Monday, 17 May 2010


Marshman results
Time 4.42.03

16th overall 3rd V40+

Swim 29.16
T1 2.37
Bike 2.31.29 (2.29)
T2 2.15
Run 1.36.23

Finally managed to commit to enter and complete an event for 2010. I have failed to reach the start line for 5 running events this year, for various reasons not only due to injury, and thought I was going to have to pull out of this one after I succumbed to some viral gastroenteritis on thurs night that had lead to 3 ward closures at my hospital!

The Marshman is a niche event (I guess) that fills the need for a HIM or HIM+ distance about 6-8 weeks out from an Ironman. It is billed as being efficient but with no frills which again I guess it sort of does. The race takes place on and around Romney Marsh in the shadows of the Dungeoness Nuclear Power Station! This is an area I know well since we often come down for weekends had ridden extensively FLAT course. First impressions were good with a high ration of smart toilets to competitors, always a good thing.

The swim start was nice and relaxed, we all got into some cold water, a gravel lake type affair usually used by waterskiers et al, and then he called us together and blew the hooter. Water was cold but I had a clear run up the lake to the first buoy. Tried drafting a bit but my technique either leaves me constantly touching the draftee's toes, or if I draft off the hip, banging into them! (I guess I need to work on swimming straight). Soon was catching the early burners who went off to fast and settle into a rhythm. It was cold and my fingers went numb, 29 mins and a bit later I got out of the water.

T1 was quite time consuming as I put on arm warmers, HR strap and watch, gloves (my hands are my career), hat socks shoes, shades.... Try to adjust arm warmers.... give up and head out. The ride was fast and flat. Went out trying to keep to what I felt like IM pace when 2 guys went past me, so I went a bit faster. Felt comfortable until about 30 miles when my position felt funny and I thought my legs had grown. Realised my seat was dipping down at the front (on my lovely new bike). I had adjusted the seat position on Saturday and clearly not tightened up the single bolt enough. I stopped to try and tighten it but already knew I would need 2 allen keys to affect this properly and only had 1. This worked for a bit but then I got that sinking feeling again as the saddle loosened up once more. With 20 miles to go I made a decision to try and balance myself a bit more and was pulling the nose of the saddle up intermittently. By about 48 miles the saddle was generally loose and I had to balance on the fulcrum to stop it tilting either forwards or backwards. Did the last 8 miles in a big gear since this meant I was bearing more weight on the pedals and less on my now tender perineum! Was pleased to get to T2 in a ride time of 2hrs 29 mins (but the split time was slightly longer due to stopping twice for the saddle). I felt that I had plenty in reserve and could have gone longer and or faster if I had not had the seat problems or was doing an IM.

Set out on the run and was surprised to bump into TriLondons star triathlete Adam Chadburn who asked me how many laps the run was going to be. "One big one I said" Adam looked perplexed. It transpired that one of the marshalls had misdirected him onto the mini marshman course and he had done an "extra 4 km lap" which put him alongside me. After running alongside me for about 500m I suggested he best get on and see what he could retrieve of the race (and as you can see he still did well). I also felt good and settled into a good rhythm. In spite of this I still soon had that familiar sound flap flap flap of someones trainers coming up on me, this happened about 6 times meaning I had dropped 6 places but caught one. The run was pretty tough including a section across a field, and then a long beat up along by the sea, where I chased some very slow tourists who were cycling in the same direction. Stuck to my plans of trying to run at IM ish pace. About 1 hr in I realised I was catching a couple of runners, they were still a long way off but definitely getting nearer. I ditched the race plan and started counting 20s (20 right footfalls) and pushing my self a bit. Sure enough they got closer. I passed them with about 2 miles to go and then saw another racer a bit further up. He was too far away to be caught running at the pace he was going but you never know. There was one last feed station at 19.5km, he stopped for a break and then saw me coming and set off again, but now he was close. Feeling good I sat in behind him fora few hundred metres then pushed on past. I felt good and still had more to give but arrived at the finish sooner than I thought, again across a dodgy pitted field which could have turned an ankle or two!

Very pleased with performance, learnt about the dangers of not tightening things properly and now know where to focus my energies for the next 5 weeks with an emphasis on more running endurance and perhaps some bigger swims as well as a few Open water sessions.

Today I am a bit sore where the saddle was pressing!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The three evils of Ironman

This week I gave a talk at my hospital about some aspects of Medicine and Ironman. Whilst doing this I camE up with what I have decided to call the 3 evils of ironman. Sure they are nothing new but I thought they might perhaps shed a bit of light on the issues facing some of us as we race. So what are these three evils?

Hypoglyceamia, Hyperthermia and Dehydration. Or in other words bad nutrition strategy, overheating and not replacing your fluids enough. What is interesting is how these are all linked and related to one other thing, your race strategy.

Hypoglycaemia (aka Bonking, the wall etc) occurs when you have used up most of your energy stores. Plenty has been written on nutrition and IM racing. The key factor being that without eating you cannot sustain a high enough power output to RACE your race. You may have all the fitness you like but if you race too hard to soon and dont feed you will become energy depleted. Your race then starts to fall apart because, as your blood sugar starts to drop, you become less efficient meaning that to sustain the same energy output your heart rate will rise more than it would with an effective nutrition strategy In addition your "central governor", the little voice in your left ear, will start telling your body to slow down for fear of your exercise causing your body long term damage. So the key is to find the optimum race speed/power output/HR that you can sustain and effectively digest your food. This takes practice but surprisingly few of my fellow IMers do religious nutrition training in the same way as we simulate the swimming, biking and running. Having done a few IMs most of us kind of think we know what it takes, but in practice a lot of people eat less in the race than they need or equally find they have to "review" there eating strategy on the side of the road.

The next factor to consider is how hot you get when racing. At above 25C most of us Brits who have not yet acclimatised will find the heat they generate challenging. If you do not dissipate the heat one of the first things that will happen is that you will lose your appetite.. a fatal mistake if this happens in the first few hours of your bike leg as you will not eat nor probably drink as much as you should. Since you have done all this training it will probably not be until the last third of the ride that this starts to become a factor, if you were not gonna run after it then this would not be an issue... how many of us get to the end of a long bike and then need a few long cold drinks to refresh.. perhaps we should practice getting home at the same weight we left (a good measure of successful hydration).

Clearly the more dehydrated we get the less efficient we get at losing heat since this is largely dependent on sweating. In addition dehydration pushes you heart rate up making us less efficient (so using more energy) and making us hotter still! This might explain in part the huge dropout rate from IM China of around 30%. Admittedly it was really hot (?38C+) and windy, but these extremes of temperature need specific adjustments in your race plan. Being less dense e.g having a low BMI and by just being smaller you have a huge advantage in the heat, and to some degree with hydration too since you need too drink less volume.

So I am now going to try doing a few rides where the objective is too come off the bike after 5 hours weighing within 0.5 kg of the weight when I left the house, and not feeling I so hungry I could eat a 17 egg omelette, chips beans and all the rest!