56 minutes is a swim time I am proud of given my short time in the sport. But it needs to improve. In a tough and honest race like Challenge Wanaka (essentially a day-long individual time trial) I can still hope to make back big time chunks on the bike and run. But the course at Ironman NZ in Taupo is quite different. Essentially you have to swim sub-50min if you want company to work and pace off on the 180km bike. Last Saturday there were as many as 12 classy athletes up front on the bike.
I first spotted the lead group on their return from the Reproa turnaround (around 45km) as I was still headed out. By that stage I had pulled back around 4-5 min to sit 7-8min off the lead. But this wasnt the concern. I knew that the lead group would be primed to run fast. It is well known that riding in a group (even with legal spacing) is much more energy efficient in an Ironman than riding solo. So even if I was going to somehow pull back the 12 mins after the swim (which it turned out I almost did) I would have probably pushed 30-40 watts more and therefore be much less likely to win a 42km foot race. Fair game, the guys up front deserved to be there, they swam 45-48min and were pushing the bike. Many would go on to run marathons in the 2.40’s. The first four men would go under Bevan Docherty’s race record 8.15!
Back to the bike. If I wasn’t likely to bridge the gap to the lead group and I certainly wasn’t going to outrun the top guys, I might as well go for the bike record. I knew as I went through 90km on the bike that I was on track. Joe Skipper was riding well just ahead of me (and remarkably went on to run his way into 2nd by the finish after doing the whole ride solo) so I figured that if I rode at or slightly above his pace I was in with a good shot of the bike record. It turned out my 4.22.13 was good enough to take over 4 minutes off Steve Larsen’s (USA) record from 2003. Stoked.
The marathon was quite painful. I was a bit cooked after the bike but more likely I was still jaded from Challenge Wanaka a fortnight earlier. It was a case of one foot in front of the other and keeping the Clif Shots and fluids going in for 42km. I actually was quietly pleased to still pull out a 3hr marathon despite running well under my usual race pacing targets. My 8.24 Ironman was good enough for 7th place.
Not a bad day out, all things considered. I got more open water swim experience, bagged another bike record (to go alongside my Challenge Wanaka and Coast to Coast bike records) and broke my own personal best over the iron-distance by 1 minute.
Its a bit of rest, recovery, mountain biking with Flynn and some swimming for the next week or two before I launch into another training campaign towards Ironman Australia in port McQuarie on May 1st.
Thanks for the support once again everyone.