Race report: Gdynia
Ironman 70.3 Gdynia
The build up to the race lacked the umph and punchiness that the previous race prep had consisted of. We had 3 weeks between half-distance races. With mental and physical exhaustion from the last race in France, I lacked the motivation and drive to prepare properly for Gdynia which meant missed sessions, poor eating habits and not keeping up a routine of stretching and gym work. I’d had a really great race in Bretagne finally breaking the 1:30 mark for the half marathon. With this I also carried a bit of arrogance that just do ‘something’ between the races and I should carry through the same form. WRONG!
I count myself a lucky swimmer - holding 1:30/100m in the pool is fairly comfortable and I seem to be able to just jump in whenever I feel like it, and nothing changes in my stroke or swim ‘feel’…. Unfortunately, this doesn’t push me to keep swimming 2,3 or more times a week, as the extra sessions don’t seem to make me any faster. This is horrendous advice, but fantastic in my head when I’m lacking motivation. Run sessions had been going well. I kept my running ticking over with sufficient base miles and some speed sessions. I’ve been really enjoying running and it wasn’t so difficult to get out the door and join Leanne for her sessions. Where I feel I really lacked preparation was in the cycling. No consistent base miles and not too much work on the TT bike. My position is rather uncomfortable, so a 90km race really takes it toll on all parts of my body. Two weeks following the previous race, I reluctantly jumped back on my TT saddle for a ‘longer’ 2 hr ride. I’d done some interval sessions as well as easy 1hr spins; I remember one session where I was hitting targets really easily. This had given me a lot of confidence. What I failed to remember is performance in a race is built upon consistency in training and not a one-day perfect execution. Into the last week before the race I felt really flat. In hindsight, I’d rested
too much between the races and my form had most likely declined.
Even given a lackluster build up, I thought its impossible to lose fitness coming into the next race?! A PB run last time out, a faster bike course in Gdynia and I should be looking at an okay overall time. Like last race, I wanted to save for the run, so I was willing to sacrifice watts and bike split for a nice quick pace at the end.
Going into the race day, we were both very relaxed and enjoying our time in Gdynia. After sampling the town’s coffee and cakes, the bikes were in transition without hassle and we were ready to go. Race day started really relaxed! Last couple of races have been like this for us – nice breakfast (more coffee) and no rush to get to the start line. We finished up in transition and got to the beach to start. Short warm up, wetsuits on, we were ready to race.
I started with Leanne close to the front of the age group pack as we saw Jan Frodeno and the pros swimming off into the distance. We both had to fight past a lot of people right from the gun. We were sighting right into the sun, which made it difficult to see where we had to go. I have a usual pattern of becoming quite out of breath and arms get tired quite quick, but then after a few hundred metres of ‘warm up’ everything settles, the rhythm comes and the breathing steadies itself. Took a little bit longer this time as there were THOUNDSANDS of jellyfish. After realising it wasn’t just feet, I was initially worried about being stung, but these must have been the kind and friendly variety. Just keep swimming! I managed to hold a good pace for most of swim, but for a little fade towards the end as I really didn’t know where to go, so was having to do lots of sighting as well as fighting past even more people. I ended up with a respectful time, and an overall decent swim of sub 30mins.
A standard transition of about 3 minutes and I was ready to rock. First section was very technical, lots of cobbles, then sharp turns to get out of town. Nothing unusual here, legs felt sluggish out of the swim, a dry mouth from the sea, and lots of bikers around me. Tried to control the heart rate and get into the aero bars where I could. This took a lot longer to achieve however as the first 15km was uphill. After 20-30mins I knew I didn’t have bike legs. Sometimes when you start an interval in training you have the pop and bang of great legs. However, I knew this interval was going to be very long indeed. I knew to give myself some more time, concentrate on holding good power, let the race evolve, settle into my bike position and maybe the good legs will come. It never did. The course did eventually flatten out, and there were some good straight stretches. Holding the power consistently was now becoming more difficult and I was becoming uncomfortable in my position. Nutrition was going well however and no stomach problems, just ‘where are my legs today?!!’. Okay, just keep going, last bit is quick and you can concentrate on the run. Average speed finally picked up in the last 20km as the course headed downhill and back to transition. Had fun round the corners and for the first time the speed was beyond 40kph. Legs tired now, had a look at the garmin and power for the second 1hr and was way off the mark. Bike course was beautiful and offered a small distraction from the poor form.
Forget the bike, now is the time to make it up. Transition fairly standard, shoes on, lets go! First section on cobbles again, holding my race pace of 4:15min/km. First 5km went okay, but race pace was far more difficult than last time. It wasn’t long before Leanne overtook me, flying past at about 100kph it was impossible to run together, so I just shouted some encouragement “I’m absolutely dead!”. I managed to complement her on the excellent pace she was holding at other parts on the course, but I think that initial boost was all she needed as she ran her way to 2nd best female run split of the day. My legs still weren’t there and felt like I made the classical mistake of going too hard on the bike. But my bike power was well off, so I thought keep running and run harder. Every time I tried to get the pace up my legs wouldn’t respond. My mind was there, nutrition still going well, but no legs left. Quick tactical toilet break – maybe just start again? Out of the portaloo to some cheers and tried to get going – maybe lasted 500m before looking down at my watch to see the pace drop to 5:00min/km. This wasn’t going well. Switched my mind set to easy on the hills, and try to make up some time on the flatter section. Didn’t really work, perhaps made me feel even more fatigued trying to push the pace. Where are my legs?!? Felt very disappointed in myself, only 12km done, already giving up and knew I was capable of so much more. Last lap was tough but kept a straight head, kept going and finished. There were a few points at which I thought I should step off the course but glad I didn’t. No stomach issues, just really awful legs.
General feeling after looking back at the race was that I went too hard on the bike for that course and my current bike fitness. I believe a decent run would have been in me, if I had held back on the bike. I got a little bit carried away trying to make up some extra time on the bike in the last 20km which made my legs feel even worse by the end. The poor bike prep really cost me, especially the lack of endurance. I was thinking I could hold a much higher power than I was actually capable of. To take the positives, the course in Gdynia was excellent. Lots of crowds and scenic views! I was happy with the swim and can take a lot from another open water experience. Not a time I am proud of but more racing in the bag.