Ryley Ironman NZ Race Report
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Coming into Ironman NZ I was in a strange headspace. Knowing I would need a perfect day to qualify for Kona on a course that didn't really suit my strengths was a little tough mentally. I was also in the middle of closing a big deal at work which meant long days in the office in the lead up to the race. The final piece was a late night flight with delays that had me getting to the hotel at 2 am the Wednesday “night” before a Saturday race. I know this race would challenge me mentally and boy was I right.
One of the last mass starts in the Ironman world, it did not disappoint, the sound of the cannon set us off and I was immediately in an MMA fight. Losing my goggles early and taking on some water had me off course. In my last race I had put myself in a great position and played the swim perfectly. Today was the exact opposite. I kept trying to make my way back on course but I felt like I kept getting further away. I finally got on track at the turn buoy and put my head down and headed for home. At the turn I was staring down a 1:10:00 swim time which would have had me in a lot of trouble. Luckily I was able to move through the packs and exit with a 59:00 minute swim which could have been a lot better but also could have been worse.
T1: A nice long transition meant time to take in the cold Taupo air and prepare for a chilly morning on the bike. A set of grass stairs also made for an interesting T1. A last minute plan idea to stuff a shopping bag down the front of my tri suit definitely a good one. Thanks, Sam!
The bike started as I had expected. Lots of athletes started fast and I made sure that I kept my cool. About 2 kms out of town is a climb that lasts for a few kms. The first 8km actually is mostly up or at least rolling hills. To avoid incorrectly measuring my power I lapped my Garmin after the first 8km to ensure I had more accurate data. The first half of the first lap was pretty fast and a little chilly (coming from the Australia summer) early into the bike I started to get some pretty bad stomach cramps, then about 20km in two of my training mates came past me. Usually, I am out of the water 5 - 10 minutes ahead of them and usually, they don't bike up to me until 120km in or so. This was one of the turning points of the race for me. I had to decide if I wanted to go with them and push overpower with stomach issues or sit at my pace and see how it played out. My coaches words of “trust the process” kept ringing in my ears. So that is what I did. I stuck to my numbers and watched them ride away. I kept having waves of stomach pains for the entire 180km. At points a said to myself you have to get off and go to the toilet but I just couldn't, I was in the race and I didn't want to risk losing the group I was with. As we rolled back into town, roughly 90km’s in the wind started to pick up. As we rode along the lakefront it picked up further to the point that I was almost laying sideways to keep upright. I finished the first lap having lost a number of positions and struggling mentally with the race. I had dropped down to 20th at the end of the first lap. I was still struggling with my stomach issues but continued to push on. The wind had now really started to pick up on the way out on lap two. I continued to ride to my power range and told myself to just keep riding. The second lap was tough with my legs starting to twitch and I was worried about not having taken in enough gels due to my stomach issue. I did, however, start to pick up a number of people who had biked too hard through the start of the bike. I was able to bike more conservatively and move up to 12th by the time I got off the bike. I rolled into T2 with my time almost 20 minutes slower than I had planned and my Normalized Power down about 5 watts over the full ride. I knew I had a lot of work to do.
T2: Always tough getting off the bike. The back is tight and the legs jelly. I got through transition quickly but missed out on sunblock. Big mistake.
I start off trying to run within myself. Especially with the large crowds as you exit transition. I took the time to get my nutrition sorted and everything settled in. About 1 km in my coach, wife and friends were waiting for me which gave me a massive boost. I was struggling to think how I would run a good marathon with everything that had happened so far. I kept trusting the process and the plan. I kept looking at my watch and thinking that I was running to fast (4.20 p/km pace). I took it easy on the hills on the way out, not wanting to spike my heart rate. I used the downhills to roll through and improve my cadence. While doing what I could to take on nutrition with my stomach problems. Coke was a big help taking on that plus my Pro4mance Prodrate. My coach Jarrod Harvey from TriEdge Coahcing was fantastic on course helping with splits and keeping my head in the game. I finally started picking up places as the first lap continued on, towards the end of the second lap I had work back past two of my teammates and was moving up in the age group. I went through the first half marathon in around 1:31, I knew this was quick but I felt good and thought I could at least ensure I could get through the race. I was then all in for the last lap. Making sure I got to the turn then completely emptying the tank. The first part of the lap I still felt pretty good however as I went through the rolling hills I started to really feel the day in my legs. Jarrod let me know that I had 3mins from myself in 7th to 3rd with the final 4kms to go. He also let me know I was the fastest on course. As I turned I continued to push with everything I had, but it was not enough to close the distance. I finished with a 3.14 marathon and was 1.30 mins behind 3rd.
Very happy with the run that I put together. It was a tough day out with lots of external factors that made it more difficult. Proud of myself for sticking to the game plan and trusting the process. I will now take some time off and look towards another race in Asia towards the end of the year.
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