick – guess I’d swallowed a little too much seawater. Again, I just kept it down and pushed through to transition.
T1 – 0:10:22
It was a fair distance to run to T1, and uphill to boot. Like nearly every competitor, I used the time to strip down my wetsuit and remove goggles and hat. I had elected to do a full wardrobe change at T1 and T2, so I could use sport-specific gear for each segment. Hence the sight of my naked torso making it’s way to the change area.
Essentially, this came down to a lack of training. I just hadn’t spent enough time in my new(ish) trisuit to know it could handle the distance. (Or more accurately, that my nether regions could…) So I played it safe, knowing that my swim, bike and run gear would see me through, with the penalty of time taken to change. So that’s my excuse for a 10 minute T2. And I don’t regret it at all.
Bike – 56 miles, 3:31:56
The early part of the bike course felt like I was absolutely flying. It’s always reassuring to race on roads you know well, like the climb up to Haddington. A throwback to my Edinburgh Triathletes days. The first aid station was a great boost too. It was basically like riding through a party, even the paramedics were celebrating.
After that came a hilly loop. It was tougher but to be honest, I was still loving it. To be honest, the “not so good” part of the bike course is the final run into Edinburgh through some still under construction housing estates. And that’s only ’cause it’s boring – the course itself is fine.
So honestly, I had a great time on the bike and was super-pleased with my time after a couple of similar distance training rides had taken considerably longer on open roads.
T2 – 0:05:43
T2 was pretty quick and uneventful. Again, I did a full change from bib-shorts to running shorts. I also took the time to put on suncream and put on my brand new M-Dot branded hat. It was absolutely roasting out there, as I was about to find out.
Run – 13.1 miles, 2:30:44
As soon as I started running, I realised how hot it was. Managed to catch a glimpse of my parents and say ‘Hi,’ before embarking on the first lap.
The first lap felt fine. I was working well and moving well. This was not to continue. As the coaches tell us when we’re in the pool “Take the first third for free, then start working”. I was working from the off, but it was feeling deceptively easy. I should have just taken it for free, nice and easy and saved something in the tank for later on.
The combination of not having trained in this heat and going out way too confidently on lap one meant I was about to have a horrible lap 2 and 3. It started innocently enough with walking the aid stations to take on some water. Taking on water became taking on bananas, then coke, then Red Bull. Meanwhile I wasn’t just walking the aid stations, I was walk/running the half-marathon. Finally, my walk/run really became walking, with the occasional spurt of running.
With an open half-marathon PB of 1:47, I was hoping this would be around the 2 hour mark. I figured a 1min/mile drop off in pace to account for the swim and the bike would more than cover it. Finishing the run in a little over 2:30 was not on my horizon at all. Neither was that much walking! Clearly I have a lot to learn about 70.3 pacing! But the important part and the only real goal I had, was to finish.
Finish – 70.3 miles, 7:02:26
As I was about half a lap away from the line, I realised I could maybe finish in under 7 hours, which would have been nice, but even for this newly created goal, my legs weren’t having any of it, so I was still walk/running. I managed to run the last few hundred metres, mostly to give the illusion that I’d been jogging the whole way and make sure I looked good in finish line photos.
Post-race, there was a huge amount of food in the recovery zone, which I took full advantage of. Getting my red and blue bags and my bike back was super easy just outside of the recovery zone. I’m glad this worked out so well, not like the disasters of Leeds 2016. I’m sure it was so efficient due to the wonderful volunteers at bag reclaim, who just happened to be my old club mates.
With all my stuff packed up, it was just time for a very tired walk back to the car and a snooze as I was driven home by my parents!
Unfortunately, this was the last Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh, so I won’t get the chance to come back and avenge my slow run next year, but I definitely feel another middle-distance race is on the cards.