IMWA 2017 - Lost Opportunity
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
I love racing at busso its my favourite race of the year so it pains me when I think of IMWA it is a day that I want to forget. However its a day that I cannot forget as it taught me some very valuable lessons.
Many people know that I love to ride my bike, however on race day I chose to ride it so hard that I simply had nothing for the run this is known as biking to bike rather than biking to run and whilst I never gave up it is definitely a case of lost opportunity to qualify for Kona. Put simply I believe I should have qualified and if I didn't I should have set a really good marker for where I am at.
In the lead up to race day everything was progressing rather nicely, my training was good, my markers were leading towards a good day. All my sessions in race week were pretty good although I was pushing some higher power numbers than I needed to (this should have been a red flag to reign it in). On the Friday I encountered my first issue that gave me some stress. My Garmin 510 decided to give up the ghost and I was left to search Busselton and surrounding suburbs for a new one. I found a Garmin 520 in Bunbury (50km away) that came with a $200 mark up on RRP... Ouch!
I put it behind me, got it set up and synced it with my bikes power meter. On the Saturday before check in I did a test spin to make sure all was ok, again I was pushing higher watts than I needed to but in my mind no red flags but it should have been. I sought a meeting with my coach as I was a little on edge and felt like I could/should be doing more. He sensed more uneasiness and commented about how on edge I had become despite me assuring him I had it all under control. We chatted and he reinforced the plan, I was accepting of the plan (well so I thought) and went about getting ready for race day.
Side note: After a good healthy chat with my wife and seeing how this day panned out and hearing things I didn't want to hear my future races will be different. If I truly want to go to Kona I must listen to my coach, it is after all what I expect of my own clientele so my coach deserves the same respect. My coach had all the data, made it clear about what could and couldn't be done and I simply didn't listen. For success this must change no matter what.
I slept pretty well although never great and woke calm and ready to get to work. I was particularly keen to swim as I had a lovely new Xterra wetsuit from Titan Performance Group to use and in testing it was fast. I knew that my swim was in really good shape and my plan was to get in with the front group and stay on the fast guys feet, unfortunately this never eventuated as Bruce the shark decided to pay the swim course a visit during the 70.3 race and the race director made the smart decision to cancel the swim for safety reasons.
The mayhem of the cancelled swim created a variety of issues. All Ironman athletes were instructed to wait in transition next to their bikes and many of us, myself included had limit fluids as we stood there in the ever increasing heat, this lasted for near on an hour until all the 70.3 racers has started their duathlon race.
We were then informed that due to the cancelled swim we would all be starting on the beach at 8am in pairs going six seconds apart, this obviously resulted in more standing around and in my opinion was the first part of my race falling apart. I believe I was already dehydrating from standing around in the heat and whilst this wasn't the fault of me pushing to hard on the bike it all accumulates.
Side note: In assessing my nutrition what is clear is that I failed to consume enough sodium. My Infinit mix has been pretty spot on for the cooler races I have done and even though I packed extra salt I simply didn't pack enough. I estimate I was at a minimum 500-750mg short per hour.
So I managed to start close to the front, I was probably in the top 30 of starters. I made my way through transition and mounted my bike (best mount ever I must say) and proceeded out on course. I even heard my coach yell out to me "calm and collected brad" so why the hell did it not sink in.
I proceeded rather easily out to the highway and then simply down into aero and pedalled. I passed several guys including Paddy and Tom C all within the first 15km (if not before) I felt amazing and like I was riding really well. I noticed that both my first two 10km splits were at 250w and the truth is this should have been a massive red flag that I was going way to hard, I was pushing 50w higher than I had planned for at this stage of the race. I hit 30km and only 46mins of elapsed time and all I could say to myself was keep chasing them down.
I should have said to myself reign it in while you have a chance at saving your race. It is at this point after the first hour that my decision making should have been clearer, things like where is my nutrition at, how am I feeling, are my watts ok , do I need to push harder or slower, whats the weather doing and do I need to make any other adjustments.
I powered on and at about 50km mark I got passed by Kona Qualifier and Moore Performance Athlete David Williams as we were heading to the far u-turn point and both proceeding around the cone when my new mate lost confidence in his turn... all he did was unclip to steady himself but this meant I grabbed my brake and was soon on my butt cursing. I pick up my water bottles, put my chain back on and proceed to chase once again but now I had extra fire in my belly, I wanted to let this guy know I wasn't happy. I am passing people left right and centre and finally I reach back to David. Instead of ripping his head off, I talk calmly to him asking what happened, accepted his explanation and rode away. I approach my next u-turn and I can see Sam King and Chris Quirk, here was my chance to keep the pedals firing and ride past them. It actually took me a while to reach them but hell I was feeling good them and I proceeded to put in my fastest bike splits of the race as we headed into the 90km turn around for lap two. I know I had an awesome tailwind coming into town but to be riding 40-42km/h knocking off 10km splits in 14mins was just nuts. I honestly felt I could do no wrong but how wrong was I.
Side note: I averaged 39km/h (230w) for the first 90km and average 36km/h (191w) for the second 90km, if I had of been smooth just averaging my planned watts I would have been faster and less fatigued. You simply cannot ride like that in an Ironman and expect to run well.
As we proceed through town I refill my bottles and actually see Sam go past me, this didn't concern me but no matter how hard I pushed I could not catch back up to him. He was working in a group that was simply flying. What was really evident now was despite the fact I was pushing hard my watts were low (I was dropping 30-50w on my earlier numbers), I was now questioning things, I even flick to another screen to see how my numbers have changed and in doing so broke a rule that everyone knows... Speed means shit on race day, only watts matter. I now became so fixated on my speed that I lost all sense of everything. Here I am with a 10k bike with a $1000 power meter and hundreds of dollars spent getting the bike set up the way I need and I am focused on my speed. I just do not understand what as wrong with me. Even today I am gobsmacked at my stupidity.
Ok so now the wheels are starting to really fall off, its getting hot and I am starting to get adductor cramps, I never get cramps riding but my earlier efforts were starting to bite me. I grabbed water from the aid stations, took salt tabs (I should have had more) and kept as hydrated as possible. At this stage I decide its time for a snot rocket, I let one go just as a technical official passes me, she slows and tells me I was littering, I asked what did I litter and she said a gel pack. I stated I do not use gels I use liquid nutrition. The truth is I haven't carried gels on the bike for years. I told the TO I simply blew a snot rocket and did not litter, it must have been one big snot rocket but it seemed pretty ordinary to me. She stated that she would go back and look for evidence and if she found it I would have a penalty waiting for me at the end of the race. I guess she found no evidence to the contrary and I got no penalty.
I start heading back to T2, I ready myself for what I had planned to be the run of my life. I got to take my feet out of my shoes only to get the worst hamstring cramps ever in both legs. I must have been a funny sight trying to pedal with hammy cramps, you can barely move and I was screaming in pain. I proceed through transition quite quickly and grabbed some Endura and sunscreen and head out onto the run. Bike time was near identical to last year with 4:49:08 but this is nothing to be proud of.
I start running and I am feeling good, I tell myself stick to the plan and run the right pace... I see my coach 5km in and he says good ride but asks what was my power number, I told him straight away I fucked up my bike and he won't like my power file but I was going to own this result, I could see in his face he wasn't happy. I tell myself keep working and that I can still run well. I am working my way through the first 10km and sitting just below a 5:30 average. I am on track but its getting hotter and hotter. There is talk that the temp has exceeded 36 degrees so I make sure I am getting ice, water and coke at every aid station.
I grab my lap band and my first sign of what I would experience for the next 3 hours. I got cramps in my sides, at first I thought a stitch so I would back off the fluids but this was so much more intense. One cramp would go and then my hamstring would seize and between 10km and 14km I lost on average 15sec off my average. Despite things going south I still felt strong. However no matter how hard I tried I would cramp every few km's and they bloody hurt. I kept telling myself run to each aid station and hydrate.
With about 10km to go Paddy catches up to me, we are both hurting but we both do everything we can to push each other along. We would run to each aid station, hydrate and run again. Eventually he would pull away from me and beat me by a few mins.
I managed to hobble my way through the last few km's and finish with a run time of 4:30 and an overall finish of 9:25 and 21st in my age group. But today was not a day I was going to be happy. Today was a day where I raced stupidly and I am determine to atone for it because on Sunday I saw that I could actually qualify for Kona if I race smart much much smarter.
In hindsight and hindsight is always a good thing but what the F#%K was I thinking. Why did I make my power number irrelevant? Why did I throw my plan out the window? Why did I not trust what my coach had set out for me and I had agreed on? Why at no stage on the bike, until it was too late did I not arrest my stupidity?
As I said I believe I can qualify, I believe that not only was I fit enough for this race but I had finally developed a run that was strong enough to carry me to qualification. Unfortunately I was unable to show any of that. I let myself down, I let my supporters down, I let my coaching group down, I let my coach down and I let my wife down. So many people believed I could do it yet it is me that must follow the plan and execute and until I do it will be more of the same disappointment as I watch others around me achieve their dreams.
A big thanks to companies that continue to support me and my coaching services as well as my clients and friends and family 99 Bikes Stanmore, Infinit Nutrition, Pace Athletic, Titan Performance Group, Xterra Wetsuits and 3D Bike Fit. Thanks to Luke Martin for a sound training plan (I will do better with my race execution) and the RPG crew for all your continued support before, during and after race day. Lastly a huge thank you to my beautiful wife I really couldn't do this without you and I am truly grateful.
Where to now?
My fire has been well and truly lit. I honestly can see what I need to do now so I will head to Port 70.3 and put a race together purely focused on execution and then will head to CairnsIM and go after that dream of racing in Kona in 2018, I will then finish off the year with my favourite race IMWA.