Great Lessons From My Bad Race at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

"If you learn more from a bad race than a good one", I wrote to my coach after finishing Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire last weekend, "then I've just had a great lesson".

It was an eight hour drive home, giving me plenty of thinking time.  I then poured over the metrics from my Garmin and know a lot more about what went on.

But there's something more basic than that.

It's all about expectations.  Another athlete, with the same coach, was jubilant about her result yet she was slower than me.

Stupidly, I expected to improve on my result at Weymouth IM70.3 last September.

I conveniently ignored the facts that I had gone into Weymouth much fitter, fortified by a year of full ironman training and competition.  Not only had I lost fitness over winter, I'd managed minimal training in March and April due to a virus.

All this I ignored.  Stupid.
My swim was almost the slowest I've done for 1.9km, 41minutes.  My 3:07:16 bike was good and matched Weymouth to within one second.  But my run was a disaster 2:16:11, twenty two minutes down.  At least I could smile when I tweeted from the finish area.

Driving home, thinking things through, I turned on the Oxygenaddict Podcast and heard triathlon legend Mark Allen say, "the only bad race is one where you don't learn anything".  Motivated, I drilled down into my numbers.

Swim - my speed was not too bad.  My pace was only 2" per 100yds slower than Weymouth, so that would account for 48".  It might have been because I hadn't managed a body warm-up or because this race started with Age Group waves, within which we self-seeded for expected time.  That meant fewer bodies in the water, so less of a moving flow of humanity carrying swimmers forward.  Also fewer good feet to follow.

I swam like a drunken duck
What mainly went wrong with the swim was my sighting.  On a 1.9km swim, I swam 2.2km, zig-zagging all over the place.  Weymouth was a simple out-and-back whereas Staffordshire was a loop with separate starts and finishes.  Clearly I need to pay more attention to my straight line swimming, and must focus more on the course pre-swim.

Bike - at first glance this looks good.  Almost the same average speed to Weymouth but for 30watts less average power.  However, my heart rate was much, much higher.  And why couldn't I get those extra 30 watts?  

This I will discuss with my coach later today and reassess my power numbers.

Likely it was a combination of adverse situations.  30C heat was utterly frying and my HR skyrockets in such conditions.  I made a basic nutrition mistake, adding extra flavoured electrolyte tabs to my bottles to help with the heat but instead it produced a sickly, syrupy mess.  It was my first race on my Cervelo P2.  And, of course, I'm not as fit as at Weymouth.

Run - because of those factors, my run became a shuffle.  Stomach cramps seized me the moment I rose from the bike, I couldn't down any energy products just water, and I nearly pulled out on the first lap.  Despite the baking heat, I'm sure my form was best on the last of three laps.

In advance I'd written this was only a training race, my first of 2017.  I would save my legs for Edinburgh 70.3 on 2nd July.  I now realise that, even if everything goes to plan my fitness is not yet where it was, and won't be for another month at least.  Perhaps Edinburgh will hand me another learning opportunity?  

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